Lecture: Mathias Persson, “From Enlightenment to enlightenments: On the Revision of a Monolithic Concept”

Cavanaugh Hall, Room 438
12:00-1:15 pm

Professor Mathias Persson, Department of Economic History, University of Uppsala, Sweden, will present a lecture on Monday October 21, 2013. The topic of Professor Persson’s talk will be “From Enlightenment to enlightenments: On the Revision of a Monolithic Concept.”

Since the 1960s, the once predominant idea of a singular, iconoclastic Enlightenment anchored in the Parisian salons has gradually faded away and been replaced by a plurality of enlightenments, displaying various agendas and taking place in miscellaneous settings. This lecture will outline these developments and give examples of how the concept of enlightenment has been construed during this protracted process, which reflects wider societal and academic transformations and has parallels in other fields of historical research.

IUPUI receives NEH grant for study of origins of HIV/AIDS

An international team of historians and anthropologists, including two Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professors, will spend the next three years hunting down the origins of HIV/AIDS.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $290,000, three-year grant to IUPUI for the project titled “An International Collaboration on the Political, Social, and Cultural History of the Emergence of HIV/AIDS.”

Under the leadership of IUPUI professor William H. Schneider, six humanities scholars assisted by three medical research consultants will study evidence supporting the most frequently offered explanations for the emergence of the global AIDS pandemic.

“It is a clear and a worthwhile goal: figuring out the origin of AIDS,” said Schneider, a historian of medicine who teaches in the history department and directs the medical humanities and health studies program, both part of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. “The emergence of new diseases, such as avian flu and swine flu, is one of the most important health concerns in recent decades.”

The new study could prove invaluable to those working in global health by providing information about how other new diseases emerge, the principal investigator said.

“It can offer a model for medical science and public health researchers who recognize that their studies need to account for the larger historical, political, economic, social and cultural relations and processes that shape disease emergence.”

Three prominent HIV/AIDS researchers — virologists Preston Marx and François Simon and epidemiologist Ernest Drucker — will serve as medical research consultants. The collaboration began 10 years ago and was recently assisted by the IUPUI Office of Vice Chancellor for Research, which provided $15,000 in seed money for the project.

Scientists widely agree that immune viruses have existed in the African simian population — chimps and monkeys — for tens of thousands of years. Some of these evolved and adapted into viruses that were devastating to the human population less than 100 years ago.

HIV/AIDS study collaborators and scientists during a planning workshop.

HIV/AIDS study collaborators and scientists during a planning workshop.

Through DNA sequencing, scientists have identified a dozen human immunodeficiency virus strains, two of which, HIV-1 and HIV-2, are responsible for the current AIDS pandemic among humans.

Because there were several adaptations, most scientists agree that the transfer was not a random incident, and they point to colonial rule of Africa as the circumstance permitting the adaptations.

The question is how and why?

Until now, explanations have focused on finding a “smoking gun,” i.e., the first case of human immunodeficiency virus. But that scholarship has lacked a critical humanities approach to the wide array of available field and archival resources.

Schneider’s team will address those shortcomings.

“This project is meant to place the medical, public health and biological dimensions of the origin of (HIV/AIDS) in its historical context in sub-Saharan Africa — bringing attention for the first time to the details of the specific social and cultural consequences of the introduction of (Western) medicine which was followed in short order by the appearance of the HIV epidemic,” Drucker said.

The research team will focus on the three most feasible explanations: changes in great ape and monkey hunting; social transformations during colonial rule including urbanization, prostitution and human mobility; and new medical interventions, specifically injection campaigns and blood transfusions, that facilitated transfer of viruses.

Schneider, an expert in the history of blood transfusions in Africa, along with Guillaume Lachenal of the University of Paris, will study the role of blood transfusions and vaccination campaigns, health interventions unheard of in Africa before colonial rule.

Ch.-Didier-Gondola_B

IUPUI professor Ch. Didier Gondola, chairman of the history department, is also a member of the research team.

IUPUI professor Ch. Didier Gondola, chairman of the history department, is also a member of the research team. He is an authority on the history of Brazzaville and Kinshasa, the two neighboring African cities considered to be the place where the HIV-1 epidemic began, which is responsible for 85 percent of today’s AIDS cases. Gondola will investigate the impact of equatorial African urbanization, migration and gender on the emergence of AIDS.

The team will conduct field research and consult several archives and colonial and medical service records in Africa and Europe. Beginning with an IUPUI meeting in February 2014, the scholars will meet periodically to review the research, which will conclude with the publication of a book in 2016.

The HIV/AIDS project was one of four Indiana awards among the 173 NEH grants announced in July for a total of $33 million.

Lecture: Jon Coleman, “Here Lies Hugh Glass: A Mountain Man, a Bear, and the Rise of the American Nation”

August 29, 7-8pm
CE Yale Pratt Room
Jon Coleman, Professor of History, Notre Dame University
“Here Lies Hugh Glass: A Mountain Man, a Bear, and the Rise of the American Nation”
Support provided by the IUPUI Department of History 

In the summer of 1823, a grizzly bear mauled Hugh Glass. The animal ripped the trapper up, carving huge hunks from his body. Glass’s fellows rushed to his aid and slew the bear, but Glass’s injuries mocked their first aid. The expedition leader arranged for his funeral: two men would stay behind to bury the corpse when it finally stopped gurgling; the rest would move on. Alone in Indian country, the caretakers quickly lost their nerve. They fled, taking Glass’s gun, knife, and ammunition with them. But Glass wouldn’t die. He began crawling toward Fort Kiowa, hundreds of miles to the east, and as his speed picked up, so did his ire. The men who took his gear and left him to rot were going to pay.

Here Lies Hugh Glass springs from this legend. The acclaimed historian Jon T. Coleman delves into the accounts left by Glass’s contemporaries and the mythologizers who used his story to advance their literary and filmmaking careers. A spectacle of grit in the face of overwhelming odds, Glass sold copy and tickets. But he did much more. Through him, the grievances and frustrations of hired hunters in the early American West and the natural world they traversed and explored bled into the narrative of the nation. A marginal player who nonetheless sheds light on the terrifying drama of life on the frontier, Glass endures as a consummate survivor and a complex example of American manhood. Here Lies Hugh Glass, a vivid, often humorous portrait of a young nation and its growing pains, is a Western history like no other.

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