Institute of Historical Studies
Institute of Historical Studies

Paper Abstracts

Additional abstracts forthcoming.

"Populism, Liberation, and Liberty"
Lahouari Addi

Populism is the ideology of the group asserted as an end in itself. The individuals have duties towards the group but they don’t’ have rights that are not consistent with the unity of the group. In general, populism praises the liberation of the group but it is suspicious of the liberty of the individuals.

"The Contradictions of Freedom in the Desert"
C.J. Alvarez

This talk focuses on the life of Fabián García, one of the most influential agronomists in the desert southwest of the early twentieth century. He was born in Mexico, crossed the border when he was young, and rose to become one of the most highly esteemed professors of agriculture at New Mexico State University until his untimely death in 1948. His biography provides a window into three significant aspects of Chihuahuan Desert history: Mexican American culture, irrigated agriculture, and nuclear weapons testing. In each domain, García envisioned a different promise for the future, a different conception of freedom.

"Freedom Without Liberal Subjects"
Indrani Chatterjee

In Freedom in the Making of Western Culture (1991), the historical sociologist Orlando Patterson argued that the idea of freedom was ‘a peculiarly Western value and ideal’. This essay challenges Patterson’s formulation in three ways. First, it argues that there were many ways of conceiving of ‘freedom’ in the historic past. Second, epigraphic material between the seventh-eighth and the seventeenth century also suggests that students, apprentices and bondsmen and women alike were identified in terms of their teachers and owners, so that rather than slavery as a uniform condition of low status, each group of students and bondsmen and women were distinguished from others by the grant of particular kinds of privileges and exemptions. Finally, ‘freedoms’ were specifically enumerated for each group, exercised relationally, and in the context of shared sovereignties in context-specific ways. By looking at a form of release from labor-services (visti) granted to particular groups as a grant of a specific kind of freedom, I hope to explain the conditions under which such freedoms were misidentified by nineteenth century Liberal colonial officials within an emergent capitalist political economy.

"Freedom to and Freedom from in Classical Hindu Jurisprudence"
Donald R. Davis, Jr.

The classical legal texts of India articulate several concepts pertaining to freedom. Among these, svātantrya is the most salient and connotes the legal independence to make transactions on one’s own. This essay examines svātantrya, through an analysis of slavery and other forms of servitude in a thirteenth-century digest of Hindu law. Contrary to views of freedom as the capacity to do what you want, this text assumes that freedom is the capacity to do what your social position calls you to do, the fulfillment of obligations as a privilege of that position. Though hardly the only idea of freedom that circulated in early India, this rather different of freedom as tied up with law’s power to enable us to do things. In short, the freedom to overshadows the freedom from in Sanskrit legal texts because freedom’s conceptualization begins in the entitlement and obligation to do things under the law, not in the elimination of artificial restraints on personal choice.

"Spaces as Carriers of Political Rights: 19th-Century Experiments with Republicanism in Colombia"
Lina del Castillo

This talk explores freedom’s spatial dimensions by considering how early republican Spanish Americans experimented with spaces versus individuals as carriers of political rights. Starting in the 1810s, municipalities declared allegiance or independence from Spain depending on their relationship with neighboring cities. By mid-century, early republicans gained political legitimacy by granting municipal status to towns previously excluded from practices of governance. By 1853, New Granada radically deposited sovereignty in individuals rather than political spaces by granting voting rights to all male citizens while also abolishing the building block of political life until then: the municipal councils associated with cantons. Disruptive civil wars forced an alternate plan that brought back the sovereignty of states with a vengeance by the 1860s.

"Sacred Liberation: Arab Decolonization and the Quest for Freedom"
Yoav Di-Capua

To say that for Nasserism (1952-1970) the political is existential is to refer to the ways in which it created, promoted and maintained a sacred experience of liberation with its own institutions, norms, ethics, moral space, rituals, ethos and distinct sense of history. Conceived as a deep study of freedom during decolonization, this experimental paper ventures into the field of political theology to examine how an organization of emancipatory politics that was founded on the imagination of the sacred became an article of faith that shaped everyday life for millions of people around the Arab world.

"'We are Yanquis because they say we are Yanquis:' Puerto Rico, the US and the Question of Freedom in the World’s Oldest Colony"
Mónica Jiménez

In the 1930’s in the midst of growing transnational movements for liberatory nationalism, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party leader Pedro Albizu Campos advocated for independence, political sovereignty, and the creation of an Antillean Union to counter US hegemony in the Caribbean. Ultimately, this moment was the high-water mark of the island’s desire for political nationhood. Subsequently, calls for changes to the island’s relationship with the US have been couched in the language of autonomy, local sovereignty, and free association.  This paper seeks to interrogate the diverse meanings of “freedom” in Puerto Rico throughout its colonial history with the United States. How have islanders understood the possibilities for freedom? How and why have calls for freedom changed over time? 

"Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Black Freedom Struggle"
Peniel E. Joseph

This paper examines the roles of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in reshaping conceptions of freedom, democracy, and citizenship in the 20th century. Malcolm and Martin bestride the world-historic anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-imperialist movements of the post Second World War Era. They both tapped into historic genealogies of the Black Freedom Struggle, ranging from Marcus Garvey’s New Negro Pan-Africanist Movement to the Social Gospel of Benjamin Mays. During the Civil Rights and Black Power Era Malcolm and Martin introduced new concepts of citizenship and dignity that continue to reverberate in our own time.

"Veiled Bodies, Unveiled Bodies: Flora Tristan's and Paul Gauguin's Gendered Visions of Freedom in the French Empire (1803-1903)"
Emma Kuby

Emma Kuby’s paper considers the changing ways in which early French socialist feminist Flora Tristan and her grandson, painter Paul Gauguin, understood what it meant to possess bodily freedom in an imperial world. By considering the linkages that both these figures drew between freedom of movement, sexual freedom, and free labor, it argues for the sustained centrality of the non-Western female body to French conceptualizations of autonomy throughout the nineteenth century. Contrasting grandmother with grandson, Kuby suggests that by 1900, "freedom" had been recast as an eroticized colonial commodity, and the sexual, artistic, and economic exploitation of France's empire as an escapist route to individual psychic liberation for white men.

“Burdens of Freedom: Labor and Struggle in the First Indochina War"
Christian C. Lentz

The First Indochina War (1946-54) was as much an economic struggle as a political contest. In territory recently won from France by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), cadres from late 1952 strove to transform the Black River region’s agrarian economy to meet growing state and military consumption. Freedom was on the march around Điện Biên Phủ, and diverse local peoples responded in various ways to new state claims levied on their bodies. This paper builds on an affective shift in the language local actors used to describe liberation, one that resonated with larger transformations in exchange and subject relations.

"Freedom’s Just Another Word: Press and Nation in Liberal Mexico"
Pablo Piccato

Nineteenth-century liberals in Mexico believed that freedom of the speech was at least as important as electoral representation for the progress of democracy. This is clear from the resources and energy that went into defending a free press, but also into the design of legislation to curtail its alleged abuses. Yet mid-century intellectuals like Ignacio Ramírez and Guillermo Prieto identified the limits of political language to fight against the Church and its conservative and monarchical defenders. They used satirical poetry to expand the meanings of the liberal critique of the old regime, in the process revising the very meaning of freedom.

"The Twisted Path of Freedom: A Historical Perspective"
Enzo Traverso

Arguing from different perspectives, both Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault carefully distinguished between “liberty” and “liberation” by defending the former as a superior realm of human existence or as an ensemble of blossoming practices, and stigmatizing the latter as a myth or a dangerous illusion. A historical approach to this topic, however, shows that there is no freedom without liberation. If liberation is not a sufficient guarantee of freedom—this is the elementary lesson of the failure of real socialism—it remains one of its necessary premises. This is a basic assumption of revolutionary thought, from Marx to Rosa Luxemburg and Frantz Fanon. And similar considerations could be made for the relationship between liberty and equality. Canonically separated by classical liberalism in legal and philosophical terms, they have been intimately interwoven in almost any historical process of emancipation. Today, claiming their fusion—a proposal captured by the concept of “equaliberty”—has become as relevant and appealing as it was at the end of the Old Regime.