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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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THE SPIRITUAL VISITATION THAT BROUGHT THE REMAINS OF HAWAI‘I’S FIRST CHRISTIAN CONVERT BACK HOME

14 Mar

Portrait of Henry “Obookiah,” undated frontispiece in Memoirs of Henry Obookiah. Courtesy of Eleanor C. Nordyke/Wikimedia Commons.

Deborah Li‘ikapeka Lee, a young Native Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) woman, woke in the wee hours of an October night in 1992 to an inner sensation, impossible to define and equally impossible to ignore.

Alone and unsure of what was happening to her, she feared illness and anxiously rose from her bed, searching for the comfort of her Bible. The sensation continued to well up inside her, forcing its way out, yielding a voice that spoke as clearly as if its source was standing in front of her. She heard five words: “He wants to come home.”

The “he” in Debbie’s spiritual visitation was her seventh-generation cousin, Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia, who was the first Native Hawaiian to become Christianized. Born in 1792, his parents were brutally slain before his childhood eyes by Kamehameha I’s warriors, and he contemplated leaving the Big Island in the first decade of the 19th century rather than remaining there as an orphan. While training to become a kahuna, a Hawaiian spiritual leader, at the Hikiau Heiau, a traditional place of worship in Nāpo‘opo‘o at Kealakekua Bay, ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia secured passage onboard an American merchant ship, sailing halfway around the world hoping to replace pain and memory, attempting to outrun his survivor’s guilt, and seeking peace from the violence he experienced in his youth.

So begins Nicholas F.  Bellantoni’s brief account of his involvement in bringing Henry Opukaha’ia/Obookiah’s remains home to Hawai’i. You may read the entire piece here.

What Poop Can Teach Us About an Ancient City’s Downfall

27 Feb

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

An aerial shot of Cahokia's Monks Mound.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF poop. After more than 1,000 years, it can still have a lot to offer.

Just ask the authors of a new study, out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which discusses how fecal remains can teach us about the rise and fall of Cahokia, an ancient city less than 10 miles outside of present-day St. Louis, Missouri. According to UNESCO, Cahokia was “the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico.”

So begins Matthew Taub’s Atlas Obscura post on Cahokia. You may read the entire post here.

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