Episode 52: The Precolumbian Civilizations of Mesoamerica

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Ann Twinam, Professor, Department of History

2858122252_ba611a4f16_zIt’s become more and more widely known that, before first contact with Europe, the Americas were populated by advanced civilizations with complex systems of writing, government, and technological innovation.  A number of these civilizations were clustered in the area known as Mesoamerica, which presented geographic difficulties for its inhabitants due to its harsh climate and environment, and yielding few natural resources. So, how did Mesoamerican civilizations thrive?

Guest Ann Twinam from UT’s Department of History discusses three of the major Mesoamerican civilizations: the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec (Mexica), and their once-forgotten contributions to human civilization.

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Episode 51: Islam’s Enigmatic Origins

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Fred M. Donner, Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago

cleansing meccaThe story of Islam’s beginnings have been told and retold countless times. The traditional narrative says that the Prophet Muhammad, an illiterate orphan from the town of Mecca,  became a prophet of God and founded a community that conquered much of the known world in little more than a century after his death. But what do we really know about Muhammad and the time in which he lived, based on historical evidence? How has this led some to reinterpret the origins of Islam?

Our guest, Fred M. Donner from the University of Chicago, has spent much of his career studying the earliest history of Islam. He offers his hypothesis on what the early Islamic community may have looked like, and describes an exciting new find that may shed new light on an old puzzle.

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Episode 50: White Women of the Harlem Renaissance

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Carla Kaplan, Professor of American Literature, Northeastern University

JosSchuylerDuring the explosion of African American cultural and political activity that came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance, a number of white women played significant roles. Their involvement with blacks as authors, patrons, supporters and participants challenged ideas about race and gender and proper behavior for both blacks and whites at the time.

Guest Carla Kaplan, author of Miss Anne in Harlem: White Women of the Harlem Renaissance, joins us to talk about the ways white women crossed both racial and gender lines during this period of black affirmation and political and cultural assertion.

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Episode 49: The Harlem Renaissance

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Frank Guridy, Professor, Department of History and Director, John L. Warfield Center for African and African-American Studies.

harlem_hayden_jeunesse_lgIn the early 20th century, an unprecedented cultural and political movement brought African-American culture and history to the forefront of the US. Named the Harlem Renaissance after the borough where it first gained traction, the movement spanned class, gender, and even race to become one of the most important cultural movements of the interwar era.

Guest Frank Guridy joins us to discuss the multifaceted, multilayered movement that inspired a new generation of African-Americans—and other Americans—and demonstrated the importance of Black culture and its contributions to the West.

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Episode 48: Indian Ocean Trade and European Dominance

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Susan Douglass, doctoral candidate, George Mason University

The Mughal Emperor Jahangir's now famous turkey. Brought from Goa in 1612, from the Wantage Album, Mughal, c.1612 (gouache on paper) by Mansur (Ustad Mansur) (fl.c.1590-1630) gouache on paper Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK Indian, out of copyright

In the late 15th century, Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and conquered the Indian Ocean, bringing the rich trade under the direct control of the crowned heads of Europe and their appointed Indian Ocean Trading Companies. Or did he? Did Europe ever really come to dominate the 90,000 year old trade, or did it become just another in a series of actors competing for attention in an antique system of exchanges and commodities?

Guest Susan Douglass offers a nuanced view of the last five hundred years of European encounters with a deeply established international economy, makes the case that the remarkable story of this resource rich region isn’t over just yet.

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Episode 47: Indian Ocean Trade from its Origins to the Eve of Imperialism

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Susan Douglass, doctoral candidate, George Mason University

Ibn Battuta was a pilgrim who left his native Morocco for Mecca in 1325 and traveled over 73,000 miles before finally returning home thirty years later.

Every American schoolchild knows that Columbus sailed west to reach Asia with the hope of finding precious metals, expensive fabrics, and exotic spices: all goods that were being traded in the Indian Ocean, and had been for millennia. Ancient Greek texts describe an active Indian Ocean economy. Some scholars have even linked the peopling of Australia to a slow, methodic collecting of resources along the coastal route from east Africa.

In the first of a two part episode guest Susan Douglass, author of the Indian Ocean in World History web site, describes the murky beginnings of trade and travel in the Indian Ocean basin, and the cultural exchanges and influences that the trade had in the days before the Europeans arrived.

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Episode 46: Ukraine and Russia

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Charles King, Professor of International Affairs and Government, Georgetown University

In the first months of 2014, a popular uprising in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine led to the deposition of the Ukrainian president and triggered an intervention of the Crimean peninsula by Ukraine’s neighbor, Russia. No one knows what’s going to happen next in Ukraine, but we can try to understand how we got to this point. What led to such deep and widespread discontent? What are the historical connections between Russia and Ukraine? How does Ukraine’s complex mix of ethnicities contribute to its sense of national identity? What role did economics and global geopolitics play?

Guest Charles E. King from Georgetown University discusses the state of Ukrainian-Russian relations, and historical developments in Ukraine itself, before and after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 to help us understand the situation in Ukraine today.

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Episode 45: An Iranian Intellectual Visits Israel

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Samuel Thrope, Fellow, Martin Buber Society, Hebrew University

al-e ahmadAnyone following the news today could be forgiven for thinking that Iran and Israel were natural enemies and had been since the latter was established in 1948. But before Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, the two nations had a close unofficial relationship that extended beyond economic and commercial ties. In 1962, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, arguably the most influential Iranian writer of the twentieth century, visited Israel on an officially sponsored visit and published a travelogue of his experience.

Guest Samuel Thrope, a writer currently based in Jerusalem, has just translated Al-e Ahmad’s Safar beh Velayat-e Ezrael into English as The Israeli Republic, a fascinating look at a time when Iranian socialists looked at Israel as a possible model for what Iran could become—and how that vision soured after the 1967 Six Day War.

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Episode 44: Climate Change and World History

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Sam White, Department of History, the Ohio State University

Peter Bruegel the Elder, "Hunters in the Snow"What do a failed war by the Ottomans against the Hapsburg Empire, a rural rebellion in eastern Anatolia, the disappearance of the Roanoke colony, and near starvation at Jamestown, Santa Fe, and Quebec City have in common?  They all take place during a period of global cooling known as the Little Ice Age, which brought extreme climate conditions, drought, heavy winters, and contributed to rising fuel prices, failing crops and massive civil unrest in places as diverse as North America and the Middle East.

Guest Sam White from Ohio State University makes the convincing argument that environmental and climactic factors are as influential in human history as economic, social, political, and cultural factors, and suggests a cautionary tale for human history as it enters another period of climate change.

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Episode 43: Segregating Pop Music

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Karl Hagstrom Miller, Associate Professor, Department of History

51mq2FtFjrLAnyone who’s been to the music store lately (or shopped for digital downloads) is probably familiar with the concept of music categorized not only by genre, but also more subtler categorizations that might make us think of country music as “white” or hip-hop as “black.”  It might be surprising that such categorizations were a deliberate mechanism of the music industry and that, even at a time when American society was as racially divided as the late 19th century, such distinctions were usually neither considered nor proscribed onto genres of music.

Guest Karl Hagstrom Miller has spent a career using popular music to explore the economic, social, legal, and political history of the United States. In this episode, he helps us understand how popular music came to be segregated as artists negotiated the restrictions known as the “Jim Crow” laws.

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