Center for Historical Research
By Center for Historical Research
Center for Historical ResearchApr 26, 2023
Seventy Meters Below Is My Home: Geotrauma and Earthly Memories of East China
Featuring Professor Ling Zhang from the Department of History at Boston College.
This talk introduces part of my new book entitled 108 Meters. The Xin’an river valley in east China historically sustained an affluent society with a dense human population. When a major dam was installed in the river in the mid-twentieth century, the valley experienced a dramatic transformation. The transformation was first and foremost geological. Following that was the changes to the physical, socioeconomic, and emotional relationships between people and the land that went under water. Seventy years have gone by. Mourning of the lost land has passed on across three generations. It has evolved into diverse forms and prompted different actions. The various earthly memories those men and women have made and continue making, as my oral history and ethnography reveal, are reshaping that watery world, especially in the new historical context of environmental degradation, resource shortage, and climate change.
About Ling Zhang: Born and raised in a river town in east China, Ling Zhang studied literature, philosophy, and history at Peking University in China and economic and environmental history at University of Cambridge. Her first book The River, the Plain, and the State: An Environmental Drama in Northern Song China, 1048-1128 (Cambridge University Press, 2016) received the 2017 George Perkins Marsh Prize for the Best Book in Environmental History by the American Society for Environmental History. Ling is a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Shanxi University in China. With John McNeill, she co-edits the “Studies in Environment and History” book series published by Cambridge University Press. As an associate researcher at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, she convenes a research series called “Environment in Asia.”
This Ohio State University Center for Historical Research (CHR) presentation was co-sponsored by the Institute for Chinese Studies, the East Asian Studies Center, and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies. Find out more about CHR at https://chr.osu.edu.
Exemplary rescue? Volodymyr Zelensky and the Crisis of the Liberal International Order
Featuring Dorothy Noyes, Distinguished Professor of English, Professor of Comparative Studies, and Director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at the Ohio State University. Volodymyr Zelensky is not the first actor to have come to the rescue of liberal principles in a time of crisis. Indeed, a charismatic gesture of self-sacrifice is the inevitable turning point in liberalism’s formulaic narrative of decadence and recovery. In accounts built on this formula, the personal performance serves as a general call to order, an example that not only validates neglected norms but inspires both active emulation and mimetic identification. A year on from the Russian invasion and Ukraine’s remarkable response, I will examine the Western uptake of Ukraine’s and Zelensky’s astute self-presentation as exemplars of liberal democracy. While this well-coordinated performance complex has served the immediate purpose of garnering Western resources for the war effort, the chain of emulations prompted by it has generated its own logic. The exemplary lineage claimed in Zelensky’s performances has arguably encouraged a Zeitenwende straight back to the twentieth century. In contrast, Ukraine’s earlier involvement in another chain of emulation, the Color Revolutions and the Arab Spring, evoked the forward-moving, foundational episodes of the liberal order rather than its subsequent defense. This second exemplary network became highly consequential for Ukraine’s relationship with Russia, but was insufficient to garner meaningful Western support. Dorothy Noyes is Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor of English, Professor of Comparative Studies, and Director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at the Ohio State University. Noyes studies political performance and the traditional public sphere in Europe, with an emphasis on how shared symbolic forms and indirect communication mediate coexistence in situations of endemic social conflict. She also writes on folklore theory and the international policy careers of culture concepts. Among her books are Fire in the Plaça: Catalan Festival Politics After Franco (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003); Humble Theory: Folklore’s Grasp on Social Life (Indiana University Press, 2016); and Sustaining Interdisciplinary Collaboration: A Guide for the Academy, co-authored with Regina F. Bendix and Kilian Bizer (University of Illinois Press, 2017). Her current book projects are Exemplary Failures: Gesture and Emulation in Liberal Politics and, co-edited with Tobias Wille, The Global Politics of Exemplarity. Presented by the Ohio State University Department of History Center for Historical Research (CHR). Find out more about CHR at chr.osu.edu.
The Unrepresentativeness of American Elections: How the United States Developed Electoral Structures that Defeat the Preferences of the Electorate
Featuring Edward Foley, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University. Moderator: John Brooke, Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor of History; Warner Woodring Chair in American History; Professor of Anthropology
Despite the expectation that elections are designed to identify the preferences of voters, American elections have evolved in ways that distort the translation of inputs into outputs, so that the results of which candidates win no longer match the candidates that the voters would most prefer to win. Gerrymandering is one practice that has developed with increasing intensity over recent decades to magnify the disparity between the electorate’s preferences and winning candidates. Equally important, but less well understood, is the way that primary elections cause the defeat of candidates whom the general election voters would most prefer to win. Once the distorting features of America’s election procedures are understood, it is possible to consider procedural reforms that would enable elections to produce results that voters actually want.
Edward Foley is author of Presidential Elections and Majority Rule (2020), Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States (2016) drafted Principles of Law: Non-Precinct Voting and Resolution of Ballot-Counting Disputes, and co-author of Election Law and Litigation: The Judicial Regulation of Politics (2014).
This talk is part of the Crisis, Uncertainty, and History: Trajectories and Experiences of Accelerated Change series by the Department of History's Center for Historical Research (CHR) at The Ohio State University. To learn more about CHR, please visit https://chr.osu.edu.
The Long Prehistory of Russia’s War against Ukraine
Presented by Serhy Yekelchyk. This talk discusses the history of Russo-Ukrainian relations and its representation in both countries following the Soviet collapse in 1991. It demonstrates how Putin’s nostalgia for the tsarist empire made Ukraine the likeliest target of Russian aggression and how Russia’s rejection of democracy determined the timing of the invasion.
Serhy Yekelchyk is a professor of History and Germanic & Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria.
Born and educated in Ukraine, Serhy Yekelchyk received a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta. He is the author of seven books on modern Ukrainian history and Russo-Ukrainian relations including the award-winning Stalin’s Citizens: Everyday Politics in the Wake of Total War (Oxford University Press, 2014). A professor of History and Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria, Yekelchyk is current president of the Canadian Association for Ukrainian Studies.
Event co-sponsored by the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, the Center for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, and the Department of Political Science.
When Crisis Becomes Routine: Notes from Argentina, 2001-2022
A talk by Sarah Muir, Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center for the Center of Historical Research at Ohio State University. This talk is part of the Crisis, Uncertainty, and History: Trajectories and Experiences of Accelerated Change Series.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina seemed to embody the hopeful promise of modernity: a fast-growing and democratizing country of immigrants where anyone could find work and build a prosperous future. Over the next hundred years, repeated political-economic crises rendered that promise more and more outdated, a process of obsolescence that culminated with a massive financial crisis in 2001-2002. In those years, half the population plunged beneath the poverty line, there were deaths from malnutrition in one of the most agriculturally productive nations on earth, the country declared the largest sovereign default in world history, and the value of its currency declined overnight by three-quarters. A seemingly endless stream of historical research has sought to explain this dramatic, century-long transformation by attributing causation to factors such as populist politics, international finance, oligarchic monopolies, mistaken monetary policies, and cultural predilections, just to name a few. Whatever its causes, one result has been that, in the aftermath of 2001-2002, a wide range of Argentines took up the paradoxical historical stance of routine crisis, in which crisis is unsettling and unmooring but utterly unsurprising, and in which the future is not one of assured progress but of inevitable decline. Building on an engagement with the past twenty years in Argentina, this talk considers how the concept of routine crisis can offer analytical purchase on the political impasses and obsolete commitments that inhere within other contexts—a continually evolving pandemic, a looming climate catastrophe, a rising tide of neofascism, perhaps—in which the capacity to imagine the future is structured by the grim sense that, as bad as things may be, something worse is on the horizon.
This talk was sponsored by the Department of History, the Center for Latin American Studies and the Department of Anthropology.
A video version of this talk is viewable at https://youtu.be/UUFoV19gi2g
For more information about the Center for Historical Research, please visit https://chr.osu.edu
Climate and Society from Egypt to India to China: A Regional Crisis at 160BCE?
A talk by Joseph Manning, Professor of Classics and History, Senior Research Scholar in Law at Yale University. Introduction by Professors Sara Butler and John Brooke. The talk is followed by a comment by James Stagge, Civil Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, Ohio State University.
The 160’s BCE was the critical decade in Ptolemaic history. Environmental factors have never been considered until now in the understanding of social dynamics, or in the economic, military and fiscal history of the dynasty. The decade has often been marked as the beginning of serious state decline. The causes of this decline have often been identified: internal problems (ethnic tension between Greeks and Egyptians; over-extraction of resources leading to unrest, sometimes serious and sustained, currency inflation), depravity of the kings themselves, and the increasing political and military domination of the Mediterranean by Rome. Polybius adds political neglect, moral decay, and Ptolemy IV’s love of opulence and a succession of young kings after Ptolemy IV. A new chronology of volcanic eruptions from polar ice core analysis affords us an opportunity to reevaluate historical dynamics within Egypt, to examine more critically how shocks to the annual Nile flood may or may not have played a role in “decline” and social unrest. Ice cores also allow us to tie events in Egypt to those across the Indian Ocean in the same years.
This talk is part of the Ohio State University Center for Historical Research's Crisis, Uncertainty, and History: Trajectories and Experiences of Accelerated Change Series. For more information about CHR, please visit https://chr.osu.edu. Co-sponsored by the Departments of Classics and Anthropology, the College of Earth Science, and the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center.
Pace in the Internet Age
This talk was given by Prof. Steve Kern at the Center for Historical Research at the Ohio State University. It is part of the Crisis, Uncertainty, and History: Trajectories and Experiences of Accelerated Change Series.
Stephen Kern is a Humanities Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at Ohio State University. The commentator for the talk is Professor Christopher Otter from the Department of History at Ohio State.
Commentators judge that new speedy communication, transportation, and production technologies over the past forty years have created many unforeseen problems including unemployment, mental illness, alienation, addiction, and environmental degradation, problems that some interpret as crises. This paper traces dialectically the impact of these new accelerating technologies from 1880 to the present and shows how they also stimulated new thinking about and experiences of slower paces. It argues that a fuller understanding of an acceleration of experience should interpret how contrasting paces as faster or slower arise out of each other. The new technologies also increased choices for whatever pace was appropriate for many human needs, presto or adagio, that those increasing choices had positive existential value.
Find out more about this series at https://chr.osu.edu
Place, Race, and Chronic Disease: ‘Inverting the Lens’ to Address the Root of Health Inequities
Brian Smedley, Director of the American Psychological Association’s Health Disparities Office and Chief of Psychology in the Public Interest, presented this talk at the Ohio State University Center for Historical Research as part of its series, "1619 and Beyond: Explorations in Atlantic Slavery and its American Legacy."
His work centers around the issues of health care equity and the ways in which Psychology can help us to resolve some of the most deadly public health and social welfare issues we face today. He is a co-founder of the National Collaboration for Health Equity and has served as Vice President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ Health Policy Institute.
Find out more about the Center for Historical Research at https://chr.osu.edu.
Is the Anthropocene amenable to historical analysis? Feral Atlas for historians
As the concept of the Anthropocene—the world condition of human-caused environmental catastrophe—spreads across regions and disciplines, while taking on questions of environmental justice, the importance of spatially specific analysis becomes ever clearer. What about history—denied in an early and influential essay by Dipesh Chakrabarty? This talk uses the collaborative project Feral Atlas to consider how historians might approach the Anthropocene, both within and beyond the bounds of disciplinary business as usual. The talk addresses these and more questions: (1) How do we address the planetary element of Anthropocene history? (2) At what points should we acknowledge radical breaks in landscape and human histories? (3) What happens when we recognize nonhumans as fully historical—and thus mutable actors in the making of more-than-human histories?
Anna Tsing, is Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, where she is the director of the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene. This talk was give at the Ohio State University Center for Historical Research in the Dept. of History.
Tsing is the author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton, 2015) and the co-creator of The Feral Anthropocene feralatlas.org/.
This talk was co-sponsored by the Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme and the Department of Anthropology.
Translation Diary: Disinformation Campaigns, US-China Relations, and COVID19
A talk by Michael Berry, Professor, Modern Chinese Literature and Film, UCLA at the Ohio State University Center for Historical Research.
Wuhan Diary by Fang Fang began as a blog which ran for sixty days from January 25 through March 25, 2020, documenting the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. The blog quickly became an online phenomenon, attracting tens of millions of Chinese readers. Wuhan Diary also provided an important portal for Chinese around the world to understand the outbreak, the local response, and how the novel coronavirus was impacting everyday people. The diary featured a curious mixture of quotidian details from Fang Fang’s daily routine under quarantine, medical insights from the author’s doctor friends, and brave observations about the official response. Eventually, Fang Fang’s account would become the target of a series of online attacks by “ultra-nationalists,” spawning debate about COVID-19, Sino-US Relations, and nature of civil society in China. As the English translator of Wuhan Diary, this lecture will alternate between first-hand insights from the translation process and broader observations on how the diary became a lightning rod for fierce political debate in China, ultimately hinting at the power of writing.
This talk is part of the Center for Historical Research Series, "Crisis, Uncertainty, and History: Trajectories and Experiences of Accelerated Change."
Climate Change, Crisis, and Resilience in The Pre-Modern World
Human beings are never prepared for natural disasters. Wars, pandemics, recessions and climate change always seem to come as a surprise. We prefer to live in a comfortable present than prepare for an uncertain future. Historians have a duty to address this complacency and demonstrate that it is always better – and cheaper – to prepare than to repair.
Nevertheless the impact of disasters differs: some of those affected display resilience and mostly survive whereas others collapse and sometimes perish. Do terms like “resilience” and “collapse” do justice to the experience of humans in the past: did peasants care about collapsing states? What about non-human actors? What other narrative options exist?
Can modelling causality, employing mathematics, and investigating socio-environmental interactions and mechanisms offer a way forward? What questions should we ask and answer about policy-making for today and tomorrow?
Speakers: Geoffrey Parker and Adam Izdebski Geoffrey Parker is the Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History at the Ohio State University. Adam Izdebski is an Independent Research Group Leader at the Palaeo-Science and History Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Professor Parker is the author of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (Yale, 2013), and Emperor: A new life of Charles V (Yale, 2019). Dr. Izdebski is a widely published historical climatologist specializing in the Ancient to early modern Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.
This is a presentation of the Center for Historical Research's (CHR) Crisis, Uncertainty, and History Series at the Ohio State University Department of History. For more information about CHR, please visit https://chr.osu.edu
A Crisis for Whom? Epistemologies, Historiographies, and Praxis in Times of Upheaval
Presented by Roberto Barrios, Professor of Anthropology, University of New Orleans at the Ohio State University Center for Historical Research. Introductions by Professor John Brooke, Dept. of History and Prof. Jeffrey Cohen, Dept. of Anthropology, Ohio State University. This talk is part of the Crisis, Uncertainty, and History: Trajectories and Experiences of Accelerated Change Series.
In the case of Western European historiography, the origin of the crisis concept is often traced to Classical Greece, where it was used in the medical and legal fields to denote decision or a judgement. During the Middle Ages, the latter meaning of crisis as judgement lent itself to application in Christian teleological histories of salvation, with the Final Judgement being conceived as a crisis that would mark the transition between two qualitatively different temporalities: the history of humanity and the eternal utopia of the Kingdom of Heaven. This Christian Medieval meaning of crisis would eventually permeate 18th Century historiography, where the term came to describe critical moments of upheaval that marked transitions between different epochs, a meaning that endured in 19th Century evolutionary social theory.
At the same time, crisis’ classical meaning as judgement is also commonly seen as the origin of the 18th Century Western European notion of critique. In 20th Century social science, this connection between crisis and critique resurfaced when a number of scholars came to see upheaval as a methodologically opportune moment that makes visible socio-political fault lines, contradictions, and structures that are more difficult to document during times of “normalcy.” Most notable among these scholars was Marshall Sahlins, who popularized the term crise révélatrice. But proponents of the revelatory merits of crises drew a modernist blindside as they assumed the vantagepoint for beholding a crisis was one that was informed by Marxist or political ecological theory, granting these analytical perspectives status as universally applicable transcendental critiques. Since the 1960s, post-structural deconstructions of Marxist analyses have helped us recognize the situatedness of Eurocentric social theory. In light of these contributions and in the context of global challenges such as anthropogenic climate change and the COVID 19 Pandemic, this presentation explores the following questions: If crises are, indeed, revelatory, what role does the beholder’s epistemological vantagepoint play in what is revealed to the observer? If crises are laden with the potential for social change, can they also bring about epistemological change and if so, for whom and how? This presentation was co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology.
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