From #MeToo to Systemic Cultural Change: A Public Historian’s Call to Action

The #MeToo movement has shed light on the widespread prevalence of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse, including in scholarly and professional communities. The last two years have shown us that the public history community is no exception.

If we do not act, we are complicit in the violence that has pushed countless public historians out of the field. We must now actively work towards eliminating sexual violence from the field. Today on History@Work, I offer my recommendations for public historians and the organizations that represent us.

Reflections on ‘Beyond the Breakthrough’ and Social Justice/Anti-Oppression Work

I went to the National Sexual Assault Conference in August wondering if it’s really possible to do transformative anti-oppression work from within mainstream anti-violence organization. My colleague and friend, E Bjorkman, and I had a lot of thoughts on doing social justice and anti-oppression work in our organization, the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Read more on NYSCASA’s blog.

I’m at Readercon 30!

 

Here’s my schedule:

Friday, July 12

1–2pm, Salon 3: The Real Middle Ages, Part 1: Europe (Moderating)

Medieval Europe was a hotbed of interaction among people of different cultures and ethnicities, so there’s no reason for fantasy novels with medieval-like settings to be blandly homogeneous. Panelists will discuss how popular narratives of medieval Europe misrepresent known history, how these narratives serve white supremacist movements, and how writers can do better by readers by basing their worldbuilding on Europe as it really was.

4–5pm, Salon B: A Post-Police World (Panelist)

Policing, as it has developed and is currently implemented, is a sometimes violent system for maintaining order and perpetuating the power status quo. Better systems and better ways are possible. This panel will explore the real and ostensible goals of policing and look for ethical ways to achieve them, in our future or on created worlds.

Saturday, July 13

11am–12pm, Salon 4: The Real Middle Ages, Part 2: Everywhere Else (Panelist)

Writers looking for alternatives to cod-medieval European settings don’t need to look far. The years 500 to 1500 C.E. were times of tremendous cultural and technological change around the world. Novelties of that period included Islam, paper money, and fast-ripening rice; the Incan Empire, Great Zimbabwe, and the Tang Dynasty flourished. Which non-European settings of the 6th to 16th centuries have been successfully used as the basis for fantasy lands, and which might writers find particularly inspiring?

Sunday, July 14

10–11am, Salon 3: Marginalized People Destroy History (Moderating)

In P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums, African gods wreak havoc on airships during the Civil War. In Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, the Congolese beat back the Belgians with steam power and ancient magic. Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth adds hippos and gender flexibility to 19th-century America. These stories and others reimagine history through the eyes of the oppressed and flip the script. Panelists will identify other moments in history in need of the same treatment, and discuss what that might look like.

Re: Docket No. ED-2018-OCR-0064, RIN 1870–AA14, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance

In November 2018, the US Department of Education published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Federal Register regarding Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). During the following notice-and-comment period, I submitted the following comment to the Department of Education outlining my concerns regarding the proposed changes to Title IX.Continue reading “Re: Docket No. ED-2018-OCR-0064, RIN 1870–AA14, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance”

Earth/Body/Silhouette

Earth/Body/Silhouette: Landscape as Artistic and Political Practice[1]

 

In an Artforum interview, Jacques Rancière asked: “What landscape can one describe as the meeting place between artistic practice and political practice?”[2]

Landscape is a meeting place between artistic and political practice. Landscape is a medium of exchange between what is human and what is natural.

Continue reading “Earth/Body/Silhouette”

Thoughts on Columbus, Italian American History, and Solidarity

Image: A worker removing the red paint from the hand of a Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park on Tuesday. Statues of the 15th-century explorer have come under scrutiny amid a larger debate about monuments to controversial historical figures. Credit: Dave Sanders for The New York Times. Image and caption retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/12/nyregion/christopher-columbus-statue-central-park-vandalized.html

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Every October, I find myself caught between two worlds: the Italian American community, for whom Christopher Columbus is a symbol of Italian and Italian American heritage, and the social justice-oriented community, which encourages us to reconsider ‘Columbus Day’ and transform the national holiday into an opportunity to critically engage with our colonial past.

Many Italian Americans still fiercely defend Columbus Day. But why should we? Why should Italian Americans uncritically accept a man with blood-stained hands as a representative of our heritage? Moreover, how can Italian Americans committed to building a world without oppression grapple with the ugly past and present and honor our Italian American roots?

Instead of glorifying Columbus as a symbol of our Italian American heritage, we can look to our twentieth-century predecessors, the Italian immigrants and their American-born children who faced discrimination and violence from the US government and citizens alike. Their radicalism and resistance against oppression has been deeply researched and well-documented in recent years. In the age of #BlackLivesMatter, the emergence of Indigenous Peoples Day, and increasingly hostile US policies toward non-white immigrants, it’s time for Italian Americans to return to our radical heritage and stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people of color.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Columbus, Italian American History, and Solidarity”

Article: “What are women’s prisons for?”

Amy Halliday, Chelsea Miller, and Julie Peterson, “‘What are women’s prisons for?’: Gendered states of incarceration and history as an agent for social change,” Museums & Social Issues: A Journal of Reflective Discourse 12, no. 1 (April 2017): 56-66, https://doi.org/10.1080/15596893.2017.1292104.

ABSTRACT
As the exhibition States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories travels the nation, visitors will explore the roots of mass incarceration in our communities. While mass incarceration has garnered increased media and scholarly attention in recent years, mainstream analyses overlook the role of gender, even as women are the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population in the United States. This article argues that women’s incarceration and the gendered aspects of the carceral state need to become more prominent in the national narrative, and that museums and public history institutions, in partnership with local communities, have the potential to lead this effort. Archival research and oral history interviews with community activists on the ground shed light on the gendered aspects of incarceration in the United States while, at the same time, amplifying the voices of community members and activists. Doing so provides a model for how museums and public history professionals can become active participants in promoting social change.

KEYWORDS
Carceral studies, gender, Massachusetts, mass incarceration, oral history, public memory

Continue reading “Article: “What are women’s prisons for?””

The Public Humanitarium

In June 2016, I participated in a collaborative endeavor to create a website for the Five Colleges, Inc., detailing pathways from undergraduate humanities education to professional careers in the public and applied humanities. The website—part of a larger, two-year project funded by the Five Colleges, Inc. and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant—seeks to help students, faculty and staff at individual campuses in the Five Colleges, Inc., better tap robust, shared resources.

My work on this project has helped me to better understand the utility of my own humanities education in the Five Colleges. As an alumna of Mount Holyoke College’s Department of History and the Department of Environmental Studies, the UMass Amherst/Five College M.A. program in History, and the UMass Amherst certificate program in Public History, I have been trained in multi-disciplinary research and communication methods that will prove useful, and necessary, for years to come. I can only hope that this project will help other humanities students realize their potential!

Visit The Public Humanitarium: A Five College Public Humanities Connector.

Reforming Gender and the Carceral State

During the final year of my graduate program, I participated in a national memory project entitled States of Incarceration. This project, organized by the Humanities Action Lab at the New School, consists of a traveling exhibition and an accompanying website. Teams of students and people directly affected by incarceration from 20 cities each explores a history of incarceration in their own community.

UMass Amherst’s contribution examines the history of incarceration in Massachusetts through the lens of gender, “reform,” and Reproductive Justice. The exhibition is currently traveling around the U.S., scheduled to arrive in the Pioneer Valley in February-March 2017 and my hometown of Saratoga Springs, NY, in October 2017.

My role in the project included creating video interviews with prison justice activists in Massachusetts and New York (specifically, Lois Ahrens of the Real Cost of Prisons Project and Tina Reynolds of Women on the Rise Telling HerStory), blog posts about prison justice activism in Western Massachusetts, and an exhibit panel on how the carceral state impacts Massachusetts youth.

Continue reading “Reforming Gender and the Carceral State”

Discourses of Culture and Sites of Interpretation

This post originally appeared on The Third Space: Textiles in Material and Visual Culture, an online exhibition curated by myself for the Institute for Curatorial Practice. 

“Thus confined to a specific place and reduced to a set of taxonomic segments, art is immobilized, stamped as an essence of eternal history.” — Didier Maleuvre, Museum Memories: History, Technology, Art (1999)

The medium of an online exhibition prompts questions about the possibilities and anxieties surrounding digital reproductions.[1] Since the emergence of mechanical means of reproduction, there has been debate over whether the reproduced image can substitute for the original work of art.

Continue reading “Discourses of Culture and Sites of Interpretation”