Episode 71: The Rise and Fall of the Latvian National Communists

Host: Christopher Rose, Assistant Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Mike Loader, Doctoral Candidate, King’s College, London

Eduard Berklavs

For a period in the 1950s known as the Khruschev Thaw, the Soviet Republics enjoyed a brief moment of relative autonomy from the heavy handed leadership of Moscow. Latvia, a small republic on the Baltic Sea, took prime advantage of this period of liberalization under the leadership of a group called the Latvian National Communists. They saw a way forward that diverged considerably from Moscow, and took concrete steps to resist Russification of Latvia’s politics and culture. The Thaw was short lived, however, and the Latvian National Communists were eventually thwarted and the republic brought back into the Soviet fold.

Guest Mike Loader gives an enthusiastic look at this high drama at the peak of the cold war, which gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of the Soviet Union from a different perspective.

Download audio (mp3—right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 40: Developing the Amazon

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Seth Garfield, Director, Institute for Historical Studies

garfieldamazonarielnew

During World War II, the governments of Brazil and the United States made an unprecedented level of joint investment in the economy and infrastructure of the Amazon region.  The dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas (1937-45) trumpeted the colonization and development of the Amazon (christened the “March to the West”) as a nationalist imperative to defend a sparsely settled frontier covering some sixty percent of Brazilian territory.

Guest Seth Garfield shows how a little-known chapter of World War II history illuminates the ways outsiders’ very understandings and representations of the nature of the Amazon have evolved over the course of the latter half of the twentieth century.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 31: Who are the Turks?

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Carter Vaughn Findley, Humanities Distinguished Professor in History, The Ohio State University

Turkish merchant in Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan). Prokudin-Gorskii collection, c. 1905-1914.

Over the past two thousands years, the Turkic peoples have migrated and expanded from a small group of pastoral nomads in what is now western China to form Islam’s longest lasting empire, six modern nation-states that bear their names, and large minorities across Eurasia. But … who are the Turks? Do they even form a coherent social category? Where did they come from? And what makes them “Turk”ish?

Guest Carter Vaughn Findley has spent a career working on the Turkic peoples and their history, and helps us trace their long migration from the Gobi to the Bosphorus, adapting, absorbing, and transforming themselves and the societies they interact with along the way.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 25: Mexican Migration to the US

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Miguel A. Levario, Assistant Professor of History, Texas Tech University

A bracero kneels in a pepper field in California to loosen the soil with a short-handled hoe. (Bracero Archive)

The words “Mexican immigration” are usually enough to start a vibrant, politically and emotionally charged debate. Yet, the history of Mexican migration to the U.S. involves a series of ups and downs—some Mexicans were granted citizenship by treaty after their lands were annexed to the U.S., and, until the 1970s, they were considered legally white—a privilege granted to no other group. At the same time, Mexicans crossing the border every day were subjected to invasive delousing procedures, and on at least two occasions were subjected to incentivized repatriation.

Guest Miguel A. Levario from Texas Tech University (and a graduate of UT’s Department of History!) walks us through the “schizophrenic” relationship between the US and its southern neighbor and helps us ponder whether there are any new ideas to be had in the century long debate it has inspired—or any easy answers.

Download audio (right-click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 16: The First Illegal Aliens?

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Madeline Y. Hsu, Associate Professor, Department of History, and Director, Center for Asian-American Studies

 "Another Field of American Industry Invaded by the Chinese": From Harper's Weekly: Harper's Weekly, Vol. 27 (1883).

Fears that the U.S. is being invaded by illegal aliens, of vast numbers waiting to stream across the border and undermine the American working class may seem ripped from the today’s headlines today, but a century and a half ago politicians weren’t looking south toward Mexico when debating immigration policies, they were looking west, toward China. Concerns over Chinese immigration shaped U.S. immigration policies in ways we still observe today.

Guest Madeline Y Hsu from UT’s Center for Asian-American Studies discusses the tumultuous experience of Chinese immigration to the U.S., the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and sheds light on the lingering immigration issues first discussed in the 19th century that continue to concern us in contemporary political debates.

Download audio (right-click to save)

Continue reading