Year in Review: Engaging Historical Issues with Global Relevance
Posted: July 19, 2010
Institute Fellows 2009-10. Photo by M.G. Moore
In only its second year, the Institute for Historical Studies is already well on its way to solidifying its reputation as one of the top centers for advanced historical research in the United States. Building off of the momentum generated in 2008-2009, the Institute sponsored a variety of residential research fellows, scholarly conferences, guest lectures, and, of course, the bi-weekly workshops that have fast become a staple of intellectual life in UT Austin’s history department.
The five residential research fellows that the IHS supported in 2009-2010 used their time in Austin to further their own projects while adding much to the scholarly community. In particular, each fellow made efforts to engage with the department’s graduate students, leading to collaborations that will bear great fruit for the department’s own up-and-coming young scholars. Three early career fellows worked primarily to develop their doctoral dissertations into monographs and published articles. In her workshop, Dr. Jennifer L. Derr, a faculty member at the American University in Cairo, discussed the politics of irrigation in Egypt. While at UT, Derr was able to develop new perspectives on the significance of her work, noting “I now envision a book project that will more fully dialogue with the fields of environmental history and critical discussions concerning the production of space, specifically agricultural space.” Dr. Sirota, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University, took advantage of the strong primary source collections at UT’s Harry Ransom Center to rework “from scratch” key chapters of his book manuscript. Dr. Sarah Van Beurden, assistant professor of African and African American Studies at the Ohio State University, built off of her doctoral work on art in post-colonial Africa. For Dr. Van Beurden, “the intellectual environment created at the Institute and its workshops were crucial to the process of developing [her] dissertation into a book.”
Professors Grace Elizabeth Hale (University of Virginia) and Julio E. Moreno (University of San Francisco) were the mid-career fellows during the 2009-2010 year. The IHS fellowship allowed Dr. Hale to further develop her work on cultural history and visual media, particularly film, and to continue working on several forthcoming publications. Dr. Moreno fully embraced the Institute’s “Global Borders” theme, using his tenure as a research fellow to expand of his research on Coca-Cola in Latin America in order to “focus on global capitalism and the nation” more broadly—the sort of big questions that the IHS tackled in its conferences and workshops throughout the year.
All of this year’s workshops were well attended: about 55 people came for good lunches and better conversations during each of the bi-weekly sessions. Presenters included the Institute’s resident fellows, along with visiting lecturers and faculty members of UT’s history department. Among the visiting lecturers were Harvard University’s Dr. Vincent Brown, who led discussions on his recent monograph and a documentary film he co-produced; Dr. Juliana Barr (University of Florida), who discussed religion, power, and gender in the early Texas borderlands; and Dr. Laura Smoller (University of Arkansas-Little Rock), whose talk on “The Saint and the Chopped-Up Baby” provoked a very lively conversation on early modern European religion. The IHS’s internal research fellows—UT professors Erika M. Bsumek, Alison K. Frazier, Tiffany M. Gill, Anthony G. Hopkins, and Joan Neuberger—led discussions that brought in faculty from departments across campus. To cite just one example, Dr. Hopkins completed several chapters of his upcoming book on the American Empire, stating “my time at the Institute made an invaluable contribution to my project.”
Perhaps no moments better embody the Institute’s success in 2009-2010 than the three conferences convened under its aegis: Latin America in the Cold War (Oct. 29-30, 2009); 1763 and All That: Temptations of Empire in the British World in the Decade After the Seven Years War (Feb. 25-26, 2010); and Independence and Decolonization (April 15-17, 2010). These conferences all addressed historical issues with global relevance. The Latin America in the Cold War conference, which featured presentations by many of UT’s own graduate students, proved so successful that several of the papers are being compiled into a published book. 1763 and All That brought in several leading experts on the British Empire who, collectively, did much to re-conceptualize the many impacts resulting from the territorial shake-up following Britain’s victory in the Seven Years War. The last conference of the year, Independence and Decolonization, addressed an issue with wide and ongoing significance: what happens when empires end and new states are born. As university Professor and Associate Director of the British Studies Program Philippa Levine succinctly put it: “Workshops and conferences of this sort, which bring together people who work in such a diverse range of fields, offer a fantastic opportunity for real cross-fertilization. Learning how scholars in other areas think about big issues, how they solve problems in their particular field, always open up new intellectual possibilities.”
2009-2010 was the last year that the Institute will focus on the “Global Borders” theme—it is now shifting gears to “Power and Place,” a capacious topic around which it will center its activities from 2010 to 2012. Well over 200 outside applicants from 32 states and 21 countries competed to be residential research fellows in 2010-2011, making it clear that the word about the Institute for Historical Studies is out and that scholars are eager to be a part of it. We are looking forward to welcoming our new corps of fellows to Austin and to the exciting program of workshops and conferences already scheduled for next year.
- Cameron Strang
History Graduate Student, and IHS Graduate Research Assistant, 2009-10