Exile and Persecution: German Exiles in the Americas

Dr. Steve Whitfield from the American Studies Program will give the keynote address for the Exile and Persecution: German Exiles in the Americas conference on Wednesday, November 13th at 5:00 in the Rapaporte Treasure Hall. Professor Whitfield’s paper is titled, Weimar in Waltham: Brandeis University at the Beginning. Please click on the image below for more information.

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Add comment November 1st, 2013

In the Shadow of Slavery: Rape and Mutiny at Fort Jackson, LA

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Add comment October 29th, 2013

“Applied Anthropology in the ‘New Economy’: How the localization movement could bring anthropologists to mainstream economic development policy in the U.S.”

Friday, November 8th, 11:00-12:20pm, Mandel G03


jessicaJessica Meissner ’05 majored in Anthropology at Brandeis and will be returning to give an open lecture to Prof. Elizabeth Ferry’s class “Consumption, Production, Exchange.” Jessica has a degree in economic anthropology, and she is currently on a fellowship at University of Michigan, studying global corporate structure and practice. She will be speaking about her recent work in Washtenaw County, MI to study the needs of non-venture capital funded entrepreneurs. In particular, Jessica is interested in creating meaningful employment for communities through worker-owned and multi-stakeholder cooperatives as a way to finance startups that would employ under/unemployed workers and transform traditionally low-wage work into viable long-term careers.

Add comment October 25th, 2013

Sharon Feiman-Nemser gave keynote address, “Turning Teacher Education Upside Down”


Sharon Feiman-Nemser gave a keynote address, “Turning Teacher Education Upside Down,” at an international conference on educational reform held in Bangkok, Thailand attended by 8000 educators and policy makers. She also joined Pasi Sahlberg from Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture in a public conversation about teacher education in Finland and the U.S. Finland currently has a strong system of education according to a wide range of international comparisons. Teachers in Finland are highly regarded, well trained and trusted to act as professionals, quite the opposite of teachers in the U.S.

Add comment October 25th, 2013

Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize

2013–14 Award Presentation and Lecture


On Tuesday, October 29, at 2:00pm, Patricia Hill Collins will give a lecture titled, “With My Mind Set on Freedom: Black Feminism, Intersectionality and Social Justice.”

Patricia Hill Collins, ’69, PhD ’84, is an eminent scholar and Brandeis alumna who has dedicated her career to understanding the intersections of race, gender and class.

Collins is the author of seven books including the seminal “Black Feminist Thought” and is currently a Distinguished University Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She served as the 100th president of the American Sociological Association and was the first African American woman to hold that office.

For further information about this exciting event, please see the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize page.

Add comment October 24th, 2013

Jennifer Finney Boylan offers the 10th annual Eleanor Roosevelt lecture in Women’s and Gender Studies


On October 15th, best selling author and celebrated LGBT activist Jennifer Finney Boylan offered the 10th annual Eleanor Roosevelt lecture in Women’s and Gender Studies entitled “She’s Not There,” which was based on her memoir of the same name, and details her experiences as a transgender woman.

Boylan began by reading an excerpt entitled “In the Early Morning Rain,” an emotional piece that lays out a moment where Boylan, haunted by and struggling with her identity as transgender, travels to the northern edge of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and leans over a precipice, the strong wind being the only thing keeping her from death.  At the point where she makes a decision, “let’s do it then,” a huge gale pushes her back, and she hears a voice saying, “[a]re you all right, Son? You’re going to be all right. You’re going to be all right.”

From this moving piece, Boylan segued into a brief “Trans 101” lecture, where she spoke about the various identities that fall under the trans* umbrella, noting the importance of using the labels/terms individuals have selected for themselves.  This led to a lively and engaging question and answer period, which culminated in an impromptu performance of “So Says the Whippoorwill” by the musically talented Boylan, followed by a final reading from her newest book, Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders.

Add comment October 23rd, 2013

Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930

Karen Hansen

November 1, 2013
3:00 PM

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave.,
Cambridge, MA 02138

Harvard Book Store is pleased to welcome Brandeis professor KAREN V. HANSEN for a discussion of her latest book, Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930.

In 1904, the first Scandinavian settlers moved onto the Spirit Lake Dakota Indian Reservation. These land-hungry immigrants struggled against severe poverty, often becoming the sharecropping tenants of Dakota landowners. Yet the homesteaders’ impoverishment did not impede their quest to acquire Indian land, and by 1929 Scandinavians owned more reservation acreage than their Dakota neighbors. Norwegian homesteader Helena Haugen Kanten put it plainly: “We stole the land from the Indians.”

With this largely unknown story at its center, Encounter on the Great Plains brings together two dominant processes in American history: the unceasing migration of newcomers to North America, and the protracted dispossession of indigenous peoples who inhabited the continent.

Drawing on fifteen years of archival research and 130 oral histories, Karen V. Hansen explores the epic issues of co-existence between settlers and Indians and the effect of racial hierarchies, both legal and cultural, on marginalized peoples. Hansen offers a wealth of intimate detail about daily lives and community events, showing how both Dakotas and Scandinavians resisted assimilation and used their rights as new citizens to combat attacks on their cultures. In this flowing narrative, women emerge as resourceful agents of their own economic interests. Dakota women gained autonomy in the use of their allotments, while Scandinavian women staked and “proved up” their own claims.

Hansen chronicles the intertwined stories of Dakotas and immigrants—women and men, farmers, domestic servants, and day laborers. Their shared struggles reveal efforts to maintain a language, sustain a culture, and navigate their complex ties to more than one nation. The history of the American West cannot be told without these voices: their long connections, intermittent conflicts, and profound influence over one another defy easy categorization and provide a new perspective on the processes of immigration and land taking.

“How did it happen that Scandinavian immigrants and their descendants came to live together on a Dakota Indian reservation? Here is the story, profoundly human, of dispossession and occupation: deftly nuanced, deeply sourced, engagingly written. A first-rate history.”—Walter Nugent, author of Intothe West: The Story of Its People

Add comment October 18th, 2013

Strangers on the Prairie

Karen Hansen’s new book uncovers complicated history of Scandinavian, Native American coexistence in North Dakota.


By: Debra Filcman

Oct. 18, 2013

From: BrandeisNOW

It was an intriguing detail in the stories her grandmother used to tell that set Karen Hansen on a 15-year journey through her family’s, and the country’s, past.

Hansen’s maternal grandmother, Helene Haugen Kanten, came to America in the first years of the 20th century, a young Norwegian girl with golden plaits coiled on her head. Her family planned to homestead in North Dakota.

In fact, the story went, the family ended up homesteading on an Indian reservation, side by side with the Dakota Sioux tribe.

All that was true, Hansen would eventually discover. But the Brandeis professor of sociology and women’s and gender studies didn’t stop there. In time, she was able to plumb a much more complicated mystery: why her grandmother used to say that Scandinavian homesteaders had “stolen the land” from Dakotas.

With support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Hansen began digging and found that her family story was part of a much larger American saga. What she learned formed the basis for her new book, “Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930.”

Hansen’s family lived in a tiny shack on a hill on North Dakota’s Spirit Lake Dakota Indian Reservation. Surprisingly, Hansen found that her grandmother’s mother was far from the only Scandinavian or the only woman to own land on the reservation at that time.

The Dawes Act of 1887 allotted 160 acres of reservation land to each Dakota male and 80 acres to Dakota women and children. The rest was open for white homesteading. This meant that approximately 100,000 of the 240,000 acres of the Spirit Lake Reservation were available. By 1929, Scandinavians owned more land than the Dakotas.

Poring over local land-ownership records and complaints lodged with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as reading and conducting 130 oral histories with Scandinavian and Dakota elders, Hansen learned about the conflicting sense of community and inequality in which her grandmother was raised.

“We hear a lot and know a lot about Indian wars of the 19th century, the story of dispossession and how dishonorably the U.S. government acted and we know something about contemporary reservations, rife with disease and social ills,” Hansen says. “But we don’t know much about the period in the middle.

“The Norwegians were farmers,” she says. “They came to accumulate land, to make farms to pass along through their family, and Dakotas  didn’t share that same agricultural sensibility or value acquiring things or land.”

Though the Scandinavians benefited from generous homesteading policies, they were also impoverished immigrants trying to begin a new life, says Hansen. They and Dakotas shared an outsider status even as they competed for land and the power it conveyed.

Hansen, who is also the author of “Not-So-Nuclear Families: Class, Gender and Networks of Care” among other books, has long documented disparities in equality and access.

In “Encounter on the Great Plains” she writes, “This book is my effort to reciprocate” for the generosity of those who shared their sometimes tragic family stories with me. “I now realize that I came to this project in order to repair my fractured sense of ethnic identity and remedy my placelessness, as a daughter of an immigrant mother and a restless father who thought that frequent moving was a way to repair mistakes and start over.”

Add comment October 18th, 2013

“Hollywood and Hitler 1933-1939″ By Thomas Doherty

Doherty Hollywood and Hitler

Add comment October 17th, 2013

“In the Shadow of Slavery: Rape and Mutiny at Fort Jackson, LA”


Women’s and Gender Studies and African and Afro-American Studies are co-sponsoring a talk, “In the Shadow of Slavery: Rape and Mutiny at Fort Jackson, LA,” by Crystal Feimster on November 1 at 5pm in the Mandel Auditorium. Professor Feimster is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies, American Studies, and History at Yale University (http://afamstudies.yale.edu/people/crystal-feimster).


Add comment October 17th, 2013

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