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News & Events: Colloquia & Events

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Spring 2016 Events

Wednesday, February 17
3:30 pm, Meeter Center Lecture Hall

"Towards an Inner History of African-American Lives: A Perspective from the 1960s"

Randal Jelks (University of Kansas)

This discussion begins with the theologian and mystic Howard Thurman’s 1945 publication of The Negro Spiritual Speaks of Life and Death, a substantial body of writings by African Americans on faith and alienation from religious faith. This inner history, a term borrowed from the religious studies scholar Robert Orsi to describe the lived religious experience of Italian immigrants in the first half of the twentieth century in Harlem, New York, is to be found in the published works of African-American entertainers, athletes, and activists who have successfully published memoirs in post-WWII American life. In describing how these performers described their inner lives, this lecture argues that Americans can learns something important about the shaping of the individual self and what it means to live collectively in democratic societies.

Randal Jelks is professor of African and African-American Studies and professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas. He is also an ordained clergy person in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Before joining the faculty of the University of Kansas, Dr. Jelks taught at Calvin College. His research and writing interests are in the areas of African American religious history, the African Diaspora, urban, and Civil Rights history. His award-winning books include African Americans in the Furniture City: the Civil Rights Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Schoolmaster of the Movement, a biography of Martin Luther King Jr's mentor Benjamin Elijah Mays.


Thursday, March 10
3:30 pm, Alumni Board Room (Commons Annex)

Medieval Studies Lecture:
"Caliph, Traitor, Soldier, Spy: The Life and Death of Sayf al-Dawla and his Andalusian Caliphate"

Anthony Minnema (Valparaiso University)

Sponsored by the Medieval Studies Program.

In twelfth-century Spain, an exiled Muslim prince, Sayf al-Dawla, served the Christian king of Castile for fifteen years as a diplomat and general, often fighting other Muslims. But when Muslims in southern Spain requested his assistance to expel the regime that exiled him, he left his king to help lead the rebellion. After a year of fighting, he called upon his Christian allies for support, but they turned on him and assassinated him. Dr. Anthony Minnema (’05) answers the questions of why Sayf al-Dawla died and why his story matters for our understanding of interfaith politics, past and present.

Anthony Minnema earned his BA from Calvin College, where he studied history, medieval studies, and Latin, and an MA in Medieval Studies from Western Michigan University. He completed his doctorate in European History from the University of Tennessee. He is currently a Lilly Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer at Valparaiso University. His areas of research and teaching interest include premodern Christian-Muslim relations, Arabic-to-Latin translation movements, and the history of information technology. His book manuscript, Algazel in Latin Christendom1150-1600, is under contract with Amsterdam University Press. The monograph examines the European audience of a Latin translation of an Arabic philosophical work, The Intentions of the Philosophers, by the Muslim theologian al-Ghazali. This project uses this work as a lens to see the rise, decline, and recovery of the Arabic philosophical tradition in premodern Europe. The book redefines Arabic philosophy’s role in the European intellectual tradition and reverses the standard narrative of European history in which humanism triumphs as an advance over a narrow scholasticism.


Monday, March 21
3:30 pm, Meeter Center Lecture Hall

"The Chinese Church in a Global Age"

Gloria Tseng (Hope College)

Sponsored by the Hubers Asian Studies Program.

This lecture will compare the patterns of indigenization of Protestant Christianity in Republican China and the patterns of indigenization in the era of Reform and Opening. Whereas indigenous urban preachers of the Republican era had a strong anti-Western proclivity, urban Chinese leaders of the era of Reform and Opening had embraced not only the historic Christian heritage, but also made savvy use of China's post-Mao connections with the West. This development indicates that a significant step has been taken in shedding the historical baggage that has saddled the Chinese church in modern Chinese history.

Gloria Tseng is an associate professor of history at Hope College. She received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. She teaches a number of upper level history courses at Hope including modern China, modern Europe, and a new course called "Christianity in China: Negotiating Faith and Culture." Her current research interest is Christianity in twentieth-century China. She is working on a book manuscript (under contract with Bloomsbury) titled The Search for a Chinese Church: Protestantism in Twentieth-Century China.


Wednesday, April 6
3:30 pm, Meeter Center Lecture Hall

"The Astrological Musings of an Anonymous Ottoman (1809)"

Doug Howard (Calvin College)

Sabbaticals are wonderful and messy. Twists and turns seem to be written in the stars. In my case a month in Turkey and Hungary immeasurably advanced a joint effort with a Hungarian colleague to produce a critical edition and English translation of a work on the Ottoman Turkish provincial cavalry, written about 1609. Two ongoing projects interrupted. Then we realized that our author also wrote a treatise on astrology. And, at the end of the main manuscript we were using, totally unrelated astrological musings were discovered, written by an anonymous person two hundred years later. What to make of it?

Doug Howard is professor of history at Calvin College. His field of research is the history of the Ottoman Empire. He teaches courses on early world history, Middle Eastern societies, India, and U.S.-Middle East relations. He spent Fall 2015 on sabbatical.


Wednesday, May 4
3:30 pm, Meeter Center Lecture Hall

Student Presentations

Students graduating with honors in history will present their senior honors theses. Please join us in celebrating our students' achievements by hearing their research.

Co-sponsored by the Honors Program and the African & African Diaspora Studies Program.

History Honors Senior Thesis:

Anna Lindner, "A Clash of Perspective: Slave Women in 19th-Century Colonial Cuba." As slavery in other Caribbean societies declined at the beginning of the nineteenth century, large numbers of African slaves were transported to the Spanish colony of Cuba. On primarily sugar plantations, African and Spanish cultures collided, creating a new identity: Afro-Cuban. This project utilizes a gendered lens to analyze trends in slave women's lives, particularly their roles in resisting slavery. Primary sources include the first Cuban historian's account of slavery, Cuban newspapers, white British and American travel accounts, and slave autobiographies. Thesis advisor: Eric Washington.

African & African Diaspora Studies Presentation:

Jordan Petersen, "Africa, World Music and the West." Is rhythm the only characteristic of African music? Is there even such as thing as "African music"? And what does "World Music" mean? In Western popular music these are three important factors at the heart of how the music industry interacts with other musical traditions. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing to the present day, Western pop culture has been fascinated with non-Western music. By looking at three music traditions from different regions of the African continent, this project aims to dispel the myth of a universal "African music," while also exploring the cultural ethics of Western music's interactions with non-Western music. Paper advisor: Eric Washington.


Wednesday, May 11
3:30 pm, Meeter Center Lecture Hall

End of Year Awards and Party

Join us for a time to celebrate. Awards will be presented to scholarship winners. Some of the scholarship donors will be in attendance, so scholorship winners are strongly encouraged to be there. After the awards, we'll enjoy games and food, including an ice cream sundae bar.


Past Events: Fall 2015 Events

Wednesday, September 23

3:30 pm, Alumni Board Room (Commons Annex)

"Border of Lights: Remembering the 1937 Haitian Massacre"

Edward Paulino (John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY)

In 1937, the Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, ordered the slaughter of as many as 20,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in an ethnic cleansing on the Dominican-Haitian border. Border of Lights invites artists, activists, teachers, students, parents, and clergy to gather together to honor a tragedy long forgotten in the annals of 20th century genocidal history and unknown to many people.

Edward Paulino will discuss the 1937 massacre and the efforts by Border of Lights to commemorate, collaborate, and continue the legacy of hope and justice. Paulino is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. His research interests include race; genocide; borders; nation-building; Latin America and the Caribbean; the African Diaspora; and New York State history.

This event is co-sponsored by AADS, French, History, Spanish, and ISDC in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.


Wednesday, October 21

3:30 pm, Alumni Board Room (Commons Annex)

"A Matter of Approach: The Making of New Netherland's History"

Nicholas Cunigan and Stephen Staggs (Calvin History Department)

Stephen Staggs completed his doctoral thesis on Native-Dutch relations in New Netherland. Nicholas Cunigan is completing his thesis on extreme weather and indigenous resistance in the Dutch Atlantic. Both are examining the relationship between Dutch colonists and indigenous peoples in New Netherland, but both utilize different historiographical approaches. Join us to hear more about their individual research, how the topics overlap, and how their differing approaches can offer new insight into the history of New Netherland.

Nicholas Cunigan and Stephen Staggs teach in the Calvin History Department.

Co-sponsored by the Frederik Meijer Chair in Dutch Language and Culture.


Wednesday, November 11

3:30 pm, Chapel Undercroft

"Purity, Patriarchy, and the First Wave of Christian Anti-Trafficking Activism"

Kristin Du Mez (Calvin History Department)

In recent years, churches and religious nonprofits have awakened to the plight of women and children caught up in human trafficking. But Christian anti-trafficking activism goes back nearly 150 years. This talk will explore the first wave of Christian anti-trafficking activism, and the way in which women like Katharine Bushnell, a leading anti-trafficking activist, understood that Christian theology itself needed to be reformed in order to provide the basis for true emancipation. And it will consider how lessons from the past might help the church refine its approach to global anti-trafficking efforts today.

Calvin history professor, Kristin Kobes Du Mez will speak from her recent book, A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism (OUP, 2015).

This event is co-sponsored by the Sexuality Series, History, and Gender Studies.


Thursday, December 3

3:30-6 pm, Chapel

ISIS, Terrorism & Refugees: A Teach In

Our hearts break with news of massacres in Paris and Beirut. We are inundated with stories of terror, violence, and hatred around the world. Refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries are desperate to find safe haven, while America and other nations struggle with how to respond. What's happening and how did we get here? And what can we do about it? We invite you to join us for a "teach in" -- a time of teaching, learning, and discussion.

Calvin faculty will give brief talks offering their expertise in response to the recent terrorist attacks, the threat of ISIS, and the refugee crisis. They will then form a panel to take questions and lead a discussion. Calvin students, faculty, staff and the wider community are invited to attend. This is a "teach in" rather than a formal lecture; attendees may come and go as they are able, and are warmly invited to ask questions and raise their concerns.

Topics include:

  • Bert de Vries (History & Archaeology): The Refugee Crisis in the Middle East
  • Doug Howard (History): ISIS and Regional Politics
  • Jason VanHorn (Geography): Mapping Terrorism
  • Frans van Liere (History & Medieval Studies): Is Islam a Violent Religion?
  • Joel Westra (Political Science): The Strategy of Terrorism

Sponsored by History, Medieval Studies, and the Middle East Club.

Watch a video recording of this event.


Wednesday, December 9

3:30 pm, History Department Lounge (HH 495)

History Department Christmas Party

Join us in celebrating Christmas and the end of the semester with a festive party featuring food, games, and a time to relax and socialize before exams. Details to follow, but expect a return of the traditional gingerbread cookie decorating.



Find out more about past events, including recordings and .PDFs of some presentations.

Join us on Wednesdays

History lectures are usually on third Wednesday of the month at 3:30 p.m. in the Meeter Center lecture hall, unless noted at left.

The final colloquium of the year is a special presentation by our graduating Honors students, who present the results of their year-long thesis research.

History colloquia are open to the Calvin community—
students, alumni, faculty, and friends—and all are encouraged to attend.

The Meeter Center lecture hall is on the third floor of Hekman Library, off the library lobby.

Come early to enjoy refreshments and conversation and to get a good seat.