Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Banditry and Politics in Puebla, 1846-1848: The Contra-guerrilla of Manuel Domínguez and the Mexican-American War

    Author:
    Adriana Perez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Alfonso Quiroz
    Abstract:

    In the midst of the war between the United States and Mexico (1846--1848) a group of Mexicans from the state of Puebla began to work for the U.S. army as spies, couriers and fighters. The group operated under the leadership of Puebla's famous highwayman Manuel Domínguez, "El Chato." U.S. officials called this group the Mexican Spy Company, while contemporary Mexicans named Domínguez's band contra-guerrilla poblana. Given the collaborationist nature of the counter-guerrilla it comes as no surprise that Mexicans and Americans alike still remember Domínguez and his followers as no more than criminals and traitors, unnatural Mexicans who betrayed their homeland in its darkest hour. I argue, however, that the contra-guerrilla can be seen as an example of popular political action. Evidence suggests that, on the one had, the activity of the contra-guerrilla seems to have been anchored in a desire to exercise power. On the other, the contra-guerrilla deliberately challenged governmental authority. Overt violence perpetrated against fellow Mexicans was the way in which the contra-guerrilla made its claims public. Although the study of popular violence concerns both the scholarship on banditry and the scholarship on popular politics, these fields remain disconnected. Scholars still debate whether or not banditry can be considered political while those who study popular politics often overlook popular mobilizations not tied to formal or high politics. As a result, we continue to misunderstand phenomena that do not fit neatly into either area of study. The contra-guerrilla is a case in point. This dissertation draws on Charles Tilly's theory of collective violence to revise dominant conceptualizations of banditry which tend to deny it a political dimension.

  • To Break Down the Walls: The Politics and Culture of Greenwich Village, 1955-1965

    Author:
    Stephen Petrus
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Thomas Kessner
    Abstract:

    More than simply a bohemian sanctuary during an age of conformity, Greenwich Village was a locus of resistance to the dominant political and cultural order in the 1950s. Probably the most famous neighborhood in the nation, the Village possessed abundant resources to advance fresh agendas of reformers, radicals, and artists. Community engagement in politics and the arts distinguished the lower Manhattan neighborhood. The period from 1955 to 1965 in particular witnessed an outburst of activism and creativity. This study analyzes the local institutions that nourished alternative or oppositional ideas, ways, and practices, focusing on the Village Voice, Judson Memorial Church, the Village Independent Democrats, and the Living Theatre. Skepticism of authority, both political and cultural, pervaded Greenwich Village. In an era when the principles and practices of modern urban planning and bossism shaped New York life, Villagers expressed resentment toward powerful individuals who were dismissive of community opinion. Neighborhood residents questioned the notion of a "professional" dictating policy from above and maintained that efficient municipal politics and urban redevelopment depended upon citizen involvement at the local level. In the cultural realm, Village artists were similarly dubious of the idea of professionalism. Theatermakers and filmmakers, respectively, disavowed established methods on Broadway and in Hollywood. Though neighborhood artists differed widely in views and methods, several trends characterized the area scene. Village artists demolished hierarchies, leveling differences between highbrow and lowbrow entertainment, between the serious and the playful. They borrowed copiously from a range of sources, from classical art to popular culture, finding value not only in the sublime but also in camp. Eclectic in outlook, they developed pastiches from literary, musical, and theatrical texts. The results of the civic participation and artistic innovation were remarkable. Village reformers led movements that restructured urban planning, Democratic Party politics, and narcotics policy. Village artists and their allies redefined the use of public space. They transformed performance art and visual art. The developments influenced national politics and culture. In the 1950s and 1960s, Villagers fueled an age of idealism, laid the groundwork for the counterculture, and contributed to the formation of the New Left.

  • Standard Bearers of Liberty and Equality: Reinterpreting the Origins of American Abolitionism

    Author:
    Paul Polgar
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    James Oakes
    Abstract:

    America's first abolitionists sought a rights revolution for a people who for centuries had been viewed as little more than chattel objects. But the story of the sweeping challenge these reformers posed to slavery and black inequality remains untold. A generation of scholarship on the first emancipation has demonstrated the gradual and incomplete nature of African American liberation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century North. In turn, historians have interpreted both gradual emancipation and those activists who advocated for it as inherently conservative. Between tenacious slaveholder resistance to their slaves' liberty and white skepticism about the merits of black freedom, abolitionists faced daunting obstacles to ending slavery in Post-Revolutionary America. Yet it was these very obstacles that generated the early national abolition societies' racially progressive approach to reform. By seeking to obtain and enforce antislavery laws, guard and expand the rights of illegally enslaved and free blacks, uproot white prejudice, and overturn racial inequality through making African Americans virtuous citizens of the new republic, antislavery activists met the formidable barriers to emancipation with a cohesive vision of black freedom and equality. Early national abolitionism was designed to vanquish slavery through the joint enlightenment of black and white Americans. As gradual abolition laws and the implementation of black education and civic cultivation gave time for former slaves to be fitted into republican citizens, early national antislavery activists hoped to persuade a prejudiced white public to extend the egalitarian promises of Revolutionary ideology to the nation's African Americans. But by the end of the War of 1812, these reformers discovered that prejudice was hardening and the problem of slavery was becoming overshadowed by the problem of race. Nothing embodied this shift more fully than the founding of the American Colonization Society. Colonizationists viewed white prejudice as unconquerable and therefore the incorporation of free blacks into the body politic as an impossibility. When immediate abolitionists emerged they linked gradualism with colonization and labeled both reactionary and exclusionist, thus erasing the racially progressive origins of gradual abolitionism that this dissertation aims to recapture.

  • A Race Against Time: Governing Femininity and Reproducing the Future in Revolutionary Iraq, 1945-63

    Author:
    Sara Pursley
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Beth Baron
    Abstract:

    This dissertation rethinks the Iraqi revolution of 1958 and the post-World War II era leading up to it through the lens of gender and family reform, in particular by examining the relation between such reforms and various conceptions of temporality, both secular and Islamic. Engaging critically with Lee Edelman's notion of "reproductive futurism" as a hegemonic political imaginary of modernity, I argue that projects to cultivate modern feminine domesticities in Iraq during this era were linked to larger depoliticizing and disciplinary mechanisms that sought to stabilize the political present in the name of an ever-receding economic future. Sexual difference and the fantasy of the child as the embodiment of the nation's future development were keys to this process. Gender and family reform efforts in this period were markedly different from earlier nationalist projects to cultivate feminine domesticity in the Middle East, shifts that were related to the expansion of public schooling to the lower classes; new understandings of pedagogy, psychology, and child development and new global knowledge networks through which such understandings traveled; ruptures in conceptions of historical time and generational time; the rise of the United States as a superpower; and the dawn of the Cold War and the "age of development" after 1945. Yet the family-reform efforts I examine were not instances of a universal and linear modernization process; they were shaped by, and often direct responses to, local forces of upheaval, including rural rebellions connected to the agrarian crisis and the widespread political mobilization and radicalization of youth in the postwar era. They also ran up against local modes of life and networks of solidarity, Islamic and otherwise, that were not organized according to the child-centered, future-directed, and present-freezing logic of family reform in the age of development.

  • Glory and Infamy: Making the Memory of Duke Alessandro de' Medici in Renaissance Florence

    Author:
    Tracy Robey
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Margaret King
    Abstract:

    Duke Alessandro de' Medici (1512-1537, r. 1531-1537) was the victim of a previously unknown and far-reaching conspiracy to condemn him in posthumous histories and erase him from the archives of Florence. This cultural manipulation cast Duke Alessandro for the past 500 years as a tyrant, murderer, and rapist of nuns. The case study of how later dukes, historians, and archivists defamed Alessandro de' Medici illustrates the ways people made and destroyed memory in sixteenth-century Florence. The first chapter outlines the negative statements made about Duke Alessandro in the major histories that discuss his reign. The second chapter explores the political affiliations of the contemporary authors who wrote the histories used in the first chapter. I show that the historians' opposition to Alessandro's rule during his lifetime influenced what they eventually wrote about the Duke in their histories--a fact overlooked by scholars, who tend to almost wholly rely on the histories. The third chapter outlines the neglected concept and practice of damnatio memoriae, or condemnation of memory, in the Renaissance. Using poems, paintings, and rumors, I demonstrate how unknown Florentines secretly marginalized the memory of Duke Alessandro using objects intended to commemorate him. The fourth chapter explores how Alessandro's successor, Duke Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574, r. 1537-1574), feuded with Alessandro during his life, and constructed the Florentine archives in such a way that Alessandro's reign is excluded from both the Medici family archives and Medici ducal archives. No corpus of archival documents exists that could correct the slander spread by the official historians. Anonymous citizens, politically-active historians, and later Medici Grand Dukes effectively obliterated all good memory of Duke Alessandro de' Medici within 100 years of his assassination.

  • The "Feminized" City: New York and Suffrage, 1870-1917

    Author:
    Lauren Santangelo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Kathleen McCarthy
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines suffragists' changing relationship to America's largest metropolis from 1870 to 1917. It analyzes how advocates of the ballot perceived women's place in the city, how they mobilized the diverse groups of women that Gotham attracted, and how they interacted with the city's private, commercial, and public spaces. The study demonstrates that while suffragists benefitted from Gotham's resources--its restaurants and hotels, its busy streets and feminized retail districts, its national publishing houses and nascent film industry--many activists also viewed the metropolis as an arena for violence and vice that endangered respectable women. Initially, these concerns prevented them from mobilizing the city's resources. In order to win the vote in New York State in 1917, suffrage advocates had to move from being intimidated by the metropolis to harnessing it for their ends. While other scholars have detailed the importance of changing arguments and new leadership in the woman's rights campaign, this dissertation documents how the physical environment, urban social networks, and changing visions of the city shaped a major segment of the suffrage movement. In the process, it ties women's political protest to urbanization and the urban experience, exploring the interaction between these phenomena across five decades and demonstrating that New York City was more than simply a stage on which women's activities took place. It was an integral player in the drama.

  • Revolutionary Debt: Attitudes of French Political Elites toward the Domestic Creditors of the State, 1787-1794

    Author:
    Raymond Schiller
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    David Troyansky
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the public debate surrounding the French national debt and the domestic creditors of the state during, and just prior to, the French Revolution. Focusing on stances expressed by a sample of the cahiers de doléances and by political leaders, it demonstrates how the debt and the creditors were among the chief concerns of revolutionaries from moderates to Jacobin radicals. Through a differential analysis of the cahiers, it shows that despite their often considerable differences on other matters, concerning the debt many - but not all - of the clergy, nobility and Third Estate were of a similarly protective opinion. I analyze the differences within, as well as between, the three orders relating to this issue. In part, the aim is to illuminate not only the role of the royal/national debt in this debate, but also that of its owners, the state creditors, as a crucial constituency embedded within most social groups of the Old Regime. Furthermore, underscoring both progressive and conservative stances among the privileged orders, the work contributes to historiography which examines their role in the Revolution. Finally, the work interprets the debt as a modern property type; the state creditors, as eighteenth-century capitalists; and it explicates their role in overthrowing the Old Regime in its entirety.

  • Internationalists! The Radical Party Challenges the Italian Left, 1963-1995

    Author:
    Noah Simmons
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Robert David Johnson
    Abstract:

    Marco Pannella and Emma Bonino's Italian Radical Party was a small but influential liberal, non-Marxist political movement committed to upholding individual liberties at home and abroad. During the Cold War, the Radicals held that militarism produced authoritarian welfare states and was at the basis of domestic and global injustice. Antimilitarist pacifism and civil disobedience underpinned their battles for citizen rights, including ones in support of conscientious objection or the legalization of divorce and abortion. Such stances signaled a challenge to Communist and Socialist control over the politics of the left, due to the tendency of both Marxist parties to seek accords with political Catholicism. Radicals rejected Italy's traditional coalition politics and sought to liberalize and simultaneously unify the left against the ruling Christian Democracy. They contrasted their libertarianism and issue-based politics with what they claimed was the tired statism and collectivism of the old left. In the seventies, Radicals interpreted the crisis of Keynesian economics as confirmation that the welfare state could no longer address human needs. They adopted aspects of neoliberalism that dovetailed with their longstanding hostility to welfare all'italiana. After the Cold War, Radicals endorsed military interventions conducted to uphold international law; ethnocide in Africa and Europe motivated a qualification of earlier Radical espousals of nonviolent resistance, revealing a form of juridical pacifism. In their garb as both domestic political group and transnational non-governmental organization, they contributed to the establishment of the International Criminal Court at The Hague instated to try war criminals. Over several decades, Radicals participated in a transformation of global political culture associated with the antiauthoritarian and anti-governmental revolts of the sixties, seventies and eighties. Their antipolitics pitted individuals, self-managed communities, and markets against a declaredly immoral state. Straddling the left-right divide, the Italian Radicals personified both new left and neoliberal dimensions of the antistatist surge of the last third of the twentieth century. Their exaltation of individual rights and negative freedom and their downgrading of economic rights and positive liberty partook in a historical process which has produced freer yet less equal societies.

  • Reviving Enlightenment in the Age of Nationalism: The Historical and Political Thought of Hans Kohn in America

    Author:
    Brian Smollett
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Robert Seltzer
    Abstract:

    This dissertation critically engages the thought of Hans Kohn (1891-1971). One of the most prominent theorists of nationalism in the twentieth century, Kohn has primarily been studied as an anti-statist Zionist thinker and as the originator of a Western-Civic/Eastern-Ethnic "dichotomy" of national development. This work takes a different approach by analyzing the matrix of tension between particularism and universalism in his mature, American thought. I argue that Kohn, especially in response to the crisis of fascism, used history to search for a balance within this perennial tension. His historical analyses, very much tied to his time and context, led him to believe that an ideal balance could be found in the spirit and values of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Kohn thus used his idea of Enlightenment as an "Archimedean point," upon which he tried to build a humanistic vision for a peaceful future in the context of a global "age of nationalism."

  • Imperial Diplomats: Exploitation, Reform, and the Role of the French Diplomatic Corps in Managing the Napoleonic Empire

    Author:
    Alexander Stavropoulos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Helena Rosenblatt
    Abstract:

    "Imperial Diplomats: Exploitation, Reform, and the Role of the French Diplomatic Corps in the Napoleonic Empire, 1803-1813" explores, through the examples of two French ambassadors in the satellite states of Bavaria and Spain, how the French Diplomatic Corps used coercion and manipulation to govern the Napoleonic Empire from 1803 to 1813. Relying on the papers of their embassies, this dissertation delves into the role that the ambassadors assumed as the proconsuls of Napoleon's European empire, setting the parameters of the imperial relationship between Paris and the satellites they were stationed in. The ambassadors performed tasks that were central to the proper functioning of that empire, including the maintenance of an extensive series of exploitative measures that secured money and soldiers for France's many wars of conquest, and cajoling the satellites into remaining loyal allies despite the incredible financial burden such exploitation placed on them. The latter was accomplished by quiet coercion and an unspoken quid pro quo between the satellites and France, whereby the French supported local attempts to institute domestic reforms in exchange for the participation of the satellites in the empire. At the same time, the evidence shows that contrary to the assertions of many historians, the domestic reform of the satellites was a low priority for the Emperor's diplomats, with the important exception of admin-istrative and military reforms that strengthened the ability of the satellites to meet the demands of Napoleonic exploitation. The ambassadors, understanding local circumstances much better than the Emperor or the imperial bureaucracy in Paris, softened Napoleon's angry demands, and on occasion altered or disobeyed imperial orders to ensure the support of local collaborators for the Empire, making possible its expansion and maintenance. Moreover, the ambassadors implemented a series of imperial policies that were atypical of nineteenth century European diplomacy, ranging from the enforcement of the Continental System against imported British goods, to the transport of important works of art from the satellites to the Louvre.