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The Wild West Meets the Southern Border

4 Jun

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Tombstone’s reënactors re-create a peculiar and selective representation of the past. Photograph by Chris Verene for The New Yorker

Shakespeare is in New Mexico. Tombstone, in Arizona. Both are old mining towns near the U.S.-Mexico border. They came into existence in the eighteen-seventies, during the silver strike, but soon suffered the same fate as most of the other mining towns in the region: boom, depression, abandonment, and then a strange kind of afterlife.

Some years ago, I spent a summer in the Southwest with my then husband, our daughter, and my two stepsons, and we visited both places. It was 2014, the immigration crisis was very much in the news—unaccompanied children from Central America were arriving at the border in unprecedented numbers, seeking asylum—and I was beginning to do research on the situation. My husband and I were obsessively meeting deadlines, and the kids were getting impatient with us, feeling…

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The Pacific Northwest is the American religious future

3 Jun

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

People crowd the University of Washington quad to view cherry blossoms in Seattle in April 2017. Photo by Joe Mabel/Creative Commons

SEATTLE (RNS) — Early in this century, the academic center that I direct undertook a research project to examine religion and regionalism in American public life. Of the eight regions we divided the country into, the most distinctive was the Pacific Northwest (PNW)—Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

The distinctiveness had everything to do with the region’s low degree of religious identification — something that had been the case ever since Anglo-Americans began settling the place in the 19th century. For that reason, we subtitled the volume dedicated to it “the None Zone.”

So begins religious historian and journalist Mark Silk’s essay on religion and the Pacific Northwest. (Full disclosure: I participated in the research project he mentions, but on California, Nevada, and Hawai’i, not the Pacific Northwest.) You may read…

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Let’s Change the Way We Talk About the Midwest

12 May

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Movement, changing urban landscapes, and environmental violence are all Midwestern stories. A 4-11 Fire Alarm, Chicago. Source: The Newberry Library

Even as Seemingly Every Article on Midwestern History and Culture aims to complicate understandings of the Midwest, they still start with the assumption that the Midwest is a static, white, rural place. This assumption is not reflected in the historical record, contemporary scholarship, or the lived experiences of so many Midwesterners (including myself); rather, it is a harmful and political statement. For example, in Minnesota the narrative justifies elevating violent legacies of colonizers while erasing past and present Indigenous presence in battles over place names at Bde Maka Ska and Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote. Meanwhile, the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota is unwilling to reckon with the racist histories associated with campus building names. The nostalgic characterization of the Midwest as perpetually white and…

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The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Art (1460–1921)

17 Apr
notre dame

Vüe de l’intérieur de l’Eglise Cathédrale de notre Dame de Paris, artist unknown, 1670 — Source.

Public Domain Review has a fascinating post on Notre Dame Cathedral in art, per the sample above. See all the items here.

Resurrection Hope For Notre Dame

16 Apr

I was in a meeting with my fellow graduate deans when I first saw the pictures. My colleague just handed me his phone. He said something, but I don’t remember his words as the image drowned out everything else. The small screen connected me  to people all over the world and we watched, together, in silence and shock, as fire ravaged Notre Dame.

So begins historian Beth Allison Barr’s historical and theological reflections on the fire in Notre Dame cathedral. You may read her entire Anxious Bench post here.

WHAT THE DODGERS AND GIANTS’ 1958 MOVE WEST MEANT FOR AMERICA

28 Mar

Few phrases are as evocative of a mythical, imagined urban past as “Brooklyn Dodgers.”

Those two words, particularly in the borough that is now a punch line for hipster jokes, bring to mind a different America, one where the U.S. saw itself as more of a political innocent just discovering its global superpowers, where hardworking immigrant families advanced rapidly into the middle class, and where young people survived on a diet of knishes, homemade pasta, kielbasa, and other foods from the old country (but rarely drank anything stronger than a milkshake). The nostalgia evoked by the phrase “Brooklyn Dodgers” was broad enough to include African-Americans making steady advances into the promise of full citizenship, symbolized by the integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson and the excellence of his teammates, from Roy Campanella to Don Newcombe.

Those fantasies—of the Dodgers, of baseball, of America—came crashing down in 1957. It was announced that winter that the Dodgers and their uptown rivals the Giants, who made their home in Harlem, would leave New York the following year for Los Angeles and San Francisco.

This move West, still decried in Brooklyn and among older New Yorkers, changed how Americans thought about baseball and the country.

So begins Columbia University professor Lincoln Mitchell’s summary of his book on the westward move of baseball in the 1950s. You may read the entire Zocalo Public Square post here.

CAN BETHEL CHURCH MAKE REDDING, CALIFORNIA, HEAVEN ON EARTH?

18 Mar

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Is this heaven, or Redding?

These days, the city of 91,000 at the north end of the Sacramento Valley, seems to sit halfway between the godly and the earthly—and not just because of the divine spectacles of nearby Mounts Shasta and Lassen. At the heart of Redding stands a quintessentially California church with a focus on community impact so intense you could almost call it supernatural.

Bethel Church may not be a household name in California, but it should be. Because there is no other institution in our state better at engaging with its hometown than Bethel and its 11,000-plus members.

So begins Joe Mathews’ report on Bethel Church and Redding, California. You may read the entire Zocalo Public Square story here.

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