Dawn Peterson Receives Georgia Author of the Year Award

Congratulations to Assistant Professor of History Dawn Peterson for being named the 54th Annual Georgia Author of the Year in the category of History/Biography. Peterson received the prize for her monograph Indians in the Family: Adoption and the Politics of Antebellum Expansion (Harvard University Press, 2017). The award committee offered the following appraisal of Peterson’s work:

Indians in the Family is an important and compelling history that explores the adoption of Native American youth by whites during the period of antebellum expansion, unveiling how Natives, and the whites who ultimately sought to displace them, used adoption to achieve divergent agendas. Peterson’s eloquent account draws upon archival records to piece together the various motives that inspired this phenomenon. Indians in the Family’s readers will find stories about whites who adopted Native children, and Native families and communities—stories that uniquely illuminate how “family,” nation-building, race-making, slavery, resistance, and expansion, factor in this this little-known chapter in America’s history. In the end, Peterson concludes, “For U.S. whites, the politics of adoption in post-Revolutionary North America was a family story that sought to mask the violence of U.S. territorial expansion, Indian dispossession, and African American servitude” while “For Native people, the placement of children within white homes was a way to support indigenous families and maintain indigenous sovereignty.”

Read about other Georgia Author of the Year award winners here. Also check out a recent interview Peterson gave for the History Department website.

‘The New York Times’ Reviews Crespino’s Biography of Atticus Finch

Journalist Howell Raines published a review of Jospeh Crespino’s newest book, Atticus Finch: The Biography—Harper Lee, Her Father, and the Making of an American Icon (Basic Books, 2018). Crespino, who is the Jimmy Carter Professor of History, specializes in twentieth-century U.S. history and the history of the South since Reconstruction. Read Raines’ review, “Harper Lee and Her Father, the Real Atticus Finch,” here.

Graduate Students Alexander Cors and Shari Wejsa Publish Blog Entries for HASTAC

Second-year graduate students Alexander Cors and Shari Wejsa are the two 2017-18 HASTAC Scholars at Emory’s Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. Cors and Wejsa recently published entries on the blog of HASTAC, which stands for the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory. Check out links to their recent posts and read their HASTAC biographies below.

Alexander Cors

My research interests broadly encompass transatlantic history in the early modern period, from 1450 to 1850. Geographically, my focus is on Latin America and Europe. I am particularly interested in colonial Louisiana, the circum-Caribbean, and Bourbon Spain.

My current project investigates migration and settlement patterns, immigration policies, and discourses on foreigners in eighteenth-century Louisiana. I am particularly concerned with questions of ethnicity, integration, and identity in the early modern transatlantic empires of France and Spain. I am also interested in Digital Humanities, especially the use of GIS technology to create ethnolinguistic maps of the eighteenth-century Mississippi Valley.

Shari Wejsa 

As a PhD student in Latin American history, I study the experiences of Angolan and Mozambican immigrants and refugees in Brazil in the postcolonial period. I examine how their migratory experiences have shaped their identities as they adapted to Brazil while remaining connected to their countries of origin. I also explore how international human rights law and evolving immigration policies have affected the lives of these migrants. My research interests are an extension of my Fulbright Commission-sponsored work on Brazil’s National Truth Commission, which investigated the human rights violations committed during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), and the inequities of educational access for Afro-Brazilian girls and women in Bahia. As an educator, I seek to cultivate critical thinking on issues of human rights and social justice while advocating for active engagement as transformative power.

Johns Hopkins UP Publishes Eric L. Goldstein’s ‘On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore’

Associate Professor of History Eric L. Goldstein and Deborah R. Weiner co-authored On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore. The work has been published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Goldstein is a specialist in American Jewish history and culture, modern Jewish history, and American social and cultural history. Read more about the publication here.

New Books Series: Q & A with Ellie R. Schainker about ‘Confessions of the Shtetl’

Ellie R. Schainker, Arthur Blank Family Foundation Assistant Professor of Modern European Jewish History, published Confessions of the Shtetl: Converts from Judaism in Imperial Russia, 1817-1906 with Stanford University Press in 2016. The book won the 2017 National Jewish Book Award for Writing Based on Archival Material (JDC-Herbert Katzki Award). Below, she offers a glimpse into the making of the monograph as a part of the History Department’s series on recent faculty publications.

Books are produced over years if not decades. Give us a sense for the lifespan of this book, from initial idea to final edits. 

Confessions of the Shtetl was born during my course work in grad school from the footnotes of two articles I stumbled across.  I was part of a second-wave of scholars trained in the post-1991 era when former Soviet archives were newly open to western researchers.  I was interested in Russian Jewish history and these articles indicated that there were treasure troves of archival material—should researchers ever gain access–documenting conversions from Judaism in the imperial Russian borderlands, or the famed “shtetls” (Yiddish, small towns) of Eastern Europe that had been idealized by nostalgic modernists and post-Holocaust mourners as the last outpost of authentic Jewish culture and solidarity in the modern period.  These footnotes suggested that there was a larger untold story of interfaith encounter and border-crossing in the demographic heartland of European Jewry in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  I hoped that these stories might help us reconceptualize the religious and ethnic diversity of the empire’s western borderlands, the fluidity and permeability of boundaries between Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, and the relationship between ethno-religious groups and the state which tolerated and even sponsored religious diversity.

What was the research process like?

It was long and exciting.  It took me to Russia, Ukraine, Israel, and New York City during my dissertation years and my early assistant professor years at Emory.  Two aspects of the research stand out: 1) I thought I was fluent in Russian till I had to decipher hand-written nineteenth-century Cyrillic in the archives, and I briefly considered switching careers.  2)  I came to appreciate the Russian archival system which has researchers sign a slip of paper in each archival folio listing every person who ever ordered and read that file.  It looped me into a group of scholars whose footsteps I was following in and whose interests I shared.  It became a kind of game for me in the archives to see if I could discover new files and be the first to sign my name, and it made me feel as part of a virtual research cohort during the sometimes long, lonely days in the archives.

Do you have a favorite chapter or section?

 My favorite section is Part II, which I consider the heart of the book.  This section features many microhistories of converts, their Christian neighbors and romantic partners, and their often irate family and community members.  I love it because it brings to life the human drama of faith and apostasy, and gets at the pathos of historical phenomena that often get overlooked in social-scientific analyses of minority integration and assimilation.

How does this project align with your broad research agenda?

This project is a first step in studying toleration, imperialist critiques of native religion, and how these and other modern developments have allowed people to articulate and experience faith in new ways.

Crespino in ‘The Wall Street Journal’: “Who Is the Real Atticus Finch?”

Dr. Joseph Crespino, Jimmy Carter Professor of History, wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal entitled “Who is the Real Atticus Finch?” The piece explores competing interpretations of Harper Lee’s protagonist as a champion of justice or racist in the context of an adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway. Crespino is the author of  Atticus Finch: The Biography — Harper Lee, Her Father, and the Making of an American Icon (Basic Books, 2018).  Read the full piece (paywall protected) here.