While Bill (Caraher) blogged a bit on Punk Archaeology and PKAP today, in a separate but related sphere (parallel trajectories I call them), I stumbled across an audio-video short that David Pettegrew recorded during the PKAP 2012 field season in Cyprus. I uploaded this to my YouTube channel, and I will share it here.
In May and June of 2012, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (Dr. William Caraher, Dr. David Pettegrew, and Dr. R. Scott Moore) charged me with trench supervisor duties for an excavation unit located outside of Larnaca, Cyprus. Here in Pettegrew’s video is a wall emerging out of the excavation unit from a 3rd-century BCE Hellenistic coastal fortification. This site is contemporaneous with Alexander the Great and Zeno, the Stoic from Citium. Within the excavation unit, I am to the right, and sorting out the stratigraphic layers with a student and colleague. The student and colleague to my left continues uncovering bedrock at an industrial pace.
It is June 5, 2014, which means it is one day away from the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, or D-Day. This also means that either this evening or tomorrow evening I’m going to fire up Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s rendition of Stephen Ambrose’s 1992, Band of Brothers (2001).
I’m also drawn to thinking about what my late Grandpa Barth and his brother (my great uncle Charles “Bud” Barth) did during WWII. They both came from a farm near rural Braddock, North Dakota. During the war, Grandpa Barth was shipped to the central Great Plains to build bombers (I remember him talking about how he was charged with buffing the glass bubbles for the bombers). And Uncle Bud was sent to Army training, eventually becoming a front line medic in the Battle of the Bulge. Bless those for blessing us. I think that’s about all I got for now.
Left to right, Historian Frank Varney, Aaron Barth, and Political Scientist Steven Doherty on the campus of Dickinson State University, western North Dakota.
Yesterday Dickinson State University (via Frank Varney) invited me to speak about a component of research concerning how and why the US-Dakota Wars (1862-1864) were remembered at the turn of the 19th century throughout the Minnesota River Valley and on the northern Great Plains. It was great to get west of the upper Missouri River and spend some time with Varney and other fellow history and humanities nerds. I like this topic — thinking about how the US-Dakota Wars were remembered — because it mitigates what I call historical anxiety. I’ve thought about this phrase for a while, and loosely define it as that anxious feeling of not knowing how and why something happened in a particular place in time. A way to mitigate historical anxiety is to head into the archives and cobble together a narrative from the disparate bits and pieces. Through this I’ve been able to understand why the US-Dakota Wars were memorialized the way they were at the turn of the 19th century.
I’m using this, in turn, to push the way in which we think about the US-Dakota Wars today: largely as genocide, the word invented and deployed by Raphael Lemkin first in 1944. At the root, genocide comes from the Greek genos, which roughly means people or tribe; and the Latin cide, which means killing. Don’t take my word for it, though: visit Sully and Sibley in their own words. One humanistic universal I pitched out there to the group was that if the United States concerns (as it should) itself with genocide taking place today in Syria, and in other parts of the world, the U.S. should also concern itself with and consider the genocide that took place in our own past. Otherwise it just gets awkward, as the question will invariably come up time and again. So we can either chat and consider this, or just pretend like it doesn’t exist. If we pursue the latter, it just ends up leading to long bouts of awkward, uncomfortable silence. More on all this scholarship later, at least as it applies to the US-Dakota Wars, and the broader 19th-century Anglosphere.
Just a real quick warranted amplification of Varney’s work (he is in the midst of preparing a second volume that builds off his first monograph), General Grant and the Rewriting of History: How the Destruction of General William S. Rosecrans Influenced Our Understanding of the Civil War (Savas Beatie, 2013). Click on that link. If you enjoy history, or have thought deeply or superficially (there are only so many hours in a day) about memoirs, or Grant’s memoirs, definitely give it a go.
Last Sunday, as we on the northern Great Plains were enjoying our 357th blizzard of the winter, Molly and I drove down to southern Fargo to oblige an invite from the First Sudanese Lutheran Church of Fargo, North Dakota. We went to chat with this recently-arrived growing group of New Americans. They put out a huge spread of Sudanese food, too, prepared by no less than 3 Sudanese mothers the night prior.
After the benefit supper, on the drive home, I couldn’t help but think about the processes of global population movements in world history. This invariably led me to think about our grandparents and great grandparents and great-great grandparents who poured into the United States in the 19th century: think today about navigating immigration (the New American Sudanese are here because they are getting away from a lot of this, and a cease-fire update on that here too), finding transportation, learning about car and health insurance, learning a new language, and getting up to speed with the societal customs inherent to America’s increasingly industrial society, all while trying to keep a foot in the old ways too (this is why today we see things like the Sons of Norway, German-Russian, and Three Crowns organizations).
Some of the New Americans expressed an interest in future home ownership, and the gears in my brain started moving: “Who might be able to chat with these folks about the processes and options of home loans and real estate?…” These folks have jobs and they want to continue raising families. Homes are important for going about this. I was so wrapped up in conversation and getting filled up with Sudanese food (the delicious Sambusas were flowing like wine) that I didn’t get a chance to take a photo. But I do have this handy 2013 year-end reflection that I picked up.
Today is Friday the 6th of December, it is approximately -11°F, I am looking out beyond the laptop screen through a south-facing window to the light blue snowscape, the time when the approach of the sun-rise appears eminent. I plan on finishing my opening dissertation chapter (which might turn into an introduction) that deals with the public remembrance of the US-Dakota Wars. One of the main thrusts in this disquisition is to look at not only how various generations have remembered and memorialized the US-Dakota Wars, but to piece together why.
I chatted with an engineer about this a couple days ago, albeit briefly, and I found in myself another reason that I hadn’t articulated so well: whenever we, the royal we, are frustrated with the way things are, sometimes it helps to track the history so as to see how we got where we are today. This doesn’t necessarily mean we will agree with it, but one doesn’t have to agree with something in order to understand it. To my right on the floor is a stack of published monographs on world and public history — historiography (or the history of history) having spoken to and shaped what we know today.
I also picked up and have so far read the introduction of Denise Meringolo, Museums, Monuments, and National Parks: Toward a New Genealogy of Public History (U of Massachusetts Press, 2012) from the dutiful Inter Library Loan-ists at NDSU. A couple months ago Bill Caraher and I were chatting at Laughing Sun in Bismarck, and he suggested I check it out. It is good. More on that later, either in blog or dissertation form. To my left is Stephen R. Riggs, A Dakota-English Diectionary and John P. Williamson, An English-Dakota Dictionary. I continuously re-re-rediscover that language, or the study of it, provides insights into the past, as do oral traditions and oral histories. But okay, enough of all this blogging for now. I’m just going to get after finishing this draft. Happy Friday to you.
Since having returned from the South Pacific, and now back on the northern Steppe of North America, I have been rummaging through all the pieces of paper one accumulates while on short or long journeys. I came across the flyers, handbills and handouts that speak to the various scholarly publishing houses in New Zealand. Before my New Zealand trip, these were off my radar. And I figured since I didn’t know about them but do now, I’d share the findings and provide links. There is Bridget Williams Books, Auckland University Press, and Otago University Press. There, of course, are more (this is not exhaustive). But this is a start.
During the New Zealand Historical Association conference, a panel of editors from these scholarly and academic presses spoke to where scholarly publishing has been, where it is today, and where it might go tomorrow. This, I know, is an excellent idea for any scholarly conference, since the only way scholars can disseminate their research is by getting it published. And to get something published requires one to get to know the editors in charge of the publishing houses. And so on.
Henry Yu provides the final keynote lecture at the New Zealand Historical Association Conference.
On Friday morning, Henry Yu provided the final keynote lecture at the New Zealand Historical Association conference. Yu’s lecture title was, “The Cantonese Pacific: Anti-Asian Politics, and the Making and Unmaking of White Settler Nations.” Yu talked about the 19th century Chinese migrants specific to the social history of ideas. He explained the notion of Gum San, the namesake that Cantonese migrant gold workers gave to the places they imagined themselves eventually arriving at. Gum San signified an idea rather than a place, and they would travel to these goldfields with the psyche of making it: before we can act, we must first have an idea of action. In some cases the workers returned to their homelands, or their villages, ideally with money that allotted them control over their own destinies. In other cases they always envisioned returning, but remained in their non-homeland locales throughout New Zealand, Australia, and North America. It was great to hear Yu talk about all of this.
My notes from the Henry Yu talk.
Yu’s work fills in large gaps in Pacific and world history, and I thought about at least four things during his talk. The first had to do with the Chinese graves that I remembered visiting a couple years ago while in Deadwood, South Dakota, this of the early Chinese gold miners and service industry workers in the Black Hills. The second has to do with the Chinese labor force that built large segments of the railroad throughout the American West. The third had to do with analogies to contemporary migrant workers entering the business of mineral extraction in western North Dakota. And the fourth had to do with how much easier it was for a migrant laborer to travel across national and imperial boundaries before the nation-state created elaborate bureaucracies to inhibit this (largely in the name of race and nation, at least by the turn of the 20th century).
But I don’t have much time to digress on all of this because I need to get over to the Settlers Museum in Dunedin.
We — the global we — are in the historical shadow of global colonial settlement and struggles, and I thought it interesting how Scottish settlers imposed their image of Edinburgh on the urban landscape of Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand. I’ve heard a few shop owners in the last couple days remark on this, so I pulled a couple maps off Google Earth and loaded them up here, right below. Note the similarity of the octagon, and also the common Moray Place street names. The Dunedin New Zealand colonial layer is on top of what was Maori layers of meaning. And, indeed, that is another blog post all together. The first map is of a segment of Edinburgh, Scotland. The second of Dunedin, New Zealand.
Moray Place in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Moray Place in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Railroad workers in 1910 one mile west of Regent, North Dakota.
I just finished a lunch of homemade chicken soup (with lots of fresh lemon juice and cilantro), and before I grab a coffee and get back to the busywork, I thought I would upload a photo of historic railroad industry in western North Dakota circa 1910. The photo was taken about a mile west of Regent, as track was being laid to connect the rural agrarian areas of the American interior with the city centers and rail hubs of Dickinson, Bismarck-Mandan, Fargo, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and so on.
Looked at from an agrarian context, railroad construction was big throughout the world at this time, as nation-states increasingly relied on agricultural production to feed an ever growing populace, and this led to increased competitions over global resources. I suppose a modern public historical treatment of pumping Euro-Americans into colonizing the continent’s interior might come by way of AMC’s “Hell On Wheels” or HBO’s “Deadwood,” a kind of post-Civil War historical days of our lives with amplified skull-duggery, dodgy behavior, and shenanigans. But don’t simply rely on Hollywood to shape the way the past is understood. It’s best to get into those archives and see the documents for yourself.
Just over a year ago, a great uncle of mine, Charles E. (“Bud”) Barth passed away. Charles was a front line medic in the European theatre of the Second World War (also in the Battle of the Bulge). Years prior I had the chance to get to know him better, even interviewing him for the United States Veteran’s History Project.
Because I blogged on Charles both here and here, another relation of someone attached to the same medical unit was able to find what I blogged, track me down, and e-mail me additional photos of Charles with his WWII unit. Here are those two photos of Charles with his detachment, these sent to me by the daughter of S/Sgt Kutik (who served alongside Charles).
Note: Charles originally hailed from Braddock, Emmons County, North Dakota.
An informal photo of Barth’s medical detachment. Charles (kneeling) is second from the left, just next to the standing soldier. The case of beverages in front of them is labeled, “Pepsi.”
409th Medical Detachment, Barth is front row, second from the left.