Saturday, June 28, 2008

(Left to right): Simonne Horwitz, Mimi Badamuti, Inez Stephney (Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town) and Saruto Labbo. Photo by Pamela Parlapiano
“It’s very fitting that we are here in a site that’s linked to rebellion and resistance. In my own work on Westfort (a leprosy hospital that’s just outside of Pretoria) from about 1890-1948, one of the themes that I constantly find is that the authorities tried to segregate and oppress people by gender, by race and by their disease. They were constantly trying to segregate them to take away their identity. Yet, it was very clear that people fought against that . . . . Yesterday there was a talk about the political prisoners signing their names and it’s the same with Mr. Pipe who was at Westfort . . . . a man who wrote to the newspapers, not as a person affected by leprosy, but as a person . . . . There were a number of occasions where the women patients, for example, had a sit down strike and refused to work until they were called by their names . . .”

-- Simonne Horwitz, when she was based at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Oxford
Those eloquent words are to be found on the website of the Oral History Project of the International Leprocy Association Global Project on the History of Leprosy, and they can serve as a good introduction to Simonne Horwitz and the work that she does.

Dr. Simonne Horwitz (Oxford D.Phil, 2007) is one of the newest members of our department. Some of you may know Simonne already, as she recently completed a two-year Canada Research Chair Post-doctoral Fellowship under the direction of Jim Miller, and has already taught a brilliant senior research seminar, History 488.3: Topics in the History of Development, in which she and her students explored the history of health care, including the AIDs crisis, in Africa. We here at What's Up are delighted to report that Simonne will be offering History 488.3 again this coming year, in Term 1.

Indeed, now that Simonne is a full-time member of our department, she has the privilege of teaching more classes. And if you are fortunate enough to be a U of S undergraduate then you might just be eligible for the privilege of taking her ground-breaking new course:
History 299.6
Africans on the Move:
The History of Voluntary and Involuntary Migration in, and from,
Africa between the Earliest Times and the Present.

History 299.6 marks a new era for the History Department, as it offers our first comprehensive survey of African history. Click here and scroll to page 20 of the 2008-09 Handbook of History Programs and Courses for a description of History 299.6, which runs Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:50.

Anybody, just anybody, can read about History 299.6 in the Handbook. But the following informal non-binding description comes to you by way of an exclusive scoop available only to What's Up readers and whoever they care to tell.

Sources close to What's Up recently obtained access to the following email from Dr. Simonne Horwitz herself, leaked here for the first time and presented in unedited form:

I'm very excited about teaching this class - it is the class I have always wanted to teach - a thematic history of Africa.*

It is basically an introduction to African history - from its inception (out of Africa thesis; hominids et al) through the development of the great Ancient African trading kingdoms of Songhay, Mali and Ghana (lots of gold and slaves and wives), we will look at slavery, colonialism and patters of labour migration. Of course there will also be a section on movement and health. We will end by looking at the brain drain from Africa and the refugee crisis. I'm bringing back primary documents from South Africa and promise quite a bit of group work - and some movies (if I can get my hands on them).
* When the always up-beat Dr. Horwitz says she is excited, she is really excited.

As this once-secret memo reveals, even as we speak Dr. Horwitz is in South Africa collecting primary documents, films, and other materials that students in History 299.6 can expect to encounter. (And on her honeymoon, to boot! Congratulations, Simonne & Dwight!)

There is a lot of buzz surrounding this newly approved course, and rightly so, because it opens up important new avenues of exploration for our students (and their cousins in adjacent fields, such as Anthropology and International Studies), and allows them to work with a dynamic instructor bursting with fresh and challenging ideas.

As of this posting there are still places available in History 299.6, "Africans on the Move: The History of Voluntary and Involuntary Migration in, and from, Africa between the Earliest Times and the Present." If you are reading this now you must already be online, which means that enrolling in History 299.6 could be just a hop, skip, and click away!
When historians engage in research that has an especially close connection to the here-and-now, the responsibility to enter into the public arena can sometimes loom large. Jim Miller is one who takes the role of 'public intellectual' very seriously. When Jim weighs in on contentious matters such as treaty rights or residential schools, he does so in an effort to and in the spirit of restoring historical context and accuracy to debates that, like so many on contentious issues, are inclined to degenerate into sloganeering, polemics, and mutual incomprehension. Jim's interventions are all the more effective for the straight talk, clarity, and concision with which he states a case. For the latest example of how historians can best serve the public interest, click here or here to read Jim's opinion piece in yesterday's Globe and Mail (June 27th): "The next residential schools chapter: No truth, no reconciliation".

Friday, June 20, 2008

Students fortunate enough to be taking History courses in the coming year have lots of fascinating options. Take (as it were) History 395.3, New Directions in Historical Research, a new (and, indeed, new kind of) course that we will offer each year with a different instructor and topic. The approval process for establishing History 395.3 as a regular offering was only recently completed, and we are now pleased to announce details of the inaugural edition, just in time for registration:

History 395.3 (T2)
New Directions in Historical Research.

Wheat and Wilderness: Canadian Regions, Boundaries, and the Places in Between

Unless you have an outrageously large monitor or freakishly good eyes,
click on image to enlarge

History 395.3, New Directions in Research is designed with two related goals in mind. One is to help top Ph.D. candidates prepare for careers founded on the teacher-scholar model by giving them the opportunity to design and deliver an upper-level course in their field of specialty. The other is to provide our senior History undergrads with a unique opportunity to engage with cutting-edge research and methodologies while gaining insight not only into the world of advanced graduate study, but also into the process by which a researcher becomes a teacher.

Teaching this class is a mark of distinction that ABD doctoral candidates in our department compete for via course proposals submitted to the department. ("ABD" or "all but dissertation" means that they have completed all their training and are engaged in researching and writing a book-length doctoral dissertation -- a.k.a. thesis -- based on original and ground-breaking research; the last step prior to being crowned with a Ph.D. and sent off into the world to become a professor.

This first edition of History 395.3 will be taught by Merle Massie and will build upon her own research in Western Canadian history. Many of you will already know Merle as a published author, experienced T.A., and a dynamic public speaker. At last month's Buffalo Province History Conference Merle won a 'best-in-show' award for a conference presentation based on material germane to this course.

The History Department calls History 395.3 a "mentored course", mainly because each year one or more faculty mentors will be assigned to advise the instructor on course design, assignments, and assessment, and to confer with them as the course unfolds. This year, Merle Massie will have the backstage support of faculty mentors Bill Waiser and Gordon DesBrisay. And that's not all. Merle will be in no danger of running short of advice and support, because History 395.3 is a decidedly bi-lateral affair. Students, it turns out, also know a thing or two about teaching, and so there will also be "mentoring from below" as students in the class observe, comment on, and participate in the development of the course.

Sounds like a win-win situation? That's the idea.

If you or someone you love (or even someone you are not all that fond of, but, you know, respect) are in the market for a history course that promises to connect you to the worlds of grad studies, cutting-edge research, and the craft of teaching, then be sure to consider History 395.3. You might also consider 395 as a useful companion to our methodology course for Honours students, History 397.3, Approaches to History (T1).

For the entire splendid array of History Department 2008/09 course offerings, click here.

Loyal readers will already know that What's Up holds the new online exhibition sponsored by the Library, Persuassion: Print Advertising and Advocacy on the Prairies, in high regard. Indeed, we couldn't resist posting another fabulous image from the site. But it turns our that it is even better than we thought! We sent one of our crack reporters to cover yesterday's gala opening of the exhibit, a ritzy shirt-and-pants affair attended by an array of campus luminaries. Gordon DesBrisay represented the History Department in a hotly contested quiz on Saskatchewan advertising trivia, a topic on which he is an acknowledged non-expert. Curator Neil Richards then made a presentation that revealed that Persuassion is much, much more than a pretty site. It is structured in such a way as to make it an ideal teaching and research tool, suitable for advanced high school students and way on up. Click here, for example, to explore the pull down menus for "themes", "strategies", and "educational resources", among others, or to search the site.

Monday, June 16, 2008

“I started research in the field of Native-newcomer relations because I was perplexed by what I saw around me. Like most Canadians who think about the matter today, I wondered why things were so messed up, why were relations so bad between us, and why do Aboriginal communities very often have such serious socio-economic and health problems? How did it get like this?”

Last week, Jim Miller (not for the first time) reminded us all of how historians can make a difference in the here and now, helping to shape the present and future by skillfully and thoughtfully unveiling the past. Through his research, writing, engagement with public policy debates, and appearances on radio and television, Jim has played an important role in helping to make the story of Canada's residential schools a central pillar of Canadian history and Canadian identities. And as the above words attest, Jim Miller brings clarity and a no-nonsense approach to a matter of enormous complexity and controversy in Canada.

Last Wednesday, Jim featured prominently in CBC Newsworld's live coverage of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's historic apology on behalf of Canada's government for more than a century of abuse inflicted on natives at the schools. In offering his thoughtful expertise and analysis of the day's events, Jim did our department and the university proud -- indeed, early returns suggest that Jim's comments on television and in print reached an audience of 15.4 million people.

Jim Miller not only analysed the news last Wednesday, he made some himself: on the very day that the Harper Government offered its apology for the residential school system, it also announced that Jim had been awarded $1.4 million from the federal Canada Research Chair (CRC) program to renew his senior research chair in Native-Newcomer Relations, and to advance his current study of the truth and reconciliation process, and how churches and the federal government have attempted to make amends with residential school victims.

The renewal of Jim's CRC follows a rigorous review process, and attests once again to the quality and impact of the work Jim and his graduate students and postdoctoral researchers have produced in recent years. The grant is for seven years, and will allow Jim and his team to continue to inform our national debates. Click here for further details contained in the official University of Saskatchewan press release.

Friday, June 06, 2008

“Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and the most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.” Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), Canadian communications theorist.

Marshall McLuhan was himself a master of the provocative soundbite, and prouncements like the one above seemed designed not so much to state a case as to dare anyone to refute it.

McLuhan's words also serve as the starting point for PERSUASION: Print Advertising and Advocacy on the Prairies a marvellous new online digital exhibit curated by Neil Richards for the University of Saskatchewan Library's Special Collections Department, the University of Saskatchewan Archives, and the Diefenbaker Centre. Through the presentation of over 600 exhibits it explores how print advertising and advocacy influenced and/or reflected the West's social, economic and political development. A year in the making, the site was released to the public last week: Check it out at And once you have read all the fascinating text and explored the site, treat yourself to the "random images" selection, here.
Congratulations to Gary Zellar, current and as we speak still the undisputed newest member of our department, whose book African Creeks: Estelvste and the Creek Nation was recently (2007) published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

From the publisher: "Among the Creeks, they were known as
Estelvste—black people—and they had lived among them since the days of the first Spanish entradas. They spoke the same language as the Creeks, ate the same foods, and shared kinship ties. Their only difference was the color of their skin. Professor Zellar’s book tells how people of African heritage came to blend their lives with those of their Indian neighbors and essentially became Creek themselves. Taking in the full historical sweep of African Americans among the Creeks, from the sixteenth century through Oklahoma statehood, Zellar unfolds a narrative history of the many contributions these people made to Creek history."

For more information, click here for the publisher’s website.