Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference, 2018

The 2018 Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference took place on Saturday, April 7 at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Carla Gerona and Daniel Amsterdam were the main organizers. Thirty students representing ten Georgia universities presented papers over the course of the day. I was impressed by the overall quality of these presentations.

Reinhardt was represented by the talented Madeline Gray, shown here seated between Jake Schenberg (UGA) and Carolyn Wood (Georgia State), participants in a session on local Georgia history. Mr. Schenberg spoke about the people displaced by the construction of the Buford Dam, which created Lake Lanier, while Ms. Wood addressed the integration of the Atlanta Police Department, which was made difficult by all the Klansmen who were members of it. (Something I did not know about: the Columbians, “the nation’s first neo-Nazi political organization,” formed in the summer of 1946.)

Ms. Gray presented her paper on the racial integration of Reinhardt College in the 1960s. Written as part of Ken Wheeler’s Town and Gown IDS course last fall, it featured interviews with some of the still-living participants, and primary source research in the Reinhardt newspaper, yearbooks, and trustees’ minutes. President James Burgess deserves much of the credit for ensuring that this process ran as smoothly as possible.

I’m pleased to say that Ms. Gray’s paper won an honorable mention award at the closing ceremonies! Well done! (The photo shows her between Profs. Amsterdam and Gerona.)

The keynote was a very interesting presentation by Douglas Flamming, professor of history at Georgia Tech. Entitled “Red, ‘Pink Gold,’ and Blue: Southern Shrimpers and Soviet Shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico, 1945-1975,” it took as its starting point an incident that occurred in March of 1963, some five months after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The shrimper Ala, out of Fort Myers, Florida, had been fishing for several day on the Tortugas Banks off Key West when it lost power and started drifting eastwards through the Straits of Florida – a little too close to Cuba for Cuban comfort, apparently, which sent three Soviet MiG fighter jets to intercept it, one of which actually fired on it. (The Ala’s difficulties may have been deliberate, as the Americans had just installed a radar station on Key West whose signal was impossible to fly under, and they may have wanted to test it – the MiGs were chased off in under five minutes.) This incident served to open up an investigation into the application of technology developed during World War II (e.g. diesel engines and sonar) to shrimping, which entered a golden age in the mid-twentieth century (this is the era when breaded shrimp appeared in TV dinners, and the shrimp cocktail was an emblem of sophistication). The Soviets, for their part, in a search for more protein to feed their people, sent out massive fishing expeditions, organized like a naval battle fleet and complete with processing factories on the flagship. (As you can imagine, fishing in international waters produced a classic “tragedy of the commons” situation, and Gulf shrimping is largely moribund these days – the shrimp that most Americans consume today is farmed in southeast Asia.)

I had been to Georgia Tech before, but hadn’t really had the opportunity to see the campus. The parking lot was quite a ways from the Hall Building, so I was interested to discover such details as the Tech Walkway, the Tech Green…

the Kessler Campanile (reproduced on the logo above)…

and this engineering-themed sculpture in Tech colors.

Medieval Academy

Device of the 93rd annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America (2018), at Emory University.

The springtime meeting of the Georgia Medievalists’ Group was folded into something much grander: the 2018 annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, held this past weekend at Emory University (specifically, the Emory Conference Center Hotel – what you can do with Coke money!). This one was my third, after Minneapolis (2003) and Phoenix (2011). Phoenix, as I remember, was controversial – Arizona had recently passed an anti-illegal-immigrant law, and there was tremendous pressure on the Academy not to hold the meeting there. They went ahead with it anyway, largely for financial reasons, although they changed the theme, especially welcoming presentations dealing with medieval immigration and xenophobia. (My paper, on the Flemish weaving community of fourteenth-century London, which was decimated during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, fit with this theme very nicely.)

This conference was not quite as controversial, although it threatened to be. Unbeknownst to most people, there has been some conflict in the medievalist world of late, with some people claiming that the entire field is inherently racist, and others objecting to this identification. This conflict has taken place largely over the Internet, with all the hyperbolic self-righteousness that such interaction usually entails. To address the issue, the conference organizers arranged for a plenary session of Medievalists of Color, whose presentations were actually pretty good and did not descend to the level of an Internet comment thread, despite occasional references to “white fragility”* or the notion that “research is violence.” They also avoided calling out their opponents by name, which was a nice gesture. (As much as I would love to see a revival of medieval-style academic debate, the topic here is so sensitive that the bad consequences would surely outweigh the good, if people who don’t believe that the field of Medieval Studies needs “decolonizing” were to be given equal time.)

As ever, it was good to see old friends and to make new ones, and most of the papers were pretty good. My favorite presentation was the final plenary, by Michael McCormick, of the Initiative for the Science of the Human Past at Harvard. Apparently researchers at SoHP can now deduce the atmospheric content of the past from the ice cores of Greenland or Antarctica without even melting them, and with a much finer granularity than previously (gleaning two million data points for a period twenty thousand years, for example). Thus have they determined that human metallurgy has been putting pollutants into the air for a very long time; it’s not just a function of the Industrial Revolution. Even more interesting is a partnership between the SoHP and the Max Planck Institute in Germany called Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean, which aims to reconstruct the human settlement patterns around the Mediterranean going back to the late Bronze Age. I was amazed to learn that teeth contain evidence of one’s diet up to age twelve or so. Pulp in the molars of corpses contains evidence of disease-causing bacteria; what researchers are now able to determine is how the DNA of a disease mutated over time (specifically, the Yersinia pestis bacteria of the plagues of Justinian in AD 541-42), which allows them to plot exactly where it appeared and when, and thus to reconstruct ancient trade routes. Fascinating stuff!

Other highlights of the conference included the facsimile of the Bayeux Tapestry, on loan from the University of North Georgia (with many copies of the pamphlet explaining it, by yours truly). The conference program was the most edifying I’ve ever seen: in addition to maps, the schedule, and the list of participants, it also featured short articles on the founding of Emory, Emory’s campus architecture, noted medievalists Kemp Malone, Stephen White, Thomas Lyman, and George Cuttino, the Candler School of Theology, the Pitts Theology Library, the Carlos and High Museums, and other things of local or medieval interest. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point out the excellent heraldry of this conference! The Medieval Academy’s coat of arms is a wonderful thing, featuring a splendid rose-en-soleil. 

The Academy’s journal is Speculum, and its device features a hand holding a mirror – a punning coat of arms, since speculum is mirror in Latin (it has a different meaning now, of course).

Both of these coats of arms, I understand, were designed by Pierre de Chaignon la Rose, who also came up with Harvard’s heraldic system in the 1930s.

Emory University itself uses a fine, simple coat of arms, featuring a crossed trumpet and torch. It is based on the university seal, which dates from 1915.

* Thesis: anyone who interprets opinions he disagrees with as “violence against bodies of color” does not get to talk about white fragility.

The Leeds Conference

An article on the annual Leeds conference in the Chronicle of Higher Education has been making the rounds, but I liked this commentary from… Commentary:

Apparently, There Is an Academic Medievalist Far Left

Even “Game of Thrones” has not quite rescued medieval studies from its reputation for stodginess. Yet the organizers of this year’s International Medieval Congress must have thought their fellow scholars would think them a teensy bit cool for selecting the theme “otherness.”

There were plenty of panels on gender, gendering, ungendering, and various gendered things. There was one devoted to “Hagiography Beyond Gender Essentialism: Trans and Genderqueer Sanctity: Rethinking the Status Quo.” There was plenty on ethnicity, a bit on race, and, for those who like their politics unsauced, a panel entitled “The Historical Is Political: Understanding the Backlash against the Study of Race, Gender, and Representation in Medievalism.”

I note these titles not to bash the conference, whose program contains many interesting things, or to suggest that medieval studies can cast no light on contemporary problems. I am saying only that the 2,400 scholars from 56 countries who descended on England’s University of Leeds earlier this month may have thought they’d gone some way toward appeasing the academic left.

Nope. Some of their fellow medievalists are accusing them of abetting white supremacy.

This remarkable charge, though related to longstanding discontent about the field of medieval studies, is at the moment tied to a panel entitled “The Medieval Concept of Otherness.” For the sake of focus, invited panelists were all historians of the early Middle Ages. The idea behind the panel was that whatever the medieval understanding of “us” and “them” or “self” and “other” was, it is was quite different from what ours is today. So the Leeds International Medieval Conference had a white supremacy problem because—no, really—this one panel consisted of “white Europeans” who were not steeped in critical race and postcolonial theory. You cannot have a discussion of how people in the early Middle Ages thought of “the other” without panelists of color versed in highly politicized contemporary theories of oppression.

More at the link.

Symposium

I just received word of this. It looks interesting:

A SYMPOSIUM AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AT ATLANTA

5780 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, Georgia
Saturday, September 16, 2017
9:00 – 4:30

The holdings of the National Archives at Atlanta include approximately 10,000 cubic feet of records relating to the World War I home front.  These records document the federal government’s attempts at food conservation, promotion of the war effort and the purchase of Liberty Bonds, as well intelligence investigations by the U.S. Navy. Other historical records tell the story of the 24 million men who registered for the Selective Service and of other men who were prosecuted and incarcerated for violating the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917. This year’s symposium, The Great War Over Here: Stories from the Home Front, encourages research in these diverse records, features scholars whose published works were based on these holdings, and promotes the discovery of new scholars from universities and colleges across the Southeast and the nation.

Presenters Include:

Dr. Ernest Freeberg, Professor of History and Department Chair, University of Tennessee, Author of Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War, and the Right to Dissent 

Dr. Jeanette Keith, Professor Emeritus, Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, Author of Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War

Dr. Carol White, History Professor, Clayton State University, presenting on:Poetry of World War I

Nathan Jordan, Archives Specialist, National Archives at Atlanta, presenting on An Introduction to World War I Era Records Held at the National Archives at Atlanta

Joel Walker, Education Specialist, National Archives at Atlanta, presenting on Political Prisoners in the Atlanta Penitentiary: Anarchists, Socialists, Ministers, and More  

Pre-registration is required. Registration is free and limited to 200 participants.
To register online, go to: https://www.archives.gov/atlanta/symposiums/wwi
To register by email: atlanta.archives@nara.gov

Sponsored by the National Archives and Georgia Humanities.

Georgia Regional PAT Conference 2017

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On Saturday, April 1, Reinhardt student Kyle Walker, alumnus Alex Bryant, and Prof. Jonathan Good traveled to Macon to participate in this year’s Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference. Many thanks to Abby Dowling and John Thomas Scott for their hard work in putting together a good one. Mercer last hosted this conference in 2011, and it was a pleasure to return, as the Mercer campus is gorgeous, especially in the spring. The papers I heard were all very good – especially Kyle’s, who spoke of how the domino theory of Communist expansion in southeast Asia was applicable to Indochina only, largely on account of all parts of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos all having been part of the French empire. Communism did not spread beyond these places because Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma, etc. had different histories (i.e., communism and nationalism did not converge there, as it did in Indochina). Plus, the US commitment to containing communism entailed a great deal of support for the non-communist governments of these countries, which helped to protect them from that particular ideology. This was the silver lining of the Viet Nam war – it didn’t prevent the North from taking over the South, and from backing the Pathet Lao and Khmer Rouge as they took power, but it did prevent the spread of communism beyond Indochina.

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Kyle Walker ’17 at the Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference, Mercer University, April 1, 2017.

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Participants in the “Eastern Front” session: chair Joshua van Lieu (LaGrange College), MiKaylee Smith (LaGrange), Daniel Garrett (LaGrange), Kyle Walker (Reinhardt).

The plenary session at lunch featured a very interesting presentation by Maurice Hobson of Georgia State University, professor of history and African-American studies, whose book The Legend of the Black Mecca: Myth, Maxim and the Making of an Olympic City is about to be released by UNC Press. Dr. Hobson’s talk, entitled “Using Hip Hop as History: From the Black New South to the Dirty South,” referenced W.E.B. Dubois, Atlanta’s first black mayor Maynard Jackson, the 1996 Summer Olympics, artists like OutKast and Goodie Mob, the Atlanta Child Murders, and Hobson’s own personal history, to demonstrate how not all African-Americans were uplifted by Jackson’s post-segregation New South.

Georgia Gwinnett College (home of former Reinhardt professor Pat Zander) has agreed to host this conference next year.

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Alex Bryant ’15 and Kyle Walker ’17 flank a Mercer bear.

Announcements

For those in the area:

Please join us on Saturday, February 4, 2017, when the Bandy Heritage Center presents the 2017 Civil War in the Western Theater Colloquium “Written in Blood and Carved in Stone: Remembering the Civil War at Chickamauga, Shiloh, and Vicksburg.” Three prominent scholars will discuss how the nation’s earliest military parks came into existence, how each contributed to the memory of the war, and how their commemoration of the historic landscape changed over time. The program starts at 10:00 a.m. and will be held in the Lecture Hall of the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center (2211 Dug Gap Battle Road, Dalton, GA 30720) in conjunction with the Chickamauga Civil War Show.

*****

Looking for a date night idea in Cartersville?

January 28, 2017, 7:00-10:00 p.m.

Red, White, and You!
Live Jazz – Dancing – Cocktails – Refreshments
Come dressed in 1940’s attire
(Rosie, WACS, G.I., Starlet, Comic Book Hero, etc.)
Obtain your enlistment papers (tickets)
www.BartowHistoryMuseum.org.
For more information call our recruiter, Nicole Masters, at 770-382-3818, ext. 6288 or email her at nicolem@BartowHistoryMuseum.org.
Bartow History Museum
4 East Church Street, Cartersville, GA 30120

 *****

Evening Lecture: Touring the Wilderness of North America with Prince Maximilian and Karl Bodmer
January 19, 7:00 pm

Bergman Theatre, Booth Western Art Museum.

Join the Prince of Wied, Maximilian, as he takes you on a tour of North America as he saw it in 1832-33-34. Using Karl Bodmer’s illuminating illustrations, Prince Maximilian will escort the audience on an adventure from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to the Great Falls of the Missouri River, from New Harmony, Indiana to New Orleans, Louisiana. Travel with this intrepid explorer to meet America’s best scientific minds, explore the West in the wake of Lewis and Clark, camp among the Mandan, Lakota, Crow and Omaha and participate in traditional American Indian drumming songs. Storyteller and author Brian “Fox” Ellis steps into the shoes of Prince Maximilian allowing the audience to step back in time. Blending history, science, art and cultural anthropology, the Prince gives us a unique view of America as he saw it in the early 1830s. Much of the text for this performance comes directly from his journals. The backdrop includes the landscapes, portraits, and scenes from everyday life painted by Karl Bodmer. Program included with admission.

Helpful Hints for Conferences

1. Just because you have written a paper, does not mean that you have a presentation. Papers are meant to be read silently to yourself, and when you do so, you can go at your own pace, and reread sections that you might not have gotten the first time around. For a live performance, however, you need to overcome the fact that people can’t do this, so don’t just read your prose word for word quickly, in a monotone, and without ever looking up. (As someone said once: “We know you can read. So can we.”) At the same time, don’t simply give a “report” on what you are working on (“now, in this section I explore some of the implications…”). I am amazed at how many academics continue to do either of these things. No, if you give even a little effort, you can craft a genuine presentation, in which you actually engage the audience with your message, which should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. I am only too aware of the criticisms of PowerPoint, but it can be used effectively, and frankly it’s pretty much standard these days – why not show key points and a gratuitous illustration or two on principle? (Although there is a problem with this that I have not seen addressed elsewhere. If you are going to use PowerPoint, just make sure that when you insert your thumb drive, and open it, that you do not display to the entire room all your personal files. Empty the drive of anything but your talk, or make sure that the projection screen is off when you download it. This goes double if you’ve emailed the paper to yourself and you are at risk of showing everyone in the room the contents of your inbox. If the chair is on the ball this should not be a problem – see below.)

2. If you are the session chair, here are a few things you can do to make things run properly:

  • Before the session begins, move one of the tables to the front, and get the speakers to sit behind it facing the audience, in preparation for any questions the audience might want to ask
  • Also before the session begins, make sure the computer and the projector are working properly, download any of the presenters’ PowerPoint files onto the desktop, and have them ready to go
  • State your name and affiliation clearly, and welcome the audience graciously
  • Clearly explain the theme of the panel and why it has a claim on people’s attention
  • Clearly introduce the panelists
  • Tell everyone to silence their cell phones 
  • Keep everyone within their allotted time, perhaps with signs saying “five minutes left,” “two minutes left,” etc.
  • After the talks, mention how you enjoyed the papers, and if at all possible point out some commonalities (don’t just pop up and say “any questions?”)
  • Manage the questions gracefully

It helps if you have gotten all the papers beforehand, and read them, but this is not always possible.

3. If you are organizing a conference, why not consider reviving the medieval custom of the academic debate? Think of Johann Eck vs. Martin Luther in 1520, or Peter Abelard vs. William of Champeaux in the twelfth century. The fall of this form, I assume, has to do with the denigration of scholasticism and the dialectic mode of enquiry that it promoted; lately, we’ve all become “professional” as well – we’d never publicly contradict a colleague! But I think it could be a lot of fun if you actually got two people, each representing a different side of an issue, and let them go at it. It might even lead to greater clarity of thought.

Phi Alpha Theta Georgia Regional Conference

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Spelman College in Atlanta yesterday hosted the Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta conference (the same one hosted by Reinhardt last year). Thanks to Charissa Threat for organizing such a good one. 

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In addition to several excellent student papers (there were thirty-five all told, from students at nine different schools), attendees also enjoyed a tour of Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art by Mora Beachamp-Byrd, visiting scholar of art and art history at Spelman.

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Mora Beauchamp-Byrd and Charissa Threat outside Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art.

The current exhibit, Black Chronicles II, explores the black presence in late nineteenth century Victorian Britain through studio portraiture, including some thirty portraits of The African Choir, which toured Britain between 1891 and 1893, and a selection of popular cartes-de-visite. (One of these made me smile: a Zulu warrior from “Farini’s Friendly Zulus.” “The Great Farini,” né William Leonard Hunt, hails from my hometown of Port Hope, Ontario. He first gained fame as a tightrope walker and later became an African explorer and entertainment promoter. Shane Peacock’s book about him has more detail.)

The keynote address, entitled “Women and Violence in the Grassroots Anti-Abortion Movement in the United States,” was delivered by Karissa Haugeberg of Tulane University. Based on her forthcoming book, it was a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of 1980s-era pro-life activism and the women who participated in it. (We’ve been conditioned to think of abortion opponents as men trying to keep women down, but according to Haugeberg women have always made up a majority of the movement, often for feminist reasons – widespread abortion, they believe, frees men from their responsibilities to the women they impregnate. This fundamental divide over the significance of the sexual revolution – is it empowering, or degrading? – is still not resolved, as one can see in the debate over hook-up culture on campus today.)

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Karissa Haugeberg.

Reinhardt was represented by recent graduate Alex Bryant, whose paper “The New American Revolution: A Brief History of the Internet” sparked quite a bit of discussion afterwards.

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Alexander Bryant.

This is the seventh PAT annual conference I’ve been to. It is always fun, and this one was one of the best.

GMG @ UNG

Announcement:

The fall 2015 meeting of the Georgia Medievalists Group will be held on October 24, in Young Hall 202 on the campus of the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.

The best place to park will be in front of the building on College Circle. If there isn’t any room, there is a parking garage at the end of College Circle and it is free on the weekend.

Directions:

http://ung.edu/campuses/dahlonega/maps-directions.php

On this map, Young Hall is #2 & #113 is the parking garage.

http://ung.edu/campuses/_uploads/…/Dahlonega-3DCampusMap.pdf

Schedule:

11:00-11:30 Timothy May, University of North Georgia: Chinggis Khan and Climate Change

11:30-12:00 Tom MacMaster, Morehouse College: “Poena divinitus illata est servitutis”: Christian attitudes towards slavery at the end of antiquity

12:00-1:30 Lunch at Shenanigan’s

1:30-2:00 Kevin Kritsch, Kennesaw State University: Ælfric, Kingship and the Tension between Free-Will and Predestination

2:00-2:30 Elizabeth Carson Pastan, Emory University: Embroidering the Bayeux “Tapestry”

2:30-3:00 Glen Kyle and Ken Johnston, Northeast Georgia History Center: Anglo-Saxon and Norman Arms and Armour

3:00-4:00: Viewing of the Bayeux Tapestry

4:00: Drinks and Dinner at Bourbon St. Grill.

Kalamazoo

This past weekend marked the fiftieth annual International Medieval Congress, hosted by the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, Michigan). I first started attending these when I was a graduate student at the University of Toronto in 1995; since then I have gone fourteen times. It is a massive event: this year there were 567 sessions with an average of three papers delivered in each one over the course of four days, plus representatives of all the major academic presses (including Boydell and Brewer) and a few antiquarian book dealers. Like a good megachurch, the Kalamazoo conference is several conferences in one; I tend to hang out with the White Hart Society, whose name derives from one of Richard II’s heraldic badges, and which exists to promote study of late fourteenth and early fifteenth century England. My own paper, “For God, Harry and Saint George? Agincourt and the ‘National’ Saint” went well, and it was great to see old friends and make new ones.

WMU has a pond in the middle of campus, and a resident pair of swans. This year they were raising a brood of cygnets.