Suh and Montalvo Featured in “First Fridays” Lecture Series

Drs. Chris Suh and Maria R. Montalvo were selected to present their research at Emory College’s “First Fridays” lecture series this fall. The series highlights faculty work centered on race, ethnicity, and social justice. Suh, who is an Assistant Professor of History, studies histories of race, ethnicity, and inequality and specializes in transpacific connections between the United States and East Asia and Asian American history. His first book,  The Allure of Empire: American Encounters with Asians in the Age of Transpacific Expansion and Exclusion, was published by Oxford UP earlier this year. Montalvo is a historian of slavery, capitalism, and the law in the nineteenth-century United States. Her current book project, tentatively titled “The Archive of the Enslaved: Power, Enslavement, and the Production of the Past,” is a legal history of slavery and capitalism in antebellum New Orleans. Read more about their research a ‘First Fridays’ lecture series returns Nov. 3and the First Fridays series here: “‘First Fridays’ lecture series returns Nov. 3.”

Remembering Irwin Hyatt, Jr.

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.

In 1976 Harvard UP published Hyatt’s Our Ordered Lives Confess: Three Nineteenth-Century Missionaries in East Shantung, a biographical study of three missionaries in Northeast China. Reviewers at the time described the work as “a scholarly, carefully-documented contribution” and a “remarkable and sensitive book.” Hyatt’s popular courses and mentorship of students were much appreciated on campus. Joan L. Goldfrank (73C 76L) composed a lovely reflection about Hyatt in a 2011 issue of Emory Magazine:

“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.”

‘Patchwork Freedoms’ Wins Book Prize From American Society for Legal History

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.

History Faculty Receive Support from the Halle Institute for Global Research

Three History Department faculty members have received grant support from the Halle Institute for Global Research for 2023. The winners and associated research categories are:

Dr. Tehila Sasson, Assistant Professor – “The Politics of Financial Exclusion in Britain, 1960s-2000s,” (Global Perspectives on Race+, Ethnicity+, and Nation+)

Dr. Mariana P. Candido, Associate Professor – “Africans in Colonial Courts: Agency, Gender, and the Rule of Law in Angola and Cape Verde, 1800-1950s” (Halle Foundation Collaborative Research Grantees)

Dr. Brian Vick, Professor – “The Internationalization of Science and Politics in the Nineteenth Century” (URC International Research Grants)

Congratulations to the grantees!

New Center for Native and Indigenous Studies to Launch in Fall 2023 with Lowery as Director

In the fall of 2023 the Emory College of Arts and Sciences will launch the new Center for Native and Indigenous Studies. Cahoon Professor of American History Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery will serve as the director of the new center, which will also receive support from Emory’s James Weldon Johnson Center for the Study of Race and Difference. The center emerges from – and aims to deepen – a unique collaborative partnership between Emory and the College of the Muscogee Nation (CMN) in Oklahoma centered on the advancement of Native and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) and the preservation of the Mvskoke language. Lowery, who is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, is the author, most recently, of The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle (UNC Press, 2018). Read a quote from Dr. Lowery about the new center below, and learn more via the Emory News Center article “New Center for Native and Indigenous Studies set to launch in fall 2023.”

“The launch of the Center for Native and Indigenous Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences will further our partnership with the College of the Muscogee Nation,” says Lowery. “Emory has an incredible opportunity to learn from CMN’s degree program in Native American studies as we develop a new approach for scholarship, teaching and collaboration that centers Indigenous knowledge and values. This approach will advance cutting-edge scholarship and pedagogy in ways that will also promote an education that heals the trauma of dispossession and forced assimilation.”   

Doctoral Candidate Anjuli Webster Receives FLAD Grant for Research in Lisbon

The Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (FLAD) (Luso-American Development Foundation) recently awarded 4th-year doctoral candidate Anjuli Webster a research grant. The award will support one month in Lisbon, where Webster will conduct archival research to inform her dissertation, “Fluid Empires: Histories of Environment and Sovereignty in southern Africa, 1750-1900.” Webster’s faculty advisers include Clifton Crais, Mariana P. Candido, Yanna Yannakakis, and Thomas D. Rogers.

Anderson Discusses the Significance of the Past in Our Present with President Fenves

Dr. Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor of African-American Studies and Associated Faculty in the History Department, was recently the featured guest on ‘One Big Question,’ a podcast hosted by Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves. Anderson and Fenves discuss the production of history, including in the context of Anderson’s multiple award-winning books, along with contemporary developments relating to issues of racial inequity and education. Listen to their full conversation, “An Acclaimed Scholar and Author Defines ‘History,'” and browse previous episodes at the following link: ‘One Big Question.’

Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory. With scholarly precision as well as an undeniable urgency, she has authored acclaimed and best-selling books that have transformed perceptions by focusing boldly on systemic racism and its influence on voter suppression, gun rights, and much more.

As a historian, she has shed light on episodes of injustice that have been hidden in darkness, amplified voices that had long been silenced, and rewritten chapters on discrimination, disenfranchisement, and destruction that had been torn out of the historical record.

In this episode, Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves talks with Anderson about history—who writes it, how we understand it, and the ways in which it shapes our society today.

New Books Series: Q&A with Yanna Yannakakis about `Since Time Immemorial`

Dr. Yanna Yannakakis, Associate Professor of History, recently published her second single-authored monograph, Since Time Immemorial: Native Custom and Law in Colonial Mexico, with Duke University Press. In the latest installment of our New Faculty Books series, Dr. Yannakakis offers a glimpse into the making of this book.

Books are produced over years if not decades. Give us a sense for the lifespan of this book, from initial idea to final edits.

Inspiration for this book came from different directions and over a long period of time. My interest in how Indigenous people in Latin America reconstituted their communities, social norms, and lifeways under Spanish colonial rule led me to graduate school, as did my engagement with Indigenous activists through the Central America solidarity movement. I began doctoral studies in History in the 1990’s when many Latin American nation-states reworked their constitutions to include official recognition of Indigenous customary law (norms rooted in longstanding cultural practices). At the time, this puzzled me since many of those same nation-states were simultaneously implementing neoliberal policies that undercut collective landholding and privatized public goods and resources. Those policies ran contrary to the interests of many Indigenous communities and peasant farmers.

Against this backdrop of events in the present, through my doctoral research, I encountered legal cases in which Indigenous communities in colonial Mexico haggled with one another over land, labor, and resources, justifying their claims in Spanish colonial courts through recourse to ancient custom. These cases raised questions for me about the relationship between colonial history and contemporary realities. Did the customs of the colonial past bear any relation to pre-Hispanic practices or to customary laws of the present? What exactly was Indigenous custom, what were its origins, and who did it serve in different historical moments? How were claims to Native customary law supported and justified? Why did Indigenous litigants argue with one another over custom? What were the long-term effects of customary claims to land, labor, and self-governance by Indigenous communities?

Over the years, starting in the late 1990’s, I kept a file of references to custom that I found in the colonial archives, even though Indigenous custom was not the focus of my dissertation or first book. Meanwhile, I finished my degree, got a job, earned tenure, and my research went in new directions. I was fascinated by translation in colonial legal settings, so I dove into Indigenous language materials produced by the Catholic Church and court records produced by Native authorities in Mexico’s Indigenous languages. I thought I would write a book about law, religion, and translation in cross-cultural context. But I kept circling back to my initial interests and discovered that much of my work on translation could be harnessed to a broader project on Indigenous custom and law, and in the end, this turned out to be true. So the lifespan of this book has been long, and the path of researching and writing it, jagged and circuitous. A number of fellowships provided space to research and write shorter pieces and develop my ideas. I wrote most of the book during the pandemic from May 2020-July 2021 when I had a sabbatical. For some reason, the moment of the pandemic catalyzed all of the work I had done along the way. It was not a straight line from initial idea to book, but I would not have changed the process one bit. All of the years of research on language, law, and translation enriched the final product.

What was the research process like?

So much of the research that nourished this book was collaborative. My interest in Indigenous languages and colonial translation led to a fruitful interdisciplinary collaboration with a socio-linguist and old friend, which resulted in several co-authored articles and chapters and a community-engaged public humanities project in Oaxaca (Mexico), my primary research site. I also worked collaboratively with colleagues at Emory’s Center for Digital Studies (ECDS) and with a talented and dedicated group of graduate research assistants to produce a digital humanities website on law, imperial space, and Indigenous social networks in colonial Mexico, a project that also nourished the book. Alongside my collaborative work, I continued to collect material from archives, libraries, and special collections in the United States, Europe, and Mexico. Serendipity played a role in my research process as well. A few years ago, the judicial archive in Oaxaca began to catalog and make available the notarial records for one of the regions that figures centrally in my book. This was a great boon to the project because it allowed me to research the workings of Indigenous custom at a very local and granular level. And as I discovered new sources, I returned to some older, well known sources — like Mesoamerican pictographic codices and maps – with fresh questions generated by the archives. In sum, my research process was like a spiral of discovery and re-discovery, of pushing beyond my disciplinary boundaries and returning again to the nuts and bolts of history. It also entailed working collaboratively with colleagues and most importantly, with Indigenous communities whose histories feature centrally in my work.

Are you partial to a particular chapter or section?

Each chapter represents a phase in my long and varied research trajectory, so it is hard to decide which I like best. I wrote the last three chapters (five, six, and seven) first, so in many ways they feel like the beating heart of the book. Those chapters draw from notarial and legal records produced in Oaxaca, some of which were written in Indigenous languages and others in Spanish. They treat the most fundamental aspects of customary law and practice in Indigenous communities: self-governance, land tenure, and labor. In each of these chapters, I feature legal cases that unfolded over a long period of time, which allows me to narrate local histories in a sustained way and bring them to life with detailed storytelling. Because of my longstanding connection to Oaxaca, those chapters feel most immediate to me and resonate with my understanding of the region. My interdisciplinary engagement comes to the fore most fully in chapter two, which focuses on language and translation, and chapter three, which engages the Codex Mendoza, one of the most iconic pictographic texts of Mexico’s early colonial period.

How does this project align with your broad research agenda?

In my research, I have worked to complicate overly simplistic understandings of colonial Indigenous histories, which were complex and not given to neat oppositions. Through my research, I have learned that in the context of colonial violence and exploitation, Indigenous individuals and communities developed strategies to protect and pursue varied interests and to secure rights to land and semi-autonomous self-governance. Some of those strategies can be characterized as resistance, others as negotiation, and others as learning to work within colonial systems and institutions, the most important and powerful of which were colonial law and Christianity. Native people adapted these institutions to their needs and objectives and wove them into the fabric of their forms of self-governance, social relations, and everyday lives. Custom – a European juridical category imported by Spanish administrators to the Americas – provides an ideal means through which to explore this process and analyze how Indigenous peoples made legal claims based on the practices of the past to generate new rights for the future.

Chira`s `Patchwork Freedoms` Receives Honorable Mention for Best Book from LASA – 19th Century Section

Dr. Adriana Chira

Dr. Adriana Chira, Assistant Professor of History, published Patchwork Freedoms: Law, Slavery, and Race beyond Cuba’s Plantations with Cambridge University Press in 2022. The Nineteenth Century Section of the Latin American Studies Association recently recognized Chira`s work with an honorable mention in the category of Premio Mejor Libro (Best Book Prize). Dr. Bianca Premo, Professor of History at Florida International University, described Chira`s work as a “powerful history of claims-making and political identity formation among enslaved and free people of African descent in a key region of the Atlantic world…Chira deftly upturns superficial narratives about the emancipatory nature of liberalism in the nineteenth century.” Chira is among three current or former Emory History Department members recognized by prizes in the 2023 LASA awards cycle.

Graduate Students Ursula Rall and Ayssa Yamaguti Norek Win 2023 Beveridge Grant from the AHA

Congratulations to third-year graduate students Ursula Rall and Ayssa Yamaguti Norek on winning the 2023 Albert J. Beveridge Grant from the American Historical Association. Rall and Norek were among just eleven researchers nationwide to receive the grant, which supports research in the Western hemisphere (the United States, Canada, and Latin America). Emory was the only institution to have two awardees. Rall’s dissertation, advised by Drs. Yanna Yannakakis and Javier Villa-Flores, examines the spatial mobility of Black women within and between Mexico City, Puebla, and Veracruz from roughly 1580 until 1740. Norek’s dissertation, “The incarceration of female political prisoners in Brazil’s Military Dictatorship (1964-1985),” is advised by Drs. Jeffrey Lesser and Thomas D. Rogers.