“Crossing Oceans, Reducing Exoticism: Founding the Anthropological Sciences in Imperial Germany”
Imperial German anthropologists were obsessed with human skulls. They traveled for them, collected them, created new instruments to measure, represent and display them. During his field research in Asia-Pacific, A. B. Meyer bought them whenever he could, and robbed them from graves when he couldn’t. A few years later, his collection of skulls helped land this young independent scholar the directorship of Dresden’s new Museum for Zoology, Anthropology and Ethnology. The standard methods of analysis in the anthropological sciences sought to make conclusions about humankind based on collections with limited provenance and little first-hand experience with the living cultures. Thus anthropologists were easily susceptible to the unscrupulous European dealer who bestowed exotic origins upon their wares. After his return from the field, Meyer identified the widely practiced science of craniometry as defined by technologies of exoticization which actively erased the historical, cultural and social details that human remains carried with them. I argue that the experience of field research was essential to Meyer?s critique of existing practices in the metropole which further exoticized peoples from distant lands, instead of fulfilling the scientific goal of knowing them. The results of extensive field research led Meyer to propose an historical, non-essentialist approach to understanding racial and cultural difference. This approach to the anthropological sciences pitted Meyer against the dominant methods and theories standardized by the German Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Pre-history.
“Video Games, CD-ROM, and the Construction of Interactivity as Violent Activity in the Early 1990s”
The persistent debate over the effects of media violence (i.e. whether exposure to media violence increases real-world violence) has gone through transformations over the last century, dependent upon the contemporary media technology. Here I consider the discussions of interactive video game entertainment as different from, and more dangerous than, the “passive” viewing of television. The essential thing of difference, “interactivity,” has concerned both parents and politicians since the 1970s, who rallied behind the negative consequences of interactivity to support campaigns to regulate video games. They did not think of video games as games, or as play. Rather, critics believed–and still believe–video games to be nefarious interactive teachers of violence. Whether interacting with friends at the arcade, or interacting with controls to “do” violence, interactivity took on a momentum of its own as a thing to worry about.
This paralleled discussions of interactivity as a positive educational tool, thereby creating a problematic dual profile of interactivity as a formative agent. I argue here that when considering the long-term debate over the effects of media violence, interactivity-as-thing has been just as important in the last three decades as the violent media images themselves.
“The Epochs of Epics in Philippine History”
Philippine state institutions and cultural activists uphold epics linked to the pre-colonial era as the most culturally authentic, ancient, and distinctive form of Filipino literature. These “epics” originated as oral traditions performed by culturally diverse groups. Before they could be read, they had to be written down and translated into, first, the colonial language of Spanish, and later, the national languages of English and Filipino. Utilizing the works of three of the major figures in Philippine history that have sought to record and interpret these lengthy oral traditions–the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Ignacio Alzina (1610-1674), the American anthropologist H. Otley Beyer (1883-1966), and the great theorizer and collector of epics in the post-independence Philippines E. Arsenio Manuel (1909-2004)–I will attempt to unsettle notions of what this seemingly stable and ancient literary genre is understood to be. I show that during these three epochs, the epic has never been represented in quite the same way or towards the same ends.
Talk recorded March 6, 2014
“Criminalized Births: Reproduction and the Police, Rio de Janeiro, 1890-1940”
This chapter explores police involvement in poor women’s reproductive lives during Brazil’s First Republic (1889-1930) and into the early Vargas era (1930-1937) in the capital city of Rio de Janeiro. When studying legal sources, scholarship has viewed fertility control practices as just that: police investigations and judicial cases of women and their partners who practiced abortion, infanticide, and child abandonment. On the contrary, I demonstrate that police investigations of fertility control practices–abortion, infanticide, and child abandonment–in Rio de Janeiro were conflated with the unfortunate but common occurrences of miscarriages, stillbirths and maternal deaths.
“The eradication of dissidence and drugs: Mexico’s “other Dirty War” 1970-1985”
Abstract: Beginning in 1971, Mexico’s War on Drugs becomes a concern for the Official Party in power, The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). This historical juncture coincides with a heightened period of leftist Revolutionary activity in Mexico. This period is known as Mexico’s Dirty War. In 1975, Mexico implements a defoliation campaign aimed at eradicating drug production in the mountainous regions of Guerrero and Sinaloa. This defoliation campaign goes hand in hand with efforts to stamp out rebellious activities carried out by dissident groups in these regions. These dissident groups have historically attempted to readdress the issue of land tenure and social justice that have affected the region’s campesinos (farmers). It is under this precise context, Mexico’s Dirty War that the War on Drugs begins to be used as a political tool to fight dissidence in the mountainous regions of Guerrero and Sinaloa. This paper analyzes Mexico’s hidden war against dissidence, as well as its relationship with Mexico’s protracted War on Drugs.
Matthew S. Luckett
“Honor Among Thieves: Horse Stealing, State-Building, and Culture in Lincoln County, Nebraska, 1860 – 1890”
Abstract: This dissertation explores the social, cultural, and economic history of horse stealing among both American Indians and Euro Americans in Lincoln County, Nebraska from 1860 to 1890. It shows how American Indians and Euro-Americans stole from one another during the Plains Indian Wars, and explains how a culture of theft prevailed throughout the region until the late-1870s. But as homesteaders flooded into Lincoln County during the 1870s and 1880s, they demanded that the state help protect their private property. These demands encouraged state building efforts in the region, which in turn drove horse stealing – and the thieves themselves – underground. However, when newspapers and local leaders questioned the efficacy of these efforts, citizens took extralegal steps to secure private property and augment, or subvert, the law. In excavating the cross-cultural history of horse theft, this dissertation challenges studies that segregate American Indian and Euro-American horse cultures and horse stealing by illustrating how both whites and American Indians used horse stealing as a means of growing herds, seeking retribution, and establishing dominion on the Plains. It also disputes the idea that the evolution of law and order on the frontier was linear and preordained, since it was not until whites perceived that they had lost their ability to control horse stealing that they made a significant effort towards stamping it out. Finally, it demonstrates how the roots of twentieth-century fears of and campaigns to reduce violent crime, as well as the longevity of the “castle doctrine” in American politics and popular discourse, lie within late-nineteenth century concerns among horse-owning Midwesterners that even well-established law enforcement was ill-equipped to deal effectively with the dangers posed by horse thieves.
“The Politics of Reading in Colonial Nigeria’s Transition to Independence, 1940-1960”
Abstract: With an increasing number of Nigerians participating in formal schooling and mass education programs from the Second World War onwards, control of the means of literacy and book provision became an urgent matter to government, mission and other cultural agencies. These groups viewed literacy as a gateway to access and influence Nigerian attitudes towards Britain and, more generally, so-called Western economic and political ideals. For Nigerians living through the transition to independence, their choices concerning literacy were invested with political meaning, from the languages they chose to read to the types of books they purchased. Consequently, governmental and mission agencies, with the collusion of publishers, attempted to influence these choices. This talk will first trace the work of the agencies that created an infrastructure for a reading public including the building of reading rooms and the provisioning of books in Western Nigeria between 1940 and 1960. It will then reflect on how Nigerians utilized these reading spaces in ways that conformed to and resisted the expectations of the funding agencies. In doing so, my analysis foregrounds the international, as well as domestic, dimensions of the politics of reading in an African context.
“An Ounce of Prevention: U.S. Anti-Communist Operations in Indonesia, 1963-1965”
Abstract: Within a decade of its 1945 declaration of independence from Dutch colonial rule, Indonesia emerged at the vanguard of the Non-Aligned Movement. Leveraging Western Bloc as well as Sino-Soviet interest in the new nation, Indonesia’s president, Soekarno, simultaneously secured economic aid and other support from both sides while maintaining a precarious domestic balance of power between the right-wing Army and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). However, by the early 1960s, as Soekarno began to take a more aggressive anti-imperialist posture toward the West, power began to shift in favor of the PKI and its radical nationalist allies. Indonesia’s Cold War slide toward communism, long a troubling prospect to the United States Government, thus became a critical and urgent focus of U.S. foreign policy.
As U.S.-Indonesian relations disintegrated and anti-U.S. demonstrations escalated at American Foreign Service posts in Indonesia between 1963 and 1965, U.S. officials ramped up covert actions aimed at destroying the PKI and overthrowing Soekarno. Though it seemed at first that their efforts might not succeed, with an October 1, 1965 failed PKI coup and its aftermath, both of these objectives were achieved. Detailing the operations spearheaded by the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya during these years and the actions of a cast of characters from CIA operatives to Foreign Service Officers in carrying them out, this talk illuminates how the United States ounce of prevention in Indonesia contributed to one of the deadliest episodes of political violence in the twentieth century.
“Location, location, location: The real estate board and the foundations of 20th Century Los Angeles”
Abstract: The Los Angeles Realty Board (LARB) led the real estate industry in the City of Angels. Organized in 1903, LARB was part of the professionalization trend of the Progressive Era. However, they were more than a group of men trying to standardize and legitimize brokerage. The product they created, packaged and sold directly impacted the landscape of the region and the shape of a growing city.
Yet, in telling the history of Los Angeles, the Realtors have been overshadowed by the powerful heads of rail companies and newspapers. Taken collectively the men of the LARB had as significant an impact on the metropolitan area as these well-known powerbrokers. To understand the formation of the physical and social geography of the Southern California Basin it is essential to know the role of the realty board and its members in establishing the foundation of residential development that played out in the 1920s housing boom and beyond. Part of the growing national real estate industry, the way these men worked in Los Angeles also impacted realty boards throughout the nation. This talk will address the importance of including the LARB in Southern California history and its involvement in creating the patterns of sprawl and segregation emblematic of 20th century Los Angeles.
“Surrogate nomads, border shields, or native chieftains: the problem of tusi hereditary officials and political change in Southwest China in the early eighteenth century”
Abstract: The border and frontier have been long-standing concerns of historians of China and have received increased attention in recent years as a result of what has been called the New Qing history and a growing interest in thinking about Chinese dynastic states as empires. My dissertation project, a study of the China-Vietnam border of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, aims to contribute to this trend. Southwestern China, with a long history as a frontier in its own right, has received far less attention and sustained analysis than the borderlands of the northeast and northwest. My colloquium talk represents one part of my dissertation and will focus on Guangxi province in the early eighteenth century and the frontier political institution of tusi, often translated as native officials. Tusi were ubiquitous in the Chinese southwest in the early modern period but are complicated phenomena and remain poorly understood. This makes them useful points of entry for understanding this frontier and border space and its history. After discussing the nature and history of tusi and some current scholarly views on this institution, I will spend the greater part of my talk discussing the views and policies of two provincial officials, Li Fu and Gan Rulai, appointed to Guangxi in the 1720s. I hope to show some of the variations that existed amongst instances of this institution as well as the views and approaches of the representatives of the Chinese empire.
“Rama’s Hunt: Traps of Elephant Gods in Malaya”
Abstract: This paper draws attention to: a sensibility prevailing among elephant hunters in Perak, by the late 19th century, of their socioeconomic worlds and operations being intimately associated with both the supernatural and peripatetic miracle-workers. These technologically and supernaturally proficient miracle-workers served as indispensable intermediaries of wild elephants that were in essence supernatural entities, intercessors of diverse spiritual forces and beings, and executers or religious violence as incarnations of the prominent Muslim elephant hunter, Rama. I base these arguments largely upon the data provided by three 19th century compendiums of Mantra [for the] Elephant from Perak. These manuscripts are valuable windows into religious economies in the forested interior of northern Malaya wherein hunting, ensnaring, the brutal domestication and exploitation of beasts, the selection of profitable elephants, and the healing of elephants and mahouts alike, pivoted upon the supernatural negotiations, miraculous expertise, charms, fatwas and exorcisms of bomors or pawangs. These Malay sources also provide snippets of information regarding the patronage patterns, and courtly and transcultural networks, that: sustained the careers of elephant-hunting bomors or pawangs in forests and enclosures of north Malaya, and contributed to the production of texts pertaining to miracle-workers.
“Motives and Motifs: How American Jewish Fundraising Shaped Early Holocaust Survivor Narratives”
Abstract: This chapter examines how radio gave Holocaust survivors a voice in early postwar America. Radio programs sponsored by Jewish communal organizations in the late 1940s portrayed survivors through interviews, dramatizations, and public service programming transmitting the actual voices of survivors as well as actors portraying them to broad American audiences. These programs appealed for funds by depicting the experiences of Jews under Nazism and advocated for changed immigration policies in America by describing the ongoing challenges survivors faced in postwar Europe. As part of my study to understand how American Jewish philanthropic efforts shaped an identity of Holocaust survivors in postwar America, this chapter considers how radio, as a popular medium, relied on defined genres and American motifs to motivate Americans to care about Displaced Persons abroad. This excerpt focuses on the transformation of Kurt Maier’s Holocaust story from a print article to a dramatized radio program and offers one example of how American efforts to aid survivors broadcast the experience of Jews under Nazism into American homes.
“The Secret Life of Spies: Emotions and the Perception of Espionage in Fin-de-Siècle France”
Abstract: At the end of the nineteenth century, the European powers began to integrate a new tactic into their military arsenal: espionage. Professional intelligence services slowly became a part of state bureaucracies, formalizing an institution practiced by brave and devious adventurers since Biblical days. While the actual practices of these services remained understandably secretive, the public nonetheless began to develop an impression of the mission and character of professional spies, so much so that regarding France, scholars have described the fin-de-siècle as a period of spy mania. This talk will examine the public’s perception of intelligence and spies during the period of their institutionalization, and argue that understandings of espionage were formed, and subsequently developed, based not on empirical data, but on shared sentiment. Applying new theories in the History of Emotions, I discuss how feelings such as humiliation, shame, paranoia, vengeance, and honor allowed French men and women to construct ideas about espionage at a point when its actual practice remained obscure.
The History Graduate Colloquium seeks to showcase the richness and diversity of the UCLA Department of History’s graduate student research. Our presenters, typically students in the writing stage, give a talk and receive constructive feedback from their peers and mentors in the department. The format of the events ranges from practice job talks, to conference-style presentations, to a more casual workshoping of a chapter or other piece intended for publication. HGC was founded by Daphne Rozenblatt (Europe) and Brandon Reilly (Southeast Asia) in 2009. They will be joined in 2013-2014 by Grace Ballor (Europe). For a nearly complete list of all previous events, see here. For contact and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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