UMBC Faculty Discuss Baltimore City Civic Engagement Work in Diverse

In the wake of the unrest in Baltimore earlier this year, several UMBC faculty were interviewed by Diverse to share the projects they are doing with students and colleagues to work with the city as it recovers from its first uprising in nearly 50 years.

Bev BickelBeverly Bickel, a clinical associate professor in the language, literacy and culture program, discussed the Imagining America conference, which is sponsored by UMBC in partnership with MICA and Morgan State University. Many conference sessions will focus specifically on Baltimore and address topics such as race, inequality and community-based approaches to spur collective action.

“Part of our commitment in doing that was about how we could use this conference to develop the work in Baltimore,” said Bickel. “We want to use it as an organizing process to strengthen the arts community [in] Baltimore.”

Lee BootLee Boot, associate director of the IRC, said that he and some of his colleagues are cautious about not appearing as to have all the answers: “These issues are real[ly] complicated. The whole idea that [the] university alone is [the] purveyor of knowledge is insane,” he said.

“And we’re trying to level that. Another thing that came up is that Baltimore has to take its stories back. … An opportunity that comes out of what happened in April is that now [there is] a wider understanding that those events were results of things that had happened before. We’re trying to say [that] this is not a bunch of bad players, but results of decisions we have made. That’s a line of thought most people are not interested in listening to most of the time.”

Denise MeringoloDenise Meringolo, an associate professor of history, is working with community partners to create a website that includes original content and documents history in the days surrounding Freddie Gray’s death. The goal is to provide a historical record of diverse perspectives from the people whose lives were directly impacted by the events.

“The thing that’s most important for me [is] that it’s broadly collaborative and puts [the] needs and interests of community first,” Meringolo said. “At this point this is a collection project. … Healing at this time feels like skipping over their pain. I think we’ve got to stop skipping over the pain, so people don’t go from trauma to forgiveness and skip over the hard work. I feel like this [is] the beginning of the hard work.”

Read “Baltimore Higher Ed Institutions Fight to Restore the City” in Diverse.

Joseph Tatarewicz, History, Provides Historical Context for Pluto Flyby Mission in The Conversation

On July 21, Joseph Tatarewicz, an associate professor of history, published an article in The Conversation analyzing the history of space exploration in light of the recent NASA New Horizons Pluto mission. Professor Tatarewicz teaches the history of science and technology, policy, and public history. He has done extensive work in public history, including eight years as a Smithsonian museum curator and ten years in private practice. He is author of Space Technology and Planetary Astronomy

JoeT“The boomers are the first generation to witness the initial exploration of our solar system and the last to be taught that standard phrase, ‘the nine planets.’ During the last half-century, scientific research and Cold War politics brought to a head changes in scientific disciplines and organization that had been maturing for centuries,” Tatarewicz wrote in the article.

Tatarewicz stated that the New Horizons voyage marked the end of the Copernican revolution, but there is still plenty to discover: “The entire New Horizons mission over 15 years cost about US$700 million, or $47 million per year – less than Americans spend on soft drinks. All of space exploration is but spare change, and this mission’s tariff almost invisible on anybody’s ledger. Like the Romans, we demanded bread and circuses during the space program’s heyday in its first decade or so. This circus is already quite a bargain. Throw some spare change into the next model of an orphan mission of exploration. You will need to have patience, but you will be rewarded.”

Read “New Horizons brought our last ‘first look’ at one of the original nine solar system planets” in The Conversation.

Kate Brown, History, Describes Her Experience Writing Plutopia in Process History Blog

Kate Brown, a professor of history, was recently interviewed by Process, the blog of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the Journal of American History (JAH), and The American Historian (TAH), about her award-winning book Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Kate BrownThe posted interview is in Q&A format and Process asked Prof. Brown about her inspiration, research process, and difficulties in writing the book: “…it was difficult to integrate labor, urban, cultural and environmental history with the history of science and medicine, and to do so in the context of two national histories. I worried initially that I was missing a lot, making major mistakes in this or that historical subfield, and that generally I was trespassing where I did not belong.

And then I stopped worrying about it. I have long believed that histories written to define or protect professional expertise manage only to distance historians from their audience, but in researching Plutopia, I was also was well aware that the compartmentalization of knowledge into discrete fields caused many of the environmental and health problems at both plants.”

Brown received several awards for Plutopia, including the American Historical Association’s 2014 Albert J. Beveridge Award. Read Kate Brown’s complete interview in Process.

Denise Meringolo, History, Describes Baltimore Uprising Project in the Baltimore Sun

Denise MeringoloAn article published June 18 in the Baltimore Sun examined a digital history project documenting the unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Denise Meringolo, an associate professor of history, is collaborating with the Maryland Historical Society and University of Baltimore to collect images, oral histories, and videos taken by everyday citizens documenting the events. Meringolo, who is featured in the article, set up a website for the project.

“I decided to establish a site that allows people to participate directly in the act of collecting,” Meringolo said. “When you study social movements from the past, sometimes what’s missing are the experiences and perceptions of the people who were in that moment. You find the official reports, but it’s very difficult to get a sense of what that protest was like viscerally from the ground view.”

To read the article in the Baltimore Sun, click here.  For additional coverage by the Associated Press, click here. To learn more about the project, visit baltimoreuprising2015.org.

Kate Brown, History, Examines Russia’s Foreign Agents Law in Al Jazeera America

Kate BrownIn a June 15 op-ed in Al Jazeera America, history professor Kate Brown examined the impact of Russia’s foreign agents law on the country’s civil society and environmental activists. The law requires organizations that receive funding from abroad to register as foreign agents, and the law as it was originally written excluded environmental advocacy groups.

However, Brown wrote in her column that the law has recently been used with broad application to abolish NGO’s that prevent development in Russia. “The ease with which the law can be abused could spell disaster both for Russian civil society and environmental regulation.”

With the way the law is constructed, Brown wrote that it makes it difficult for outside groups to intervene: “The multi-faceted utility of the law makes it an enticing tool, one that is increasingly difficult for NGOs to surmount. In part because of the U.S. history of spying on enemies and allies alike, there appears to be little that can be done from outside Russia without exacerbating charges of foreign meddling. As during the Soviet period, those in the United States can only watch and report,” she wrote.

To read the full column titled “Russia Uses ‘Foreign Agents’ Law to Muzzle Dissent,” click here.

Anne Rubin, History, Gives Voice to Union Soldiers in Sherman’s Army in The Conversation

Anne RubinOn Memorial Day, The Conversation published a series of insights into wars that have been waged and their aftermath. Anne Rubin, an associate professor of history, published an article that gave voice to the Union soldiers in Sherman’s Army and their view of their impact on the end of the Civil War.

“Sherman’s veterans, at least those who spoke and wrote publicly about their experiences, were remarkably untroubled by the war they made against civilians. They looked at the march not as something that broke the laws of war, but instead as one of the great experiences of their lives,” Rubin wrote.

“For all their minimizing of hardships and the horrors of war, they well understood what they fought for, and they believed wholeheartedly that their march, their efforts, had brought the war to an end,” she added. “They never wavered in their belief that the march was necessary. The Confederacy had brought destruction on itself by tearing apart the Union, they believed, and it was the duty of these soldiers to reunite the nation, by any means at their disposal.”

To read the full article titled “The grand review of Sherman’s Bummers,” click here. Rubin is author of Through the Heart of Dixie: Sherman’s March and American Memory (UNC Press 2014).

Marc Olano, CSEE, and Anne Rubin, History, Describe the Bandit Video Game Project in the Daily Record

Marc OlanoA team of professors and students across several disciplines have worked together to develop “Bandit,” a video game in which players control a fox that navigates the streets during Civil War-era Baltimore. The game is one of two developed this semester in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Professor Marc Olano’s game development class. The group collaborated with students in the history department and Anne Rubin, an associate professor of history, to develop viewpoints of diverse actors in the Pratt Street Riots.

Anne RubinThe work was featured in a Daily Record article published on May 19: “The game-design students initially pitched several game ideas to the history class, and Rubin said she and her history students were fond of a proposed mystery-style game because they thought it would lend itself more readily to the teaching of history. But the animal-focused game was the most feasible to produce, so that became the choice. ‘We’re really happy with how this turned out,’ Rubin said.”

To read about the Bandit video game presentation at URCAD 2015, click here. To read the article “At UMBC, a taste of professional life for game designers” in the Daily Record, click here (subscription required). For additional coverage in Baltimore Tech, click here.