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Claiming the State: Civics, Inclusion, and Power from the American Revolution to the Civil War

April 21

Generations of research on the history of marginalized people in the United States have made it impossible for many scholars of American history today to cleave to a triumphant, teleological, or even hopeful narrative of American liberal governance. Yet for most groups marginalized within the United States, throughout its history, there has been little viable alternative to engagement with the state. We are convening this symposium to discuss the question: where do we go from here? Our small, focused gathering will bring together scholars from diverse backgrounds and academic ranks, whose research focuses on individuals and groups in American history (1775-1861) who successfully made claims on the early American state. We are particularly interested in convening those who have been open about their political commitments and who are committed to dialoguing in good faith. We will ask conference participants to present their work using language accessible to our intended audience members. These will include Columbia and Iona College undergraduate students, as well as Seminar 491’s usual guests and associate members. Many of Seminar 491’s associate members are high school teachers, who must help their students navigate their relationship with civics in this difficult time. Professionals at local museums and archives will also be invited and featured. We will ask panelists to take the risk of making visible the relationship between their scholarly research and their personal political commitments and to engage directly with the research and the ideas of other panelists. The panels will be a hybrid research/roundtable format: each scholar will make a succinct presentation of his/her/their, the commitments that drive that research, and any connections to contemporary civic questions that they wish to make. We will leave ample time for panelists to discuss with one another and to answer questions from the audience. Research fields that we hope to have represented at this conference include Native American and Indigenous histories, the history of slavery and of black civil rights, the history of gender, religion, education, and early American political economy.


April 21
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Hannah Farber