On June 20, 2020, former Fordham history Professor Carina Rey, now at Brandeis University, published an op-ed piece in The New York Times called, “”Could the Police Kill Me, Too?’” You can read the piece on this link: https://nyti.ms/2Bma1UL
Category Archives: Faculty News
Former Fordham History Professor Carina E. Ray published “Could the Police Kill Me, Too?’ My Young Son Asked Me” in The New York Times.
Professor Nana Osei-Opare published “Around the world, the U.S. has long been a symbol of anti-black racism” in The Washington Post.
On June 5, 2020, Professor Nana Osei-Opare published, “Around the world, the U.S. has long been a symbol of anti-black racism,” in The Washington Post. You can read it by clicking the link below: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/06/05/around-world-us-has-long-been-symbol-anti-black-racism/
You can follow him on Twitter @NanaOseiOpare.
Prof. S. Elizabeth Penry’s Book, “The People Are King: The Making of an Indigenous Andean Politics,” Awarded the 2020 Flora Tristán Prize
We are excited to announce that the Peru Section of the Latin American Studies Association has awarded Prof. S. Elizabeth Penry’s new book, The People Are King: The Making of an Indigenous Andean Politics (Oxford University Press, 2019), the 2020 Flora Tristán Prize for the best book on Peru published in the previous year.
The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) announced that Prof. Yuko Miki is one of its 2020 cohort Fellows. The “ACLS Fellowship program honors scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences who have the potential to make significant contributions to knowledge in their fields.”
Yuko Miki’s project is entitled, “Emancipation’s Shadow: Stories of Illegal Slavery.” This project is a narrative history of illegal slavery in the nineteenth-century Atlantic World. Through four intertwined stories, it investigates how illegal slavery thrived throughout the Atlantic World in general, and in Brazil in particular, in the very midst of the “Age of Emancipation.” Attention to the lived experiences of women, men, and children forced into, or who profited from, illegal slavery challenges the predominant history of the nineteenth-century as a period marked by the triumph of abolition and freedom. Drawing on literary analysis and archival ethnography, this project asks how illegal slavery can critique these liberal, modernizing narratives that have been foundational to the study of slavery and abolition, and Atlantic world history more broadly.
Professor Osei-Opare Featured in The Fordham Ram Article, “Professor Exposes Students to Truths of African History.”
Joergen Ostensen’s article, “Professor Exposes Students to Truths of African History,” is reproduced below:
The office of Nana Osei-Opare, assistant professor of history at Fordham University, is filled with books, and somewhere on the shelves, although not immediately at hand, he said there is a copy of “Long Walk to Freedom,” the autobiography Nelson Mandela wrote while imprisoned on Robben Island. In the book, Mandela explains his decision to abandon non-violence for the armed resistance to apartheid that made him a political prisoner for 27 years.
Mandela’s process of becoming a revolutionary is the kind of history Osei-Opare said he is trying to keep alive in his classes.
This year, his first at Fordham, he is teaching mostly freshmen, in a course called African History that fulfills the university’s Understanding Historical Change requirement. He said one of his main goals is to dispel the ahistorical narrative that social change is polite.
“I don’t recall slavery being ended because Clay, Webster and Calhoun got into a great deal and it ended,” he said. “No. I don’t physically remember this, but from what I’ve read, there was a war.”
Osei-Opare’s students are told to call him Professor O, according to Peter Wolffe, FCRH ’23, who took his class last semester. He said they read the works of revolutionary African figures like Franz Fanon, Steve Biko, Ruth First and Kwame Nkrumah.
While many of the authors on the syllabus were rebels against their governments, including First and Biko, who were killed by the South African state, Osei-Opare said he pushes back on being characterized as a radical historian.
“What is radical?” he asked. “Is radical just me saying what happened in history?”
For some of his students, the history he presents comes as a shock and a testament to the oversight of African history by America’s education system, said Rachel Lawson, FCRH ’23, who also took the class last semester.
“I didn’t even know there was a Nigerian civil war,” she said. “I didn’t know there was a Kenyan genocide.”
Osei-Opare said his goal is to force his students to confront the reality of colonialism.
“Our president, Father McShane, in our orientation, he told us we should make our students uncomfortable, uncomfortable with humanity and their place,” he said. “I think that’s what I’m trying to do, make people uncomfortable with what has happened.”
Lawson said she can still recall specific moments in class where she felt the trauma of the content. They learned about the brutal conditions in the Congolese work force, and she said one class they watched a documentary about the Congolese genocide.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that kind of horror before,” she said.
Osei-Opare was born in Ghana but grew up in South Africa before moving to Newark, New Jersey, for eighth grade and high school. He returns to Ghana every year for research and to visit his family. He said he tries to think from an internationalist perspective and encourages his students to do the same.
He also said he tries to help them make connections to the United States.
According to Osei-Opare, a major research focus of his is the relationship between the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Ghanian state. He said that throughout history, colonial powers tried to delegitimize African revolutionaries by saying Moscow was telling them they were oppressed.
He said this reminds him of the discourse about Russian interference in the 2016 election where Black Lives Matter content was promoted, according to the Washington Post, in what Osei-Opare said was an effort to dissuade black people from voting.
“(The liberal media were saying) oh, they’re pushing Black Lives Matter content, we have to be careful, this is divisive,” he said. “It went back to that early 1900s narrative that black people don’t know the cause of their own oppression and that it’s a foreign power telling them they are oppressed.”
He also said he asked his students to consider the difference between the reaction to the Bundy standoff, where white ranchers occupied land with guns, and the treatment of black groups like the Black Panther Party and the MOVE organization, whose Philadelphia compound was fire bombed by the Philadelphia Police Department in 1985, according to NPR.
Osei-Opare, who self-identifies as a pacifist, said Mandela’s political imprisonment speaks to the racism behind what society considers legitimate violence.
“Unfortunately there’s a racial and there’s an ideological bent to … how the state responds to it,” he said.
Osei-Opare said he believes there are political prisoners in the United States.
The Alliance for Global Justice lists former Black Panther and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement and the Standing Rock water protector Red Fawn Fallis as political prisoners. As the Ram reported, local Black Lives Matter activists consider cop-watcher Ramsey Orta, who filmed the death of Eric Garner, to be a political prisoner as well.
Osei-Opare said the purpose of creating this kind of discourse is to challenge students to be self-critical.
“All I want you to do is rethink what you think you know and really critique it,” he said.
Included in the syllabus was founder of the South African Black Consciousness Movement Steve Biko’s essay about the detrimental role of white liberals to racial justice movements. Osei-Opare quoted Biko to illustrate his point.
“A man is on the ground, he’s kicked, and the person kicking the man is telling that man how to respond to that kick,” Osei-Opare said referring to Biko’s writing, before elaborating that Biko’s point is there is no right way to respond to the violence of colonialism.
Wolffe said reading Biko was particularly impactful to him.
“He talks about how the white liberal is a huge problem,” he said. “That hit home for me because it portrayed me very well. It’s like the person who does this work to feel morally right but is not really helping the situation.”
Osei-Opare also talked to his students about how being black affects him at Fordham. Lawson said she found this particularly impactful, especially a story he told about fearing to eat fried chicken at an event on campus because he did not want to be associated with the stereotype.
“He was like, ‘That shouldn’t be a thing that I thought,’” she said.
Lawson said she appreciated his willingness to intersperse the difficult content with lessons on the beauty of African cultures. She said before every class he would play a song from a different part of the continent.
“They were all fantastic, they were all bops,” she said. “So I actually downloaded a bunch of them.”
Wolffe said he is currently working on an independent study about the implicit and explicit manifestations of racism with Osei-Opare. He said this came about after frequently going to his office hours with one question and talking to him for an hour or more.
“It’s just so refreshing to have professors like that who genuinely care about their students,” he said. “Getting to work with him has just been amazing.”
Lawson, who is planning to double major in two sciences, said Osei-Opare’s lessons will stick with her because of his energy and passion for teaching.
“This African History class is the most influential class I’ve ever taken,” she said.
Prof. Sarah Elizabeth Penry’s forthcoming Book Talk, “From Resettlement to Revolution: The Comuneros of Peru,” at Livingston Campus (Rutgers University)
From Resettlement to Revolution: The Comuneros of Peru
Thursday, March 26, 3:20-4:40 TIL-246 Livingston Campus (Rutgers University)
In the sixteenth century, indigenous Andeans in the Viceroyalty of Peru were forcibly removed from their villages by Spanish colonizers and resettled in planned, self-governing towns. Rather than conforming to Spanish cultural and political norms, indigenous Andeans adopted and gradually refashioned the religious practices dedicated to Christian saints and the civil institutions imposed on them, in the process producing a new kind of civil society that merged their traditional understanding of collective life (the ayllu) with the Spanish notion of the común to demand participatory democracy. This hybrid concept of self-rule spurred the indigenous rebellions that erupted across the Andes against Spanish rulers and native hereditary nobility. Re-examining the era of the Great Rebellion through the letters and documents of the Andean people themselves, while eschewing a focus on well-known leaders such as Tupac Amaru, this presentation examines the community-based democracy that played a central role in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions and continues to galvanize indigenous movements in Bolivia today.
Sarah Elizabeth Penry, Assistant Professor of History and Latin American and Latinx Studies, Fordham University
We are absolutely delighted to announce that Fordham historian Magda Teter is a recipient of the 2020-2021 NEH Senior Scholar Fellowship at the Center for Jewish History.
Below is a description of her fascinating project.
Project Title: “The Dissemination and Uses of the Jewish Past: The Role of The Present in The Production and Politics of History.”
Project Description: As historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot noted in his groundbreaking book on the production of history, Silencing the Past, “history is always produced in a specific historical context.” Trouillot’s work distinguished between “what happened”—the historical events, and “what is said to have happened”—how historians, professional or not, recount historical events. Thus, not just the context of the historical events matters, but also the historical context of the time in which historians do their work. The overarching questions that loom over my project concern the impact of the present on the study of the past and the compounding effects on the shaping of the field—beyond the known connections with political emancipation, i.e., the acquisition of equal rights by Jews, religious reform, and nationalism that played an important role in shaping the works of Jewish history. When Jewish Studies emerged in the nineteenth century, the field and its scholars were excluded from the academy, but they formed scholarly societies and institutes, published scholarly books and journals. The topics that interested these early scholars were inflected by their own personal interests related to the social and political position of Jews in Europe. They were concerned with current events. Many journals related to Jewish Studies, in fact, devoted a separate section to contemporary events, and allowed for a more rapid response to the current events by publishing not only studies but also primary sources from the archives. These primary sources, in turn, influenced generations of scholars and scholarly projects. And yet, modern scholars have sometimes used these sources uncritically, neglecting to examine how these primary texts and images entered circulation, what might be missing, and of what conversation these sources were a part. My project will explore that.
New York Times writer Claire Cain Miller published an article, “Why Mothers’ Choices About Work and Family Often Feel Like No Choice at All,” that features our own Dr. Kirsten Swinth. Here is a snippet of what Dr. Swinth stated: “What’s implicit in the conservative logic is that good mothers make the right choice, and the right choice is to prioritize your family.”
For further reading, here’s the link to the New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/upshot/mothers-choices-work-family.html
You can follow Dr. Kirsten Swinth on Twitter @kswinth
Two History Faculty Members Awarded The Prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship
We are absolutely delighted to announce that Fordham historians Scott Bruce and Yuko Miki are recipients of the 2020-2021 NEH fellowship. Below is a description of their fascinating projects.
Scott Bruce’s project is entitled, The Lost Patriarchs Project: Recovering the Greek Fathers in the Medieval Latin Tradition. Yuko Miki’s project is entitled, Brazilian Atlantic: Archives and Stories of Illegal Slavery.
The Lost Patriarchs Project: The influence of Greek patristics on western European thought and culture remains an important, but largely overlooked, aspect of the history of medieval Latin literature. The goal of my project is the creation of an instrument of reference called The Lost Patriarchs: A Survey of the Greek Fathers in the Medieval Latin Tradition. This book will present a catalogue of the deep, largely untouched, reservoir of medieval Latin texts that have Greek Christian origins, both those known directly from surviving manuscript copies and those known indirectly from medieval library catalogues. It will provide an alphabetically arranged handbook that presents a series of concise accounts (500 to 10,000 words) of the manuscript tradition and transmission of Greek Christian literature in the medieval Latin tradition. A reference tool of this kind would gather all this is known about these texts in current scholarship, allowing future researchers to begin the work of charting their influence in western Christian doctrine and devotional practices.
Brazilian Atlantic: This project is a narrative history of illegal slavery in the nineteenth-century Atlantic World. Through four intertwined stories about a slave ship and its captives, two West African men, a financier, and a Kongolese prince, it investigates how illegal slavery thrived throughout the Atlantic World in general, and in Brazil in particular, in the very midst of the “Age of Emancipation.” In paying attention to the lived experiences of women, men, and children forced into, or who profited from, illegal slavery, this project challenges the predominant, sweeping narratives of the nineteenth-century as the triumph of abolition, free trade, and liberal freedom. Through an ethnographic reading of the archives of illegal slavery, this project weaves together the past and present, historical characters and archival encounters to propose a new way of writing about the ambiguous histories of slavery and freedom that centers the suffering and afterlives of the enslaved.
** Yuko Miki’s photo was taken by Margarita Corporan Photography **
Professor Magda Teter’s New Book, “Blood Libel: On the Trail of An AntiSemetic Myth” (Harvard, 2020) is Now Out.
About the Book:
“A landmark history of the antisemitic blood libel myth—how it took root in Europe, spread with the invention of the printing press, and persists today. Accusations that Jews ritually killed Christian children emerged in the mid-twelfth century, following the death of twelve-year-old William of Norwich, England, in 1144. Later, continental Europeans added a destructive twist: Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood. While charges that Jews poisoned wells and desecrated the communion host waned over the years, the blood libel survived.
Initially blood libel stories were confined to monastic chronicles and local lore. But the development of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century expanded the audience and crystallized the vocabulary, images, and “facts” of the blood libel, providing a lasting template for hate. Tales of Jews killing Christians—notably Simon of Trent, a toddler whose body was found under a Jewish house in 1475—were widely disseminated using the new technology. Following the paper trail across Europe, from England to Italy to Poland, Magda Teter shows how the blood libel was internalized and how Jews and Christians dealt with the repercussions. The pattern established in early modern Europe still plays out today. In 2014 the Anti-Defamation League appealed to Facebook to take down a page titled “Jewish Ritual Murder.” The following year white supremacists gathered in England to honor Little Hugh of Lincoln as a sacrificial victim of the Jews. Based on sources in eight countries and ten languages, Blood Libel captures the long shadow of a pernicious myth.”
“An intellectual tour de force. This authoritative study of the blood libel and its ramifications in early modern Europe will become a classic.”—Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia, author of Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial
“A work of wide-ranging research, great insight, and remarkable erudition. This will be the definitive book on blood libel for a long time to come, equally important for readers of Jewish history and Christian history in early modern Europe.”—Larry Wolff, author of Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment
“In this deeply researched and meticulously argued book, Magda Teter offers the first comprehensive study of the origins and afterlife of one of the most virulent and harmful of all anti-Jewish accusations. But Blood Libel is far more than a narrative history. By highlighting the central role of printed books, broadsheets, and images in the dissemination of the libel, Teter illuminates the mechanisms by which hate can be generated, and offers a powerful and sobering lesson for our own time.”—Sara Lipton, author of Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Iconography