This session will feature three-minute presentations by historians describing their dissertation research. People interested in being panelists should contact the AHA to register, and audience members will be invited to join the lightning round during the session.

In order to highlight the range of new research by graduate students and to encourage students to practice explaining their work to other historians as well as non-specialists, the AHA Research Division has organized a dissertation lightning round.

The session will build on the success of previous lightning rounds as well as intersect with the AHA’s Career Diversity for Historians initiative, which emphasizes the importance of communicating ideas as a skill that is important for the careers of history PhDs inside and outside the academy.

We will organize some presenters ahead of the meeting, as well as recruit an appropriate emcee for the session. We will also retain open slots for presenters to allow and encourage graduate students to nominate themselves to participate.


Session Information

AHA Session 74

Date: Friday, January 4, 2019
Time: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Location: Buckingham Room (Hilton Chicago, Lobby Level)
Chair: Jennifer Serventi, National Endowment for the Humanities




‘Take This Sabbath Day’: A Study of Sunday Mail Delivery, 1810-1912

Rebecca Brenner (American University), @rebeccabbrenner

Postmen delivered mail on Sundays from 1810 through 1912, creating a series of negotiations between government, citizens, commerce, technology, and populations seeking equality. My dissertation explores what happened on the ground when mail arrived on most Christians’ Sabbath. What did Sunday mail delivery mean for American democracy, political economy, and moral authority in the long-nineteenth century? I use Post Office Department records and congressional petitions to examine how lesser known Americans perceived and engaged with government institutions. Where previous scholarship examines Sunday mail through discrete epochs of American history, my dissertation will instead do so over the long nineteenth century.

The Fragility of Peace: Anglo-Indigenous-American Relations in the Great Lakes Region After the War of 1812

Zachary Conn (Yale University)

Historians are beginning to recover American Indians’ significant involvement in nineteenth century American foreign relations. My dissertation contributes to these scholarly efforts by overturning the conventional wisdom that the Native people of the Great Lakes region ceased to impact Anglo-American relations upon the conclusion of the War of 1812. Through research in US, British, and Canadian archives, I have reconstructed the extent to which, for decades after 1815, thousands of Native people technically based on the US side of the nascent Canadian-American border continued to maintain alliances with the British regime—much to the consternation of the federal officials who sought to establish full US control over the place we now call the American Midwest. This state of affairs helped shape high-level dealings between the American and British governments; relations between Indigenous leaders and federal agents “on the ground”; and transatlantic debates over American Indians’ cultures and capacities.

From Subjects to Citizens: The University of Puerto Rico and the Citizenship Revolution in the Greater United States, 1898-1938

Chad Frazier (Georgetown University), @CDFrazier87

My dissertation tracks the growth of the University of Puerto Rico from its creation as a public normal school in 1900 to its emergence as a public research university in the mid-Thirties. Scholars have overlooked the UPR’s role in the consolidation of US rule in Puerto Rico. My research in the Library of Congress and the National Archives, alongside twenty-five other repositories across the United States and Puerto Rico, explores how UPR nurtured a new colonial elite that partnered with the Roosevelt Administration to provide working-class Puerto Ricans with a dignified living standard that reflected their status as US citizens.

Beast of Many Names: Cattle, Conflict, and the Transformation of Indigenous Florida: 1513-1858

Jason Herbert (University of Minnesota), @herberthistory

My dissertation examines the social, political, demographic, and ecological transformations of Florida following the introduction of European livestock, specifically cattle, in the sixteenth century and stretching up to the expulsion of most of the Native population of the region in the mid-nineteenth century. I draw upon a rich collection of Spanish, American, and Seminole archives to illustrate the ways in which the animals were used to colonize, sustain, and defend the peninsula from multiple vantages.

Translocality, Place-Making, and State-Building in Late Imperial China

Daniel Knorr (University of Chicago), @dknorrhistorian

In this presentation, I use three maps to discuss three of the translocal networks that contributed to place-making and state-building in Jinan – a provincial capital in eastern China – during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). These maps depict the home places of officials who served in Jinan during this period, the construction of a second city wall that provided refuge for people fleeing warfare in the nineteenth century, and a commercial district constructed in the early twentieth century to accommodate foreign merchants when Jinan became a railway hub. The stories behind these maps show how urban residents and outsiders both contributed to the mutually constructive processes of place-making and state-building.

Systems of Subordination: Race, Empire and the International Reporting of the Indian Rebellion, 1857-1858

Stephanie Narrow (University of California, Irvine), @s_narrow_

Systems of Subordination explores the British and California press’ global circulation of uneven, racialized, and transcultural understandings of indigeneity and colonial governance between a British occupied India, England, and Northern California in the mid-nineteenth century. This project traces how English coverage of the 1857 Indian Rebellion reached California, whose people and politicians were confronting issues and constructing official and unofficial regulations affecting its own indigenous populations. Ultimately, it contends that the British press’ reporting of the Rebellion influenced and legitimized Anglo-American violence against indigenous populations in both India and the American West.

Brotherlands to Bloodlands: Ethnic Germans and Jews in Southern Ukraine, Late Tsarist-Postwar

Amber N. Nickell (Purdue University), @Amber_N_Nickell

Ethnic Germans and Jews coexisted in Southern Ukraine for over a century. The 1917 Russian Revolution, German-backed Ukrainian War for Independence, Civil War, Soviet nationalities policies, Stalinist oppression, and Romanian-German occupation fundamentally altered inter-group dynamics. Each regime sorted, defined, used, and abused ethnic Germans and Jews to actualize their own imperial visions, pushing them together and pulling them apart in profound ways. By 1941, ethnic Germans had been primed for genocidal collaboration. The Nazis capitalized on this, successfully urging ethnic Germans to murder their Jewish neighbors. Failed Ukrainian nationalism and Soviet policies created the conditions for Genocide; Nazis actualized it.

Enemy on Display: The Collection, Interpretation, and Repatriation of World War II Souvenirs

Heather Scheurer (Middle Tennessee State University), @hmcbee87

My dissertation follows the journey of objects from World War II battlefields in the Pacific and Europe to homes, museums and archives in the United States. It tells the story of how and why the objects were collected and how they ended up in American museums. We can learn much about the lives of the men and women who served through souvenirs, but our museums rarely interpret the objects beyond their collection. This dissertation will provide suggestions for enhanced interpretation and possible repatriation for select souvenirs.

Women in Print: The Struggle for Equality in the U.S. Media, 1960-1980

Marama Whyte (The University of Sydney), @maramawhyte

This dissertation project examines the wave of sex- and race-discrimination Title VII lawsuits filed at major U.S. newspapers and wire services during the 1970s, including at Newsweek (1970), the Associated Press (1973), and the New York Times (1974). Through the lenses of labour activism, legal frameworks, and the growing ‘second wave’ feminist movement, this project consider the strengths and shortcomings of the women who filed discrimination complaints and lawsuits, their internal politics of class and race, their varied political strategies, and the years-long process of informal consciousness-raising and organising that was required to undertake a lawsuit of this nature.