Dr. Kylie Smith, Associate Professor and Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow for Nursing and the Humanities, was recently cited in the Washington Post article “Now seen as barbaric, lobotomies won him a Nobel Prize in 1949.” The piece centers on Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz, who was seen as a visionary – and awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine – for his introduction of the lobotomy procedure in the mid-1930s. Tens of thousands of lobotomies were performed, disproportionately on women, people of color and those seen as violating social norms, such as gay men. Many patients died or were permanently harmed. Coinciding with the announcement of the 2023 Nobel prizes, the WaPo article considers whether awardees in situations like Moniz’s should have their prizes revoked. Smith is Associated Faculty in the Department of History and author of Talking Therapy: Knowledge and Power in American Psychiatric Nursing After WWII (Rutgers University Press, 2020). Read an excerpt from the article below citing Smith along with the full piece here.
“Over the years, ‘mental illness has been seen in terms of spiritual malaise [being taken over by demons] or through a moral deficiency,’ Nicole Shepherd, a social scientist at The University of Queensland, wrote in an email, and Moniz’s work demonstrated a kind of progress. ‘Mental illness was seen as a health problem, that is properly treated by doctors,’ she said.
“But that shift had a dark side, said Kylie Smith, a professor at Emory University who studies the history of psychiatry. Psychiatrists ‘wanted to be taken seriously as scientists’ and were ‘desperate to find some kind of heroic cure.’
“When it comes to the Nobel Prize, Smith said, the Nobel Committee should ‘think seriously about’ how it awards prizes. Elevating individual scientists, particularly those from elite institutions, ‘takes a certain amount of hubris,’ she said.
Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery, Cahoon Family Professor of American History and a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, helped to organize a teach-in on the quad with the Muscogee Nation in late October of 2023. The event included storytelling, hymn singing, a stomp dance led by Rev. and Mekko (or “traditional leader”) Chebon Kernell, and a conversation with Muscogee artist Johnnie Diacon.
“‘The partnership and sense of exchange — trust building and shared learning — is growing between Emory and the Muscogee Nation. The teach-in adds a dimension of responsibility and relationship that builds on Emory’s Land Acknowledgment Statement.’
“The teach-in will not only edify; it will heal. ‘We are in need of the healing that this return of the Muscogee people to their homelands facilitates,’ Lowery says. ‘The Nation is leading us in the way that they use education as a healing force.'”
Dr. Carol Anderson was recently a guest on an episode of WABE’s “A Closer Look” with Rose Scott centered on a new documentary about the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre. Titled (re)Defining History: Uncovering The 1906 Atlanta Race Massacreand produced by WABE studios, the documentary tells the story of one of the deadliest outbreaks of racial violence in United States history. In her conversation with Scott, Anderson discusses the history of other race massacres in America’s past. Anderson is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of African American Studies and Associated Faculty in the History Department. Listen to the episode here: “New documentary explores untold story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre.”
Kheyal Roy-Meighoo, a 2023 Emory College graduate who completed double majors in History and Film and Media, received a Fulbright Open Study/Research fellowship to pursue a master’s degree in animation at the Arts University Bournemouth. Roy-Meighoo works at the intersection of social justice and film, and, as her Fulbright profile notes, “she has made it her mission to think critically about diversity through art, discover new forms of storytelling through animation, and uncover histories that have not yet been told.” For her master’s thesis, Roy-Meighoo plans to produce a stop motion animated film about identity, loss, and resilience in the Asian diaspora through the narrative arc of a young girl watching her grandmother cook. Roy-Meighoo was also the recipient of the 2022 Loren & Gail Starr Award in Experiential Learning for a short animated film, titled “Backwards,” about the historical connections between the Covid-19 pandemic and Asian exclusion laws. Roy-Meighoo is Emory’s first recipient of the Open Study/Research Fulbright fellowship to the UK.
The Emory History Department mourns the death of Dr. Irwin Hyatt, Jr., a beloved professor of East Asian History at Emory from 1966 through his retirement in 2002. A native of Atlanta, Hyatt received his undergraduate degree at Emory College in 1956 and completed his doctoral work at Harvard in the mid-1960s. As he recounted in a 2002 article, Hyatt returned to Emory by coincidence. At the time, the History Department had no curricular offerings outside of Western Civilizations. Hyatt became the first Area Studies expert outside of the United States and Europe, thus helping to pave the way for the Department’s leading contemporary doctoral programs in regions beyond the North Atlantic, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
“I must identify my favorite professor, Irwin Hyatt of the Department of History. Although I had an idea that I would be a history major before I entered college, I was convinced of this decision after taking an introduction course with Professor Hyatt. I then took every course he taught. I concentrated in Chinese history because of his inspirational teaching. He taught me to appreciate the importance of history and what history informs us about people. Professor Hyatt was also readily available outside of the classroom as I juggled a personal crisis and searched to find my path in life. He provided great support and guidance.
“All these many years later, one of those voices in my head is Dr. Hyatt’s, reminding me not to be judgmental of and to try to understand others. It is a helpful voice. Therefore, it is just that simple. The Emory professors made the significant difference in my college career. Thanks, Emory, for providing me with such a unique and treasured opportunity.”
Hyatt joined the College’s dean office in 1988, where he served as Senior Associate Dean until his retirement. He received the Jefferson Award in 2002, given annually to a faculty member at Emory who has demonstrated “significant service to the University through personal activities, influence and leadership.” Read more about Hyatt’s life, career, and contributions to the Emory community on his obituary and the Emory Report’s 2002 article, “Hyatt closes Emory career with honors.”
The American Society for Legal History has awarded Adriana Chira’s Patchwork Freedoms: Law, Slavery, and Race beyond Cuba’s Plantations (Cambridge UP, 2022) with the Peter Gonville Stein Book Award, awarded annually for the best book in non-US legal history written in English. The prize committee praised how Chira “integrates legal and social history by seamlessly weaving together legal and nonlegal sources to tell a story that is complex, nuanced, and locally grounded.” Patchwork Freedoms was released as part of Cambridge’s Afro-Latin America series. Patchwork Freedoms has already won three other awards: Honorable Mention, Best Book, Nineteenth Century Section, from the Latin American Studies Association; the 2023 Elsa Goveia Prize from the Association of Caribbean Historians; and the American Historical Association’s Rawley Prize. Read the full prize citation from the ASLH below.
Adriana Chira’s Patchwork Freedoms is a compelling account of the ways in which the free and semi-free black residents of eastern Cuba used law and custom to eke out their freedom over the course of the nineteenth century. Chira demonstrates how “day in and day out, enslaved people chipped away at enslavers’ authority locally, by negotiating the terms of their manumission and land access. They pulled one another out of plantation slavery gradually, yet consistently.” The committee was especially impressed by how Patchwork Freedoms integrates legal and social history by seamlessly weaving together legal and nonlegal sources to tell a story that is complex, nuanced, and locally grounded.
Dr. Carol Anderson, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of African American Studies, was recently a featured guest on the WBUR podcast “The Gun Machine,” which charts the development of the gun industry in the United States. Anderson discusses insights from her most recent book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally-Unequal America (Bloomsbury, 2021). Read a summary of the episode below and listen to the conversation in full here: “Fear sells guns. Here’s how that culture was created.”
Gun advertising is all about mistrust and the need to carry a gun for self-protection. But protection from whom?
The first European settlers wielded firearms to control enslaved people and fight Native people. Later, during Reconstruction, white Southerners afraid of losing their place in the new status quo picked up arms, not only for self-defense and to enact racist terror, but as a totem against imagined threats — sowing the roots of what guns represent to many people today.
In turn, this legacy of racism has long compelled some Americans of color to arm themselves. In 2020, five million Americans bought guns for the first time, including a record number of Black Americans.
In episode two of The Gun Machine, host Alain Stephens talks to historian Carol Anderson about the racist roots of the Second Amendment and travels down to Florida to attend the Pew Party. There, he talks to Black gun owners about why they carry, examining the link between our nation’s fraught history and why it’s so easy to sell us guns today.
Dr. Alexander M. Cors, a 2022 alumnus of the history doctoral program and currently Digital Scholarship Specialist at Emory’s Center for Digital Scholarship, recently won the 2022 William Nelson Cromwell Prize from the American Society for Legal History. Cors’ dissertation, “Newcomers and New Borders: Migration, Settlement, and Conflict over Land along the Mississippi River, 1750-1820,” was advised by Drs. Yanna Yannakakis, Jeffrey Lesser, Adriana Chira, Malinda Maynor Lowery, and Paul Conrad (UT Arlington). The annually-awarded Cromwell prize recognizes the best dissertation in American legal history completed in the past year. View one of the maps that Cors produced for the project, described by the prize committee as “things of beauty,” along with the committee’s full citation below.
This dissertation represents a sparkling contribution to what Cors terms “the legal geography of settler colonialism in the Mississippi River Valley” during a pivotal time of contact between Indigenous peoples, Europeans, and Africans. Utilizing sources in three languages from Spain, France, and four states, Cors seamlessly weaves together narratives of bottom-up experiences of individuals making claims to land under Spanish law with the expansion of state power and control over the Mississippi River territory prior to and after the Louisiana Purchase. Instead of focusing on one or two large tribal nations, Cors takes the land as his analytical frame, beautifully telling the story of how parts of four tribes moved to lands west of the river and then used Spanish land grants to protect their claims against those later made by European-Americans. The tribal claimants were surprisingly adept at achieving their goals, at least for a time, helped by Spanish legal regimes that were much friendlier to first-comers than Anglo-American law later proved to be. By focusing on the river as geography and ecosystem, Cors is able to reveal dimensions of the slave economy that relied on the mobility the river enabled. Instead of cordoning off Louisiana as a civil law territory that had little influence on surrounding states and national legal development, Cors makes Louisiana’s physical position at the mouth of the river central to the movement and migration that undergirded the expansion of slavery in the South. Settlement patterns conferred social structure, he notes, and they also conveyed legal knowledge that proved essential to maintaining property ownership during periods of transition in governance. Indeed, Cors reveals that many non-European settlers along the river resisted the imposition of colonial state power and non-native legal systems, persuading the committee of his broader argument that local land claims drove territorial law and legal practice more than treaty negotiations and national sovereignties. What makes this new history possible are the Spanish-language sources that Cors deftly mines, both for the revealing family narratives he pieces together and for new cartographic data. Cors’s maps are things of beauty, wholly original to this project, that show how indigenous communities spread along the river for decades prior to the Louisiana Purchase. The committee marveled at the way Cors advanced a deeply complex argument with beautifully crafted prose. This novel and original thesis was a joy to read and will, the committee believes, make an important and influential book.
Dr. Yanna Yannakakis, Professor of History and Associate Department Chair, was recently interviewed by the Oaxaca-based university radio station Radio Pez en el SURCO (“Servicios Universitarios y Redes de Conocimientos en Oaxaca” [“University Services and Networks of Knowledge in Oaxaca”]). Titled “Oaxaca colonial, haciendo e rehaciendo historia colonial” (“Colonial Oaxaca, making and remaking history”), the interview draws on Yannakakis’ newest monograph, Since Time Immemorial: Native Custom and Law in Colonial Mexico (Duke UP, 2023). The interview was and will continue to be aired on the following Oaxaca university and community radio stations: Radio Universidad de Oaxaca (Sept 19, 2023); Radio Nanhdiá, Movimiento Radio, Estéreo Lluvia y Radio Aire Zapoteco Bëë Xhidza (September 23, 2023); Radio Nandiá (September 24, 2023); and Estéreo Dinastía Xhdca (September 25, 2023). You can also catch a recorded version on Spotify.