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Vanderbilt History Seminar 2012-2013



This theme will explore the history of heterodox, or dissenting, ideas, traditions, communities, and practices across a wide range of societies and centuries.  It will examine not merely formally defined and anathematized heterodoxies, but a wide range of challenges to conventional outlooks, practices, and normative beliefs.  A great deal of work on what we are calling heterodoxy is underway in the subfields of religion, politics, gender and sexuality, and the history of medicine and science, among others.  Religious sects and schisms, slave religions, and utopian communities; social movements that challenge mainstream, or orthodox, conceptions of politics, sexuality, gender roles and family life; “heretical” ideas about disease and health, the universe (Galileo), the economy (Keynes) and race: all these topics, and others, fall within the ambit of the heterodoxies theme.  We want to explore the diverse meanings of heterodoxies as well as the historical circumstances under which heterodoxies emerged, flourished, and supplanted orthodoxies, or were contained, co-opted, and crushed.  Heterodoxies often drew the attention of (or became the occasion for calling into being) powerful institutions charged with eliminating dissent, purging political nonconformity, or imposing doctrinal purity.  The auto-da-fé of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions, the public executions of the French Revolutionary Terror, and the Stalinist gulags stand among the most famous examples of this tendency to root out heterodoxy through violence.  Heterodoxies have sometimes themselves become violent, as the cases of early twentieth century anarchism and late twentieth-century strains of radical Islam  demonstrate.  Authorities have also tried to label, contain, and sometimes impugn heterodoxies by generating scientific discourses about deviance; heterodoxies, from this perspective, are bound up with the production of knowledge.  Encounters between the heterodox and the orthodox, both violent and nonviolent, both formal (through state and scientific interventions) and informal (through the activities of everyday life), thus constitute an additional subject for this VHS theme.  Precisely because the question of heterodoxies appears both specific and flexible, it promises to become a key concept in historical research that can cut across fields and bring historians into productive conversations.  Given the scope of its interests, VHS is well placed to make an important contribution to this project.

Vanderbilt History Seminar 2012–2013 participants:

Michael Gordin, Princeton University
Universally Speechless:  Esperanto, Ido, and Linguistic Heterodoxy
September 10, 2012
Sarratt 216/220, 4:10 PM

Peter Lake, Vanderbilt University
Robert Sibthorpe Becomes Heterodox, or the Local Dynamics of Ideological Change
October 1, 2012
Sarratt 216/220, 4:10 PM

Suman Seth, Cornell University
Race, Slavery, and Polygenism: Edward Long and The History of Jamaica
October 22, 2012
Rand 308, 4:10 PM

Ruth Rogaski, Vanderbilt University
Alternative Qi: Science and Spirit in the Making of Modern Chinese Medicine
November 5, 2012
Rand 308, 4:10 PM

Leah DeVun, Rutgers University
Infidels, Hermaphrodites, and Other Animals: On the Boundaries of the Human in the Middle Ages
December 3, 2012
Sarratt 216/220, 4:10 PM

Bethany E. Moreton, The University of Georgia
Free Markets, Family Values, and the Theology of Work in Opus Dei
January 28, 2013
Sarratt 216/220, 4:10 PM

Anthony T. Grafton, Princeton University
How Jesus Celebrated Passover: The Discovery of the Jewish Origins of Christianity in Early Modern Europe
February 15, 2013
Sarratt 216/220, 3:10 PM

Lynn Hunt, UCLA , and Elizabeth Lunbeck, Vanderbilt University
Heterodox Sexuality and the Power of Psychiatry: On Foucault's Histories
March 11, 2013
Sarratt 216/220, 4:10 PM

João José Reis, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil
Social Mobility Among African Slaves in Brazil
April 1, 2013
Sarratt 216/220, 4:10 PM

Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
War Against War: Explaining the Rise, Defeat, and Legacy of the American Peace Movement, 1914-1918
April 15, 2013
Sarratt 216/220, 4:10 PM