Under the Baobab

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Conversations and Community
in World History


The Covid-19 pandemic has irrevocably changed teaching and learning and will have a lasting effect on how we practice historical scholarship. What does that mean for you? How have your colleagues responded? What insights, tips, and new questions have emerged in our recent collective experience that can shape world history moving forward? Join your friends and colleagues in the World History Association for a series of online gatherings designed to spark your curiosity, develop debate, and deepen your engagement with the field.

Each session will present new research, practical teaching applications, hands-on engagement, and lively conversation. Members and guests can register below.

Session Topics

#14) “Dishing About World History: Food and Feasts”

November 16, 2022, at 8:00pm EST

Just in time for the holidays, the “Under the Baobab” series will resume with session XIV, “Dishing About World History: Food and Feasts,” on November 16 at 8:00pm Eastern/5pm Pacific for a night of lively discussion that is sure to whet attendees’ intellectual and culinary appetites. WHA president Jonathan Reynolds will moderate the proceedings, as panelists weave together the themes of food and history to explore unique holiday cuisines and their historical and cultural significance. This session will also serve as a prequel to the Spring 2023 World History Bulletin’s central theme, food in World History, with Dr. Jeffrey Pilcher as the Guest Editor.

Cynthia Ross, PhD
Rick Warner, PhD
Jeffrey Pilcher, PhD

This session’s panel will feature Dr. Cynthia Ross (Texas A&M University-Commerce), Dr. Rick Warner (Wabash College), and Dr. Jeffrey Pilcher (University of Toronto), and will include live cooking demonstrations of their particular fare. In “Turkeys Away: Getting Christmas Dinner to the Front,” Dr. Ross will discuss Christmas dinner’s vital importance to American troops under fire in France during World War I, as well as the incredible logistical and innovative feats needed to deliver it to the frontlines. Additionally, she will prepare “mock turtle soup,” a forgotten delicacy that once graced the U.S. Army’s 1917 Christmas menu.

Dr. Warner will examine the fusion of vaquero (cowboy) life and early 20th century Italian immigration in Argentinian cultural history by focusing on various strategies for barbequing asada, paying special attention to the production of chimichurri sauce and its use in marination techniques. He will also make alfajore, a favorite holiday cookie in Argentina, while Dr. Pilcher prepares panochita de leche, a slow-cooked fudge once popular in Mexico at the dawn of the 19th century that has since disappeared.

#13) The Dissertation Edition

April 26, 2022 at 2pm EST

Seeking out recent cutting-edge scholarship in World History? Then join us for Baobab #13 featuring the three winners from our 2021 WHA Dissertation Prize. This session will be moderated by Dr. Ruth Mostern, Chair of the prize committee.

Kristyl Obispado, PhD

“The Pacific Sailors: Global workers at and on the edge of the Spanish empire (1580s – 1640s)”

Kristyl Obispado has completed a remarkable study of 1,500 global sailors in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, using impressive archival research and data analysis to describe the life experiences of individuals who plied Pacific waters and joined the trade that their ships were involved in. Her work combines data analysis with close reading and global history including microhistory. Dr. Obispado’s work helps to define Pacific history as a field in world history.

“Liberated Africans and Law in the South Atlantic, c. 1839 – 1871”

Jake Richards’ dissertation is an impressive study of the treatment and experiences of “liberated Africans” seized by the British navy from slave ships in the decades around the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Dr. Richards examines records created by courts set up in the New World, Europe and Africa to process liberated Africans once the British Naval Squadron deposited them at some port. This is a study of transnational law and the institutions and practices that surrounded it, yet it’s also a study of what actually happened to liberated Africans and as far as it is possible to ascertain, how they themselves thought, felt and acted.

Nick Roberts, PhD

“A Sea of Wealth: Sayyid Sa’id bin Sultan, His Omani Empire, and the Making of An Oceanic Marketplace”

In this dissertation about the Omani Empire and its role in global economic imperial developments in the nineteenth century, Nicholas Roberts builds an extraordinary case from widely dispersed archival materials that reveal both economic and imperial narratives about the Omani empire. Dr. Roberts has written a dissertation that is well-structured, well-researched and well-written and one that demonstrates an awareness of some major problems with global history narratives.

This session will conclude with an informal Q&A session.

#12) The Thai Monarchy in Global Affairs

December 7, 2021 at 7pm EST

We’ll open this session with an introductory talk on the session’s topic from Dr. Michael G. Vann. Afterward, Dr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun will speak on the historically significant role the Thai monarchy has played in global affairs. From the 19th to 20th century, the Thai monarchy fully engaged in a conduct of diplomacy at the critical time when colonialism attacked Southeast Asia, and thus, caught in the middle of two powers: Britain and France, kings of Siam (former name of Thailand) “bent with the prevailing wind” to save the kingdom and his throne from external threats. In the later 20th century, political interests between the United States and the monarchy were forever intertwined. Thailand, as a result, implemented a pro-US, anti-communist, pro-monarchy and pro-military policy, a standpoint that placed Washington at the heart of Thai affairs. This session will conclude an informal Q&A session.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun
Michael Vann

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. He is the chief editor of the Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia in which all articles are translated from English into Japanese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Filipino, Burmese and Vietnamese. Earning his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, he is the author of many books including “A Plastic Nation: The Curse of Thainess in Thai-Burmese Relation.”

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University. He earned his Ph.D. at U.C. Santa Cruz and is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford UP, 2018). Vann specializes in the history of imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia. A three time Fulbright recipient, he is currently working on a book about representations of Cold War era violence in Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian museums.

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#11) Bodies Under Inter-Imperial Duress

This forum will offer a roundtable-style discussion considering what an “inter-imperial” model brings to analyses of world history and politics. How does this model complement, challenge, or reconfigure other models (comparative, connected, postcolonial, world-system) within the multi-vectored field of empires? What emerges when considering the discursive-material legacies of successive empires as co-constituted with the sustaining, resisting practices of conscripted peoples? How have aesthetic and knowledge formations interacted with political-economic formations to enable justice-seeking transformation–as well as imperial interpellation?

For thoughts on these questions and more, join scholars Laura Doyle (University of Massachusetts-Amherst), Hayrettin Yücesoy (Washington University-St. Louis), and Jessica Wang (University of British Columbia) on November 18 as they continue a line of thought developed in their roundtable discussion from the 2021 WHA Annual Meeting.

Laura Doyle is Professor of English at UMass Amherst, where she arrived in 1995 after seven years as Assistant Professor at Harvard University.  In the Fall of 2010, as Leverhulme Research Professor in residence at the University of Exeter (UK), she presented Leverhulme lectures throughout Britain and Ireland. Doyle’s latest book, Inter-imperiality: Vying Empires, Gendered Labors, and the Literary Arts of Alliance (Duke UP 2020), has been awarded the Immanuel Wallerstein prize from the American Sociological Association. At UMass, Doyle is co-organizer of the World Studies Interdisciplinary Project, which fosters interdisciplinary work in global and postcolonial studies, with a strong historical focus.

Hayrettin Yücesoy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Jewish, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, at Washington University in St. Louis. His work focuses on the history of the Middle East. His research fields and interests include the history of the caliphate, Abbasid political thought and practice, historiography, and political messianism. He is the author of Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The Abbasid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century and Taṭawwur al-Fikr al-Siyasī ‘inda Ahl al-Sunna: Fatrat al-Takwīn: min Bidāyatihi ḥatta al-Thulth al-Awwal min al-Qarn al-Rābiʿ al-Hijrī [The Development of Sunni Political Thought: The Formative Period (circa. 8th – 10th centuries)]. He has also been published in multiple professional journals such as the Journal of World History and the Journal of Global History.

Jessica Wang is Professor of U.S. History and Co-Chair of the International Relations Program at the University of British Columbia.  She is the author of American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War (1999) and Mad Dogs and Other New Yorkers: Rabies, Medicine, and Society in an American Metropolis, 1840-1920 (2019), along with a range of essays related to the social and political contexts of knowledge and governance.  Her current research focuses on tropical agriculture, inter-imperial collaboration, and the U.S. insular empire in the early twentieth century.

#10) A High School Teacher Forum

Monday, 4 October, 3:00 pm-4:00 pm PDT/6:00 pm-7:00 pm EDT

Join WHA Council Member Eric Beckman and WHA member Connie Hudgeons, recipient of the WHA 2021 Pioneer in World History Award, for an engaging conversation related to current concerns in the secondary school classroom. They will focus on Student Engagement Techniques (SET) to develop upper level thinking skills with activities for both the classroom as well as virtual environments. Both discussants have a half century of teacher experience combined. There will be time for discussion among the participants for active engagement.

#9) Community College Forum: Dark Clouds & Silver Linings

Thursday, 23 September, 3:00 pm-4:00 pm PDT/6:00 pm-7:00 pm EDT

Join WHA Council Member Alex Holowicki and WHA member Monica Ketchum, both community college faculty, to explore two topics current to education at this level: engaging students across modalities and weathering low enrollments and unprepared students. There will be time for discussion among the participants for active engagement. Jack Norton, Chair of the WHA Community College Committee will make introductions and support additional commentary.

#8) Writing for the Public: History and Journalism

Wednesday, 5 May, 11:00 am-12:30 pm PST/1:00 pm-2:30 pm CST

In this session of Under the Baobab, we think closely about how journalists write history for large audiences. In doing so, we examine the use of public history through a number of different media, including print, podcasts, webcasts, and more. Our presenters will talk about their own experiences doing history from a journalistic angle, before opening a question and answer session moderated by Jack Norton.

Jack Norton is the Chair of Normandale Community College’s Department of History and Political Science. He is an active WHA member and Chair of the Community College Committee.

Dinée Dorame is a podcaster who discusses running, culture, land and community. She is a graduate of Yale University.

David Henry Montgomery is a journalist and aspiring polymath with a drive to explain the world. Currently, he’s a data journalist with MPR News in Minnesota, using data analysis and visualizations to cover politics, the COVID-19 pandemic, and everything else. Before then, he was a data visualization journalist for CityLab. He also produces The Siècle, a multimedia project devoted to telling the story of France’s history from 1814 to 1914.

Varsha Venkatasubramanian is a graduate student focusing on the history of dams in the US and the World as it relates to foreign policy, policy history, environmental movements, and legal history. She is particularly interested in US-India relations and infrastructure projects during the 1950s to the 1980s. She co-hosts Drinking with Historians, a webcast virtual happy hour with scholars who study the past.

David Perry is a freelance journalist covering politics, history, education, and disability rights. He is also the Undergraduate Advisor in the History Department at the University of Minnesota.

Click here to view this session of Under the Baobab.

#7) Rethinking the World History Survey: New Approaches

Friday, 5 February, 12:00 pm, PST/3 pm, EST

Ditch the survey? No, refresh the survey!

Join colleagues from a range of institutions (public, private, community college), as we think about how to renew and invigorate the World History survey to make it meaningful and relevant to today’s students. The scholar-teachers on this roundtable discuss how to infuse perspectives from postcolonial history, urban history, Big History, local history and migration studies into world history survey classes, as well as how best to assess students in the survey.  After the initial presentations, participants will be asked to share their own innovations and practices in reinvigorating the survey.

Moderator: Prof. Trevor Getz (San Francisco State University), Prof. Michael G. Vann (Sacramento State University), Prof. Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall (California State University – San Marcos), Prof. Tony Acevedo (Hudson Community College), and Prof. Marc Gilbert (Hawaii Pacific University; past president of the WHA).

Click here to view this session of Under the Baobab.

#6) Comics, World History, and the Classroom

Wednesday 16 December  4:00 pm – 5:30 pm, PST / 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm EST

This event will focus on the opportunities and pitfalls of using comics in the World History classroom. Taking a broad approach to what constitutes a “comic,” this discussion will lead off with brief examples from our panelists about how we’ve used comics in the classroom and the most common questions we face. During breakout sessions each room will deconstruct an example comic, exploring the pedagogical utility of the medium and considering the broader themes of discussion, like: the tension between historicity and formalism, what archival access looks like, and how language offers barriers and opportunities for our World classroom.

Dr. Maryanne Rhett (Monmouth University), Dr. Elizabeth Pollard (San Diego State University), Lawrence Abrams (PhD Candidate, University of California, Davis), Kaleb Knoblauch (PhD Candidate, University of California, Davis), Alonso Nunez (Executive Director of Little Fish Comic Book Studio) and Pamela Jackson (Popular Culture Librarian and Comic Arts Curator at SDSU).

Click here to view this session of Under the Baobab.

#5) Biography in World History: Sex, Lies, and Secrets

Saturday 17 October 10:30 am – noon, PDT/1:30 pm – 3 pm EDT

This event will focus on the challenges of creating and using biographies in world history. What is the relationship between the individual and the broader patterns of the past? How do historians navigate the history of gender diversities? What can the narrative of individual lives bring to the world history classroom?

Dr. Candice Goucher (Washington State University), Editor of Women Who Changed the World (ABC-CLIO, 2021) will be joined by: Dr. Yaari Felber-Seligman (City College of New York), Dr. Bashabi Fraser (Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies, Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Dundee and Honorary Fellow at the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh) and Dr. Suzanne Litrel (American Historical Association).

Click here to view this session of Under the Baobab.

#4) Maritime History as World History

Wednesday 23 September 12 noon – 1:30 pm, PDT/3 pm – 4:30 pm EDT

What does maritime history have to do with world history? In A World at Sea (Penn Press), a new volume edited by Lauren Benton and Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, nine contributors reflect on the promise and prospect of a global approach to maritime history. Drawing on social history, history of science, legal history, and many other approaches, the authors consider how the study of the sea and seafaring can inform and alter narratives in world history and the contributions that a global lens can make to maritime history.

Please join us for an interactive, audience-driven discussion with participation from Benton and Perl-Rosenthal along with many of the volume’s contributing authors: Jeppe Mulich, Matthew Raffety, Margaret Schotte, Lisa Norling, Carla Rahn Phillips, and Catherine Phipps.

#3) Reframing Revolutions: Centering Indigenous, Black, and Women’s Voices in the Age of Revolutions

Tuesday 28 July 4:30 – 6:00 pm, PDT

It is easy to replicate dominant perspectives on the “Age of Revolutions” in ways that marginalize the historical agency and influence of people of color, indigenous people, and women. This session highlights strategies and materials to support interventions that correct this bias by centering the actions of marginalized people, such as indigenous Andeans or enslaved Haitians, complicating the role of the Enlightenment in the Age of Revolution, and by incorporating the stories of women as revolutionaries.

  • Eric Beckman of Anoka High School Anoka, MN has taught World, US, and European History with high school students for thirty years, first in California and now in Minnesota. Eric presents professional development sessions on globalizing World History and teaching historical thinking and World History for state and national organizations. Eric has a Master of Liberal Studies Degree from the University of Minnesota with a focus on the racial dynamics of housing in post-World War II American cities.
  • Bram Hubbell of Friends’ Seminary, NY, has taught world history at the Seminary in New York City for nearly twenty years. He has also taught courses on the modern Middle East, peace and non-violence in the twentieth century, and the relationship between humanity and the environment. He was the co-chair of the AP World History Test Development Committee and Curriculum Redesign Committees from 2008 – 2012. He also maintains the blog,
    Liberating Narratives which is focused on decolonizing world history.
  • Angela Lee of Weston High School, Weston, MA has been a world history educator in Weston for twenty years. She has been teaching AP World since its inception and was one of 90+ readers in Lincoln at the first reading in 2002. From 2013 – 2017, Angela served as a member of the APWH Test Development Committee. She is currently a member of the WHA Executive Council and chair of the WHA Social Media Committee.

This session will include presentations from each speaker, followed by an interactive discussion and closing conversations.

Click here to view this session of Under the Baobab.

#2) Roads and Oceans — The Journal of World History’s 30th Birthday

Monday 20 July, 4:30-6 PM Pacific, 7:30-9 PM Eastern

This Under the Baobab gathering was hosted by Candice Goucher, who was in conversation with Matt Romaniello, Editor of JWH and David Christian, Lauren Benton, and Jennifer Gaynor about their papers, the relevance of their work today, and the current state of the field. Editor Matthew Romaniello curated the issue, “Roads and Oceans,” selecting papers based on use statistics and the thematic trends over the last three decades.

Lauren Benton, The Legal Regime of the South Atlantic World, 1400 – 1750: Jurisdictional Complexity as Institutional Order (2000)

David Christian, Silk Roads or Steppe Roads: The Silk Roads in World History (2000)

Jennifer Gaynor, Ages of Sail, Ocean Basins, and Southeast Asia (2013)

For more on this issue of the JWH, see: http://bit.ly/jwh30th

Click here to view this session of Under the Baobab.

#1) How Can History Help You During a Pandemic?

Wednesday 27 May, 4-5:30 PM Pacific, 7-8:30 PM Eastern

What’s the point of taking a history class now? History teachers know that historical thinking skills help students evaluate sources and arguments in the past and the present, but communicating that to our students is a challenge, particularly now. The sources and strategies shared in this session offer paths to engaging students and connecting historical thinking skills to their lived experiences in the context of our new normal.

Sharon Cohen, Springbrook High School, Silver Spring Maryland

Bennett Sherry, OER Project and World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh

Shane Carter, ORIAS Program Coordinator, UC Berkeley


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