Institute of Historical Studies
Institute of Historical Studies

IHS Director Seth Garfield passes torch to new Director, Miriam Bodian, this fall

Wed, May 3, 2017
IHS Director Seth Garfield passes torch to new Director, Miriam Bodian, this fall
Seth Garfield, current Director, and Miriam Bodian, assuming Directorship this Sept.

By Henry Wiencek, Ph.D Candidate of History, University of Texas at Austin

When it comes to enumerating the new programs that Professor Seth Garfield inaugurated during his directorship of the Institute for Historical Studies, the list is impressive: there is the “Commemoration” series, scholarly panels marking the anniversaries of major world events by weighing their historical significance; the “Faculty New Book Series, public forums in which UT history faculty share their latest work with the wider community; the “Method” Series addressing methodological challenges of historical scholarship both old and new, like questions of scope and scale, digital methods and public history; and a postdoctoral fellowship program enabling recent UT Ph.D. graduates to revise their dissertations into book manuscripts. Seth has also overseen the launch of the Media page, which includes podcasts of lecture recordings, as well as the institute's Twitter page. These new initiatives have, according to History Department Chair Professor Jacqueline Jones, “extended and enhanced the reach of the Institute as a major intellectual force on the UT campus, and throughout the country.”

Indeed, Seth’s outstanding leadership and personal integrity has resonated throughout the Institute, making a big impression on the individuals who have joined the lively intellectual community up on Garrison Hall’s 4th floor. To former IHS Program Coordinator Professor Yoav Di-Capua, Seth “embodies the quiet force of intellectual leadership” whose “belief in the intellectual potential of Humanities has enriched the countless Fellows and Affiliates who passed through our doors." Past IHS Fellow Professor Bianca Premo admiringly recalls Seth for maintaining a “balance of administrative and intellectual talents that few of us possess,” adding that getting “to know him and sharing laughs and ideas was a highlight of my time in Austin.” Seth’s legacy will not just be the events and programs he spearheaded, but the personality and spirit he contributed to the Institute and the people who passed through it.

With Seth’s tenure as IHS Director concluding this spring, we are extremely fortunate to be transitioning to the leadership of another highly qualified and esteemed member of the UT scholarly community, Professor Miriam Bodian. A renowned teacher and scholar of Sephardic Jewish history and the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, Miriam has been a professor at the University of Texas at Austin since 2004. She has authored numerous articles and two books, Dying in the Law of Moses: Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in the Iberian World (Indiana University Press, 2007) and Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation: Conversos and Community in Early Modern Amsterdam (Indiana University Press, 1997), which won the National Jewish Book Award as well as the Koret Jewish Book Award, both for history.  Prof. Jacqueline Jones is “delighted” at the prospect of Miriam’s upcoming tenure, citing her “erudition, her intense intellectual curiosity, and her dedication to excellence in scholarship make her a most worthy successor to Seth.  We’re so gratified she’s on board!”

Read more about the academic side of their work on Seth's and Miriam's faculty profile pages. Both scholars have been featured on Not Even Past, where Seth discussed how the Brazilian Amazon is not a strictly "natural" space, but also the product of very "unnatural" forces: diplomacy, economic need, labor and social ideas, and in "A Dangerous Idea," Miriam examined a time and place where religious freedom and "freedom of conscience" could not be taken for granted, and a young man who insisted on both. Each has produced interviews on the 15 Minute History podcast: Seth explained how the Brazilian government, with American help, industrialized the Amazon; Miriam revealed the intricacies of the Spanish Inquisition’s processes and inner workings.

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