Letter from the Chair

Matthew Sutton.

Dear Alumni & Friends of History at WSU:

No football games, no crammed lecture halls, and no discussion groups over coffee on campus. This has been a year unlike any other for the Department of History. Yet despite the many challenges we are all facing, faculty and students have much to celebrate.

Together we all learned how to navigate the latest technology and to make the most of new opportunities as our classes moved online this year. For some of us who had never taught online (like me), the experience was positive in many ways, helping us rethink the work we do in the classroom and how to better reach our tech-savvy students. The pandemic forced us to reconsider not just how we teach but what we teach. For example, I added a new segment on pandemics, masking, and the Spanish Flu to my freshman introduction to American history course. In our classes we wrestled with everything from shifting democracy in ancient Greece to the ongoing civil rights movements to the 2020 presidential election. While we missed our in-person discussions, we enjoyed exploring the past together in virtual spaces.

One of our most exciting current research projects is being led by Ray Sun and a team of students. Called “Fallen Cougs Project,” the group is diving into the archives, poring over old newspapers, and studying military records to learn the fate of approximately 200 WSU students who gave their lives for their country during World War II. Their stories will be available to the WSU community and the general public soon.

We are pleased to welcome to the department Alan Malfavon, who will begin teaching this fall as an assistant professor of history. He graduated from the University of California, Riverside, this spring. His research explores the lives of Afro-Mexicans who lived in the Port-City of Veracruz and its hinterland, known as Sotavento (Leeward), during the late 18th and early 19th century. He resituates Mexico’s socio-political, cultural, and economic networks with the Atlantic World and the Greater Caribbean and dissects and problematizes those networks by centering the Black and Afro-Mexican experience. His work contributes to ongoing interdisciplinary debates about sociopolitical representation of Afro-Mexicans, whose historical and contemporary presence in Mexican society remains deeply contested. He will teach courses for us on race and slavery in the Americas, the history of Mexico, and, our freshman course, Roots of Contemporary Issues.

Faculty continue to rack up honors and awards for teaching, research, and service. Tracey Hanshew won the College of Arts and Sciences Early Career Achievement Award for career-track faculty. This award recognizes faculty who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in teaching, scholarship, and creative and/or service activity early in their professional career. Linda Heidenreich won the WSU Bayard Rustin LGBTQ+ Excellence Award. This award recognizes an individual who is an advocate for LGBTQ+ communities of color and activism. Jesse Spohnholz won the WSU Office of Research Award for Creative Activity, Research, and Scholarship for his long list of award-winning publications and substantial international grants. Aaron Whelchel won the WSU Global Campus Excellence in Online Teaching Award. Jeff Sanders and Laurie Mercier each won research grants from WSU’s Center for the Arts and Humanities.

Once again, faculty published important and pioneering books that will shape their fields moving forward. Linda Heidenreich published Nepantla Squared: Transgender Mestiz@ Histories in Times of Global Shift with the University of Nebraska Press. Jeffrey Sanders published Razing Kids: Youth, Environment, and the Postwar American West with Cambridge University Press. Shawna Herzog published Negotiating Abolition: The Antislavery Project in the British Straits Settlements, 1786-1843 with Bloomsbury Press. Eugene Smelyansky published Heresy and Citizenship: Persecution of Heresy in Late Medieval German Cities with Routledge. Most recently, Puck Brecher published Japan’s Private Spheres: Autonomy in Japanese History, 1600-1930 with Brill.

This year we also celebrated the publication of a new book series. Tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues from energy supply to mass migration and public health, five current and former WSU faculty each published a volume in the Roots of Contemporary Issues academic series, released by Oxford University Press. The series is coedited by Jesse Spohnholz and Clif Stratton, and includes individual volumes by Spohnholz, Stratton, Karen Phoenix, Ken Faunce, and Sean Wempe. The books reflect the thematic structure and successful teaching approach of the Roots of Contemporary Issues program (RCI) and introduce WSU’s pioneering teaching approach to educators and students around the country.

Faculty have also published and/or contributed to important collections of essays. R. Charles Weller co-edited and contributed chapters to Reason, Revelation and Law in Islamic and Western Theory and History, published with Palgrave Macmillan. Bob Bauman and Robert Franklin celebrated the publication of their co-edited Echoes of Exclusion and Resistance: Voices from the Hanford Region published by WSU Press. Noriko Kawamura published “Naval Powers in the Pacific at the Crossroads,” in Beyond Versailles: The 1919 Moment and a New Order in East Asia. Sue Peabody published “Slaves as Witnesses, Slaves as Evidence: French and British Prosecution of the Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean,” in Voices in the Legal Archives in the French Colonial World: “The King is Listening.”

Faculty have also been publishing articles in academic journals based on their latest research. Andra Chastain published “Rethinking Basic Infrastructure: French Aid and Metro Development in Postwar Latin America” in Comparativ, and “‘A Shameful and Uncivilized Spectacle’: Taxibuses, Students, and the Conflicted Road to Deregulation in Pinochet’s Chile, 1975–1978” in the Journal of Transport History. Tracey Hanshew published “‘Here she comes wearin’ them britches!’ Saddles, Riding Skirts, and Social Reform in the Turn-of-the-Century Rural West” in Montana: The Magazine of Western History. JoAnn LoSavio published “Burma in the Southeast Asia Peninsula Games, 1950-1970: Buddhism, Bodhisattvas, Decolonization, and Nation Making through Sport” in the International Journal of the History of Sport. Nikolaus Overtoom published “The Parthians’ Failed Vassalage of Syria: The Shortsighted Western Policy of Phraates II and the Second Reign of Demetrius II (129-125 BCE)” in Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. Clif Stratton published “Bronze Hammer: Race and the Politics of Commemorating Henry Louis Aaron,” in Atlanta Studies. Finally, Jennifer Binczewski, who earned her PhD at WSU in 2017 and is currently teaching history for the WSU Global campus, published the article, “Power in Vulnerability: Widows and Priest Holes in the Early Modern English Catholic Community,” in the journal British Catholic History.

A few faculty have also written articles for general media outlets, helping to put current events into historical context. I published “The Capitol Riot Revealed the Darkest Nightmares of White Evangelical America,” in the New Republic. Lawrence Hatter published “The similarities to the last invasion of the Capitol matter—so do the differences” in the Washington Post. Hatter also writes a regular column for the Pacific Northwest Inlander. Faculty have been contributing essays to a new radio series, “Past as Prologue,” distributed across the state by Pacific Northwest Public Radio.

Last but not least, I want to acknowledge the crucial role played by our donors, alumni, and friends. Your support is critical to the success of our programs. Without it, we would have a harder time supporting and rewarding the fine teaching, learning, and scholarship for which the department is known. As the 2020-2021 record of achievement indicates, this help is having a positive impact.