2019 Ena H. Thompson Distinguished Lecturer

Kate Brown

The Pomona History Department is delighted to welcome Kate Brown to campus as the 2019 Ena H. Thompson Distinguished Lecturer. Kate Brown is a prize-winning author and Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose work explores the transformations and legacies of twentieth-century modernity. From Central Asia to Eastern Europe to the American West, Brown has sought to recover the experiences of people and places affected by war, displacement, and environmental devastation. Her books have won recognition for the way they tell stories that cross national boundaries and combine rich archival research with personal narrative.

Brown's first book, A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland (Harvard University Press, 2004) won the American Historical Association's prize for the best work of European international history. It traces the upheaval of nation-building, war, expulsion, and revolution in a multiethnic region straddling the Polish-Ukrainian border from World War I through World War II. Brown's second book, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford University Press, 2013), compares the lives of people in Richland, Washington and Ozersk, USSR, two cities separated by the Iron Curtain but united in the production of plutonium in the service of superpower competition. For its creativity and rigor in uncovering the hidden, shared costs of Cold War militarization, Plutopia received widespread acclaim. Besides two prizes from the American Historical Association, it won prizes from the American Society for Environmental History, the Organization of American Historians, the Western History Association, the Association for Women in Slavic Studies, and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

Brown's forthcoming book is Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future (W. W. Norton & Company, 2019). In it, Brown uses archival research and interviews to investigate the long-term costs of radioactivity generated from nuclear energy and weapons testing. She also exposes international efforts to cover up those costs. Research from this project will form the basis of her Ena H. Thompson Lectures at Pomona College.

Kate Brown has been recognized with fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Academy in Berlin, and the Social Science Research Council, among other distinguished institutions. Her work has appeared in both academic journals and media outlets such as Slate Magazine, Aeon, and The Times Literary Supplement. Dr. Brown received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington.

About the Lectureship

Endowed in 1980 through the generosity of Ena H. Thompson, these annual lectures encourage a broader understanding and appreciation of history. Generally held in the spring semester, the lectureship brings a distinguished historian to the Pomona College campus for a week of intensive interaction with students, faculty, and alumni. The visiting lecturers are elected both on the basis of their past contributions to the discipline and of the importance of their current research in advancing the field. Typically, they offer two public lectures on campus during the week of their residency and another lecture for alumni at a dinner event in the greater Los Angeles area.

Past Ena H. Thompson Distinguished Lecturers

2018      Andrew Bacevich
2017      James C. Scott
2016      Greg Grandin
2015      Kasia Cwiertka
2014      Tiya A. Miles
2013      Gail Hershatter
2012      Fred M. Donner
2011      Gilbert Gonzales
2010      Thomas R. Metcalf
2009      Louis A.  Pérez, Jr.
2008      Patricia H. Smith
2007      David Roediger / Stanley Nelson
2006      Patricia Ebrey
2005      Dominick La Capra
2004      Robin D. G. Kelley
2003      Gilbert M. Joseph
2002      Patricia Nelson Limerick
2001      Linda Colley
2000      Vicki L. Ruiz / Antonia Castańeda
1999      Allan Bérubé
1998      Lynn Hunt
1997      Peter Brown
1996      Tetsuo Najita
1995      Ramón Eduardo Ruiz
1994      John Higginson
1993      G.W. Bowersock
1992      John H. Elliot
1991      Bernard Bailyn
1990      Ramón Gutiérrez
1989      Wolfgang J. Momsen
1988      Jonathan P. Spence
1987      A.W.B. Simpson
1986      Keith Thomas
1985      Natalie Zemon Davis
1984      Carl E. Schorske
1983      Richard Pipes
1982      Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
1981      Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie
1980      Peter Gay