Episode 93: Women and the Tamil Epics

Guest: Andrea Gutierrez, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Asian Studies
Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History

statue_of_kannagiMale-dominated narratives, male authors, and male-centered agency and priorities have been the norm throughout history, until the latter half of the 20th-century. So it’s no surprise that in ancient literature and epics, if you consider something like Homer’s Odyssey or other classics, even the Ramayana, the story of King Rama in early India, you see male authors telling the stories, adventures, and histories of men. In the Tamil literature of South India, however, we see something different.

Guest Andrea Gutierrez introduces us to epic South Asian poems from the beginning of the first millennium that past the Bechdel test, when women’s narrative critiqued, cajoled, narrated, and provided guidance for the devout.

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Episode 92: Disability History in the United States

Host: Augusta Dell’Omo, Graduate Student, Department of History
Guest: John Carranza, Graduate Student, Department of History

freakshow Americans with disabilities compose approximately 50 million people today, and yet remains largely removed from the historical record. The road to recognition has been long and varied; from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s use of a wheelchair while in office, to the popularity of “freak shows,” wherein physical ailments were put on display. How have organizations and activist groups groups dealt with stigma and asked for rights to be able to participate in the public sphere in the United States?

First year history graduate student John Carranza, specializing in disability history, sheds some light on historical representations of disability, and how modern understanding of disability is informed by the past.

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Episode 91: The History of the Family

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: Steven Mintz, Professor, Department of History

9780674019980“Kids today.” Everyone says it, it seems, in reference to the idea that children today are spoiled, raised with poor values, and somehow have it worse than their parents generation. This notion dominates discussions from political debates to stand up comedy acts. But, what defines the stages of life and how people are supposed to act in each? Has it always been that way?

Steven Mintz has long been interested in the transformations of family life through the ages and, in this episode, talks about how nearly everything we think we know about family life would be unrecognizable even a century ago.

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Episode 90: Stokely Carmichael: A Life

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Peniel E. Joseph, Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values, and Founding Director, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, LBJ School of Public Affairs, and Professor, Department of History, UT-Austin

14894638Stokely Carmichael, the charismatic and controversial black activist, stepped onto the pages of history when he called for “Black Power” during a speech one Mississippi night in 1966. A firebrand who straddled both the American civil rights and Black Power movements, Carmichael would stand for the rest of his life at the center of the storm he had unleashed that night.

This week, preeminent civil rights scholar Peniel E. Joseph, author of Stokely: A Life, winner of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change National Book Award (2014), discusses Carmichael, using his life as a prism through which to view the transformative African American freedom struggles of the twentieth century.

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Episode 89: Seven Skeletons

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin
Guest: Lydia Pine, Research Affiliate, Institute for Historical Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Seven Skeletons coverOver the last century, the search for human ancestors has spanned four continents and resulted in the discovery of hundreds of fossils. While most of these discoveries live quietly in museum collections, there are a few that have become world-renowned celebrity personas–ambassadors of science that speak to public audiences. But how does a fossil become a celebrity?

Lydia Pine, historian, author, and fellow of UT’s Institute for Historical Studies, has written a book about seven of the world’s most famous human fossils–appropriately titled Seven Skeletons. In this episode, she shares vivid examples of how human ancestors have been remembered, received, and immortalized.

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Episode 88: The Search for Family Lost in Slavery

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: Heather Andrea Williams, Presidential Professor and Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania

OHelp me to find my people coverne of the most callous and tragic aspects of slavery in the United States was the slave owners’ practice of dividing families: children were taken from parents, husbands and wives were separated, brothers and sisters too. Why was this practice initiated? How did it impact families? Did the slaveowners feel any responsibility or remorse? And, after the Civil War, how did families scattered across the south try to reconnect?

Our guest today, Heather Andrea Williams, Presidential Professor and Professor of Africana Studies, has written a moving book about on the subject, Help Me To Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery.

Editor’s note: this is a much longer episode than normal, however we have decided to leave the interview in its entirety. So, for this week, we are 50 Minute History!

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Episode 87: Nigeria’s Civil War & The Origins of American Humanitarian Interventions

Host: Samantha Rose Rubino, UT School of Law
Guest: Brian McNeil, Fellow, Institute for Historical Studies, UT-Austin

Humanitarian intervention has become such an accepted part of international relations, and our news headlines are full of stories about humanitarian efforts from the Balkans in the 1990s to Syria today. But it wasn’t always the case – the concept of humanitarian intervention originates at a specific time and place, as today’s guest explains.

Brian McNeil specializes in history of United States foreign relations, and is currently revising his book manuscript titled, Frontiers of Need: the Nigerian Civil War and the Origins of American Humanitarian Intervention, the subject of this episode.

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Episode 86: Rethinking the Agricultural “Revolution”

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History
Guest: Rachel Laudan, independent scholar

Thousands of years before recorded human history, anthropologists have traced the evolution of human society from a nomadic hunter-gatherer phase to the rise of agricultural practices, which allowed people to stay settled in one place, form complex societies, and ultimately early civilizations. This transition, it is said, was so momentous that it has become known as the Agricultural Revolution. A few decades ago, however, a scholar posited that humans lost leisure time in the process, becoming virtual slaves to their new agricultural lifestyles that required hours of maintenance daily. This counterargument declared that the Agricultural Revolution was nothing less than the greatest disaster to ever befall mankind.

Not so fast, says our guest this week. Rachel Laudan, a renowned food historian and author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History, argues that this thesis, which has found a champion in Jared Diamond’s best-selling Guns, Germs & Steel, fails to take food preparation into account. Our interview offers a different perspective and raises some new questions about the social impact of the beginnings of agriculture.

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Episode 85: Brexit

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History
Guest: Philippa Levine, Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professor in the Humanities; Co-Director, Program in British Studies

Brexit cartoonOn June 23, 2016, British voters stunned many political observers (if not themselves) by voting to leave the European Union. To many outside observers, the election result was unthinkable, provoking a major political shakeup in the UK as well as an identity crisis within the EU. The factors that led Britain’s electorate to reject the EU, however, are rooted in decades of uneasy alliance with former rivals and enemies in the European bloc.

Philippa Levine from UT’s Department of History and Program in British Studies walks us through the contemporary British politics and rocky history of Britain and the EU that contributed to this historic decision.

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Episode 84: Behind the Tower: New Histories of the UT Tower Shooting

Fifty years ago, on August 1, 1966, twenty-five year old student Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded at least 32 more at UT Austin.  A former Marine sharpshooter, he went to the 28th-floor observation deck of the UT Tower and began shooting people on the ground as they walked by or tried to hide. A news cameraman set up a camera under the tower so the shooting was broadcast on television. Several police officers and a recently retired Air Force officer made their way to the top of the tower not knowing what they would find and, after the rampage had lasted 96 minutes, Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez killed the sniper. Later it was found that Whitman had killed his mother and wife in the early hours of the morning.

These events were seared into the memory of everyone living in Austin, but historians have neglected the story and, for decades, the university avoided and eventually suppressed it. A small plaque on a hard to locate rock was only erected in 2008. Why?

In Spring 2016, as the fiftieth anniversary neared, graduate students in the UT History Department’s Public History seminar led by Joan Neuberger decided to make the history of the tower shooting more widely available and accessible to the public. They examined documents in local archives and wrote a collection of historical essays on many important aspects of that day’s events, as well as on the historical context, and the aftermath. And they put these essays on a website. In this episode, Neuberger discusses the project with four of those students: Itza Carbajal, Maria Hammack, Rebecca Johnston, and John Lisle.

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