Bertoti Conference

The Brian Bertoti Innovative Perspectives in History Graduate Research Conference

Since 1998 HGSA has organized a conference annually for graduates students in history from VT and from other MA and PhD programs. Our conference is an opportunity to share graduate research projects in a supportive, professional environment, and a chance to network with your future colleagues.

The conference is named after a former student who sparked interest among his peers to create a venue for public presentation of student research. Brian Bertoti died before planning for the first conference was completed. The conference name acknowledges his interest in studying the past and his commitment to sharing that study with others.

The conference is a major undertaking and all HGSA members play a role – hosting invited keynote speakers; inviting papers and creating conference panels; attending to local arrangements; advertising the events; and soliciting funds to cover conference expenses.


Our 24th Anniversary Conference:  March 19-20, 2021

We’re going virtual for our 24th anniversary conference! On March 19-20, 2021, we will host the Bertoti Conference via Zoom. Our conference is an opportunity for graduates and advanced undergraduates to share research projects in a supportive, professional environment and a chance to network with future colleagues. Our conference values interdisciplinary approaches to the past, and we invite proposals from historians and students in related disciplines whose work represents “innovative perspectives in history.” Presentations on any aspect of history, time period, or world region are welcome.

To RSVP to attend our conference and receive zoom links, please email Iris Swaney (irisms@vt.edu) or Jessica Brabble (jmbrabble@vt.edu)!

2021 Conference schedule of events

Friday, March 19, 2021
Virginia Tech Department of History Welcome
and Brian Bertoti Award……………………………………………………………………………. 11:45 am – 12:00 pm
Lunch Speaker: Dr. Lydia Kelow-Bennett………………………………………………………. 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
“Genealogies of Black Feminism in the Academy: Gathering, Naming, and Home Truths”
Session I………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Session II……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 3:15 pm – 4:45 pm
Keynote Address by Dr. Megan Kate Nelson……………………………………………… 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
“Thinking about Writing (and the Future): A Workshop”

Saturday, March 20, 2020
Session III………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Lunch Speaker: Dr. Matt D. Childs……………………………………………………………….. 12:15 pm – 1:15 pm
“An African City in the Americas: Reframing Colonial Havana as a West African Port City, (1762–1867)”
Session IV……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Session V……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 3:15 pm – 4:45 pm

SESSION ONE:
March 19, 1:30 – 3:00 pm

Persecution and Perseverance in the African American Community
Discussant: Dr. Lucien Holness
Moderators: Jessica Brabble & Savannah Lawhorne
Valencia Turner (Virginia Tech), “The Devil’s Half Acre: Lumpkin’s Slave Jail at the Shockoe Bottom Slave Market”
Caleb Smith (Tulane University), “Victory After The Empire Falls: Black Aluminum Workers and Two Decades Of Struggle For Promotions”
Kelsey Jennings Roggensack (Cornell University), “Canine Specters as Saviors: An Investigation of the Dog Ghost in African American Folklore”
Nick Anthony (Virginia Tech), “We Will Not Comply: Racial Implications of the Second Amendment”

Sex, Gender, & Evangelical Christianity
Discussant: Dr. Caroline Newhall
Moderators: Savannah Flanagan & Iris Swaney
Mary Stoudt (Ferrum College), “How the Spread of Evangelical Christianity Sparked A Social Movement in the Antebellum South”
Mary Gently (Rutgers University), “And Such Were Some of You:” Negotiating Evangelicalism and Same Sex Attraction
Elissa Branum (Rutgers University), Does Jesus Control Your Love Life? An Oral History of Elisabeth Elliot’s Role in U.S. Purity
Faith Skiles (Virginia Tech), “I would never set foot on American soil again”: Conversion, Space and Gender: American Women Missionaries in Korea

SESSION TWO:
March 19, 3:15 – 4:45 pm

New Histories of Military Institutions
Discussant: Dr. Glen Bugh
Moderators: Dylan Settle & Mary Culler
Paul Cook (Temple University), “Filling a Critical Need: Army National Guard Officer Candidate Schools, 1950-2020”
Cory Hollon (Temple University), “No Manner of Authority Over Me”: Bernard Romans, West Point, and Civil-Military Relations in the American Revolutionary War
Benjamin Olex (Virginia Tech), “We Were Superior in Practice:” Reassessing the Context of British Navy Signal Reform
Kimberly Shaw (George Mason University), The Department of Defense versus the House Armed Services Committee: Addressing the IED Threat during the Iraq War, 2003-2004

Bringing Women to Light Using Omeka
Discussant: Corinne Guimont

Moderators: Erica Blake & Janine Hubai

Janine Hubai (George Mason University), “Reproduction and Construction:” Bring Women to Light in Digital History and Traditional Scholarship
Caitlin Gale (George Mason University), “A Doctor, an Actress, Two Spies, and Franklin Thompson: Women Involvement in the Civil War”
Georgia Ferrell (George Mason University), “Not Passive Victims: Indigenous Women Responses to State-Sanctioned Violence in the 19th Century”
Laura Brannan (George Mason University), “Gendering the Runaways: Feminist Theories of Physical and Metaphorical Resistance”
Sarah Concepcion (George Mason University), “For the Sake of Southern Honor”: Gender, Memory and History through the Diaries of Mary Chesnut and Other Confederate Women.

SESSION THREE:
March 20, 10:00–11:30 am

Protest Music & Collective Memory
Discussant: Dr. Carmen Gitre
Moderators: Brad Kraft & Valencia Turner
Joy Pierce (American University), Egyptian Protest Music and the Arab Spring: A Historical Approach
Rebecca Mullins (University of North Carolina – Wilmington), Music as Protest and Memorialization: The Civil Rights Movement
Dina El-baradie (Georgetown University), In Retrospect: Collective Memory of the Military in Post-1952 Egypt
Shriya Patnaik (The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva), Shifting Modes of Collective Memory and Popular Culture in the Re-construction and Re-imagination of Mahari-Devadasis: A Critical Analysis of Gender, Subalternity and Human Rights Projects in 20th Century India

People, the Environment, & the Land
Discussant: Dr. Anna Zeide
Moderators: Noah Crawford & Erica Blake
Kamil Ahsan (Yale University), Constructing the Natural/Artificial Binary: Oil, Fishing & Artificial Reefs in the Gulf of Mexico
Clay Adkins (Virginia Tech), The Great Appalachian Flood of 1977 & Unit 18
Caitlin Sackrison (Brandeis University), Dakota Territory to Scandinavian-American Frontier: A Brief History of Land Dispossession, Scandinavian Settlement, and Women’s Property Rights in Southern Minnesota in the 19th Century
Jay Burkette (Virginia Tech), Historiography and Apocalypse: a Necessary Relationship?

Women’s Activism in Comparative Context
Discussant: Dr. Danna Agmon
Moderators: Mary Culler & Jessica Brabble
Iris Swaney (Virginia Tech), “Take Care of Your Neighbor”: The New River Valley’s Legacy of the Battered Women’s Movement
Montana Koslowski (George Washington University), Shaping the Revolution: The Role Egyptian and Tunisian Women Played in the 2011 Arab uprising
Ashley Wessel (University of South Florida), Continuing the Conversation on Jane Anger

SESSION FOUR
March 20, 1:30 – 3:00 pm

Reflections on Cold War Diplomacy
Discussant: Dr. Matt Heaton
Moderators: Derek Pearson & Clay Adkins
Dylan Settle (Virginia Tech), Checking the Chief Diplomat: The Role of Congress in the Sale and Transfer of Weapons Globally and the US-Israeli “Special Relationship”, 1977-1989
James Lee (Tufts University), The Carter Doctrine: the ‘Arc of Crisis’ and the Last Frontier of the Global Cold War
Mark Jeffrey Rothermel (University of North Carolina – Wilmington), A Distinction Without A Difference: Vietnam, Sir Robert Thompson, and the Policing Failures of Vietnam
Satgin Hamrah (Tufts University), Militant Islamists and the Cold War: Strategies of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Iran and its Long-Term Impact on Pakistan and the Middle East

Eugenics & Social Engineering at the Turn of the 20th Century
Discussant: Dr. Brett Shadle
Moderators: Savannah Lawhorne & Iris Swaney
Jessica Brabble (Virginia Tech), “Let Us See to it That They Enter the Race with No Handicap”: The Better Babies Bureau and North Carolina, 1913-1929
Katarina Andersen (Villanova University), Picturing Eugenics and Race Formation: State Performance of Social Control through Photography at Pennhurst State School and Hospital, 1908-1930
Constance Holden (University of Connecticut), Black Visibility and Whitened Modernity: Constructing Argentine Nationalism in Caras y Caretas, 1898-1910

Capitalism and the State in Historical Perspective
Discussant: Dr. Allan Lumba
Moderators: Valencia Turner & Kiana Wilkerson
Sydney Montoya (Virginia Tech), A Contested Empire: Fiscal Policy, Expansion, and Protest
Brain Sarginger (University of Maryland), We Look Forward to Seeing You Next Year: Shareholders, Institutions, Activists, and the Longest Annual Meeting in GM History
Kathryn Morgan (American University), The Soft Power of a Soft Drink: Pepsi and the Soviet Union in the Cold War

SESSION FIVE
March 20, 3:15 – 4:45 pm

Race & National Identity in Global Perspective
Discussant: Dr. Mohammed Pervaiz
Moderators: Alfonso Zavala & Brad Kraft
Noah Mulligan (Christopher Newport University), A Tangible Difference: Stephen Wise, Henry Morgenthau Sr., and American Humanitarianism during the Armenian Genocide
Sucharita Sen (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand), Heterogeneity and Hybridity of a Colonial Contact Zone The Anglo-Indian Household in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century British Indian Empire
Jian Gao (University of Texas), “My Heart is Longing So Much”: Transnational Family Letters in the Making of Chinese Mexicans, 1938-1950s
Noah Crawford (Virginia Tech), “A Matter of Increasing Perplexity”: How Refugees Experienced and Influenced the American Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley

Centering LGBTQ+ Narratives in the Late 20th Century
Discussant: Dr. Marian Mollin
Moderators: Kiana Wilkerson & Sydney Montoya
Abby Whitaker (Temple University), Bert & Ernie: The Closeted Curriculum of Sesame Street
Erin Kelly (James Madison University), Community in Print: A Case Study of What She Wants and the Cleveland Lesbian Feminist Community
Jason Romisher (Western University), Paula Grossman: The Life and Agency of a Transgendered Teacher and Activist

Conference Speakers

Megan Kate Nelson will deliver the keynote address on Friday, March 19. Her address, titled “History as Imagination: Dispatches from the Writing Life,” will discuss how to craft narrative histories and how to navigate historical work outside the academy.

Nelson is a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Her new book, The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West, will be published by Scribner in February 2020. This project was the recipient of a 2017 NEH Public Scholar Award and a Filson Historical Society Fellowship. Nelson is the author of two previous books: Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Georgia, 2012) and Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (Georgia, 2005).

She has also written about the Civil War, the U.S. West, and American culture for the New York Times, Washington Post, Smithsonian magazine, Preservation magazine, and Civil War Times. Her column on Civil War popular culture, “Stereoscope,” appears regularly in the Civil War Monitor.

Matt D. Childs, associate professor of history at the University of South Carolina, will deliver the luncheon address on Saturday, March 20. His address is titled  “An African City in the Americas: Reframing Colonial Havana as a West African Port City, (1762–1867).” In it he will explore how the culture, history, and identity that Africans brought with them to Cuba influenced their experiences under enslavement from the 1760s to 1860s.

Professor Childs is the author of The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery, which was a finalist for  the 2007 Frederick Douglass Book Prize and translated and published in Cuba in 2012. He has coedited with Toyin Falola The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World and The Changing Worlds of Atlantic Africa: Essays in Honor or Robin Law.

Childs served as an associate editor for the six-volume Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. With James Sidbury and Jorge Canizares-Esguerra he has coedited The Urban Black Atlantic during the Era of the Slave Trade. Professor Childs has published articles in The Journal of Latin American Studies, The Americas, The Historian, The History Workshop Journal, and the Latin American Research Review, among other journals.

Lydia Kelow-Bennett is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. She will deliver the luncheon address on Friday, March 19. Her areas of teaching and research interest include U.S. Black feminist thought, U.S. Black popular culture, and Black cultural studies. She is currently working on a book manuscript that critically examines Black feminist engagements with Black popular culture in the 21st century.

Dr. Kelow-Bennett has served on the Governing Council of the National Women’s Studies Association as Co-Chair of the Women of Color Caucus, and is currently on the Advisory Board of the Women of Color Leadership Project through NWSA. She is also trained as a doula, and cares deeply about reproductive justice and Black parental and infant health outcomes.

Brian Bertoti Award

Each year, HGSA acknowledges the best paper presented at the conference with the Brian Bertoti Award for Outstanding Historical Scholarship. To be considered for this award, participants must also submit their paper at presentation length (roughly 10 pages) to the Panels Committee by March 10, 2021. The paper selected for the best paper prize will represent exemplary scholarship, innovative methods, and unique perspectives in the historical discipline. Only graduate students are eligible for this award.