PhD Candidate Stephanie Bryan Named ECDS Digital Humanities Fellow

The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship recently named History PhD candidate Stephanie Bryan a Digital Humanities Fellow. As an ECDS fellow Bryan will serve as associate editor for the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Atlanta Studies. Bryan’s research is advised by Cahoon Professor of American History Patrick Allitt and Professor Allen E. Tullos, who is also co-director of the ECDS. Read an excerpt about Bryan’s research below along with the biographies of the other 2021-22 ECDS Fellows.

Bryan’s dissertation traces the habitat losses and decreased biodiversity caused by cotton and other monocultures in the southeastern United States. At the same time, it reveals how a diverse array of human practices actually supported a few marginalized indigenous species, such as opossums, persimmons, muscadines, and pokeweed. Her dissertation examines the ways in which these plants and animals, often labeled as “weeds” and “pests,” persisted and entered into the diets, cultures, economies, and politics of Euro-Americans and people of African descent, from slavery through Jim Crow.

Anjuli Webster Publishes Article in ‘Theoria’

History graduate student Anjuli Webster recently published an article titled ‘South African Social Science and the Azanian Philosophical Tradition‘ in the journal Theoria. Webster is a student in African history with research interests in legal history, empire, sovereignty, and borderlands in Southern Africa, especially. Read the abstract from Webster’s piece below, along with the full article: “South African Social Science and the Azanian Philosophical Tradition.”

This article discusses the contemporary history of South Afri-can social science in relation to the Azanian Philosophical Tradition. It is addressed directly to white scholars, urging introspection with regard to the ethical question of epistemic justice in relation to the evolution of the social sciences in conqueror South Africa. I consider the establishment of the professional social sciences at South African universities in the early twentieth century as a central part of the epistemic project of conqueror South Africa. In contrast, the Azanian Philosophical Tradition is rooted in African philosophy and articulated in resistance against the injustice of conquest and colonialism in southern Africa since the seventeenth century. It understands conquest as the fundamental historical antagonism shaping the philosophical, political, and material problem of ‘South Africa’. The tradition is silenced by and exceeds the political and epistemic strictures of the settler colonial nation state and social science.

Film Produced by PhD Student Ayssa Yamagutchi Norek Takes Gold at Locarno

History Ph.D. student Ayssa Yamagutchi Norek produced, assistant directed, and wrote the lyrics to the short film “Neon Phantom,” which recently won the Pardino d’Oro SRG SSR for the Best International Short Film at the Locarno Film Festival. The festival is one of the five biggest in the world. “Neon Phantom” has been selected for other international festivals, including the Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara, Mexico. Norek’s graduate work centers on modern Brazil, women’s studies, and female incarceration. Her graduate advisors are Jeffrey Lesser and Thomas D. Rogers.

Fulbright Awards Support Research by Brunner and Steinman

Two History Department students have received research awards through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. PhD candidate Georgia Brunner will study and research gender, labor, and identity between 1918-1985 in the building of Rwanda. Undergraduate alum Jesse Steinman (21C), a history and German studies double major, was selected for the Fulbright Community-Based Combined Award in History for a project developing an interreligious educational program about Graz, Austria’s Jewish history. Read the full list of Emory students selected for Fulbright awards this season here.

Rucker, Anderson, and Goldmon Help to Organize ‘In the Wake of Slavery and Dispossession’ Symposium

This fall Emory University will host a symposium titled, “In the Wake of Slavery and Dispossession: Emory, Racism and the Journey Toward Restorative Justice.” Dr. Walter C. Rucker, Professor of African American Studies and History, Dr. Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor and Associated Faculty in History, and History doctoral student Camille Goldmon have served on the symposium’s steering committee. The Emory News Center recently published a feature story on the Sept. 21-Oct. 1 event, which will be free to the public. Read an excerpt from their story quoting Dr. Rucker below along with the full article: “Fall symposium connects activism to Emory’s history of slavery and land dispossession.”

“‘The past is a part of our living present,’ says Walter Rucker, an African American studies and history professor and steering committee member. ‘Slavery, dispossession and Jim Crow created a continuum for the racial logics we live with today. To talk about slavery and how it devalued Black lives helps us address why a police officer could kneel on a man’s neck for nine minutes. The same, or similar, logics that spawned racism energize patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia as well. Every person has a role in chipping away at these constructs in order to create a more just future.'”

Camp’s ‘Unnatural Resources’ Reviewed in ‘Journal of American History’

Unnatural Resources

The Journal of American History recently published a review of Dr. Michael Camp’s first book, Unnatural Resources: Energy and Environmental Politics in Appalachia After the 1973 Oil Embargo. Camp is a 2017 alumnus of the Emory History doctoral program. Dr. R. Mcgreggor Cawley, Professor at the University of Wyoming, reviewed Unnatural Resources. Read an excerpt from the review below along with the full piece here.

“Camp’s study provides an accessible and detail-rich narrative about the interactions between national policy goals and the localized political landscape in east Tennessee and nearby areas of West Virginia and Kentucky. On the face of it, this region appeared well suited to contribute to solving the energy crises of the 1970s. It was a major coal-producing area, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory was engaged in state-of-the-art nuclear technology, and the Tennessee Valley Authority had established the potential for hydroelectric power. Yet, as Camp deftly demonstrates, union strikes and railroad regulation disputes created obstacles for coal production. Similarly, he uses the struggle over the Clinch River Breeder Reactor to highlight problems with increasing the use of nuclear power. Finally, he explains how the Tellico Dam controversy presented a classic confrontation between energy and environment.”

Q&A with 2021 ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellow Alexander Cors

Earlier this year PhD candidate Alexander Cors was named a 2021 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. In the following Q & A exchange, Cors offers more context about his dissertation, titled “Newcomers and New Borders: Migration, Property Formation, and Conflict over Land along the Mississippi River, 1750-1820.”

What was the genesis of your project, and how has it changed since you first entered graduate school?

The project I am working on now is quite different from the project I started with when I first entered graduate school. Geographically, I stayed in the wonderfully complex eighteenth-century Mississippi Valley, but thematically, my project has changed directions many times. My interest in the process of land-claiming expanded from an inquiry into colonial migration and European competition to a much broader analysis of property formation, settler colonialism, and dispossession.

My dissertation project now examines how small and mobile Indigenous groups from the Houma, Shawnee, Delaware, and Avoyelles-Tunica-Biloxi nations used Spanish colonial laws to protect their land, property, and sovereignty from white settlers. I argue that the process of property formation was a contested and malleable set of practices, negotiated through occupation, land grants, and court proceedings. My dissertation challenges traditional periodizations and geographies of North American history by viewing colonial expansion, Indigenous dispossession, and the rise of the slave-plantation economy as interconnected processes that spanned across national and imperial boundaries.

What has the research process during dissertation fieldwork been like? 

I am fortunate that my fieldwork takes me to many interesting and beautiful cities. Following archival trails and trying to piece together stories that happened in the eighteenth-century Mississippi Valley brought me to libraries and archives on both sides of the Atlantic – from New Orleans to Aix-en-Provence, and from Mexico City to Madrid.

I analyze every-day interactions and conflicts between Indigenous peoples, Europeans, and Africans through the lens of property formation using French and Spanish correspondence, Euro-American travel accounts, Indigenous oral histories, Spanish judicial records, and maps, land surveys, and archeological reports.

Despite its challenges, working with such a wide variety of sources ensures that I never have a boring day in the archives. It also helps that archives like the Historic New Orleans Collection are located in the French Quarter, so I can always be sure to find a nice Feierabend drink at the end of a long day in the reading room.

How do digital humanities approaches figure into your work?

Digital Humanities has been a key element of my dissertation process since the very beginning. I use historical geography and digital mapping not only as a tool for visualization, but also as an integral research methodology. Trying to map Indigenous, colonial, and African settlement patterns has led me to both ask new questions and offer different approaches than previous scholarship.

Support from the Fox Center, the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation enabled me to develop technical skills and conduct research for a digital mapping project that has since become an integral part of my dissertation.

Are you partial to a particular chapter, section, or story from the project so far?

I decided to start with the chapter I presumed to be the most challenging. Chapter 3, “Possessing the Border,” is a case study of property formation and dispossession that analyses Houma and French-Acadian settlements in the Lower Mississippi Valley from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Using eighteenth century French and Spanish notarial acts, correspondence, and Houma oral history, this chapter is a legal history of migrating, settling, claim-making, titling, and defending property. One challenge was that all actors in this chapter are constantly re-locating – there is no static “homeland” over time. In part, I argue that the notion of “homeland” is fluid and malleable as people adapt to new circumstances and locations.

What I like about this chapter is the variety of sources that helped me draw this story over almost two hundred years. By looking at original and rarely used Spanish and French handwritten archival records, I could draw out perspectives that differ from the nineteenth-century English translations that previous historians used.

Q&A with 2021 ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellow Camille Goldmon

Earlier this year PhD candidate Camille Goldmon was named a 2021 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. In the following Q&A exchange, Goldmon offers more context about her dissertation, titled “On the Right Side of Radicalism: African American Farmers, Tuskegee Institute, and Agrarian Radicalism in the Alabama Black Belt, 1881–1940.”

What was the genesis of your project, and how has it changed since you first entered graduate school?

I come from a background of Black farmers. My father is a third-generation farmer in Arkansas. I never gave it too much thought until I started noticing that everything I’d ever read about Black farmers was about sharecroppers. This prompted me to do more research on the origins of sharecropping in the US South for an undergraduate capstone paper. That’s when I started to realize the significance of agricultural landownership among Black southerners, particularly those in rural areas. I dug further into landowning African Americans and the challenges they faced for my master’s thesis. For my dissertation, however, I wanted to tell a slightly different story—one of overcoming challenges and dethroning systems of oppression. One that would better capture the narrative of people like my father, grandparents, and great-grandparents who tenaciously persisted in their pursuits of land, but would also shed light on the extent of obstacles deliberately designed to hinder them. That’s how I began focusing on grassroots agricultural activists and organizational leadership like that at Tuskegee Institute between 1881 and 1940. 

What has the research process during dissertation fieldwork been like? 

It goes without saying that the pandemic had totally changed the landscape of dissertation fieldwork, but luckily I’ve been able to get back into the archives over the past couple of months. There’s no way to describe the joy that comes from touching an archival source that you didn’t know existed, but fits perfectly into your research. 

How do digital humanities approaches figure into your work?

I mentioned wanting to expose the obstacles that Black farmers faced. These issues include disparate access to resources such as extension services, loans and grants, and tillable land. I can (and do) use census data, financial figures, and even dialogue to demonstrate the inequities and the effectiveness of efforts to dismantle systemic discrimination. However, I remember the first time I saw the 1939 Home Owners Loan Corporation Map of Chicago that showed redlining and segregated housing practices in the 1930s. And the first time I saw the diagram of the Brookes slave ship that illustrated how enslaved Africans were transported across the Atlantic. I knew about segregated housing and the inhumanity of the Middle Passage, but those visualizations completely upped the ante of my understanding. That’s why my dissertation has a digital component that functions as an online, open-access archive for digitized primary sources, GIS maps, and other visual aids that will hopefully deepen readers’ understanding of my work.

Are you partial to a particular chapter, section, or story from the project so far?

At this point, chapter designations are subject to change, but my favorite narrative thread in the entire project is that which follows individual farmers or farm families who advocated for themselves or used their landowning status to advocate for others. This includes farmers who opened their homes to visiting civil rights workers, which many African Americans in rural areas could not do without fear of eviction from white-owned land or being frozen out of jobs. It also includes those who joined organizations such as the Progressive Farmers and Households Union, Sharecroppers and Tenant Farmers Union, or Alabama Share Croppers Union at risk of violent reprisal against themselves and their families. I love having the privilege of telling these stories of strategy, community, and overall courageousness. 

Strakhova Awarded Research Fellowship at the Leibniz Institute for European History

Docotral Candidate Anastasiia Strakhova has been awarded a residential research fellowship at the Leibniz Institute for European History in Mainz, Germany. The fellowship will provide 12 months of support as Strakhova completes her dissertation, titled “Selective Emigration: Border Control and the Jewish Escape in Late Imperial Russia, 1881-1914.” Strakhova’s graduate work is advised by Drs. Eric Goldstein and Ellie R. Schainker.

Emory News Center Highlights Work of Graduate Fellows Lemos and Strakhova

The Emory News Center recently published a profile of two 2020-’21 graduate fellows from the History Department. Sponsored by the Emory Libraries and Laney Graduate School, graduate fellowships provide graduate students with immersive and meaningful experiences in the following areas: digital humanities, instruction and engagement, research and engagement, data services and the Rose Library. Xanda Lemos, a doctoral candidate in Latin American History, was the fellow in digital humanities at the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship. Anastasiia Strakhova, a doctoral candidate in Modern European History, was the Anne and Bill Newton Graduate Fellow at the Rose Library. Read more about the work that they and the other three fellows contributed across campus over the last year here: “Graduate fellows provide thesis, data and publishing support for students and staff.”