Life Interrupted: History and the Possibility of Life Lessons

The other day, I was working with students to analyze a series of primary historical documents. It’s something we do often in history classes, but as we were discussing Jewish responses to the Holocaust at the end of the war, a different conversation started up inside my head. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the way that tragedy impacts us, and how we recover.

The context was a discussion of texts from the pre-publication version of a new reader on Jewish responses to the Holocaust, which scholars from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are soon bringing to press. The document in question was a polite but determined letter written in uneven English by a young Polish Jew named Julius Lewy. Composed at the end of May 1945, it begins “Dear Liberators” Continue reading

How Contemporary White Nationalists Reference Nazi Germany

On Tuesday, November 22, 2016, The Atlantic posted an article entitled “’Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President Elect.” It concerns a November 19 National Policy Institute (NPI) conference in Washington, DC, along with video footage excerpted from the speech of NPI president Richard B. Spencer. The NPI is an “alt-right” (i.e. right-wing extremist) white nationalist organization based in Arlington, VA, just outside of the US capital. Though it was founded only in 2005, the NPI is a part of a stream of North American racism, antisemitism, and support for Nazism that dates back to the 1930s, and which has never entirely disappeared. In his speech, Spencer drew heavily on the symbols, language, and ideology of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. Here is how:

1. “Hail Trump! Hail Our People! Hail Victory!” Continue reading

Researching German Immigration to Western Canada

At Ambrose, history faculty and students research various local history projects. From 2016-2018, we are engaged in a project called “Refugee Stories: The Immigration and Resettlement of Germans in Western Canada, 1947-1960.” We are partnering with members of various German-Canadian communities in Calgary and throughout Alberta, combining scholarly research and oral history interviews to discover the history and memory of the emigration of Lutherans, Baptists, Mennonites, Catholics and others from Germany and/or Eastern Europe and their resettlement in Canada during the fifteen years after the end of the Second World War. This research will be community-based and participatory, which means that members of the German-Canadian community will be invited to bring their knowledge and expertise about this history into a partnership with university researchers.

We are delighted that “Refugee Stories” has the support of Continue reading

After the Trumpocalypse: What Should We Expect Now?

After the Trumpocalypse: What should we expect now?

In “After the Trumpocalypse: What Happened?” I attempted to explain–if only to satisfy myself–how Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election.

But what happens now?

We have no idea.

Given Donald Trump’s erratic and unprincipled record in his business, public, and private life, there is absolutely no way to predict how he will be or what he will do as president. Following Richard Rorty’s lead, I would invoke two historical precedents. Continue reading

After the Trumpocalypse: What Happened?

Donald J. Trump’s victory in the 2016 US election shocked both that country and the rest of the world. It will no doubt become an I-remember-when moment in history not unlike the Kennedy assassination, the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the 9/11 terrorist attack.

What happened?

In the 24 hours after Trump’s victory, politicians, pundits, scholars, talk-show hosts, and ordinary people struggled to understand his unlikely victory. A stunned Stephen Colbert decided we had overdosed on politics. The New York Times pointed to Trump’s appeal to poorly educated white voters, but also wondered about the influence of Russian officials. Neil J. Young and others noted that exit polls showed that 81 percent of white evangelicals had voted for Trump. In the New Statesman, Maya Goodfellow denounced the Trump victory as a racist “whitelash”, while in The Guardian, various commentators pointed to misogyny as a force in the election. And Charles Camosy of Fordham University, writing in The Washington Post, declared that the Trump win demonstrated that college-educated Americans are out of touch with average voters.

While most of us were shocked by Donald Trump’s election to the American presidency, there were warnings throughout 2016. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times confessed liberal intolerance in the university world. Mark Danner pondered the magic of Trump in The New York Review of Books. Chris Hedges predicted the revenge of the lower classes for truthdig. And Emmett Rensin exegeted the smugness of American liberalism online at Vox Media. No doubt there were many others of equal perspicacity.

The Richard Rorty Explanation

I want to suggest that the Trump victory is the result of a two-part revolt, clairvoyently outlined eighteen years ago by philosopher Richard Rorty Continue reading

University-Museum Partnerships: The “Placing Memory” Project and Community-Based Research

Organization of Military Museums of Canada conference in SAIT’s lovely Heritage Hall.

Recently, I was invited to participate on a panel at the Organization of Military Museums of Canada conference in Calgary. The organizer wanted to bring together scholars who had something to say about the potential for partnerships between museum curators and university scholars, based in part on some of the innovative ideas around public engagement articulated in The Participatory Museum, by Nina Simon. My contribution was to explain the nature of the partnership between the Ambrose University History program and the Museum of the Highwood in High River. Here is the text of my paper: Continue reading

A Professor’s Summer (2016)

Over the years, friends and family members have often joked with me that once the summer comes, I don’t really have to work. Usually (I think) this is in fun, and my standard reply is something like, “I don’t remember seeing you in grad school …” It’s my way of reminding them (and myself) that the great job I have came at a price. (It’s worth noting that my wife Colleen paid about as much of that price as I did!)

img_0286More seriously, one of the great joys of my work is its variety. The semesters are usually very busy, and then the summer takes on its own rhythm. I work from home much of the time, do a little gardening, and much of the cooking and cleaning. As I was invigilating a final exam this morning, I decided to think through my summer plans in a bit more detail. Here’s a rough sketch: Continue reading