Category Archives: Faculty Profiles

Prof. Asif Siddiqi publishes, “Shaping the World: Soviet-African Technologies from the Sahel to the Cosmos,” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Professor Asif Siddiqi’s new article, “Shaping the World: Soviet-African Technologies from the Sahel to the Cosmos,” was just released in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 41, Issue 1. Below is the article abstract:

Abstract

This article explores the biography of a network of Soviet telescopic cameras stationed across the African Sahel during the Cold War. Through joint Soviet-African cooperative programs, scientists used these advanced cameras in Egypt, Somalia, Mali, the Sudan, and Chad to photograph satellites flying overhead to gather data to produce a new model of the Earth, one that Soviet scientists hoped would be an alternative to Western models. I argue that these technical artifacts in Africa, connected into a single global network, represented examples of “infrastructural irruptions” of Cold War technopolitics into African geography, wherein the superpowers placed networked technologies inside postcolonial spaces for the collection of data. Although these technologies were nominally Soviet in origin, the story could also be read as one of Africans who invested their geography with agency in the production of scientific knowledge. Like the socialist moment in Africa and indeed the Soviet Union itself, this camera network no longer exists, its data compromised and its material imprint disappeared. But this “failure” should not blind us to the immanent power of possibility embedded in this incomplete project. I argue that this combination of unbounded aspiration and incomplete materiality was a powerful manifestation of the African-Soviet Modern.

Asif Siddiqi
Asif Siddiqi

You can follow him on Twitter @historyasif.

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Prof. Magda Teter wrote “When Poverty Became Profane” in the April 29th issue of the New York Review of Books.

On April 29, 2021, Prof. Magda Teter published, “When Poverty Became Profane” in the April 29th issue of the New York Review Books. Below is an excerpt of Teter’s debut NYRB piece.

“The questions about poverty and charity we are facing now, in the middle of a major economic and public health crisis, are not new. They reflect our moral values as well as our social, legal, and political structures. (Tellingly, in the US, charitable giving is intertwined with tax codes.) To be sure, these values do change over time and vary across regions and cultures. In Judaism, tzedakah—roughly, charity—is a moral obligation, a mitzvah. (Although a mitzvah is also considered a good deed, in Hebrew it means a religious precept or commandment.) “Formal institutions for poor relief,” not just individual almsgiving, Kaplan writes, were already

“prescribed” in the Mishnah and the Tosefta—ancient Jewish texts from the second and third centuries CE. Zakat, or almsgiving, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

In Christianity, by contrast, charity is not a commandment or a pillar of religious practice, though Jesus’ teachings about poverty and wealth have played an important part in the development of Christian views on charity and on the role of the poor within society. In Christian medieval communities, for example, poverty was not considered shameful. Quite the opposite: poverty as a voluntary way of life was seen as a manifestation of piety, embodied most famously by Saint Francis of Assisi and the members of mendicant orders. In the seventh century Saint Eligius reportedly said, “God could have made all men rich, but He wanted there to be poor people in this world, that the rich might be able to redeem their sins.” The poor begging at church entrances were a common sight, offering the wealthy an opportunity to give alms. Even the word for “hospice” suggested an aura of holiness. In Paris, it was Hôtel-Dieu, and among Jews of Northern Europe it was called a hekdesh, related to the Hebrew root for “holy,” k-d-sh.

Then, Kaplan notes, echoing the historian Thomas Max Safley, “something happened to charity in early modern Europe.” In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, crop failures led many of the rural poor to move to cities. Frequent epidemics overwhelmed local hospices, and religious individuals and institutions alike were unable to provide adequate support to the sick and the poor. More formal solutions were needed, and almsgiving and poor relief became increasingly regulated. Now the poor were no longer seen as a means of redemption for the rich but as a public nuisance and a social burden, and perhaps as a vector of disease.

The cities began to define who was deserving and undeserving of aid. Public begging was increasingly banned, poverty was gradually criminalized, and residency was required to qualify for poor relief. In 1516, for example, Paris banished “vagabonds.””

You can follow Prof. Magda Teter on Twitter @MagdaTeter.

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Prof. Asif Siddiqi Creates a New Digital Archive Collection on Yuri Gagarin, the First Human to Travel Into Space on April 12, 1961.

Prof. Asif Siddiqi curated, selected, and annotated documents to comprise a new Digital Archival collection on Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, for the Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project. The first human to travel into space, fifty years ago, on April 12, 1961. You can click this link to access more information.

Prof. Siddiqi writes: Collectively these 20 declassified documents provide an extraordinary peek into the preparations and implementation of the flight of Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet cosmonaut, who flew into space in his Vostok spaceship on April 12, 1961.

The documents come from a variety of archives including the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF) and the archive of the Energiya Rocket-Space Corporation. Most of these have been published in collections of documents published in Russia including: V. A. Davydov, ed., Pervyy pilotiruyemyy polet: sbornik dokumentov v dvukh knigakh, kn. 1-ya (Moscow: Rodina MEDIA, 2011).

You can follow Prof. Asif Siddiqi on Twitter @historyasif

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Prof. Nana Osei-Opare’s article, “If “‘If You Trouble a Hungry Snake, You Will Force It to Bite You’: Rethinking Postcolonial African Archival Pessimism, Worker Discontent, and Petition Writing in Ghana, 1957-66,” is now out on via the Journal of African History.

Prof. Nana Osei-Opare’s article, “‘If You Trouble a Hungry Snake, You Will Force It to Bite You’: Rethinking Postcolonial African Archival Pessimism, Worker Discontent, and Petition Writing in Ghana, 1957-66,” is now available on the Journal of African History 62(1)(2021). Below is the article’s abstract:

My aim is twofold. Highlighting the value and importance of African archives in the construction of postcolonial African histories, I first reject what I call ‘postcolonial African archival pessimism’: the argument that postcolonial African archives are too disorganized or ill-kept to be of much, if any, value in configuring postcolonial African histories. Second, primarily through petition and complaint letters, I examine how Ghanaian workers protested racist and abusive workplace environments, government malfeasance, stagnating wages, and unfair dismissals in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. These archival gems illuminate how workers made claims to and performances of citizenship and reminded the state of their importance, politically and practically, to building the Ghanaian project. From Ghanaian and British archives, I seek to complement histories that highlight the centrality of African workers — through their letters and feet — in articulating the contradictions and aspirations of postcolonial African states.

You can follow him on Twitter @NanaOseiOpare

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Prof. Yuko Miki Receives Fordham’s Distinguished Researcher Award in the Humanities for Her Work on the Black and Indigenous Histories of Brazil and the Atlantic World.

Prof. Yuko Miki receives Fordham’s Distinguished Researcher Award in the Humanities. You can watch and join the ceremony and celebrate with Prof. Miki at the below details.

Fordham University’s Online Research Day 
 
Organized by
 

Office of the Provost
Office of Research
University Research Council 
 
Sponsored by
 

Office of Sponsored Programs
Research Deans’ Council 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021
10:00 am – 3:30 pm
 
Fordham University
 
Zoom information:

Zoom link
Meeting ID: 814 4763 2911, Passcode: 790020

Yuko Miki (Photograph by Margarita Corporan Photography)

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Prof. Kirsten Swinth Featured in New York Times Article.

Prof. Kirsten Swinth is quoted in New York Times Opinion Columnist Jamelle Bouie‘s March 2, 2021 piece, “Biden Is Saying Things Amazon Doesn’t Want to Hear.”

You can follow Prof. Kirsten Swinth on Twitter at @kswinth.

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Prof. Magda Teter’s book, Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Anti­se­mit­ic Myth Libel, wins National Jewish Book Award.

The Jewish Book Council awarded Prof. Magda Teter‘s book, Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Anti­se­mit­ic Myth Libel, the JDC-Herbert Katzki Award. Prof. Teter is the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies and Professor of History.

Magda Teter
Magda Teter

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Prof. Kirsten Swinth’s work featured in The New Yorker.

Prof. Jill Lepore’s January 11, 2021, article, “What’s Wrong With the Way We Work,” featured Prof. Kirsten Swinth’s work. Lepore writes, “Plenty of people still feel that way about their jobs. But Terkel’s interviews, conducted in the early seventies, captured the end of an era. Key labor-movement achievements—eight hours a day, often with health care and a pension—unravelled. The idea of the family wage began to collapse, as Kirsten Swinth points out in ‘Feminism’s Forgotten Fight: The Unfinished Struggle for Work and Family’ (Harvard).”  

Kirsten Swinth

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Prof. Christopher Dietrich publishes “Erasing the Marks of Domination: Economic Sovereignty, Decolonization, and International Lawmaking in the 1950s and 1960s” in Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d’histoire du droit international.

Prof. Christopher Dietrich publishes “Erasing the Marks of Domination: Economic Sovereignty, Decolonization, and International Lawmaking in the 1950s and 1960s” in Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d’histoire du droit international.

Below is the abstract:

This article tells a legal and intellectual history of oil and decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s through the projects of international institutions including the UN Permanent Sovereignty Commission and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the work of anti-colonial lawyers Hasan Zakariya and Nicolas Sarkis. It examines the ideas and infrastructure of decolonization as they related to the question of how international law could be used to win economic sovereignty.

Christopher Dietrich
Christopher Dietrich

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Prof. Asif Siddiqi publishes “Whose India? SITE and the origins of satellite television in India” in History and Technology: An International Journal.

Prof. Asif Siddiqi publishes “Whose India? SITE and the origins of satellite television in India” in History and Technology: An International Journal.

Below is the abstract:

This essay explores the origins of the Satellite Instructional Technology Experiment (SITE), a project that used a NASA satellite to beam educational programs to over two thousand villages in India in the mid-1970s. Touted as a major success in using advanced technology for the purposes of poverty alleviation, the results of the project remain contested. I argue that the causes of its ambiguous outcome can be traced to the late 1960s when Indian and American scientific elites mobilized support for this project by uniting a coalition of diverse actors that each imagined a different ‘India’. Although each of these ‘Indias’ represented a starkly different vision of the nation, they were consonant for a brief historical moment, thus enabling SITE to come to reality. Their ability to do so depended on framing as monolithic and passive, the one population central to the project, the ‘poor and illiterate’ of India.

Asif Siddiqi
Asif Siddiqi

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