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Behind Death's Head and Black Colors: Piracy, Imperialism and Labor

Michael Curtis Grier Carlson ('08), Helena Wall

During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries European nations looked across their oceanic borders to extend their empires for “God, gold, and glory.” To expand economically and politically, England, Spain, France, and the Netherlands, the principal imperial powers, increasingly relied on maritime labor for military and commercial might. But as these nations overstretched their control, imposed harsher demands on seamen, and fought each other, another entity grew in strength as an alternative: piracy. Using court records, sermons, and personal journals, I have explored the attractiveness of piracy to seamen, pirate labor relations, and both public and class identity of pirates. At the base of piracy was the unique system of labor that forced unity and egalitarianism despite differing functions and hierarchy on board vessels. Because of this, class identity was strong; meanwhile pirates were demonized in the public image by religious figures as well as their own kind. Ultimately, however, piracy’s rise and fall seems attributable to both the mystique of pirate life and the significant labor benefits when compared to work in government sponsored occupations. Although it was eventually squelched by centralization of colonial governments, piracy survived in the public memory, creating a lasting fanaticism for this marginalized group.
Funding provided by: Hart Institute

The Challenges of Creating an Arab-American Political Voice

Jemel Amin Derbali ('09), Arash Khazeni (CMC)

Arab immigrants have resided in the United States since the end of the nineteenth century, but it was far later that they began to become visible on a national stage. It was in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war that Arab-Americans first began to express a political voice. A number of Arab-American political groups emerged in the following two decades. These groups aimed to unite the diverse Arab-American population in calling for an end to the occupation of Palestine, an end to discrimination against Arabs and Arab- Americans, and a just American foreign policy in the Arab World. More broadly, these groups sought to encourage Arab-Americans to empower themselves through engagement in the American political process. While the groups had many successes, they failed to galvanize a large portion of the Arab-American population and failed to acquire much influence in the political system. This was due to a variety of factors, of which three stand out: 1) political agendas often failed to address many of the concerns of the Arab- American community; 2) sectarianism in a particularly diverse Arab-American prevented agreement on many issues, and 3) an anti-Arab atmosphere in the government and among Americans intimidated people, and discouraged many from expressing themselves politically.
Funding provided by: Hart Institute

Indigenous Mexican Diaspora: Zapoteca/o Migrants in Oaxaca and Los Angeles

Laurie Ignacio ('08), Miguel Tinker Salas

In Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca, 16 Indigenous groups compose 70% of the population. The migration rate of Zapoteca/os, the largest ethnic group in Oaxaca, to the United States has grown extensively in the past 15 years. As a result, Oaxaca has seen a surge in migrant organizations and individuals that invest in the region’s economic development. Research in the United States on Zapoteca/o populations is limited as Oaxacan migration is a relatively recent phenomenon. This study examines the history of Zapoteca/o migration from three rural mountain communities in the northern region of Sierra Juarez from the perspective of Zapoteca/os in Oaxaca. Through library and archive research, observations, and interviews collected from internal migrants it is clear that emigration has caused a declining population of young adults in the region while stimulating community development projects through remittances. Strong binational social networks have fostered a deeply rooted culture of migration, and also concern about the efficacy of monetary investment and the roles of women, youth, and advocates in promoting human and civil rights on both sides of the border.
Funding provided by: SURP (NEH)

Time and the Jesuit-Native American Encounter, 1610-1640

Julia Weinberg Kramer ('08), Helena Wall

I am currently working on a close reading of The Jesuit Relations, a 73-volume set of letters and reports that Jesuit missionaries sent back to France from the New World over the course of the seventeenth century. I am studying the various roles that time and consciousness of time played in the interaction between Native Americans and Jesuits in early America. I have discovered a few descriptions of the general calendar that some Native Americans adhered to, and I have started to understand how the Jesuits attempted to maintain their identity--their connection to the metropole--even while they were in many ways forced, in order to survive, to adhere to the Indians' calendar. The Jesuits attempted to replicate the rhythm of their life in France, whether by relying on boats from France for food, by extolling French commodities--from clothing to compasses--that asserted the Jesuits' distance from the land the people they were closest to, by recreating the schedule of monastic life through prayer and observance of Christian holidays, and by writing these reports, which, in the act of organizing and recording their experiences, reorganized the rhythm of the New World into a pattern that might have given the experience meaning in the Jesuits' consciousness.
Funding provided by: Hart Institute

As Goes Pennsylvania, So Goes the Union: Ideology and the Republican Party, 1855-1860

Thomas G Sprankling ('08), Helena Wall

One of the most politically powerful states in America at the creation of the Republican Party, Pennsylvania played a crucial role in shaping the rhetoric and eventual policy of the 19th century Republican Party. In order to quantify the specifics of this role, I spent ten weeks reading contemporary newspapers, researching the lives of Pennsylvanian Republicans and analyzing 20th century historical retrospectives of the years 1855-1860. I found that Pennsylvania had a strong conservative influence on the young Republican Party in three basic ways: economic, social, and electoral. The powerful manufacturing interests in Pennsylvania ensured that the Republican Party would call for fiscal ‘protection’ for domestic products in the form of a tariff on foreign goods. The predominant racial biases held by many eastern and southern Pennsylvanians influenced the shift in Republican rhetoric against slavery from moral arguments about why slavery was bad for the black man to economic arguments about why slavery was bad for the white man. And the inherent conservatism of Pennsylvania as a state played a pivotal role in selecting the moderate but little-known Abraham Lincoln as the Republican nominee for president in 1860, rather than one of his more radical rivals.
Funding provided by: Hart Institute

"Enduring": The Wartime Experience in Rural Japan

Andrew John Wald ('08), Samuel Yamashita

Historical studies of World War Two have traditionally focused on the “big picture” of major events, prominent people and urban populations—but what of the wartime experiences of the faceless “ordinary” people? For this project I examined wartime diaries written by rural Japanese in order to understand their everyday experiences during the war. I obtained two diaries previously published in Japanese: the first written by Yasumura Shizu, a young farm woman in southern Japan; and the second written by Oshima Shizu, a mother from a town in central Japan. I translated Yasumura’s account of the final year of the war and the years 1942 to 1945 of the Oshima diary. Most striking is the diaries’ depiction of the hardship caused by food and material shortage for the duration of the war. They also say much about the social consciousness of rural Japanese during the war: although there was strong cohesion within local communities, there appears to have been a sense of isolation from the national community, as well as ambivalence regarding the government and its motives. This research takes steps toward synthesizing a variety of personal accounts of everyday life and painting a broad picture of the rural Japanese wartime experience.
Funding provided by: SURP (NEH)

Research at Pomona