Fatoumatta Kunjo '10 completed a senior thesis under the direction of Professor David Gordon on the role of griots, artisans who relate and perform—both orally and musically—the history of their culture in Senegal and the Gambia in West Africa. Her project, entitled “Casamance Histories: Lalo Kebba Drammeh’s Performance of the Ngansu-Masing Epic” interprets one historical epic in particular, performed in 1972 at the Gambian national radio station. Touma needed funds to travel to The Gambia to work in the National Radio Archives this past winter, where she researched the epic’s performance and its relationship to politics in the Casamance region of Senegal. She also interviewed local scholars and musicians who specialize in the role of griots in the Sengambia region of West Africa and visited the National Archives in Senegal. We’re thrilled to report that Touma will pursue a doctorate in African history next year at Stanford.
Brian Powers '10 completed an honors thesis entitled, “Practice and Protest: Early Black Physicians and the Competing Demands of Professional Life and Racial Activism,” under the direction of Professor Patrick Rael. The essay recovers the history of early African-American physicians in the antebellum North. Brian asks what did it mean to be a black professional at a time when many of their brethren were still enslaved. To quote from Brian’s successful Nyhus application, “this project will seek to understand the nuanced ways in which parental upbringing, medical education, and the realities of medical practice combined to create a unique set of circumstances for each physician…” Brian utilized Nyhus funds to track down primary materials on black physicians at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York Public Library and the Kings City Medical Library (all in New York), and the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Harvard Medical School Archives and the Massachusetts Medical Society. Brian will begin a two-year position this fall as a Program Assistant with the Roundtable for Value and Science Driven Health Care, which is affiliated with the Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC. Long-term, he’s considering medical school, including those that offer a M.D. along with a PhD in the History of Science/Medicine.
Nicholas Pisegna '11
During his senior year at Bowdoin, Nicholas completed an honors thesis in history under the direction of Professor Allen Wells. The project focused on the development of baseball in Cuba and the Dominican Republic and how the sport’s development influenced the growth of the sport in the United States as well as how baseball influenced the political, economic, and cultural relationship among the United States and the two Caribbean islands. He used the Nyhus Travel Grant to fund two separate trips to the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center in Coopertown, New York, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s historical archive. The archivea houss an extensive collection of unique and rare items that document the complete international and domestic history of baseball. Both trips proved to be vital to the completion of his project, as they allowed him to collect the majority of the primary source material—from newspaper clippings to correspondence among American and Caribbean ballplayers and baseball personnel—that were the backbone of the final version of his thesis.
Scott Ogden '10 completed an honors thesis also under the direction of Professor Rael on one of Bowdoin’s own, President Franklin Pierce. Professional historians have given Pierce short shrift. Thanks to his Nyhus award, Scott located documents about Pierce at the New Hampshire Historical Society and he interviewed Dr. Peter Wallner, “the only Pierce scholar.” His honors thesis entitled, “An Uncommon Devotion: The Marriage of Franklin and Jane Pierce and the Reassessment of a President's Personality,” assesses the role of personal matters on Pierce’s misunderstood and neglected one-term presidency. After taking a breather from academics, Scott is considering pursuing a doctorate in U.S. history.
Darius Alam '09 used the Nyhus Travel Grant to conduct research at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. as well as at the Harvard University Libraries. His project, entitled "From Ummet to nation: Islam, the Alevis, and the development of Turkish nationalism," explored the shift from a predominantly religious concept of political community that structured the Ottoman Empire to an emergent racial and ethnic concept of the nation-state. By focusing on state-treatment of the Alevis, a minority Shi'a religious group within the predominantly Sunni state, Darius was able to trace both the emergence of a race-based state rhetoric and policy, and the continued salience of religion in the formulation of modern nationalism. Darius' project was one of exceptional depth and sophistication, not least as it involved extensive research in both Ottoman and early nationalist (Kemalist) Turkish. The Nyhus Grant enabled Darius to access a tremendous range of little-explored documents for this powerful case study of modern nationalism at the borders of Europe.
Emily Guerin '09 was awarded a large Nyhus Travel Grant to support her research on the forestry industry in modern Chile. Emily's project explored the role of multiple actors in the plantation and native forestry sectors - the state, the private sector, unions, NGOs, and indigenous activists - during a period that spanned Socialist and Neoliberal military regimes. Emily had conducted some preliminary research in Chile during the summer before her senior year; the Nyhus Grant enabled her to travel to Chile again during the winter break to complete her primary research, conducting interviews with environmentalists and indigenous rights activists who were strongly involved with the anti-plantation movement. Although Chile has abundant natural forestry resources, this era saw the general abandonment of the native forestry sector, in large part through extensive government support for exotic species plantation forestry. One of Emily's most interesting findings was that the policies of the Neoliberal Pinochet regime from the mid-1970s through the 1980s in fact diverged little from those that had been instituted by the Socialist regime of Salvador Allende in the early 1970s. Her research enabled her to conclude that state interest in maintaining political control over a volatile region led the Pinochet regime to continue policies of continued state ownership and regulation of the forestry sector.
Jacob Hearst '09 conducted a two-semester advanced independent study on education policy in twentieth-century Nepal. A Nyhus Travel Grant enabled him to conduct research at the Library of Congress into Government of Nepal and Nepali Educational Commission documents from the middle of the century. Jake developed an interest in the question of education while studying abroad in Nepal during his junior year. What Jake sought to understand was the emergence of an ideology of modernization and development and how it took shape among ordinary people during the decades following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1951. Jake's research led him to realize both the longer history of an ideology of education for national development, going back to the early twentieth century among Indian-educated Nepali elites, and the distinctive break marked by the 1951 revolution: not least in that only from this moment did the state formulate an education policy. Jake's research also uncovered the extensive role played by American advisors and the U.S. Operations Mission in supporting and shaping this policy during the Cold War era. Jake's project was able to place this American role alongside that of Nepali elites, both of whom sought to create a modern, unified Nepali people through education.
Jimei Hon's ('09) project took her back to her native New York, where she explored the culture of alcohol consumption during the early twentieth century. In particular, Jimei was interested in the ways alcohol consumption both shaped and was shaped by changing ideas about male-female relationships and social class. She used a Nyhus Travel Grant to explore the newspaper and pamphlet collection of the New York Public Library. Through this research, she was able to trace the emergence of a mixed male-female working-class public drinking culture during the early twentieth century, but also the ways in which the temperance movement enabled middle-class women to assume new public and political roles. Surprisingly, however, her research showed that by the 1930s, working-class women became major advocates of prohibition because of the effects of alcoholism on their families, while middle-class women were able to claim a space for themselves as genteel social drinkers. Alcohol consumption thus not only became a major subject for reformers concerned with "urban vices," but also took on new meanings and enabled new social relations between men and women and new public roles for women.
Wallace (Scot) McFarlane '09 conducted a project close to Bowdoin itself: a history of the early environmental efforts to address the pollution of the Androscoggin River during the middle of the twentieth century. His project focused on the role of a Bates College Professor of Chemistry, Walter Lawrence, who was appointed River Master of the Androscoggin river in 1947 with the task of addressing the deplorable pollution caused by the paper mills. As Scot's project explored, Lawrence developed and elaborate method of daily gauging the smell of the river, attempting to apply empirical science to the sense of smell and to use smell as a measure of pollution. Lawrence's methods were highly controversial even at the time; Scot's research shows the force of the environmental aesthetics and of scientific knowledge in the formulation of environmental policy. The Walter Lawrence Papers, housed at Bates and opened to the public just last year, formed the core of Scot's project. A Nyhus Travel Grant enable Scot to make multiple trips to Bates, where he was the first person to access this invaluable material.
David K. Thomson '08 used his Nyhus Grant to visit two separate archives in Washington, D.C., at the Library of Congress and at the Moorland-Springarn Research Center at Howard University. David's fascinating and ambitious research agenda revolved around the study of Bowdoin graduate and military man, Oliver Otis Howard (class of 1850). Less famous, and unfortunately, less successful than Bowdoin's revered Joshua Chamberlain, Howard served as a general in the Union army during the Civil War and later, during the campaigns against the Native American tribes of the American Midwest. Not only was Howard a military man, he was also deeply religious, so much so that even during his life he was known as "The Christian General." In his senior honors thesis, "Oliver Otis Howard: The Paradox of the Christian General," David examines the deep conflict that shaped Howard's personality and, likely, prevented him from being a successful leader. David writes, "Every attempt to resolve the paradox only further exacerbated the problem for Howard and contributed to the larger perception of him as an inept general whose religiosity led him to be weak and effeminate."
Munny Munford '07 spent her senior year researching the role of women in the nineteenth-century organization, The American Colonization Society. The American Colonization Society was an organization that founded Liberia in 1822 and transported free blacks there from the United States. Some charged that the ACS was a racist society, while others point to its benevolent origins and later takeover by men with visions of an American empire in Africa. Munny's research culminated in an honors project entitled, "Bound Together By History." As Munny notes, "Women were crucial to the movement that sent freed blacks to Africa and spawned the country of Liberia. They also provide an interesting alternative to those women involved in the Abolition movement." Few scholars have studied the role that women played in the ACS. Munny took advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Nyhus Grant in visits to the Library of Congress, where she explored this fascinating piece of U.S. history, and where she was able to identify and research the women involved in the male dominated ACS.
Mark Viehman '07 also used his Nyhus Grant to visit the Library of Congress and, like Munny, his research resulted in a fine honors thesis. Mark's thesis, "Lynching in the Jim Crow Era: A Study of Southern Counties," depended heavily on recently aggregated census data from a large number of nineteeth-century southern counties. Many have studied "typical" instances of lynching. But by examining southern counties that evidenced atypically high rates of lynchings, Mark hoped to identify discrete factors that contributed to this horrible practice. The Nyhus Grant allowed Mark to give this statistical information a broader cultural context. Using the resources of the Library, which offered him an otherwise impossible opportunity to investigate newspapers and other records from his sample counties. "The result of his research in Washington," writes his faculty advisor, Professor Patrick Rael, "was that he was able not simply to invoke statistics to illustrate patterns of lynching, but also to discuss the economic, social, and cultural conditions affecting lynching rates in local areas."
Kathryn Ostrofsky, a senior from Bangor, Maine is pursuing an honors project under the direction of Patrick Rael on the "life, career, and audience reception of a black opera singer form the 1850s, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield." She will use the Nyhus funds to conduct research at the Philadelphia Historical Society. While pursuing her research in early January, she will attend the American Historical Association annual meetings, go to sessions relating to her area of interest and meet with scholars in the field. Kathryn plans on pursuing a doctorate in American history after graduation.
Stewart Stout is a junior from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey and is completing an independent study with Matt Klingle on wooden boat building in Maine. Stewart is interested in the wooden boat renaissance that began in the 1970s, its relationship to consumer culture in the post-Vietnam era, and "the search for authenticity and art in traditional crafts." He will be locating sources at a host of Maine archives and collections, including the Portland Public Library, the Maine Maritime Museum and a number of wooden boat shops along the coast.
Erin Turban, a senior from Northfield, Illinois is pursuing an honors project under the direction of Page Herrlinger on the Nazi occupation of Britain's Channel Islands during WWII. Although the islands had only a small Jewish population, its British Jewish population and those Jews from the continent who had relocated there during the 1930s were later sent to concentration camps in Germany and Poland by the Nazis. Erin's thesis will examine how the British government and Anglo-Jewish organizations reacted to the Reich's anti-Semitic policies. She will travel to London in December to conduct research in the Home Office at the British National Archives in Kew and the London Metropolitan Archives.
Jennifer Bernstein, '06, from Forest Hills, New York is completing a senior honors thesis under the direction of Jill Pearlman on the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union's efforts to build 500 cooperative apartment units in the Bronx during the 1920s and 1930s. The Amalgamated "was the only large-scale housing cooperative to survive the Depression years." Jen will be conducting research at a number of archives and collection in the New York area.