Archive for February, 2016

Native American History & the Explanatory Potential of Settler Colonialism

By Bryan Rindfleisch.

In this blog post, which originally appeared on “The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History,” one of our newest faculty members reflects on recent currents in colonial historiography and how he applies them to his course on Native American history here at Marquette.  It begins:

junto

“One of the trending themes in Native American history is “Settler Colonialism.” From Patrick Wolfe’s foundational essay, to recent works by historians and literary scholars—Bethel Saler, Jodi Byrd, Gregory Smithers, David Preston, and Lisa Ford, for instance—this theoretical model has attracted significant attention within the field.[1]

In fact, I’ve deployed this concept as the framework for my upper-division class, “A History of Native America, 1491–Present,” at Marquette. But over the past several weeks it has become evident that settler colonialism is a bit of a minefield. . . .”

Read the entire piece at https://earlyamericanists.com/2016/02/10/native-american-history-the-explanatory-potential-of-settler-colonialism/.

Bryan Rindfleisch inn assistant professor of history at Marquette University.  He is currently transforming his dissertation, “’Possessed of the most Extensive Trade, Connexions, and Influence’: The Atlantic Intimacies of an Eighteenth-Century Indian Trader,” into a book manuscript.

 

 

The World’s Fastest Human: Ralph Metcalfe and Marquette University

By James Marten

Ralph_Metcalfe_edges_Jesse_Owens_in_100_meters_1934

Ralph Metcalfe edges Jesse Owens at the 1934 AAU Championship at Marquette Stadium. Raynor Library Special Collections.

It was June 30, 1934, and a sprinter named Ralph Metcalfe would make history at Marquette Stadium, where the national American Athletic Union championships were being run. Not only would the Marquette student athlete become the first person since the 1890s to win two AAU events three years in a row (in his case the 100 and 200 meter races), on this mid-summer day he would also nip the soon-to-be legend Jesse Owens in the 100. His time of 10.4 seconds nearly tied the world record, a feat he would manage three times during the next year, leading “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” to label him “World’s Fastest Human.”

Metcalfe’s fame—he had already won a silver and a bronze at the 1932 Olympics—would be eclipsed by Owens, a track and field hero at Ohio State who would go on to international fame by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Adolf Hitler’s Berlin. Metcalfe also ran in the games, winning a silver in the 100 (just behind Owens) and a gold as a member of the 400-meter relay (with Owens).

As Owens carved out immortality as one of the world’s greatest athletes, Metcalfe earned his degree, coached track at Xavier University, served in the military during World War II, and became director of Chicago’s Department of Civil Rights. He began more than two decades in politics when he won election to the Chicago City Council in 1955; in 1970 he successfully ran for Congress, where he helped organize the Congressional Black Caucus. He died suddenly in 1978, and is remembered in Chicago as the namesake of the Federal Building.

His memory also survives at Marquette, most notably in a lecture series that bears his name. Each year three or four “prominent faculty, scholars and professionals of diverse backgrounds” (according to Marquette’s website) visit campus as holders of the Ralph H. Metcalfe, Sr., Chair, delivering public lectures, speaking to classes, and meeting with graduate and undergraduate students. The history department has sponsored a number of Metcalfe Chairs over the years; most recently, in February 2014, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, gave a lecture titled, “Guilty Until Statistically Proven Innocent: How Data Destroyed the Promise of Civil Rights.”  Two years earlier, Richard Blackett, Andrew Jackson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, presented “Taking Leave: Fugitive Slaves and the Politics of Freedom, 1850-1860,” as part of the department’s “Freedom Project,” commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

Owens’s feats on the track and in Berlin are featured in the movie “Race,” opening on Friday, February 19 (http://www.focusfeatures.com/race).  Despite their close association during their years as track stars and their life-long friendship, Metcalfe is not a major chMetcalfe1aracter; a relatively unknown actor named Dondre Octave will play Metcalfe in the movie.  The trailer features a couple of scenes that include Metcalfe: the climatic 100 meter race and the young men’s appearance on the medal stand.

But Ralph Metcalfe’s legacy transcends his reputation as one of Marquette’s most accomplished athletes. As a politician, a civil rights advocate, and a representative of and inspiration to his city, his community, and his university, Metcalfe’s work and name live on.

metcalfe2

James Marten is professor and chair of the department of history.

The February 16 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured a long story (http://www.jsonline.com/greensheet/ralph-metcalfe-beats-jesse-owens-at-marquette–in-1934-b99669717z1-369048961.html) about of Metcalfe and Owens as well as a photo gallery (http://www.jsonline.com/multimedia/photos/the-rivalry-of-ralph-metcalfe-and-jesse-owens-b99671742z1-369049991.html).

 

Benedict Anderson: An Appreciation

By Timothy G. McMahon

Late in 2015 saw the passing of Benedict Anderson, Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University. His book Imagined Communities (first published in 1983) is a staple in discussions of nations and nationalism, subjects that are at the heart of much of my research, and I have been wrestling with his ideas for more than two decades now and inviting my students to join that struggle too. Indeed, just before Anderson’s death, my graduate readings course debated and wrote papers on the method and implications of his adaptations of Walter Benjamin’s ideas.

Had Andandersonerson (1936-2015) never written IC, however, it is likely that I would have encountered him (or at least his father) at some point in my research into Irish actors in the British Empire. The elder Anderson, you see, was an Anglo-Irishman whose career took him to China, where he worked for the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service, which had been overseen by another Irishman, Sir Robert Hart, from the 1860s through the first decade of the twentieth century. Hart’s voluminous papers are vital source material for scholars of nineteenth-century China, but (as I hope to show in the near future), they are also important records of Irish engagement with the world beyond the United Kingdom. Hart famously recruited European agents to oversee his Chinese staff—the majority of whom came from Ireland and Britain—and among the many traits he required of his subordinates was a facility with Mandarin and a respect for indigenous customs. Facility with languages beyond English seems to have passed through the generations in the Anderson family, as an appreciative piece in the New Republic noted over the weekend. Benedict alone could read Dutch, German, Spanish Russian, and French and was fully conversant in Indonesian, Javanese, Tagalog, and Thai, though he claimed in the 2006 edition of IC that English and Indonesian were the only two languages in which he felt truly at home.

That comment came near the end of the Afterword that Anderson included in the 2006 edition, which might seem at first blush a self-serving 22-page homage to how widely known IC had become since it first appeared. But I choose to read these pages, and particularly its concluding sentence, as a call to the rest of us to pick up the baton where Anderson left it. What is, after all, the intent of scholarship? It is to seek out new knowledge, both for its own sake and for the sake of informing wider audiences, whether in the classroom or the public sphere beyond the university. Too often these days we hear universities and faculties portrayed as out of touch with the “real world” and in need of a reminder of their duty to their students—a charge that I find laughable when not offensive given the work I know colleagues put into their careers. It is difficult to envision someone more engaged in the real world than Anderson, whose wider career looked deeply at southeast Asia and especially at Indonesia, deeply enough in fact that he was banned from Indonesia for several decades after his work had exposed some of the worst atrocities of the Suharto regime.

In no way am I suggesting that all of us—or even a high percentage of us—would ever have that kind of impact, but in his recognition that translations of IC had subtly changed its meaning for different audiences (“IC is not my book anymore,” he once wrote), Anderson offers the most generous piece of advice to scholars and students that one possibly can.1 It is that what we are all really involved in is a prolonged conversation, a game of telephone, in which our ideas become part of a stream of others’ ideas that, over time, helps us to perceive our world with greater clarity and, hopefully, to act accordingly. That is a vision I can imagine with a smile.

  1. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London and New York: Verso, 2006 rev. ed.), p. 229.

 

Tim McMahon is associate professor of history and Vice President of the American Conference of Irish Studies. He is the author of Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910 (Syracuse, 2008) and editor of the memoir Pádraig Ó Fathaigh’s War of Independence: Recollections of a Galway Gaelic Leaguer (Cork, 2000). He is currently writing a monograph tentatively entitled Éire Imperator: Ireland’s Imperial Ambivalence.


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