Guest Post: HBO’s Westworld and the Realities of Living History

Cam Shriver is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, working in the Myaamia Center at Miami University. He has a PhD from Ohio State University, and his research focuses on surveillance among Native and European communities in early North America.

westworldWhen I began watching episode one of HBO’s new show Westworld, I was prepared for something in the Western genre. I had seen a trailer that included horses, Indians, and a stereotypical Old West landscape. I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is Westworld in the mold of previously-successful HBO projects, it also forced me to think about the prospects of living history. “Living history” simulates and interprets the past. Attractions assert history-as-entertainment. In that vein, successful museums must constantly keep exhibits fresh, introduce new initiatives, storylines, and characters, and generally give visitors a reason to return. The same problem faces the Westworld theme park, as technicians and writers strive to provide an ever-more entertaining and realistic experience. The show raises a perplexing question: how “real” should we get? Continue reading

Guest Post: Digital Humanities & Digital Journalism Symposium Recap

Brad Rittenhouse is a PhD candidate at the University of Miami specializing in 19th-century American literature and the digital humanities. His work thinks about literature as data, and looks at the intersection of literary aesthetics and information management techniques. He is also working on a DH project at UM’s Center for Computational Science, where he is developing a methodology for quantitatively identifying instances of informationally “thick” literary passages.

rittenhouseThe inaugural Digital Humanities + Data Journalism Symposium recently took place at the University of Miami, from September 29 to October 1st, drawing together a diverse crowd of academics, journalists, and many in between. As conference convener and Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at UM Alberto Cairo informed the audience in his opening remarks, the somewhat speculative event topic was inspired by a February 2012 tweet by Digital Public Library of America Executive Director Dan Cohen, which hopefully conjectured that “digital journalism and digital humanities are kindred spirits, and that more commerce between the two could be mutually beneficial.” Delivering the first keynote of the weekend-long proceedings, Cohen drew equal inspiration from Thucydides and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, lightheartedly suggesting the latter as a metaphor for the symbiotic (and potentially delicious?) roles digital humanists and data journalists could play in our increasingly informational world. In referencing Thucydides, he developed one of the salient themes of the weekend, the notion that digital scholars and journalists alike were primarily motivated by the quest to rise up from data to understanding, to construct knowledge from the complicated and overwhelming. Continue reading

The JuntoCast LIVE!: Elections in Early America

The JuntoCast LIVE in Missouri PosterThe JuntoCast returns for 2016-17 with this timely episode in which Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, Roy Rogers, and special guest Jeffrey L. Pasley discuss the role and development of elections in early America from the colonial period to the antebellum era. It was recorded in front of a live (studio) audience at the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri in Columbia on October 7, 2016. The event was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities administered by the Missouri Humanities Council. For more information about this episode, including suggestions for further reading, visit the episode page on our website. Continue reading

Slavery’s Civil War?

Closing our week-long forum on Slavery’s Capitalism, today’s post is courtesy of Kevin Waite, a Lecturer in Modern American History at Durham University in the United Kingdom. He was recently awarded his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania with a thesis entitled “The Slave South in the Far West: California, the Pacific and Proslavery Visions of Empire.”

Slavery's CapitalismNo one could possibly read the fourteen essays that comprise Slavery’s Capitalism and conclude that human bondage was not absolutely central to American, and indeed global, economic development during the nineteenth century. [1] But it’s one of the corollary aims of the book—to move beyond the regionalism that has characterized much of the scholarship on slavery—that seems to me a more provocative, more novel, and perhaps more fraught intervention.

The long tentacles of slavery stretched across the globe and reached into a staggering array of institutions – educational, legal, financial, and political.This becomes especially clear by the final section of the book, “National Institutions and Natural Boundaries.” Compelling essays by Craig Steven Wilder, Andrew Shankman, Alfred L. Brophy and John Majewski provide a fitting capstone to a geographically and conceptually wide-ranging book. This is a history of slavery that catapults us far beyond the slave South.  Continue reading

Slave Economies of the U.S. North

Continuing our forum on Slavery’s Capitalism, today we are pleased to feature a contribution from Christy Clark-Pujara, Assistant Professor of History in the Afro-American Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author of Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island (NYU Press, August 2016).

Slavery's CapitalismSlavery’s Capitalism is a timely collection of essays which details the necessity of placing slavery at the center of the economic history of the United States of America. The editors convincingly contend that the nation’s economic rise is inextricably linked to the institution of slavery. Moreover, they demonstrate the necessity of understanding the rise of capitalism in the U.S. as global—the institution of slavery was essential to the rise of capitalism throughout the Western world.  Part III, “Networks of Interest and the North,” examines northerners’ investments in the business of slavery—the buying and selling of goods and people that sustained plantations throughout the Americas and the financial systems that were established to facilitate those trades.   Continue reading

Commodities and Agents in the History of Slavery

This contribution to the forum comes from Justin Leroy, an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at UC-Davis. Prior to joining UC Davis in 2016, he was a postdoctoral fellow in global American studies at Harvard University. He is at work on his first book, Freedom’s Limit: Racial Capitalism and the Afterlives of Slavery.

Slavery's CapitalismSlavery’s Capitalism offers a tremendous amount of evidence to support what scholars of slavery have long known—that slavery underwrote nearly every aspect of American economic development for over two centuries. These essays provide unprecedented detail about the precise workings of slavery’s role in the rise of American capitalism and will inspire many future research projects. Beckert and Rockman’s introduction is an ambitious piece of historiography, drawing together a diverse array of subfields and intellectual debates. Work such as Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism and Ian Baucom’s Specters of the Atlantic, while key texts for interdisciplinary scholars working on questions of racial capitalism, are not often acknowledged by historians of the “new history of capitalism.” The introduction’s scope makes it an excellent primer for specialists and non-specialists alike. It is the most comprehensive of the recent review essays on slavery and capitalism, yet the breadth of this introduction is not matched by the essays within. Continue reading

The Global and the Hemispheric

Slavery's CapitalismIn their introduction to Slavery’s Capitalism, Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman write that the accumulation of scholarship about early American economic development necessitates “a fundamental rethinking of American history itself” (2). And, for someone who works on the seventeenth-century Caribbean, those words nonetheless resonated with debates very current in my own field of research. In 2011 – the same year that the conference that resulted in Slavery’s Capitalism was held – Latin Americanist John Tutino declared that, “We face a fundamental rethinking of the rise of capitalism” in response to the work of individuals like Dennis Flynn, Arturo Giráldez, and Kenneth Pomeranz. For Tutino, a global perspective on the development of capitalism amends the “enduring presumptions … that capitalism was Europe’s gift to the world,” and “historically antithetical” to places like Spanish America and the Caribbean.[1] Beckert and Rockman recognize in their description of Dale Tomich’s “Second Slavery” the importance of new scholarship in “weaving together transnational and imperial frameworks, the history of capitalism, and the study of slavery as a profit-seeking enterprise” (11).  Continue reading