Sawyer Seminar 2014-15
Concept, Conditions, and Connections in Transnational Historical Perspective, from the 11th Century to the Present
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Over the past two years 2013-2015, CAUSE collaborated with the Department of History and Dietrich College on a generously funded A. W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar, titled “The Ghetto: Concept, Conditions, and Connections in Transnational Historical Perspective, from the 11th Century to the Present.” This seminar brought together a multidisciplinary group of faculty to explore four ghettos in different times and places—for Jews in Europe from the 16th to the 19th century; for people of color in Southern Africa during the apartheid era; for Jews under Nazi occupation; and for African Americans in the United States since the Great Migration. Featuring predistributed papers by a roster of 18 scholars from Europe, Africa, and the United States, this seminar involved a core group 15-20 faculty and graduate students from different disciplines at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and West Virginia University.t Over the course of two semesters, the group engaged presenters in series of intensive discussions and critiques of both similarities and differences among ghettos on a global scale Specifically, the seminar focused on several overlapping themes involving issues of discourse, power, and control; internal structures of authority in ghettos; the lived experiences of ghetto residents; and the culture of resistance in ghettos. We also explored the connections between the cases, especially the transnational circulation of the idea of geographical confinement and agency among ghetto residents over time and space. In addition to a postdoctoral fellow selected for the seminar, the gathering also included four graduate student predoctoral fellows. The directors of the seminar, Russian historian Wendy Z. Goldman and U. S. historian Joe W. Trotter, are currently seeking a publisher for an edited volume on the subject.