Posts Tagged 'Peter Staudenmaier'

Where in the World Are MU Historians?

Years ago PBS aired a popular children’s show called “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” With the clever live-action sketches, animation, and an acapella group, viewers learned geography—not just where a country was on a map, but how the people of those countries lived.

One of the primary objectives of Historians@Work is to present the many “journeys” taken by MU historians and students.  Some are figurative, but many are literal.  The latter is certainly the case in this installment, as we learn about the upcoming summer research adventures of a half dozen of our associate professors.  Each was recently awarded funding from Marquette’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, which grants Summer Faculty Fellowships (stipends) and Regular Research Grants (for travel expenses) to two or three dozen Marquette faculty each year.

This summer our band of historians will outdo the fictional Carmen San Diego, as they conduct research in Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, and Italy, as well as Virginia, California, and Chicago.

This year’s awards, worth over $50,000, made history for our department—we have never received so many awards in a single year. This obviously reflects the interesting subjects these historians are exploring, as well as the success of their previous research.  Below, in their own words, you can read about their projects and their travel plans.

Michael Donoghue: Race, Identity, and Gender in U.S. Military-Cuban Relations 1941-1964  I plan to travel to Cuba and Virginia this upcoming summer to investigate the local records of U.S. Military-Cuban relations from 1941-1964 in Havana and Guantánamo City, Cuba and at the Marine Historical Division in Quantico.  3The focus of my research is on the intersections of race, identity, and gender that occurred between U.S. military personnel and the Cuban people from World War II until the closing of the U.S. Guantánamo naval base from Cuban contact in 1964 – and how these interactions contributed to the anti-American atmosphere of the Cuban Revolution.  I hope that this project will make a significant contribution toward our understanding of the many strands and forces that helped shape the Cuban Revolution beyond, high status actors, larger events, and economic indices, as it focuses on the personal and social relations that contributed to many revolutionary processes.  Michael is author of Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (2014).

Alison Clark Efford, Suicide and Immigrant Emotions, 1882-1924  I received funding for two research trips, one to San Diego to investigate suicides among Japanese immigrants in the early twentieth century and the other to Chicago to research suicide, immigrant Catholicism, and the influential “Chicago School” of sociology. My larger book project explores the negative emotions that sometimes accompanied immigration by addressing the extensively documented act of suicide. I probe the inner lives of a variety of immigrants and shows how suicides drew wider attention to immigrant emotions. As early as 1861, the New York Times noted that the foreig1n-born accounted for about a third of the city’s population but three-quarters of its recorded suicides. By the turn of the century, the suicidality of immigrants was accepted as common wisdom. Whether commentators thought it reflected ethnic characteristics or the trauma of relocation, immigrant suicide became entangled with fears about alienation in modern society and rapid demographic change.  Alison is author of German Immigrants, Race, and Citizenship in the Civil War Era (2013)

Lezlie Knox, Mariano of Florence and Religious Life in Cinquecento Italy.    Mariano was a prolific author—in less than 25 years, he wrote fifteen treatises in both Latin and Italian.  These works range from shorter works on devotional themes to lengthy—really lengthy–histories of his religious order (male, female, and lay branches of the Franciscan Order) and his native Tuscany.  Many of these works remain in manuscript, due in no small part to Mariano’s cramped handwriting!  This grant will fund my completion of archival work in Italy, as well as time to do work at the Antonianum, the Franciscan Order’s pontifical university in Rome, which has one of the best libraries for my subject.  However, I am not just interested in Mariano as a Franciscan historian, but also in the ways his works describes religious culture in the towns and ecclesiastical centers of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Italy.  My study of his life and writings contributes to a broader 2understanding of society and culture during the later Middle Ages, particularly one which approaches that era as vital in its own right rather than symptomatic of later medieval decay or, conversely, a threshold to the humanistic attractions of the Renaissance.  Lezlie is author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (2008) and co-editor of the forthcoming Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome:  The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania.  She has also received a $3000 Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society to help fund this research.

Laura Matthew: Circulations: Death and Opportunity on Mesoamerica’s Costa del Sur, 1500-1630  I will devote the summer to research for a book-length project examining migration, networks, and trade along Mesoamerica’s southern Pacific6 Coast in the century after European invasion. The SFF and RRG will fund a deep foray into the Guatemalan national archives, a first exploration of the regional archives of Chiapas, and travel along the routes described in the documents to achieve a more grounded sense of the places and spaces she is writing about.  Laura is author of Memories of Conquest: Becoming Mexicano in Colonial Guatemala (2012), recipient of the 2013 Howard F. Cline Memorial Prize from the Conference on Latin American History and the 2013 Murdo MacLeod Prize from the Southern Historical Association. 

Timothy G. McMahon, Beyond the Boundary Commission: Partitioned Identities in Modern Ireland   The United Kingdom government partitioned the island of Ireland through legislation in 1920, creating two states that claimed distinct identities (Northern Ireland as British, the Irish Free State as Irish). Partition had, however, been proposed and rejected on two prior occasions by many of the people who seemingly embraced it in the 1920s. A the new states sought to reinforce the distinctiveness of their populations, people living on either side of the new border continued to interact in spite of the new reality. The present project builds on the work of Rogers Brubaker to propose a new way of thinking about how the reality of a novel state boundary shaped identities, examining the 4interdependence of daily lived experience with movement politics and parliamentary legislation. Given the recent Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the possible shake-up of the United Kingdom—which has already seen calls from some in Scotland to secede and from some in Ireland and Northern Ireland to examine the relevance of the existing border—a detailed study of identity formation on this frontier has both historical and contemporary relevance. My proposal will enable me to undertake three weeks of archival research in Dublin and Belfast before spending approximately six weeks drafting an article to address the changed attitudes of the early 1920s.  Tim is author of Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910 (2008) and editor of the memoir Pádraig Ó Fathaigh’s War of Independence: Recollections of a Galway Gaelic Leaguer (2000).

Peter Staudenmaier, The Politics of Blood and Soil: Environmental Ideals in Nazi GermanyMy project aims toward a book manuscript examining controversial historical questions about the role of environmental protection efforts and ecological sustainability within the Nazi regime. Though scholars in a variety of fields recognize the prominence of “blood and soil” ideology in the Third Reich – the belief in an essential link between natural regeneration and racial renewal – there is no consensus on its historical significance or practical relevance. My research represents the first comprehensive analysis of the topic, based on extensive archival research5 over the past five years. It is structured around three main case studies: the emergence of early alternative agricultural movements during the Weimar era and their reception under Nazi rule; the role of Nazi “advocates for the landscape” in environmental planning during the Third Reich; and the ecological components of Nazi policy in conquered territories in Eastern Europe during World War II. I plan to use the Summer Faculty Fellowship to complete the final stages of research and begin writing the book.   Peter is author of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (2014).

Nazis and the Environment

By Peter Staudenmaier

Sometimes a seemingly obscure historical topic attains unexpected publicity. My current research project centers on the role of environmental ideals in Nazi Germany; I have been gathering archival sources on the subject since graduate school. Earlier this year I was fortunate to receive a generous research grant from the Holocaust Educational Foundation for a proposal titled “Nature and Genocide: Ecological Dimensions of the Nazi Racial Project.” Thanks to this support, I had the opportunity to spend several very productive months in archives in Munich and Berlin assembling an increasingly rich and compelling body of evidence.

Upon my return to the US, I was surprised and encouraged to find a sudden upswing in scholarly interest in this same subject. A headline in the New York Times Book Review from early September read: “Hitler’s Ecological Fantasies.” Beneath it was a thoughtful review by a senior Holocaust scholar of Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s recent book Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Penguin, 2015–see Michael Marrus, “Hitler’s Ecological Fantasies,” New York Times Book Review, September 6, 2015, p. 9). In his multifaceted re-interpretation of the Holocaust, Snyder argues that Hitler saw the elimination of European Jews as a kind of ecological necessity.

This conjunction of environmental ideas and extermination policies undoubtedly appears outlandish to some readers, but it is not a historical novelty. Debates on the topic have produced a gradually growing scholarly literature over the past two decades. In the words of Enzo Traverso’s study The Origins of Nazi Violence:

 “Mysticism founded on nature, antihumanist irrationality, and the redemptive myth of a return to the land (through conquest) led to a policy of genocide represented as a disinfection, a purification – in short, an ‘ecological’ measure. The Jews, who embodied an abstract (exterritorial, anational) form of humanity, were to be wiped out in the name of the preservation of nature.” (Enzo Traverso, The Origins of Nazi Violence [New Press, 2003], p. 144)

 Recent developments promise to push these debates forward. Among historians of Nazism and the Holocaust, Snyder’s controversial book has brought renewed attention to the ostensibly ecological aspects of Hitler’s rule. Among environmental historians, meanwhile, the potentially authoritarian strands in early green politics have begun to receive more intensive scrutiny. These are challenging and contentious questions, not least because of the potential for misunderstanding. Nostalgists for Nazism are all too eager to publicize purportedly redeeming aspects of the regime, while anti-environmentalists gladly seize on any suggestion of a link between ecology and Hitler.

My own research aims to bring the complex historiography of the Holocaust into productive dialogue with the insights of environmental history in order to illuminate an ambiguous and troubling question. From the role of Nazi “advocates for the landscape” in shaping SS plans for conquered territories in the East, to the organic plantation at the Dachau concentration camp that served as an SS training facility, there is much about this history that remains to be examined, carefully and critically, in an effort to understand an especially perplexing part of the past.

A topic like this calls for interdisciplinary perspectives, and in this respect I have once again been fortunate in receiving substantial support from other scholars and other institutions. Last year I was able to conduct crucial research during a short-term fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and this summer I had the chance to take part in an excellent faculty seminar at the University of Chicago on “Nature in German Thought” sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service. Other participants in the seminar came from literary and philosophical fields, which greatly enriched our discussions.

As I move forward with my research, I hope to include the findings not just in academic work but in publications for a broader readership. I also plan to incorporate some of the material into my teaching, both in my course on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and in the new course on environmental history that we expect to introduce at Marquette next year. I am very grateful for the support I have received from many quarters as the research has developed, and I look forward to bringing this long-running proje62543ct to fruition in the years to come.

Peter Staudenmaier is an assistant professor of history at Marquette and author of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (2014).

History Faculty Win Funding for Research on Fascists, Friars, and Foreign Relations.

Historians at Marquette, like their colleagues everywhere, require two kinds of resources to conduct their research: the funding to travel to archives and the time to write. Marquette University expects its scholars to seek funding from such agencies as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, to name just two of the larger funders of humanities and social science research, as well as from smaller, more specialized organizations and from archives. But faculty can also apply for summer research funding—that’s when much of the serious research and writing takes place–through a competitive process administered by the Committee on Research (chaired this year by our own Tim McMahon!). Summer Faculty Fellowships offer a stipend (read time), while Regular Research Grants pay for travel to collections. Dozens of MU faculty apply each year; less than half are approved. (You can find out more about the COR and the funding programs its members administer at http://www.marquette.edu/orsp/COR.shtml.)

The Committee on Research made three awards to historians this year, which will take their recipients to Germany, Italy, and Cuba to research, respectively, “the unlikely entanglement between environmental ideals and fascist politics,” the life of an “the lived experiences of a fairly ordinary Franciscan friar and his contemporaries during a period of religious turmoil,” and the “intersections of race, identity, and gender” in the relationship between the American military and Cubans living near and working on the US based at Guantánamo. Brief descriptions of these fascinating projects follow.

Peter Staudenmaier: The Politics of Blood and Soil: Environmental Ideals in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy 

The controversial history of early environmentalism in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy is not well understood. Though scholars in a variety of fields recognize the role of “blood and soil” beliefs in the two regimes – that is, the attempt to link natural regeneration with racial renewal – there is no consensus on their historical significance or practical relevance. Detailed staudenmaier  empirical studies remain rare. My project represents the first comparative analysis of the topic based on archival research. It is structured around a series of case studies, including the history of organic farming under the Nazi regime and the Fascist campaign for ruralization in 1930s Italy. But the project as a whole goes well beyond these specifics. I aim to present a comprehensive historical analysis of the unlikely entanglement between environmental ideals and fascist politics. This is a classic “second book” project, with a full-length monograph as the eventual outcome. It represents an important new phase in my scholarship, and I expect the book to make a provocative contribution not just to historical debates but also to ongoing public discussion of vital and timely questions about environmental sustainability and its political contexts.  Staudenmaier is assistant professor and author of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (Brill, 2014).

Lezlie Knox: Mariano of Florence: An Ordinary Friar in an Extraordinary Time

This biographical study of Fra Mariano of Florence (d. 1523) explores the lived experiences of a fairly ordinary Franciscan friar and his contemporaries during a period of religious turmoil both within his own religious order and in the Roman Church more generally in the decades prior to the Reformation.  Mariano performed ordinary clerical duties throughout his life, but also found the time to research aclarend write fifteen treatises on his order’s history and noted members.  My research project uses these writings (some of which exist only in manuscript copy) to explore daily life in the friaries and convents of central Italy at the end of the Middle Ages.  It also assesses how important debates over what it meant to be a Franciscan played out at a local level, a subject that is frequently overlooked in favor of conflict at the level of the Order’s leadership. This proposal specifically seeks funding to travel to Florence, Italy in June-July 2015 in order to read Mariano’s autograph manuscripts and research archival documents related to the communities in which he lived.  Lezlie Knox is associate professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

Michael Donoghue: Race, Identity, and Gender in U.S. Military-Cuban Relations 1941-1964

I plan to travel to Cuba next summer to investigate the local records of U.S. military-Cuban relations from 1941-1964 in Santiago, Guantánamo City, and Caimanera.  The focus of my research is on the intersections of race, identity, and gender that occurred between U.S. military personnel and the Cuban people from World War II until the closing of the U.S. Guantánamo naval base from Cuban contact in 1964.  The main focus of my research is how these interactions contributed donoghueto the anti-American atmosphere of the Cuban Revolution.   The U.S presence resulted in numerous binational encounters.  Some were negative that included brawls, crimes, the growth of a sex industry, and narcotics sales.  Other had more positive impacts such as cultural and economic exchanges, service jobs, intermarriages, and joint interests in sports, religion, and spectacle.  This study will examine the impact of these encounters in transforming what was once regarded as Washington’s closest alliance in the Caribbean into one of intense hostility by 1960.   My third trip to Cuba will be concentrate on finishing up my research in the archives of Santiago and Guantánamo City and also conducting more interviews with retired Cuban workers from the base and local service industries that catered to Americans. This project will make a significant contribution toward our understanding of the many strands and forces that helped shape the Cuban Revolution beyond, high status actors, larger events, and economic indices, as it focuses on the personal and social relations that drove so many revolutionary processes.  Michael Donoghue is associate professor and author of Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (Duke, 2014).

 

May Day–International Worker’s Day

Peter Staudenmaier reminds us of the varied meanings of May Day, and shares his experience in New York, working with Occupy Wall Street organizers, doing the work of a public intellectual.

Today is May Day, a traditional springtime holiday that is also celebrated in much of the world as International Workers’ Day. Its modern historical roots lie here in the Midwest, among immigrant labor activists in the Chicago of the 1880s, and are as much anarchist as socialist. May Day also occupies an important place in the history of the Catholic Worker movement of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. This year it will be marked by a series of demonstrations across the US coordinated through the Occupy Wall Street movement.

 During the semester break in January and once again during Marquette’s spring break in March, I had the privilege of participating in a series of week-long courses in New York City with Occupy Wall Street organizers from around the country. They asked me to come to New York to join a variety of other instructors, some academics and some independent scholars, in providing historical context and intellectual perspective on current struggles around fundamental economic and political issues. Many of those most intimately involved in last fall’s upsurge of attention to such issues, and many of those who have remained engaged in Occupy Wall Street activities since its fading from public awareness, came to these unorthodox courses and workshops eager to learn about the history of alternative movements like theirs and the challenges these movements have faced.

 From a pedagogical viewpoint, the classes were an ideal teaching situation; the students combined extensive practical experience and earnest enthusiasm with passionate commitment to expanding their Continue reading ‘May Day–International Worker’s Day’

Holocaust Remembrance Day at Marquette

Dr. Peter Staudenmaier recently participated in Marquette’s hosting of a Holocaust survivor.  Today, Holocaust Remembrance Day, he reminds us of the importance of remembering the Holocaust and the multiple roads that led to the Holocaust.

Today, April 19, is Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated in communities around the world. In preparation for observing this date, Marquette hosted a remarkable event at the beginning of the month with holocaust survivor Robert Behr. Born in Berlin in 1922, Mr. Behr and his family were interned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942 and managed to survive until the camp was liberated in May 1945. Now 90 years old and a resident of Washington DC, Mr. Behr agreed to come to Marquette to talk with students about his experiences. The chief event, an evening panel discussion on April 2 with Mr. Behr as the principal speaker, was organized at the initiative of a group of Marquette students and sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs. To the surprise of the organizers and panel members, more than 500 people attended the event and engaged in a searching discussion of this exceptionally challenging historical subject.

Along with Bonnie Shafrin of the Milwaukee Holocaust Education Resource Center, I was asked to participate on the panel with Mr. Behr. It was an honor to take part in the event, before the largest audience I have ever addressed, and I took the opportunity to examine some of the difficult questions which confront anybody who tries to come to terms with the seemingly incomprehensible Nazi campaign to exterminate European Jews. Mr. Behr himself provided much of the historical context, in the midst of a moving personal account, and encouraged Ms. Shafrin and myself to raise issues that would help illuminate this aspect of the past for the students. It was an occasion for both historical reflection and earnest consideration of the relevance of the past for present concerns.

Continue reading ‘Holocaust Remembrance Day at Marquette’


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