Tag Archives: Fordham faculty

The Professor and the Process: Rosemary Wakeman and Practicing Utopia

This last year, the department’s own Professor Rosemary Wakeman published her examination of the twentieth-century new town movement with the University of Chicago Press. Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement tracks the global phenomenon as it ignored traditional political and geographic boundaries as each location strived for its own vision of an idealized city.

Discussing another historian’s work, from its inception to completion and the problems they encounter along the way, personally helps me realize my own research may be more fantastic reality rather than realistic fantasy (you mean I’m not the only one who feels like they spend more time than necessary getting archival permission?). Thankfully, Dr. Wakeman was able to take some time away from her schedule to discuss with me the process and problems for Practicing Utopia.

History Department: So how did the research for this book begin?

Rosemary Wakeman: Like many projects, I begin research while writing on Paris and its postwar development. The housing crisis and new towns in the Paris region led to the overwhelming sources on new towns in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia. It was impossible not to follow the trail.

HD: So what began in Paris developed into a worldwide study? How long did it take then to write the book?

RM: The book was written during a year-long fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) in Wassenaar, the Netherlands. Another 8+ months followed hunting for images and permissions, working with the editors at the University of Chicago Press to put together the final version.

HD: As a book that developed from Paris into a worldwide study, where does this fit into your overall research?

RM: My longstanding interest is in European urban history, especially the second half of the 20th century. The new towns book gave me the chance to explore urban history, architecture and urban planning in central and eastern Europe.

HD: Did exploring these topics then lead you into any new avenues of research?

RM: This has led to a new project on An Urban History of Europe, 1815 to the Present, which will be published by Bloomsbury Press. Another upcoming project speaks to my interest in continuing a global perspective and will examine the connections between Bombay, London, and Shanghai in the mid-20th century.

HD: It sounds like the trail hasn’t ended then. Have there been any bumps in that trail, such as problems that kept you awake at night dreading some aspect of the project?

RM: What kept me up at night was the choice of which new towns and architect-planners to include in the book and how to organize them around an intellectual history. Finding images and permissions was also difficult. Nonetheless, the project was an opportunity to be in contact with archivists and researchers in new towns literally all over the world. This was an immense pleasure and one of the great benefits of doing historical research.

Thanks so much to Professor Wakeman for taking the time to answer our questions.

When she is not away writing wonderful books, Professor Wakeman teaches frequently in the History graduate program and has served as Director of the O’Connell Initiative in the History of Global Capitalism.

 

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Interview with Dr. Asif Siddiqi on the Soviet Space Program

Fordham’s own Dr. Asif Siddiqi recently spoke to New Books Network about his latest monograph, The Red Rockets’ Glare: Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination 1857-1957 (Cambridge University Press, 2013) in which he examines the long history of space travel in Russian culture. Click here to listen to the full interview at the New Books Network website.

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Kirsten Swinth Discusses Mothers and American Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s

 

 Professor Kirsten Swinth was recently interviewed by Fordham News to talk about her work on American feminism of the 1960s and 1970s.  She told them the story of how mothers finally achieved the legal right to have a job in 1971.

This story is part of her forthcoming book from Harvard University Press, For Work and Family: A Real Feminist History of “Having it All”

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Challenging Assumptions: A Conversation with Steven Stoll

Profesor Steven Stoll

Professor Steven Stoll

Steven Stoll became a member of the Fordham History Department in 2008.  His classes and research focus on the history of capitalism and environmental history and more specifically how these two topics intersect. Stoll’s work is extremely relevant today as politicians and scientists debate climate change; activists and industry clash over fracking; California struggles through drought; and farmers raise ethical concerns about GMOs. But what is environmental history? For Stoll, environmental history is the story of how humans have changed the planet, how societies have lived well (or not so well) with the environment, and how different societies at different points in time have thought about ‘nature’.  He explained that people’s ideas about the Earth and the environment have changed drastically over the last 400 years. Stoll said, “Students, and a lot of other people, look at New York City and how we live today—the kinds of houses we live in, the kinds of energies and conveniences we have—and though they know it hasn’t always been this way, they assume that all of this is normal, that things are supposed to be this way.. I try to show them that our way of life has existed for an astonishingly short period of time. To me, the most exciting use of history is to take ideas that people think are universal or derived from ‘nature’ and reveal their recent origins.”  

 

Steven Stoll giving a lecture at Yale University entitled "The Captured Garden: Substance Under Capitalism" in 2013. The lecture is available as a video on the Yale University Website.

Steven Stoll giving a lecture at Yale University entitled “The Captured Garden: Substance Under Capitalism” in 2013. The lecture is available as a video on the Yale University Website.

                   Professor Stoll questions the notion of progress, his views are in direct opposition to what most of his students and readers learned growing-up in Western society. Walt Disney World’s Carousel of Progress celebrates progress without any critical examination and perpetuates the idea that each new technological advancement is an inevitable improvement to society.  However, Stoll argues that there is no “spirit of progress embedded in human history” driving technological change. He explains that technological progress “occurs for very specific reasons, but always because someone invents something that fulfills a social goal.” What constitutes progress depends on who benefits from technological change, he says. Stoll encourages his students and readers to step outside of their lives and experiences to critically examine the world.  

 

                   He laughed good naturedly while saying, “My courses are about how everything we know comes out of the past, just like any other historian.” His course on North American environmental history is not just abstract topics (like the nature of progress) but covers people, inventions, and events like the Erie Canal, the construction of American railroads, the fate of the passenger pigeon, the Ice-Age migration of American-Indians, and the history of industrialization. He explores the interaction between capitalism and the environment in his two books The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Countryside in California and Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth- Century America.

Larding the Lean Earth by Steven Stoll published in 2002

Larding the Lean Earth by Steven Stoll published in 2002

 Stoll is currently working on his fifth book, which focuses geographically on the Appalachian Mountains. “At first, I didn’t really know what I wanted to say about it, honestly. It’s a big and complicated place. But I knew I wanted write about how the people who lived in the mountains lost their land, how mountain people who lived in log cabins became coal miners, not necessarily by choice, but how the industry and the state transformed their environment and forced them into wage work as the only way to make a living.” In his book on Appalachia, Stoll examines how ‘mountain people’ lived independently with their own system and means of survival and the factors led to the destruction of this way of life. He also explores aspects of mountain society itself, like population growth and environmental erosion, and also how society changed when “capital came into the mountains.” The book covers Appalachia between the Whiskey Rebellion and the Great Depression.

            Long after speaking with Dr. Stoll my brain was stuck on the slice of avocado I had with my lunch. Who grew this avocado? Who owned the land it was grown on? Who, if anyone, owned the genetic code in the seeds? Who picked and packaged this fruit? What are the conditions under which they work? If it was a California avocado, how much water did it take to grow this fruit? Who has the ‘right’ to water during a shortage,? It was just an avocado, which I had eaten so many                                                                            times before but now it was so much more than that.

 

If you’re interested in Steven Stoll’s work you can read his article “No Man’s Land” published online in the Orion Magazine, as well as his two books The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Country Side in California and Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America. And, of course, be on the look-out for his upcoming monograph on Appalachia.

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Dr. Nicholas Paul wins the Medieval Academy of America’s 2016 John Nicholas Brown Book Prize

Nicolas PaulThis text was originally posted by Alexa Moore and written by Laura Morrale on The Venerable Blog  run by the Center for Medieval Studies at Fordham University. 

“Fordham medievalist Nicholas Paul has won the Medieval Academy of America’s 2016 John Nicholas Brown Book Prize, awarded annually for a first book on a medieval subject. His monograph, To Follow in their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages, is based on research first completed for his doctoral dissertation at Cambridge University.  Further research for the book also took him to Spain and France where he examined family histories, archives, and crusader tombs.

According to the Medieval Academy, To Follow in their Footsteps “offers an original investigation into collective memory in the first crusading century.  Paul draws upon widely-ranging sources (texts and material objects) in family history, anthropology, literary theory and sociology to illuminate the historical context and dynastic narratives of the Crusades.”

The Center for Medieval Studies has been fortunate to work with this award-winning author as an instructor in our program and a collaborator on several digital projects. The Oxford Outremer Map Project is based on a map he first encountered while teaching a graduate course on the Crusader States, which was then developed into a digitally-enhanced interactive version, supplemented with geographic, historical, and archaeological data. As a contributing editor to the French of Outremer website, Dr. Paul has taken a leading role in shaping how scholars understand the wide range of French-language texts produced and circulated in the Crusader States. Dr. Paul offered the following observations concerning the connections between his writing, his teaching, and his work on the digital projects at the Center:

“Since the publication of my book, my research horizons have expanded in ways that I could not have imagined due entirely to the exciting developments in digital humanities at the Center for Medieval Studies. The projects that Medieval Studies have already sponsored, such as the Oxford Outremer Map Project, the project to edit and translate the legal texts of Outremer, and the new project to aggregate and map data related to independent crusaders, demonstrate perfectly of how digital approaches, tools, and platforms are making possible completely new modes of presentation and analysis.”

Dr. Paul has suggested that these digital projects will form an important part of his work going forward, for several reasons:

“Each of these projects represents a piece of a much larger puzzle that I’m taking on in my current research: attitudes to the eastern crusading frontier in Medieval Europe. But aside from the data that they offer, the projects have acted as fantastic platforms for our graduate students to hone skills using digital tools and exercise creativity. They are also nodes around which new scholarly communities, such as the translation group working on the legal texts or the international team who contributed to our digital map, have coalesced. For all of these reasons, I look forward to the future of digital humanities at Fordham, and in particular with my friends, colleagues, and students at the Center for Medieval Studies.”

We congratulate our colleague on winning such a prestigious award, and look forward to working with Dr. Paul on current and future projects here at the Center for Medieval Studies.

By Laura Morreale

To find out more about the Center for Medieval Studies be sure to visit The Venerable Blog

 

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