Political Uses of Spain’s Blood Libel Myth: Dr. Weissberger Shares Her Research at NYC Conference

Dr. Barbara Weissberger is an emerita professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies. Next month, she will be presenting her work at the Blood Libel Then & Now: The Enduring Impact of an Imaginary Event conference in New York City.  

The Edict of Expulsion of all unconverted Jews that Queen Isabel and King Fernando issued in April of 1492 ended more than a millennium of co-existence between Christians and Jews in the Spanish kingdoms. Between 1391 and 1413 that often fragile co-existence began to unravel when real and threatened violence against Jews caused a massive wave of conversion to Christianity, creating a diverse group known as conversos. Prior to the conversions, blood libel accusations against Jews in Spain, unlike in the rest of Europe, had been exceedingly rare.

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Student Spotlight: J. Siguru Wahutu

img_9446J. Siguru Wahutu was born and raised in Kenya and moved to Minneapolis to pursue his undergraduate education. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in Sociology and Global Studies and a minor in Cultural Studies. He stayed in Minnesota to obtain his PhD in Sociology with a thematic focus on genocide, media and collective memory and a regional focus on Africa. Wahutu is broadly interested in how news organizations and journalists in Africa produce knowledge about genocide and mass atrocity in neighboring African countries. He was the 2013-2014 and the 2015 Badzin Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He also writes for the CHGS blog on current events in Africa.

Wahutu’s current research focuses on how Africa’s media represented the violence in Darfur between 2003 and 2008 and compares this to how media from the global north portrayed events in Darfur during the same period. This research project aims to examine the process through which African news organizations frame atrocities and actors in atrocities for their national audiences. While much has been written about how the global north represents the global south during instances of mass violence, little is known about how Africa represents Africa. This is the gap in scholarship that Wahutu’s work fills. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Wahutu will be editing his dissertation and submitting research papers to academic journals.

Indigenous Youth and the Looming Threat of Cultural Genocide in Minnesota

On August 20th, the Star Tribune published a story highlighting the incredible disparity between Native Americans and the rest of Minnesota in foster care placement. According to Stahl and Webster’s article, American Indian youth are ten times more likely to end up in foster care in comparison to the rest of the state. On average, two indigenous youth are sent to foster homes in Minnesota every day, the highest rate in the nation.

The sheer number of Native American children being sent to foster care in the United States is creating a significant problem. In 1978 Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). At the time, it was an attempt to keep Native American youth in tribal communities by placing them with Native foster families whenever possible. Now nearly thirty years later, Minnesota has a shortage of Native American foster homes to house the increasing number of children being taken from their home.

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The “Acid Test” for Right Wing Populism

PopulismoThe semester is about to start and I find myself touching up syllabi and putting some order in my course material. While reviewing files, I came across a very helpful handout from a conference I attended at the University of Bayreuth in 2010. The topic from then is even more timely today: “Analyzing Right-Wing Populist Discourse across Europe.” In it, discourse analyst Ruth Wodak laid out the most salient features of Right Wing Populist rhetoric, which she identified in statements from political leaders across the old continent. Given the indisputable “toxicity” of this discourse, here we will label the following ten elements from Wodak’s handout as the “Acid Test” for Right Wing Populism:

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Genocide in South West Africa: German Leaders Agree with the Historians—Finally

Genocide is a familiar topic to Germans. Today, it is almost impossible to visit Germany and not confront remnants of the darker chapters of the country’s history. Germans interact with and recognize a variety of tangible reminders of the crimes committed by the Third Reich. Countless memorials stand as physical evidence of a violent “past that will not go away”—a past that a majority of Germans publically acknowledge should not go away.[1]

But what about Germany’s other genocide? What place does its memory have in German society today? Between 1904 and 1908, German colonial soldiers carried out the first genocide of the twentieth century in what is now the present-day African state of Namibia (German Southwest Africa).[2] This systematic campaign against Herero and Namaqua peoples—regarded by some scholars as the “Kaiser’s Holocaust”—claimed the lives of over 100,000 men, women, and children through starvation, imprisonment, exile, and murder. German colonial leaders’ impetus for the genocide arose during the so-called Herero-Namaqua Aufstand (Herero-Namaqua Uprising), which began in January 1904 when Herero leaders revolted against the German administration in Southwest Africa. The Namaqua joined the campaign several months later.

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From the “Sioux Massacres” to the “Dakota Genocide” (1862-2015): A New Research Project at CHGS

Last week marked the 154th anniversary of a conflict that would reverberate across the United States. Its history has been clouded by the American Civil War, leaving it often as a mere footnote in larger conflicts. Fighting in the Dakota Conflict unfolded over only six weeks, during which hundreds of Minnesota settlers were killed or displaced. However, it is the conflicts impact on the Dakota that has left the longest legacy. After the war, more than eight hundred Dakota men were sentenced to death and thirty-eight would be hung in Mankato in 1862 – still the largest mass execution in American history. More than 1,600 women, children and the elderly spent a winter interred on Pike Island on the Mississippi before being shipped to reservations in Nebraska. Disease and starvation was rampant. In another act of indignity, Congress passed legislation banning the Dakota from returning to Minnesota – a law that remains on the books more than a century and a half later.

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Multiple Modernities and the Nazi Genocide: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust, pt. II

Natan Sznaider, Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo

This is the second half of Natan Sznaider’s critique of Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust. You can find the first half here. 

Multiple Modernities and the Memory of the Holocaust

We do need to talk about modernity (the concept as such makes sociologically no sense), but about multiple modernities and multiple Enlightenments.  One of the clues is Arendt’s book “On Revolution” where she compares and contrasts the French and the Anglo-Saxon traditions of Enlightenment

When we look at the Scottish Enlightenment, for instance, it is grounded on the sentiments or a moral or common sense as a kind of intuitive judgment. Capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, exercising power of judgment, anchored in religion and balancing between morality and utility in the basis of a liberty seen as granted to all. Look at Adam Smith’s exploration of virtues like compassion and benevolence. Arendt was working in this tradition when she in her “On Revolution” takes side with the legacy of the American Revolution and the Scottish Enlightenment against its French contender. Thus, in the French tradition (and we are talking caricatures) there is a strong opposition between reason and religion, while the Scots tried to reconcile reason and faith. I think these distinctions are important even though they do not play much or a role in Bauman’s text.

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Multiple Modernities and the Nazi Genocide: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust

Natan Sznaider, Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo

Many of us were deeply impressed when Zygmunt Bauman published his “Modernity and the Holocaust” almost a quarter century ago. When I studied sociology in the 1970s there was not much sociological thinking going around about the Holocaust.

Zygmunt-Ramonet-Stefano-Sunsplash-Castellon_498560546_16614510_1024x683
Zygmunt Bauman

When the book came out we weren’t very aware of the consequences. The book came out when the Berlin Wall fell and one year later, Germany was reunified and I would argue that these things are connected. Bauman himself was much more aware of the context.  In his Amalfi Prize lecture Bauman was very clear about the context of his book and I quote him: “The ideas that went into the book knew of no divide; they knew only of our common European experience, of our shared history whose unity may be belied, even temporarily suppressed, but not broken. It is our joint, all European, fate that my book is addressing (p.208 of the second edition of Modernity and the Holocaust).

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Short Takes: New Films on the Holocaust

This month, Jodi Elowitz shares five selections that explore recent Holocaust fiction and documentaries from a variety of perspectives.

Now Streaming on Netflix

MV5BMjE2MjQ2MzA2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzAyMTI5NjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,687,1000_AL_What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy (2015) is a documentary based on the article My father, the Good Nazi (2013) written by British Lawyer, Phillipe Sands in the Financial Times Magazine. The article discusses the relation of Niklas Frank, son of Hans Frank, Governor General of occupied Poland (General government) and Horst von Wächter, son of Otto von Wächter, District Governor of Krakow, Poland and later District Governor of Galicia during World War II. Both men were responsible for overseeing the extermination of Jews and charged with war crimes. Frank stood trial at Nuremberg and was found guilty on counts three and four (war crimes and crimes against humanity), sentenced to death, and executed on October 16, 1946. Wächter escaped prosecution and died while hiding in Rome in 1949.

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