MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Friday, May 16, 2014

May 16, 2014: Spring 2014 Recaps: Three Presentations

[It’s exam week, the final act of the Spring 2014 semester! So in this week’s series, I’ll recap some of the best of my semester’s courses and conversations, leading up to a weekend post on my summer plans. Add your semester recaps, summer plans, or whatever else you want to share in comments, please!]
On one takeaway each from three opportunities to share my work and ideas.
1)      VA Festival of the Book: I followed up on my amazing experience back in Charlottesville in this post. So here I’ll add one more thought: that presenting on a panel on “hot-button issues” (my co-presenters’ books focus on abortion and health care) helped me continue to think not only about how my public scholarly work can engage with such contemporary debates, but also and just as importantly how I can do so without (I hope) being antagonistic  to any audiences or perspectives. That doesn’t mean that everyone will agree with my ideas and arguments, of course—but that I can, and have to, find ways to present them in a voice and tone that everyone can engage with, that feel in conversation with every reasonable perspective.
2)      Leominster Public Library: As part of a series on race and Civil Rights, the Leominster (MA) Public Library screened part of the amazing documentary The Loving Story (2011), and I had the chance to follow up the screening with both some thoughts of mine and participation in a communal conversation. It was an inspiring experience for lots of reasons, but one definite takeaway for me was a renewed sense of how important stories are to our understandings of the past, of complex social and cultural issues, of America. The Lovings were no more representative of all (or any) American communities than Yung Wing and his students were—but both impressive stories can nevertheless help open up those communal histories and issues in provocative and productive ways.
3)      FSU Center for Conflict Studies: As part of a year-long series of events sponsored by Fitchburg State’s Center for Conflict Studies, I took part in a panel discussion of the complex question: “Genocide and Mass Killings: Is the U.S. Different?” I learned a lot from my colleagues and co-presenters: Ben Lieberman on Native American genocides; and René Reeves on U.S. involvement in Latin America. And the panel overall, as well as the subsequent Q&A, reminded me that I need to continue working to put my ideas about America in trans- and international contexts, both because of how inseparable the U.S. and the rest of the world have always been and because such comparative analyses can open up perspectives on American history, culture, and identity that are not possible otherwise. I’ll keep trying to add that lens to my work!
Summer preview tomorrow,
Ben
PS. How was your spring semester?

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