Historians of the GAAS/DGfA Annual Conference, 2021: “Labor History” (Online Event)

Historians of the GAAS/DGfA Annual Conference, 2021: “Labor History” (Online Event)

Dear colleagues,
this year the annual conference of the historians within the GAAS/DGfA must move online. We hope you will join us for the meeting on Zoom on February 26, 2021. (Links will be posted here closer to the time of the event.)

Conference Program

14:00 CET

14:30–16:00 CET
Julie Greene
“Workers of the World: U.S. Empire, Class, and Capitalism
followed by responses by Andreas Etges and Mischa Honeck

(15 minute break)

16:15–17:45 CET
Eileen Boris
“Neither Free Nor Slave: Migrant Domestic Workers, The Employment Agency, and Reproductive Labor Under Capitalism

followed by responses by Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson and Silke Hackenesch

(15 minute break)

18:00–19:30 CET
Business Meeting

Login Information (For keynotes only. The business meeting will be held for eligible members, who have received separate communication about it.)

Time: 26. Feb., 2021, 02:30 PM Amsterdam, Berlin, Rom, Stockholm, Wien

Enter meeting here:


Meeting-ID: 951 0300 4782

Meeting code: 767100

June 25 – Heinrich the Shoemaker and the S/Cistrunks that Followed: A Narrative of Black and White in the U.S. South 🗓

June 25 – Heinrich the Shoemaker and the S/Cistrunks that Followed: A Narrative of Black and White in the U.S. South 🗓

Elizabeth J. West
(Georgia State University)

June 25, 2019
4 p.m.-6 p.m., Philosophicum I, P207

From 1739–1748 the centuries long dispute between Britain and Spain over contested territories in present day Florida and Georgia heightened into the conflict that became known as The War of Jenkins’s Ear. This land based dispute spilled over into the high seas as both sides seized one another’s ships across the Atlantic. While the captors seized and claimed all goods and merchandise, what fate awaited the passengers of these unfortunate ambushes at sea? In the case of one Heinrich Süsstrunck (later Sistrunk), emigrating from his Swiss-German home in 1743, it meant a two year stopover in Cuba before he and the other captives would be rescued and delivered to South Carolina in 1746.

There is a glaring irony in the story of Heinrich. Captured at sea, taken to a foreign destination and held captive for two years, he arrived in Charleston a free man with an apprentice at his side. This point of arrival would begin a legacy of generations of white Sistrunks who would claim and enslave generations of blacks in the U.S. South. While Spanish adversaries may have held Heinrich captive in Cuba for two years, he left there indoctrinated into the new world plantation system and the reality that his whiteness was capital in this hemisphere. Though Spain and Britain were at odds over territories in the new world, Heinrich’s experience in Cuba and his acclimation by the time he arrived in Charleston speaks to the borderless trans-Atlantic world that was connected through slavery.

From the trajectory of Heinrich Sistrunk’s Cuban detainment and deliverance to South Carolina and the territorial expansion of his heirs, this lecture examines the borderlessness of the plantocracy of the Americas, and how this inter-colonial system laid pathways of contrasting generational fortunes for Heinrich’s heirs and the descendants of Shadrick and Francis, two of the many blacks recorded in nineteenth century Sistrunk slave ledgers.

Elizabeth J. West received her Ph.D. in English with a certificate in Women’s Studies from Emory University. Her teaching and scholarship focuses on spirituality and gender in early African American and Women’s Literature, and African Diasporic Literatures of the Atlantic World. She co-edits the Roman & Littlefield book series, Black Diasporic Worlds: Origins and Evolutions from New World Slaving. She is the author of African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction: (Lexington Books 2011), coeditor of Literary Expressions of African Spirituality (Lexington Books 2013). Her works can be found in critical anthologies and in journals such as MELUSAmerikastudienCLAJ, PALARA, JCCH, Womanist, Black Magnolias, and South Central Review. Her 2012 article, “From David Walker to President Obama: Tropes of the Founding Fathers in African American Discourses of Democracy, or the Legacy of Ishmael” was recognized among “Featured Articles” in American Studies Journals: A Directory of Worldwide Resources.

You can download the poster for the event here.

May 14 – Why Do 45 Million Americans Owe $ 1.5 Trillion in Student Loans?  The Origins of America’s Student Loan Crisis 🗓

May 14 – Why Do 45 Million Americans Owe $ 1.5 Trillion in Student Loans? The Origins of America’s Student Loan Crisis 🗓

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer
(Loyola University Chicago)

May 14, 2019
4 p.m.–6 p.m. (c.t.), Philosophicum I, P207

Why do more than 44 million Americans now owe almost $1.5 trillion in student loans? Many want to blame the banks. But lenders actually fought the Senators, Representatives, and Presidents eager to make students finance their educations after World War II. Only when Congress revised the programs in the early 1970s to increase profitability did bankers embrace a financial sector that has become a pathway into poverty, not prosperity.

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer is an Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago specializing in the fields of capitalism, business, labor, political ideas and ideologies, regional development, and urbanization. Among her books and edited volumes are Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), Barry Goldwater and the Remaking of the American Political Landscape (University of Arizona Press, 2013), and The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).

You can download the poster for the event here.

May 7 – Neoliberal Identity 🗓

May 7 – Neoliberal Identity 🗓

Walter Benn Michaels
(University of Illinois, Chicago)

May 7, 2019
10 a.m.-12 noon, Philosophicum I, P109a

“The differentiation between left and right neoliberalism doesn’t really undermine the way it which it is deeply unified in its commitment to competitive markets and to the state’s role in maintaining competitive markets. For me the distinction is that ‘left neoliberals’ are people who don’t understand themselves as neoliberals. They think that their commitments to anti-racism, to anti-sexism, to anti-homophobia constitute a critique of neoliberalism. But if you look at the history of the idea of neoliberalism you can see fairly quickly that neoliberalism arises as a kind of commitment precisely to those things.” (Walter Benn Michaels)

Walter Benn Michaels is a Professor of American Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Michaels’s work has generated a set of arguments and questions around a host of issues that are central to literary studies: problems of culture and race, identities national and personal, the difference between memory and history, disagreement and difference, and meaning and intention in interpretation. He earned his Ph.D. in 1975 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Michaels also taught at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley.

You can download the poster for the event here.

April 30 – After American Studies: Rethinking the Legacies of Transnational Exceptionalism 🗓

April 30 – After American Studies: Rethinking the Legacies of Transnational Exceptionalism 🗓

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera
(University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez)

April 30, 2019
10 a.m.-12 noon, Philosophicum I, P109a

This talk is based on the monograph After American Studies, a timely critique of national and transnational approaches to community, and their forms of belonging and trans/patriotisms. Using reports in multicultural psychology and cultural neuroscience to interpret an array of cultural forms—including literature, art, film, advertising, search engines, urban planning, museum artifacts, visa policy, public education, and ostensibly non-state media—the argument fills a gap in contemporary criticism by a focus on what makes cultural canons symbolically effective (or not) for an individual exposed to them. The talk will address the limits of transnationalism as a paradigm, evidencing how such approaches often reiterate presumptive and essentialized notions of identity that function as new dimensions of exceptionalism.

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera is a distinguished researcher and associate professor in the Department of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. He earned his Ph.D. in “Art, Literature, and Thought” from the Universidad Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. This semester he is Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.

You can download the poster for the event here.