I like to show students how history is relevant today but I didn’t need 1918 Flu, Great Depression/New Deal stimulus/relief, Hitler v. Poland, freezing Japanese assets, NATO, and peak Cold War all to be relevant this term.
Sunflowers, via unsplash.com user Todd Trapani
Hi ! This is the tenth issue of the View from the 4th Floor Paterson. I wish we could see sunflowers outside our windows; but as I write this, it’s a gloriously sunny day, and I don’t even mind the cold and snow so much.
Sunflowers, and their significance to the people of Ukraine, are of course extremely topical at the moment. I knew nothing about sunflowers last week. This interesting thread from Michelle Turner, of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Research Institute (link to thread) gives some archaeological background on how sunflowers made it to Ukraine:
I feel helpless and wish I had wisdom to share about world politics. But I do know about sunflowers. so here’s a little archaeology thread about sunflowers, and how a North American native plant became a beloved part of Eastern European culture. (More behind this link).
Where can a person go to find out more about what’s going on? One defining characteristic of the present conflict is the heavy cyber component, the disinformation component (and remember, ‘cyber’ comes from the ancient Greek κυβερνήτης meaning ‘steersman’, particularly in the realm of systems). One way to keep your information channels clear and to minimize the risk of passing on bad takes (which, remember, can be amplified in damaging ways), is to practice the SIFT methodology:
For more on SIFT, check out this open educational resource from Butler, Sargent, and Smith.
What do you mean, there’s not a single Russia expert on the faculty? How could you let that happen?— Associate Deans (@ass_deans) February 27, 2022
Omer Bartov. ‘My Ukraine Is Not Yet Lost’ New Fascism Syllabus. February 27, 2022.
Juliane Fürst. ‘On Ukraine, Putin, and the Realities and Rhetoric of War’ New Fascism Syllabus. February 26, 2022.
Lorenz M. Lüthi. ‘What’s In Putin’s Head?’ ActiveHistory.ca. February 28, 2022.
Keep your eyes peeled for more excellent work from the New Fascism Syllabus project coming out later this week.
⚡️Russian forces burn museum with paintings of Maria Prymachenko.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) February 28, 2022
A history museum in Ivankiv town, Kyiv Oblast, was destroyed by a Russian attack, according to Ustyna Stefanchuk, an art collector. The museum had about 25 works by famous Ukrainian artist Prymachenkoю
There are things we can do. There is a ‘Data Rescue’ for Ukraine project coming up this week, oganized by Anna E. Kijas and Francesca Giannetti (Digital Humanities Interest Group, Music Library Association) and Andy Janco (Digital Humanities Interest Group of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies). With so much of the metadata of cultural heritage materials having been digitized and moved online, the destruction of that research infrastructure is a serious risk. For more information, fill in this form.
No doubt there are other similar efforts already happening; one way to keep an eye on this is to follow Alex Gill, digital scholarship librarian at Columbia.
This newsletter is meant to give a glimpse into what it’s like to do history as part of our community; we feature interviews, reviews, reflections, and very nearly anything that will give a sense of the people and personalities that collectively make The Department of History at Carleton U; this month, Jasmin Cardillo sat down with Stacey Zembrzycki. and talked about the paths the journey can take!
Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself professionally. Where do work? What are your responsibilities?
I have worked at Dawson College in Montreal, Quebec, since 2014. I am part of the History and Classics Department. I teach all kinds of history; American history, Canadian history, Western Civilization (which is changing to World History), and lots and lots of Methods courses. I have a soft spot for the Integrative Seminar because I love teaching students how to write; this is a class that focuses on writing a major essay over the course of the term. However, I also enjoy teaching Canadian history because that is what I trained in.
Additionally, I do a lot of research and publishing on the side. I believe research informs my teaching, and my teaching informs my research. Therefore, I do both to be a better teacher, and a better scholar.
Q2: When did you study at Carleton? Did any particular class/faculty/staff/librarian have an impact on you?
I studied at Carleton University from 2002 to 2007. I applied to Carleton to work with Dr. Norman Hillmer. I spent the first year of my degree studying foreign policy. However, the conversations we had led me to change my research topic to focus on my own ethnic community: Sudbury’s Ukrainian community. In my second year of studies at Carleton, I began to work alongside Dr. Marilyn Barber and later, Dr. John Walsh. In fact, I was John’s first PhD student.
There are a few classes, and faculty members that swayed the trajectory of my degree. For starters, Dr. James Opp’s, and Dr. David Dean’s History and Methodology class. It was a very formative course for thinking about the archives and oral history, especially in terms of what gets included and what gets left out. Their class introduced me to the works of historian Antoinette Burton. Her research on silences in the archives pushed me to work on my ethnic community. Why weren’t Sudbury’s Ukrainians included in what I was reading? I desperately wanted to correct the record and add my community’s voice to it. Consequently, it was around this time that I began to forge a relationship with Dr. Franca Iacovetta work, through the Canadian History class I took to complete my major field. It was Carleton’s Underhill Graduate Student Colloquium that gave me the opportunity to meet with Franca and later work with her.
Q3: What was the path that got you from life as a student to where you are now?
Right after I graduated from Carleton University, there was a position to replace Dr. Ronald Rudin at Concordia University in Montreal because he went on sabbatical. This was definitely a challenge for me because I didn’t have any teaching experience, per se. Rarely did I get opportunities to lecture when I was doing my PhD.
Shortly after I was recruited for the position, I aligned with the Center for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) at Concordia. I did not yet see myself as an oral historian, but COHDS soon became my home. The following year, I was given the opportunity to work on the Montreal Life Stories project alongside oral historian Steven High, who also became an important mentor. The Montreal Life Stories project focused on survivors’ stories of displacement, genocide, and human rights violations, providing important insights into the experiences of genocide and human rights education in Montreal. In 2009, I became a SSHRC post-doctoral fellow at Concordia, which allowed me to continue working on the Montreal Life Stories project, where I focused on the experiences of Holocaust survivors and their work as educators in the city.
In 2013, Anna Sheftel and I co-authored the book, Oral History Off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice. We worked with international oral historians such as Alessandro Portelli, Linda Shopes, Kathleen Blee, etc. Essentially, this book was a culmination of a three-day oral history workshop. Anna and I were able to bring these oral historians to Montreal with SSHRC funding. During the three-day event, we spoke about anything and everything that you do not actually talk about in oral history. We sought to push our field of oral history forward, exploring all of the complications inherent in engaging in this human-centered craft. Off the Record was a great example of the work we do to build relationships within and beyond the field and how those relationships inform but also make our work incredibly messy. We were very grateful to have it recognized by the US Oral History Association, when it was awarded the 2014 Book Award. My book, According to Baba: A Collaborative Oral History of Sudbury’s Ukrainian Community was published in 2014, and later shortlisted for the Taras Shevchenko Foundation biennial Kobzar Literary Award in 2016. I had been working on this prior to Off the Record, and during my PhD, but needed time to sort out the subjective relationship I had to that project and determine how best to centre my relationship with my Baba, which was at the heart of that work.
Following these projects, I worked with Katrina Srigley and Franca Iacovetta on the edited collection Beyond Women’s Words: Feminisms and the Practices of Oral History in the Twenty-First Century, which won the Oral History Association’s 2019 Book Award. I’ve also been working on a SSHRC-funded project that’s currently titled: Mining Immigrant Bodies: A Multi-Ethnic Oral History of Industry, Environment, and Health in the Sudbury Region. This project has brought me back to the stories I heard when researching According to Baba, allowing me to understand the ways in which toxins in the air, water, and soil have impacted Sudburians over the last 130 years of nickel mining in the region. I now find myself chasing cancer through time, space and generation, leading me to ask why an epidemiological study of this place has never been done.
Most recently, I completed a collaborative community-engaged project entitled Refugee Boulevard: Making Montreal Home After the Holocaust, launching it in Fall 2019. I worked on this multimedia oral history project alongside Nancy Rebelo (Dawson College), Eszter Andor (Montreal Holocaust Museum), Anna Sheftel (then at Saint Paul’s University), and local Holocaust survivors. We are very fortunate that it’s been recognized by the academy, winning the US Oral History Association’s Mason Multi-Media Award (2020), and the Canadian Historical Association Public History Prize (2020).
Q4: In what ways did studying history shape how you think about the work that you do?
History informs everything I do!
In my new work, as I said a few minutes ago, I am focusing on health in Sudbury, specifically within immigrant communities. The work is deeply rooted in environmental history while bringing in both oral history as well as narrative medicine. I am asking the question: ‘What about the PEOPLE in environmental history?’ When you become sick, if your healthcare team does not understand you as a person, then it is next to impossible to get better. I believe you need to understand the whole person in order to understand the disease they are being diagnosed with. My goal is to track instances of illness and disease in Sudbury’s immigrant communities as well as note the path, through life story interviewing, that got them to their diagnoses.
As historians, we must get better at WRITING these narratives. If we do not, then nobody will read our work, and then, ultimately, they do not matter. We must get better at engaging various publics. Our academic writing is important however, I want my work to inform the everyday experiences of people, living now, who are facing various health challenges, which are likely tied to the environments in which they’ve lived, worked, and played, to borrow from Opp and Walsh’s important approach to social history. Writing is important for setting the tone and changing the field, but it’s also vital for providing another way into understanding these everyday experiences. Making my findings accessible is at the heart of what I’m trying to do.
Moreover, studying history molded me into a compassionate and accommodating teacher. Because, how dare I go into people’s homes and listen to their life stories, and not listen to what my students tell me they need in our classrooms. My classrooms are communities where I accept the varied needs of my students and try to find routes into learning that are accessible for everyone. I work hard to create spaces, activities, and policies that bring down anxiety levels, engaging students and pulling them into the narratives I present to them. Understanding what they think is important and what they need from me is part of that process. This is what I mean when I say that my research informs my teaching, and my teaching informs my research.
Q5: If you could send a message to your younger self, when you were an undergraduate studying history, what would it say?
Norman Hillmer’s advice stands here. He always told us to follow what we believe in and to focus on what we are passionate about. Make sure you love what you are doing because if you are not 100% passionate about it, then you will not make it through the program.
It is important to follow your GUT and your HEART. When you are all in, that energy is evident when the work is done, and it makes it more powerful and impactful.
Additionally, it is OKAY to change your course of study. Being in undergraduate, and graduate school is all about changing your mind and understanding that these shifting perspectives are part of learning, part of the process.
Why, The Underhill Graduate Colloquium, of course! March 18, 2020, online. Click on that link or follow these social media accounts for more information:
“Our Underhill 2022 theme, (Re)thinking History, is meant to forefront work going beyond the traditional bounds of academia including the sources being studied, the way we work, how we approach archives, how we share our work, the themes we consider, and the communities involved. Academic history needs to adapt to the times, and we would like this conference to do so as well. To that end, this year’s colloquium will feature graduate work as well as two keynote presentations that discuss history in the public sphere, in the archives, in classrooms, and in academic institutions – all with an understanding that capital ‘H’ history needs to change in order to reflect our communities, our students, and to put into practice long overdue action items from the TRC report.”
The keynote event will be hosted virtually on March 18th, 2022. Registration will be coming soon. We hope you can join us!”
Bringing Queer Holocaust History to the Stage – The Amazing Life of Margot Heuman
“The Amazing Life of Margot Heuman is a new play about the first, and possibly the last, lesbian Holocaust survivor to bear testimony. Born in 1928 in Germany, Margot Heuman is a survivor of Theresienstadt ghetto, Auschwitz, Neuengamme, and Bergen-Belsen. The play, which takes its text from interviews conducted by Warwick University historian Anna Hájková in 2019, offers a poignant look on coming of age as a Jewish queer woman in the concentration camps. In the play, Margot Heuman reflects on love, choices, sexual violence and sexual barter, homophobia, and survival. Moving, funny, pragmatic, and original, she reminds us of humanity within the society of Holocaust victims, but also of the stories that have been erased by homophobia. Today, Heuman will probably remain the only lesbian voice to speak about her experience in the Holocaust. “I am amazing,” she tells her interviewer, and the audience.
This event is sponsored by the College of the Humanities; the Edgar & Dorothy Davidson Lecture Series; the Department of Drama; the Department of History; Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies; Migration and Diaspora Studies; The Pauline Jewett Institute.”
Dr Anna Hájková (she/her, co-author) is an associate professor at the University of Warwick. Her book, The Last Ghetto: An Everyday History of Theresienstadt, was published in 2020 to academic and popular acclaim. Her current project explores queer Holocaust history.
Dr. Erika Hughes (she/her, director / co-author) is a Reader in Performance at the University of Portsmouth. She is the author of the forthcoming book Holocaust Memory and Youth Performance and her work as a director has been seen on stages in the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Israel, and Germany.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to the online play and another link to the March 1, 2022 webinar.
The Call for Papers for the Canadian Historical Association’s 100th Anniversary Meeting - “Reconsidering History” - to be held May 16 to 18, 2022, is now open. If interested, please see https://cha-shc.ca/english/what-we-do/annual-meeting/annual-meeting.html.
Image via Kei, unsplash.com
This edition of the View from the 4th Floor Paterson was written by Jasmin Cardillo and Shawn Graham with the support of the Communications Committee.