Thursday, March 28, 2019
Coffee and tea will be served.
Conference organizers: Tamar Carroll (Department of History) and Christine Kray (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)
Deborah Hughes, President & CEO, National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House
"They call her Pocahontas": Trump’s Abuse of Native American Women and Misuse of Historical Memory
Penelope Kelsey, University of Colorado–Boulder, English and Ethnic Studies
In 2017 while honoring several Navajo code talkers, Donald Trump stated that “I just want to thank you, because you are very, very special people, and you were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas. But you know what, I like you because you are special […] people.” In the background, a woman audibly informs Trump that his comments are “very offensive,” but he continues. This episode is one installment in an ongoing repartee with Senator Elizabeth Warren in which Trump has used his hallmark belligerence and name-calling to attempt to shut down the opposition, but Warren’s response established Trump was not successful, although the ensuing press conference allowed more time for false allegations to be made. For instance, in the press conference Sarah Huckabee Sanders alleged that Warren falsely claimed Native American heritage during the job application process at Harvard. The presence of Warren’s gr-gr-gr grandmother on the Cherokee Rolls disproves Sanders’ claim that Warren was lying about having Native heritage; further, the demand by former Senator Scott Brown that Warren take a DNA test also is moot, given this information may potentially be inaccurate and does not equate to “belonging” per se as per Kim Tallbear’s research (i.e., Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science).
One issue not discussed in the midst of this debacle is the policy of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the tribal nation in question given the rolls where Warren’s ancestor appears, which has asked Cherokee descendants who are not enrolled to not claim Cherokee identity, in order to prevent issues such as the one dramatized by the Warren-Trump standoff, including the establishment of Warren’s possession of genetic inheritance through a professional genealogist while seemingly failing to engage in day-to-day cultural practices of Cherokee-Delaware identity. Sadly, Trump manages to take the figure of the first missing Indigenous woman, Pocahontas, or Matoaka, who would have been about age 11 when she met John Smith, and invoke her memory as the ultimate slur to three elderly Diné veterans. The entire exchange is thus gendered and raced in highly problematic ways and clearly sets up a dynamic of authentic/inauthentic Indianness not just with Warren, but also along a masculine/feminine axis and a continuum of proximity to Europeans/Euroamericans. The code talkers truly are Trump’s “special” Indians, but no doubt they might feel some caution around being favored in that regard, especially in light of Trump’s longer history with Native Americans (i.e., Bears Ears, which the Navajo Nation lobbied with four other tribal nations to create, Department of the Interior, which Trump has incited to abridge the expression of tribal treaty rights on federal parks land and to lift protections of wildlife sacred to many tribes), immigrants at the border, and discriminatory housing practices in the 70s, amongst countless other examples of his implicit and explicit racism.
Enforcing Dominant Masculinities at our Borders
Jamie R. Abrams, University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law
This paper will explore how Donald Trump’s immigration laws and rhetoric mark a longstanding historical tradition of using immigration law as a means to enforce masculinities at our borders. In 2010, I published a work titled Enforcing Masculinities at the Border. This work concluded that masculinities theory offered an additional – even unifying – dimension to disparate and divergent immigration laws and policies. My prior publication concluded that, “our immigration laws and policies reinforce dominant masculinities at the border by excluding marginalized masculinities and admitting those who comport with dominant masculinity norms.”
Masculinities are distinctly a relational concept as institutions create masculinities and masculinities also construct institutions, rendering them keenly relevant to a thorough account of immigration law. Masculinities are fluid and characteristically dependent on the "other" to define itself, rendering it hard to capture and explore masculinities in isolation without its relational constructs. It is the framing of the "other" to define masculinities that positions masculinities theory as so informative to understanding immigration law. Likewise, our immigration laws explicitly and implicitly reflect a legal, political, and social framing of the "other," which, this Article reveals, aligns tightly with prevailing masculinities.
This prior article ended with a post-9-11 analysis. As we increasingly militarize our Southern border, as political movements call for the "taking back of our country," and as anti-immigrant violence and sentiment escalates to dangerous levels, deepening our understanding of immigration law's underpinnings in terms of masculinities is acutely important. Contemplating the unifying thread of dominant and marginalized masculinities underlying immigration law suggests a cautionary tale for modern immigration legal responses. This paper will update that thesis to show how Trump’s policies are part of a much larger and more worrisome historical reality about gender at the borders.
Prior to Trump’s election, masculinities sociologist Michael Kimmell wrote in Angry White Men that many American men have an “aggrieved entitlement.” Trump spoke uniquely to these men particularly who have masculinities anxieties about a perceived loss of dominance. He took the feelings of white men and “their sense of being left out, of being left behind, and linked it successfully to immigration,” immigrant men particularly. The idea of “Make American Great Again” restores subordinating hierarchies by race, national origin, and gender. He notably positioned immigrants as the cause of this feeling and immigrant exclusion as something that can fix that sense of marginalization.” He did so in ways that were squarely racist and nativist, but that distinctly deployed a masculinities narrative too. This masculinities rhetoric is quite pervasive and systemic to larger political concerns.
This paper will highlight what Trump’s America reveals about gender norms and white hegemonic masculinities. It will conclude that long after the travel ban and the separation of women and children at the border are historic relics, we may have nonetheless lost critical gains in the framing of gender norms in law and society. It will reveal more broadly how historical analysis of our nation’s immigration laws are deeply insightful about the status of social norms in our country.
 Jamie R. Abrams, Enforcing Masculinities at the Border, 13 Nevada L. J. 564, 565 (2013).
 Tom Jacobs, Masculinity in the Time of Trump, Pacific Standard (Oct. 20, 2016), https://psmag.com/news/masculinity-in-the-time-of-trump.
 Barbara Ellen Smith, Intervention – “The Trump Effect? Whiteness, Masculinity, and Working-Class Lives, AntipodeFoundationorg.
The Personal is Political: Lillian Wald’s Public Health and Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Movements in the United States
Hannah Greene, New York University, Skirball Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Healthcare and women’s reproductive rights consistently inspire fierce debate. Whether women are entitled to personal bodily autonomy, or whether the state may intervene to regulate their bodies persists as a hot-button issue. So too is the dispute over who deserves healthcare, of what kind, and under what conditions. Whether one points to the perpetual Republican effort to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act, the political flashpoint of Roe v. Wade in Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, or the leaked draft from the Trump administration that would preclude documented immigrants from accessing public benefits including healthcare, matters of public health and birth control consistently emerge as contentious issues that the right wing in particular manipulates rhetorically for political ends.
Absent from this heated debate, however, are the origins of the public health and birth control movements, particularly that we have daughters of immigrants to thank for them. Lillian Wald and Margaret Sanger, both first-generation Americans born in upstate New York, respectively founded these fields in the early twentieth century. When Sanger enters the annals of the media today, her association with eugenics frequently takes center stage. While true, narratives often fail to contextualize her engagement with it historically and philosophically in her overarching interest in improving the lot of working-class families and women’s status. Wald, conversely, has largely faded from popular memory, entering it primarily as a one-dimensional figure without consideration of how her Jewishness, generation of migration, and probable queerness inflected her work.
Wald and Sanger negotiated their family’s immigrant pasts as they entered and professionalized novel facets of medicine through their work in poor immigrant enclaves of New York City. In the process, they navigated their religio-ethnic backgrounds, Jewishness in Wald’s case and Irish Catholicism in Sanger’s, in pioneering public health and birth control. Their guiding aim of extending quality and accessible healthcare—particularly to women and children—across religious, ethnic, and economic divides remained central to their endeavors. Speaking to the interconnection of public health and women’s reproductive rights, the two women’s paths crossed in intimate ways. Sanger, receiving her start working for Wald as a visiting nurse to immigrant families, recounted her famous epiphany of the suffering that women’s captivity to their reproductive systems caused and her according determination to treat the cause of their poverty, sickness, and untimely deaths. Wald, professionalizing public health nursing and advocating for rationalization and reforms on the state and local levels, personally supported Sanger’s birth control movement and officially advocated for the use of contraception for married women. In their capacity as Progressive Era reformers, Wald and Sanger brought their medical knowledge and professional positions to bear on policy pertaining to healthcare.
Situating the contemporary discourse surrounding healthcare reform and reproductive rights within its historical provenance nuances reductive debate that places these issues in a vacuum. My presentation will explore the intersectional grounding of and motivations for the public health and birth control movements, against the backdrop of the biographies of the women responsible for them.
The Myth of Immigrant Criminality: Early Twentieth-Century Sociological Theory and Trump’s Campaign
O. Nicholas Robertson, Rochester Institute of Technology, Criminal Justice
During Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, he mobilized fallacious racist/nativist claims that immigrants – and in particular Mexican immigrants – have a propensity toward criminality beyond that of native-born Americans, and are a threat to American’s personal safety and national security, and how vowed to stem the tide of criminal immigrants. These claims were effective among many voters, especially white voters, because they promised the reestablishment of white supremacy at a time when whites will soon no longer constitute the majority and when many confront inequality and economic precariousness in a neoliberal economic order. This paper examines Trump’s statements regarding immigrant criminality, his proposals regarding border security, sociological theory regarding the immigration-crime relationship, and how the statistical data belie a link between immigration and crime.
The Trump Administration as the New Third Reich in the Public Imagination
Jazmine Contreras, University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, History
There are few periods in history that remain as prominent in the public imagination as the Second World War and the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. From film and literature to media discourse and Holocaust tourism, there are a myriad of ways the events of the Second World War have been presented, dissected, and repackaged for public consumption. In the Age of Trump, the tactics and policies carried out by Hitler and the Third Reich have been cast as inspiration for the current administration’s immigration policies. Media pundits, politicians, academics, and even ordinary citizens have evoked Nazi Germany when discussing Trump’s public persona, the administration’s stance on immigration from Central America and the Middle East, and welfare. There is something to be said about this new phenomenon and the conviction behind accusations that the Trump Administration is reproducing Nazi German society right here in America. My paper examines the merits and dangers of drawing parallels between the current administration and the Third Reich. Beyond evoking an emotionally charged response, what does the comparison accomplish? And does it in any way distract from the public’s understanding of the policies that are being enacted? Is it possible to enter into a discussion that does not diminish the widespread violence and destruction caused by Nazism but still acknowledges the ways in which American immigration policy borrows from the Third Reich and the other genocidal regimes that followed? My paper explores the comparisons made between the Trump administration and the Third Reich on social media and more traditional news outlets to identify the types of claims made about these two periods and analyze at which moments Trump’s policies have aligned closely with those of the Third Reich. Using concepts such as cosmopolitan memory, my paper argues that our tendency to rely on the Holocaust and Second World War as historical focal points has less to do with real engagement and more to do with projecting American adherence to the narrative of ‘Never Again’. It also serves as a distraction from understanding the ways in which many of Trump’s ideas are not exported from abroad but rather rooted in our own history. Ultimately, my paper seeks to investigate why Nazism and the Holocaust remain such significant themes in our historical memory.
Honest Abe and America’s First “America First” Movement: The Hollywood Biopic as WWII Propaganda
Brian J. Snee, Manhattanville College, Communication and Media
This presentation offers an analysis of two popular but misunderstood classic Hollywood films: Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940). Although each of these films is well known and widely admired as a presidential biopic from the golden era of Hollywood, largely forgotten is the fact that each film was an intentional act of political propaganda. In the late 1930s, as Hitler and the Nazis marched across Europe, and as FDR mulled a run for an unprecedented 3rd term in the White House, Americans were deeply divided about the war in Europe. Isolationists were determined to keep the country out of another world war, while interventionists felt an obligation to help their allies in Europe and/or a desire to stop Hitler before he could get any closer to the US. It was within this dramatic and complex political context that not one but two artists – a conservative producer in Hollywood (Darryl F. Zanuck) and a liberal playwright in New York (Robert E. Sherwood) – each decided to make a film about young Abe Lincoln. And each film would be made to accomplish one goal: to influence US public opinion, albeit in strikingly different ways, on the question of whether to enter WWII. This presentation will analyze the use (abuse?) of American history as rhetorical arguments about isolationism set forth in each film, and it will contextualize these representations of American history within the late-1930s “America First” movement.
Did Redefining “In the Public Interest” Communication Policy and Law Make the Trump Era Inevitable?
Bob Shea, Rochester Institute of Technology, Communication
Much continues to be written and debated about American news media’s role in the 2016 presidential election. Biased coverage for and against Hillary Clinton. Lack of coverage for the Sanders campaign versus saturation coverage of Trump in both the primaries and the presidential campaign against Clinton. Trump’s election was a surprise or a done deal depending on which news media sources and social media platforms you followed.
My proposed conference paper and presentation will explore how American political policies and law along with advancing technology has led to a significant reframing of what historically has defined the public interest in the nation’s mass media. A major outcome of those changes —media ownership consolidation — predates the 2016 election but arguably contributed to why the so-called Trump era has emerged as well as implications for future societal impact.
For example, elements of that change began decades ago with the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s. That legislation and its requirements represented one implementation of media policy that defined the public interest for broadcast ownership. The 1996 Telecommunications Act promoted by the Clinton Administration as expanding the media marketplace followed it. More recently the enactment of then repeal of Net Neutrality brings the public interest question fully into today’s digital media sphere.
These examples are initial evidence of how both political parties have worked to reframe the media’s historical public interest role in a democracy; a role whose roots are in the US Constitution’s First Amendment. My focus will be primarily on the modern media era beginning with the Radio Act and creation of the FCC in 1934, with examples of the social and political movements reflected in those actions. I will also probe how access to information or lack thereof possibly affects Americans’ political participation.
This paper and presentation will investigate how today’s mass media influence, perhaps more than ever before in American history, has been shaped and consolidated in a way that raises new questions about the media’s perceived journalism role and ability to be “speaking truth to power” in the era of Trump.
I will be using a range of sources such as: Frank, T. (2001) One Market Under God. New York, NY: First Anchor Edition, Random House. Wolin, S. (2008) Democracy, Inc.; Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, and Hochschild, A.R. (2018) Strangers In Their Own Land. New York, NY. The New Press.
Trump and the Re-Framing of the Long Twentieth Century in U.S. History
Sean Cosgrove, Cornell University, History
This paper argues that the election of Donald Trump offers up an important opportunity to reframe the long twentieth century of American history by disrupting progress narratives of racial and social uplift that dominate particularly student understandings of the period. By offering up the “spectre” of Trump in our classrooms---an historical analysis of the cultural scripts and legacies that made Trump possible rather than an explicit analysis of the individual or recent election---we can engage emerging histories of violence to challenge these progress narratives in our teaching and to make new connections across historical subfields that reshape the historiographical boundaries demarcating the twentieth century.
Arising from the 2016 “Trump 2.0” syllabus featured on The Chronicle of Higher Education this paper takes teaching seriously as a form of scholarship with historiographical implications. An undergraduate seminar I taught on the History of Violence in Spring 2018 argued for a new periodization of twentieth-century U.S. history enabling students to better grapple with enduring legacies and present incarnations of violent ideologies and behaviors. Students were asked primarily to write op-eds or feature articles making an original claim about the present moment without taking Trump as the explicit subject. Through this writing students necessarily reckoned with the centrality of violence to the history of twentieth-century America. Constructing a narrative arc that holds violence as a central pillar of US history not only disavows easily digestible narratives of uplift for students but also better equips historians to incorporate recognizable and newly invigorated symbols of white supremacy into future histories ensuring that neither these insidious aspects of American history nor the Trump administration’s role in their resurgence will be sidelined as aberrations or fads at the beginning or the edge of an otherwise upward-looking narrative.
Grand Rapids Conservatism: Amway and the American Right in the North
Davor Mondom, Syracuse University, History
Donald Trump’s success in carrying Rust Belt states like Ohio and Michigan in 2016, along with the election — and reelection — of hard-right governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Paul LePage in Maine in years prior, point to the need to explore the long history of conservatism in the North. Historians of conservatism have, for obvious reasons, focused tremendously on modern conservatism’s origins in the South. In more recent years, attention has shifted to the West and Southwest. Meanwhile, apart from a handful of works published in the last few years, the North remains relatively understudied.
This paper examines Northern conservatism through the lens of Amway. Founded in 1959 by Grand Rapids, Michigan natives Richard DeVos and Jay Van Andel and headquartered in the nearby town of Ada, Amway is one of the largest direct sales companies in the world. Amway sells a wide array of goods — originally household cleaning products, but now also nutritional supplements and cosmetics, among many others — through individual distributors, who market the products to those in their own social circles. According to Forbes, the company earned approximately $8.8 billion in revenue in 2016, making it number thirty-five on its list of “America’s Largest Private Companies.” The DeVos and Van Andel families have used Amway’s success to become kingmakers on the American Right. Over the past four decades, they have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party, Republican candidates for office, and various conservative think tanks and advocacy groups. In 2006, Dick DeVos, Richard DeVos’s son, ran as the Republican candidate for governor of Michigan against Jennifer Granholm and lost. And in November 2016, Betsy DeVos, Dick DeVos’s wife and a longtime proponent of charter schools and vouchers, became President Trump’s Secretary of Education.
The political conservatism of the DeVos and Van Andel families was forged in Grand Rapids. Often overshadowed by the Democratic, relatively more liberal politics of Detroit, Grand Rapids — and western Michigan more broadly — has been reliably conservative for a number of decades. A key reason has been the region’s Dutch-American community, from which DeVos and Van Andel both hailed. Beginning in the mid-1800s, large numbers of Dutch immigrants arrived and settled in western Michigan, bringing with them a rigorous brand of Calvinism. Dutch Calvinism provided a theological justification for limited government while also acting as a cudgel against progressive forces in the area, particularly organized labor. Grand Rapids helped give rise to powerful hard-right families like the DeVoses and the Van Andels, who have used the wealth accrued from their business to influence both the ideological orientation of Republican politics as well as government policy at the state and national levels. The example of Grand Rapids compels us to consider Northern conservatism as a force in its own right, and for bringing it into greater parity with the South and West.
Included for conference registrants
One Hundred Years of Campaign Imagery: From Woman Suffrage Postcards to Hillary Clinton Memes
Ana Stevenson, University of the Free State (South Africa), International Studies
The celebration of Susan B. Anthony and other suffrage pioneers on the women’s suffrage postcards of the 1910s anticipated the prominent memorialization of suffragists in the 2016 presidential campaign. Many scholars suggest that postcards, a vastly popular mode of communication which emerged at the turn of the twentieth century, foreshadowed the ephemeral nature of meme sharing on the internet. The women’s suffrage postcards of the 1910s and the Hillary Clinton memes of the 2010s offer the opportunity to analyze campaign cartooning in the United States across 100 years.
During the 1910s, publisher J.E. Hale circulated a pro-suffrage postcard featuring what has been described as Anthony’s motto, “Failure is Impossible.” In 2016, the Clinton campaign – similarly perceiving failure to be impossible – positioned her candidacy in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment in 2020. Channeling the women’s suffrage parades of the 1910s, which were themselves commemorated on pro-suffrage postcards, the pro-Clinton media compared her white pantsuits to the white neo-classical dresses of the suffragists. Simultaneously, however, the prominence of suffrage imagery within the Clinton campaign inadvertently recalled how her shortcomings echoed that of the early-twentieth-century women’s suffrage movement.
Visual similarities also emerge between pro- and anti-suffrage postcards and pro- and anti-Clinton memes. Digital analyses provide insight into these resonances. For example, women’s suffrage postcards had stark disparities based on coloration: while pro-suffrage postcards were largely printed in greyscale with little color, anti-suffrage postcards were often more colorful and therefore eye-catching. Broadly speaking, the messages on pro-suffrage postcards tended to be moralizing, whereas anti-suffrage postcards successfully managed to mobilize an irreverent variety of misogynistic humor. Combined, these strategies rendered anti-suffrage postcards more fun and appealing than their pro-suffrage counterparts. The tendencies pioneered in pro- and anti-suffrage postcards can be observed in many of the pro- and anti-Clinton memes from the 2016 presidential campaign.
Using a new digital postcard archive, The Suffrage Postcard Project (est. 2015), alongside digital archives of Clinton memes such as Texts from Hillary (est. 2012) and prominent online listicles, this chapter analyzes the consistencies and differences between women’s suffrage postcards and Hillary Clinton memes. In doing so, it examines the limitations of invoking the women’s suffrage movement for the Clinton campaign. In its analysis of how coloration and text-based messages were used to deliver humorous messages, of both a feminist and anti-feminist variety, this chapter tentatively suggests strategies for promoting a feminist message in political ephemeral for future women in politics.
Please Put Stickers on Shirley Chisholm’s Grave: Assessing the Legacy of a Black Feminist Pioneer
Barbara Winslow, Professor Emerita, Brooklyn College, History; The Shirley Chisholm Project of Brooklyn Women’s Activism, Founder and Director Emerita
The 2016 election was notable as the first time a woman ran for the US presidency as nominated by a major political party. This “first” was upended by the campaign and election of Donald Trump, an unending spectacle of misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, bullying, and the most venal nationalistic chest thumping. As the Democratic Party candidate, trying to break “that highest glass ceiling,” Hillary Clinton was subjected to endless and baseless attacks on her character, honesty, and commitment to the democratic process, expectedly from the right, and surprisingly from the left. Whatever one makes of her campaign, there should be little doubt that race and misogyny (along with her own mistakes, voter suppression, FBI Director Comey’s report, Russian hacking, and 30 years of character assassination), played major roles in her electoral defeat.
Clinton paid tribute to Shirley Chisholm after she won the Democratic Party nomination, and she may have understood that the similarities in their campaign experiences went deeper than gender and party affiliation. Indeed, Clinton was not the first woman to have endured vicious racial, class and gender attacks while trying to make a presidential run. In 1972, Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, mounted a campaign for the Democratic nomination for the US presidency. In her career as an elected official, in the Albany state legislature and then following her election to Congress in 1968, she was ignored, mocked, slandered, not only by whites, but also by many African Americans, mainly men, who apparently had internalized racist misogyny. Until the 2016 presidential election, probably no other candidate has been subjected to the type of vicious smear attacks as Chisholm, when then-President Richard Nixon’s ‘tricksters’ sent out a phony press release accusing Chisholm of being a “transvestite,” mentally ill, and unusually preoccupied with urine and feces that they alleged she smeared on the walls of her home.
Such gender-based slander is part of the price that ambitious political women must pay, especially if and when they are to be firsts. And often, these pioneering women are not supported by their expected allies – Chisholm, not having support from male African American civil rights leaders, Clinton losing support from white, suburban, college-educated women.
This chapter theorizes feminism, racism, and misogyny in the context of Chisholm’s 1972 campaign, the 2008 Clinton/Obama primary race, and the 2016 presidential race. While white women and African American men claimed in 1972 that they wanted to overthrow white, patriarchal, and class hegemony, they could not bring themselves to support the very person who exemplified that stated goal. Then, in the 2008 primary contest, Chisholm, whose persona and campaign were the embodiments of intersectionality, was ignored, as the media and public intellectuals chose to focus on the so-called competition between white women and black men. (The NY Times Sunday editorial pictured Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass.) Nor did disregard for women of color end in 2106. For example, during the 2016 presidential election, Clinton supporters went to Susan B. Anthony’s grave as a place of pilgrimage; women of color paid homage at the graves of Sojourner Truth (as did Shirley Chisholm in 1972), Harriet Tubman, and Ida B. Wells – also suffragists.
“When they go low, we go high”: African American Women Torchbearers for Democracy and the 2016 Democratic National Convention
Delia C. Gillis, University of Central Missouri, History and Africana Studies
The 2016 presidential election will no doubt stand as one of the most important and polarizing in our nation’s history. An election blurring the lines between the acceptable and unacceptable, it was also one in which voters saw no easy choice in their support of candidates from both major parties. An election cycle marked by endless drama regarding e-mails, cyber-hacking, and inflammatory comments on race, religion, and ethnicity, a central issue and one that has come into sharper focus now that the election is over is the “woman card”. Despite speculations that women would vote along gender lines, female voters in the 2016 election proved otherwise. Many presumed Donald Trump’s scathing attacks on women in the form of comments about their looks, sexual histories, and revelation that he could “do anything” to them, even “grab them by the pussy” would derail his chances at the presidency. They were wrong.
For many, Trump’s insults and locker-room talk did not to matter enough to outweigh Clinton’s recurring e-mail problems and political baggage. While Clinton’s unpopularity with white working-class male voters was no surprise, many were shocked to find that a majority of white women did not vote for her either. However, Clinton had strong support from many women, especially women of color and more specifically, African American women who were among her most loyal supporters.
In the post-Civil War era, African American women embraced their role in politics long before they gained formal access to the franchise. In cities across the South, they attended political meetings, organized political societies, raised funds, and encouraged their men to vote. Black women understood that gaining respect for themselves and their community revolved around showing the world their personal was political. Their understanding of freedom as collective and community centered coalesced around a shared set of values including integrity and inclusiveness. These values influenced black women leaders of the Democratic Party, making them the right choice to lead the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on behalf of the first female presidential nominee of a major party.
With key leadership roles during the campaign and at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), African American women would later vote for Hillary Clinton in larger numbers than any other group in the 2016 election. As delegates, super delegates, party officials, and voters, black women organized the convention around Clinton’s slogan of “stronger together” assembling a diversity of speakers to reflect upon the nation’s most pressing issues.
By examining black female turnout for Hillary Clinton, this essay will address why black women chose to be “with her” when so many others did not? How did their support for Clinton shape the tone of her message during the DNC? Highlighting the roles of Marcia Fudge, Leah Daughtry and Donna Brazile, the essay will explore how their work coalesced around Clinton’s historic nomination through their organization and operation of the DNC. It will also analyze black women’s responses at the DNC to the election’s lack of civil discourse (i.e. the remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama). Thus, by evaluating the pivotal role of black women in support of Hillary during the convention and at the polls, the essay will address the effect this vision stands to have on future campaigns.
 Kevin Drum, “Trump on Tape: “Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Mother Jones, October 7, 2016, accessed January 12, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/10/trump-tape-%E2%80%9Cgrab-them-pussy-you-can-do-anything%E2%80%9D.
 Clare Foran, “Women Aren’t Responsible for Hillary Clinton’s Defeat,” The Atlantic, November 13, 2016, accessed January 12, 2017, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/hillary-clinton-white-women-vote/507422/.
 Elsa Barkley Brown, “The Labor of Politics,” in Major Problems in African-American History Volume II From Freedom to “Freedom Now,” 1865-1990s, eds. Thomas Holt and Elsa Barkley Brown (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 75 and 80.
Groping in the Dark: Mothers of Transgender Children in the Age of Trump
Sally Campbell Galman, University of Massachusetts–Amherst, Child and Family Studies
This chapter draws upon data from an ongoing ethnographic study of young transgender children and their families collected in the context of the 2016 US presidential election. The election outcome fomented a radical disruption in the basic experiences and perceptions of participant children and their families; In particular, it created a change in how they saw themselves and their movement’s historical trajectory. Prior to the election, families and children alike drew from the discourses of the LGBTQ, Women’s and Civil Rights movements, emphasizing pride, visibility, and human rights, and appealing to an American progressive moral compass. However, when Donald Trump won the election, parents and children scaled back the discourse of pride and connections to progressive movements, replacing these with frantic attempts at survival and safety and making comparisons --both tongue-in-cheek as well as deadly serious--between themselves and Europeans as Nazism spread across the continent. “I don’t know what to do, but I feel like time is running out,” said one mother. “What if this is Vienna?” The 2016 US election cycle was unprecedented in its vitriol and salacious content, however many transgender children and their families perceived that they were uniquely vulnerable and addressed this by speaking candidly with their transgender children during the election, both to explain and to dampen violent rhetoric. After the Trump victory, the families in the study found themselves in a difficult position. In addition to assuaging their children’s fears, parents described being torn between two different tasks in the election’s immediate aftermath: remaining calm for terrified children and projecting normalcy, while also being thrown into frantic activity. In interviews, mothers in particular felt intense responsibility to ‘save’ their children, as if they were responsible for the ultimate outcomes of the unthinkable political reality. “If I don’t do the right thing,” one mother said, “my child could be in danger. But I don’t know what the right thing is. It seemed like just yesterday everything was going to be okay and now we are groping in the dark.”
Borders, Nationalism and the Construction of the Other: Lessons from the Partition of India. Screening of "A Thin Wall."
Mara Ahmed, Independent filmmaker, Neelum Films
The idea of borders and the sovereign independence they promise can be appealing at times of economic stagnation and accelerated global migration. Nationalism can be turned into a rallying cry to close borders and homogenize political communities, when it is activated by conservatism and when the movement of people is decoupled from the destabilizing effects of free capital flows (the other side of globalization) and endless wars. This is apparent in the rise of Europe’s far-right parties, the racist tenor of the campaign for Brexit in the UK, and Trump’s ascension to power in the US. This session will confront nationalism by using the partition of India in 1947 as a template. The director will show her film, “A Thin Wall,” and lead a discussion of how it hints at perils in current nationalist developments.
Ahmed’s work is informed by Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities - the liberatory potential of nationalism for the colonized, but also its relative novelty and the invention of the nation as a “deep, horizontal comradeship.” National identity is the myth that built the modern world and predisposed it to dictatorships, racism and genocide. Rob Nixon’s essay “Of Balkans and Bantustans: Ethnic Cleansing and the Crisis in National Legitimation” helps articulate the importance of homogeneity, the very justification for the creation of the nation state, and its enforcement through brutality. The filmmaker will provide a short summary of the colonial context within which the partition of India took place will be followed by a recap of Rabindranath Tagore’s distrust of Western-style nationalism and its imbrication with capitalism. The imposition of borders in South Asia triggered mass violence and exacerbated the persecution of minorities. The filmmaker also asks the audience to consider how art and film can be used to subvert divisions. Rather than envisage borders as protecting territorial integrity, we may consider them as molds that produce particular kinds of subjects, placing them in power relations with one another, and creating hierarchies. In place of impassable, rigid borders, we may consider alternative ideas of cultural alterity in a shrinking world, and Edouard Glissant’s poetics of diversity such that feeling fragile becomes a mark of lucidity and the principle of uncertainty becomes desirable.
Commemoration and Contestation: Anthony, Douglass, Clinton, and Obama
Michael J. Brown, Rochester Institute of Technology, History
The frequent pairing in popular memory of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass as “friends for freedom” (the title of a recent children’s book about the two) is highly visible in the city they shared for several years: Rochester, NY. This commemorative pairing obscures the rupture within their friendship and their broader reform coalition over the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted black men but no women the right to vote. Douglass supported the amendment, while Anthony and other advocates for woman suffrage opposed it on the grounds that it enshrined a specifically male conception of suffrage in the Constitution. These “friends for freedom” were divided by a political culture that denied their fundamental civil rights and afforded precious few opportunities for progressive reform. Black men’s and white women’s political advancement appeared to be possible only sequentially but not concurrently—a view that pushed the intersectionality of race and gender for black women to the periphery.
Anthony, Douglass, and a contested rather than commemorative approach to the political achievements of American women and African Americans were rekindled by the 2008 Democratic primary, in which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama vied for their party’s presidential nomination. Commentators invoked the rupture between Anthony and Douglass to frame the contest between Clinton and Obama. The progressive narrative that either of them winning the nomination would mark a historic breakthrough sat uneasily alongside the fact that victory for one meant that breaking through for the other would have to wait—but how long? With the support of President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton mounted what appeared on track to be a winning campaign for the presidency in 2016. On Election Day, however, it became clear that the arrival of women’s hour for the presidency, like the arrival of women’s hour for national suffrage rights a century and a half earlier, would have to wait.
The story of Douglass and Anthony, like the 2016 election itself, challenges the notion that progress toward racial and gender equality in the United States is linear, steady, or inevitable. Progressive political coalitions are similarly contingent. How might public memory in a place like Rochester—at the center of the commemorative Douglass-Anthony pairing—pivot to address an ambiguous, unresolved story about race, gender, and American politics?
Dressing Up for a Campaign: Hillary Clinton, Suffragists, and the Politics of Fashion
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Case Western Reserve University, History
Contrary to popular opinion, fashion and appearance are not frivolous matters but are fraught with political meanings. During the campaign for women’s suffrage, and especially in its last stages before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, suffragists utilized all kinds of theatrical and spectacular tactics—from outdoor gatherings, colorful parades, theatrical pageantry, and picketing—that pushed the issue of women’s rights to the forefront of popular imagination and debates. Clothing and appearance became instrumental to these efforts. Through their careful attention to appearance, and by using attire in creative ways, suffragists turned fashion into a political strategy to refute popular derogatory images of women activists that portrayed them as masculine and unattractive. By dressing in feminine and fashionable styles, suffragists presented their respectability as women and their worthiness as voters. Understanding that not only the content of the message matters, but also how you deliver it, suffragists used fashion to shape and transform their image, constructing a new political presence in the public sphere.
While for suffragists, cultivating a fashionable appearance became a strategy to advance their political agendas, to garner public support, and to transform the urban landscape as a site of visual politics, fashion also played an important, and similar role in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election campaign. Her use of clothing, makeup, and jewelry, all serve to present a role model for a woman politician while also conveying her political agenda in sophisticated ways. Capitalizing on the fashionable legacies of the suffrage movement, Clinton in her sartorial choices constructed an image that both situated her as continuing these legacies and as breaking new grounds. Also challenging notions regarding women’s place in politics, Clinton’s fashion choices became more than just an individual expression of her political message, but an inspiration and empowering force for millions of women, leading to the creation of online communities such as Pantsuit Nation.
Whereas scholars rarely consider fashion as a feminist political means, this essay, by examining the politics of fashion as they manifested in both the women’s suffrage and the 2016 election campaigns, asks to reconsider the political meaning of fashion statements and their role in political campaigns. Taking into account both the symbolic meaning of clothes, seeing them as a form of communication, and the material aspects of clothing, this essay argues that fashion, far from being oppressive, has become a pivotal tactic in popularizing feminist ideas and in pushing feminist agendas to the forefront. Looking at the connections between Clinton’s sartorial appearance and the use of fashion in the suffrage campaign, this essay points to the long trajectory of the multiple ways in which women have used clothing to convey their political message and to fashion a political image.
A Renaissance of Feminist Ritual: Susan B. Anthony's Gravesite on Election Day
Christine A. Kray, Rochester Institute of Technology, Anthropology
Ritual performances at the gravesite of Susan B. Anthony on Election Day 2016 gave testament to a resurgence of feminist identity in the United States. Ritual is a powerful form of human action, drawing upon the sacredness of past traditions and symbols as participants make public proclamations about the self and the collectivity, the present and the future. The collective, symbolic actions of gravesite visitors demonstrated a strong impulse to make manifest---physically and publicly---strong interior sentiments of feminist identity and will.
On election days in Rochester, New York, women have long visited the grave of Susan B. Anthony, expressing gratitude to the woman who was never granted the right to vote yet devoted her life’s work to securing that right for others. The number of gravesite visitors had always been small, until 2016. Social media helped grow the ritual practice as, in 2014, two gravesite visitors affixed their “I Voted” stickers to her grave stone and the photo was shared on Facebook. On Election Day in 2016, an estimated 8,000 people stood in line for up to two hours to pay their respects at her grave, leaving their stickers, flowers, letters, a copy of the U.S. Constitution, and other tokens. Many visitors dressed in white, honoring the suffragists. Live video streaming on social media allowed international audiences to witness the festive occasion.
Interviews at the gravesite revealed dual motivations on the part of visitors, including excitement about voting for the first female president (as Clinton was expected to win) and a motivation to thwart Donald Trump, who was generally viewed as a threat to women’s rights, status, and security. Additional post-election interviews with people who had visited the gravesite on Election Day uncovered shock, depression, and fear about what Trump’s victory would mean for women, girls, LGBTQ people, and civil rights in the United States. Nonetheless, the spontaneous ritual performances at the gravesite on Election Day were recognized by visitors as an indication of a strong collective sentiment in favor of women’s equality; the gathering made them proud of their upstate New York community and gave them courage for what they sensed would be a long civil rights struggle to come.
The spontaneous ritual performance at Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite is one instance of a groundswell of public symbolic political performance. Even while political action in 2016 was dominated by social media, public gatherings and symbolic performances of political sentiments were recognized as critical in the civil rights movement that is taking shape. The Women’s March on Washington scheduled for January 21 and the solidarity marches slated to take place in all fifty states and several foreign nations are indicative of the way in which public performances have taken on new meaning and urgency following Trump’s victory. Just down the road from Rochester, the Women’s March in Seneca Falls, New York, on January 21, drew upon the same symbolic historical repertoire as the Susan B. Anthony gravesite rituals. Seneca Falls was, in 1848, the site of the first conference for women’s rights, and marchers are encouraged to wear the colors of the suffragists (white, purple, and gold). The march began at the location of the 1848 conference and end at the First Presbyterian Church where, in 1923, Alice Paul called for what later became known as the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.
Social media and public ritual performance are twin tools in the emerging civil rights struggle, as photos and video from public symbolic performances provide the content that is spread on social media to inspire, galvanize, and agitate. The visual symbols of the historical women’s rights movement are easily recognizable and allow participants to publicly identify themselves with those figures and embolden themselves as they proclaim equal rights. In the context of symbolic performance, the recognizability of the historic figures within a swirl of social media images becomes paramount. The historic figures are transformed into symbols, and participants may be unaware of controversial details of their legacies. And yet, performative deployment of those symbols sends out unintended messages to those who remember the controversies. The ritual activities around Susan B. Anthony in 2016 have rekindled debate about whether she was right to oppose the 15th Amendment (which extended suffrage to African-American men) on the grounds that suffrage should have been extended to women simultaneously, and in January 2017, public memories of her position destabilized political collaboration between white women who invoke her memory and women of color.
Amnesia and Politics in the Mount Hope Cemetery: Toward a Critical History of Race and Gender
Katie Terezakis, Rochester Institute of Technology, Philosophy
When news of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women first broke in October 2016, social media seemed to register a popular shift against his candidacy. But why only then, some commenters wondered, when Trump’s racism was displayed throughout his campaign? With his avowal of racist institutions and his coded as well as openly racist talk, with enthused support for Trump coming from the KKK and other hate groups, and with the harassment and killing of blacks by police nearly constantly in the 2016 news, how was it that Trump’s comments about grabbing white women, recorded a decade earlier, provoked such markedly increased outrage? When exit poll data suggested that 52% of white women (and 63% of white men) voted for Trump after all, many black commentators expressed concern, but not the shock that wracked white liberals.
In this essay, I analyze the “I Voted” ritual at the gravesite of Susan B. Anthony as an active microcosm of the ideological strains in Hillary Clinton’s historic presidential bid and loss to Trump. In particular, I take the line of flight (Deleuze) between Anthony’s grave and that of Frederick Douglass as a continual, virtual reconstruction. I argue that Douglass and Anthony’s relationship helps to illustrate key tensions still animating intersectional (Crenshaw) and interstitial (Eisenman, Sheth) feminism, but that we erase precisely what makes their relationship so instructive by embracing now-standard portrayals of Anthony’s heroism and of Anthony and Douglas’s friendship (Butler, Frankowski). The surface line of flight between Anthony and Douglass disavows Anthony’s racism and the racism of most white suffragists by dismissing it as in inessential relic of its time. This willed forgetting stretches back, inviting the containment of black and anti-racist feminisms among Anthony’s contemporaries, and it flies forward, in dismissals of Clinton’s awkward positions on race, and in an ongoing injunction against linking past and present racist policies.
History offers a genealogical clarification of present social crises even while history imposes a gag order against raising the rhizomes beneath present crises. The fresh “I Voted” stickers on Anthony’s gravestone celebrate both kinds of history. In part, they tell us that Rochester’s much-lauded social history, marked by the simple line of flight between the Anthony and Douglass graves, can only be progressive; it must be a story of the abatement, if not the end, of North American sexism and racism, current citywide data and recurrent racial confrontations notwithstanding. But the action of visiting Anthony’s grave also suggests a willingness to mourn and to resist closure, and herein lays its potency for renewed intersectional politics and engagement on the ground. To this end, I advance the treatment of race as a technology, namely for dividing and ordering populations (Sheth, Mills) and I describe the practice of history in its critical register (Nietzsche, Benjamin, Heller). The way that Mount Hope Cemetery also supports the forms of historical false-consciousness that Nietzsche associates with the monumental and antiquarian renders the Anthony grave ritual all the more suitable for persistently critical, racially realist treatment (Scott, Acampora, Bell, Frankowski).
"The Gun-Reform Movement as a Case Study for Modern Activism”
Jeremy Sarachan, St. John Fisher College, Media and Communication
My work encompasses research around social media and web culture, as well as media production. I have been working on a video documentary about the rise of activism in Rochester, with a focus on the gun reform movement. The film deals less with the specific political details, and more with a range of activist activities: from Rochester-area high school students planning and holding rallies to involvement by members of Veterans for Peace in favor of gun reform to gatherings sponsored by women and members of the LGBTQ community to theatrical plays presented to capture the emotions behind the debate.
After an arguably extended term of apathy, the film considers activism in the Trump era that uses social media, bur significantly, reaches out into physical space to embrace a more traditional view of Habermas’ public sphere. Whether or not these protests are effective (and the film at least asks that question), the activities themselves help create a more aware and invested community among those involved.
The relevance of the film to the topic of the conference can be found in the decline of pure “slacktivism” (people contributing to social movements or causes from the safety of their computers). While slacktivism has not and will not disappear, social media does function as a means to promote and inform a community in physical proximity of events occurring in the ‘real world’. With this enhancement of activist activities, we can consider differences while placing current progressive activism in its place within the history of social movements in the United States.
"Election Day 2016"
Linda Moroney, Rochester Documentary Filmmakers Group
Filmmaker Linda Moroney will introduce and show a collaborative new short film from the Rochester Documentary Filmmakers Group, "Election Day 2016."
Abstract: "After a long and contentious presidential campaign, 10,000 people spontaneously came to pay tribute to Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Rochester, NY. They placed their 'I Voted' stickers upon her headstone and expressed their pride and gratitude to America’s most famous suffragette. On November 9, 2016, the gravesite, although still a gathering place, was far different. This film captures the stories, hopes, laughter and tears of this historic moment."
Respondent: Elisabetta D'Amanda, Rochester Institute of Technology, Modern Languages and Cultures
Friday, March 29, 2019
Coffee and tea will be served.
Historical Conventions and Con Artistry
David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, columnist, and author of The Making of Donald Trump
All people shape their words to make themselves look good. But what to do with an office seeker who just makes it up? Are the conventions of “…, he said” politics reporting up to the task of covering a con artist, whose record hides in plain sight? And just how much do Americans care about truth and justice, about integrity and competence, about the rule of law and Constitutional order?
Sharing Stories Listening Project. A Project of Storycenter and the California State Library
Trump in the Land of Oz: Pathologizing and Perfecting the Female Body Politic
Roy Schwartzman (University of North Carolina–Greensboro, Communication Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies) and Jenni M. Simon (University of North Carolina–Greensboro)
Long before the 2016 campaign, wild speculations about Hillary Clinton’s supposedly dire ailments abounded. These dubious rumors suddenly gained new traction when she collapsed during the 9/11 commemorative ceremonies in New York. Diagnosed with pneumonia, she then took three days off to recuperate. During her convalescence, Donald Trump pressed his advantage by re-energizing a narrative of his own health—despite refusing to release his own medical records—and immediately raised doubts about Clinton’s “stamina.” This narrative crystallized when Donald Trump, accompanied by his daughter Ivanka, appeared as the sole guest for an entire episode of popular The Dr. Oz Show that aired on 15 September 2016.
By moving the discussion of candidate health from the arcane archives of medical files to the medical info-tainment forum of The Dr. Oz Show, Trump capitalized on his opportunity to shape a narrative that positioned silent, ailing Hillary at the nexus of three longstanding, interwoven cultural narratives: women as physically fragile; women as incompetent, incapable, or malicious; and women’s value as defined by a heterosexist male aesthetic. Modern characterizations of a discordant feminine body arose in eighteenth and nineteenth century medical discussions that inextricably linked social behavior with biological essence. Male medical professionals provided the authoritative foundation of women’s health and consequently shaped the parameters of feminine (in)capability. The resulting sociobiological narratives identified “good” female bodies as naturally seeking to (re)produce and care for the family and home. Indeed, Ivanka detailed for Dr. Oz and his audience her father’s plans for childcare. Donald Trump’s appearance on the Dr. Oz Show physically validated these narratives with his “healthy” male body affirmed by a male medical professional. Ivanka Trump provided a visible antidote/antithesis to Hillary Clinton’s physical debilitation and her purported moral decrepitude marked by transgression into masculine political domains.
This presentation interweaves the narrative analysis with original poetry. As bodies of evidence, the poems embody the voices of the protagonists’ somatic narratives that solidified during the program: Donald’s ongoing proof of virility through reinforcing female fragility; Ivanka’s embodiment of voluptuousness that springs from Donald’s loins; Hillary’s attempt to establish a non-androcentric (but not emasculating) aura of competence and vigor. Melania Trump’s body augmented the narrative of the female body as (sexually) desirable because desired, yet unproductive (as a vessel for delivering plagiarized words). Bill Clinton’s frail, vocally ragged body, squirmed to shed the role of the perverse sexual predator that the Trump campaign transferred to him. Bill’s sexual exploits implicated Hillary as a vindictive cuckquean rather than a victimized, faithful wife. Each poem speaks as and through the body of each protagonist, articulating how each body plays a central role in constituting candidates.
Collectively, the poems and the narrative analysis track the evolution of a larger cultural narrative of women that links malfunctioning bodies with professional malfeasance and moral misbehavior. The cultural force of this narrative helps explain why Donald Trump’s physical attributes augmented his stature as a locker room legend, relegating Hillary Clinton to the sick bed.
Rock and a Hard Place, or When White Men Needed the Blues
D'Ondre Swails, Brown University, Africana Studies
Though the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency and the increasing brazenness of avowed White supremacists have caught much of the nation off-guard, histories like Carol B. Anderson’s recent book White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide demonstrate that such events are not unprecedented. Works like Anderson’s serve to disrupt triumphant narratives of racial progress in America by countering their falsities with facts. However, while she details the consequences of White rage, its source is left almost completely uninvestigated.
This reflects a general trend in the study of race, particularly where Whiteness and racial capitalism are concerned. Many historians and Black studies scholars have grappled with questions related to the equation of Blackness with ‘slave’; however, the other half of this problem – the equation of Whiteness with ‘laborer’ – remains relatively understudied. As labor historian David Roediger notes in his book The Wages of Whiteness, these two constructions are interdependent and are a fundamental basis of racialized economic inequality in America. While racial capitalism underdevelops Black America, it simultaneously overdevelops its White counterpart. This paper seeks to open up engagement with this overdevelopment; it argues that the recent uptick in overt White supremacist activity is the result of problems caused by the overdevelopment of White America and that these issues are as much cultural as they are political and economic.
Drawing on a mix of Marxist theory, historical analysis, and media representations, this paper is an attempt to begin drafting a cultural history of White America that connects racial animus to White supremacy’s inherent inability to produce personal fulfillment for White people. Examining White youth culture of the 1960’s and 70’s and shifts that occur in America’s political and economic situation as it moves into the Reagan era, this paper seeks to understand the role of culture in the maintenance of White supremacist sentiments. More specifically, it will interrogate the role of racial capitalism in stunting the development of White culture and, by extension, self-actualization for White Americans en masse. Points of analysis include White youth’s appropriation and generational identification with rock music during the 60’s and 70’s; the establishment of a new Gilded Age in America under Reagonomics and the subsequent rise of films, music, and other artforms depicting ennui amongst the White middle class; and recent data that finds White supremacists suffer from a fear of losing their place in American society.
America, Meet Your New Dad: Tim Kaine and Subordinate Masculinity
Beth L. Boser (University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, Communication Studies) and R. Brandon Anderson (Gustavus Adolphus College, Communication Studies)
Our contribution to the volume Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gender and Race in the 2016 US Presidential Election rhetorically analyzed the ways in which masculinity was constructed and communicated in the vice presidential campaign of Tim Kaine. Although the most dramatic and intensely publicized gendered disruptions in the 2016 campaign undoubtedly centered on conflict between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the primary and Clinton and Donald Trump during the general election, we contend that subtler gender dynamics are just as worthy of scholarly attention. In our chapter, we argue that Kaine’s supportive and subordinate role as Clinton’s running mate represented a masculine construction that simultaneously subverted some aspects of hegemonic masculinity while reinforcing others. In this way, Kaine’s performance of masculinity reflected historical constructions of pro-feminist men who advocated for woman suffrage, in that it presented an alternative to some of the more aggressive aspects of hegemonic masculinity while remaining paternalistic in a range of ways.[i]
To illustrate this claim, we analyzed two prominent examples of Kaine’s rhetoric—his July 23, 2016 introduction speech and his July 27, 2016 acceptance of the vice presidential nomination—which are representative of his discourse throughout the campaign. Additionally, we considered mediated responses to the speeches which added to and reinforced the paternalist construction of Kaine as “dad” in various ways. Throughout our analysis, we noted ways in which constructions of race and sexuality intersected with gender in both the speeches and responses. Ultimately, our analysis supported R. W. Connell’s notion that one need not conform to all the tenets of a given period’s hegemonic masculinity in order to be complicit with them.[ii] Men like Kaine are able to subvert some aspects of masculinity, and yet remain appropriately masculine figures to embody political leadership in the U.S. Kaine’s individual transgressions of gender roles in political hierarchy bumped up against engrained symbolic systems; for example, even though Kaine performed a supportive role with respect to Clinton, if he is “dad” then Clinton is “mom” and placed right back into a subordinate position. In other words, our analysis demonstrated that systemic patriarchy is not necessarily challenged simply because a woman occupies the top of the ticket.
The Linguistic Bromance: Speech Genres and Media Practices of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump
Elena Rakhimova-Sommers, Rochester Institute of Technology, English
This study focuses on domestic and global media strategies and linguistic identities employed by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. The two political leaders share rhetorical profiles that capitalize on both nations’ need for the “other” to define the national “self,” a notion that is currently under re-negotiation and re-branding. When Putin and Trump speak, they successfully employ a variety of powerful speech practices. The emotional capital gained from the use of those practices allows them to reinforce the image of “authentic Russianness/Americanness” in counter distinction to a malevolent “other.”
My paper explores Putin’s and Trump’s linguistic identities (“языковая личность”) by analyzing three of their most expressively marked voices: 1. the strongman (“silovik”), 2. the good ol’ boy (“muzhik”), and 3. the patriot (“patriot”). These dominant speech practices are informed by Putin’s mission of the Russian Renaissance and Trump’s crusade of “Making America Great Again.” I read these rhetorical profiles as scripted brands of “Russianness” and “Americanness,” each representing a mix of blunt masculinity, not so subtle anti-intellectualism, and “salt-of-the earth-ness,” blended together to produce a unique brand of rhetorical sex appeal tailored to resonate with a significant segment of the population in both Russia and the US. (The “strongman” persona in particular finds linguistic substantiation in both Presidents’ tough talk, invoked around issues concerning terror and crime, which can fan the flames of hatred and lead to escalation of violence).
By integrating these profiles, both Putin and Trump enable the national revival of identities, and build the image of the “national idea” – the driving force behind Russia’s and America’s newly self-defining and defiant international posture. The study draws its materials from press conferences, Putin’s Presidential Addresses to the Federal Assembly, and Trump campaign/political rallies-turned mass spectacles. These rhetorical spaces and performative events are perfect platforms to re-imagine, re-negotiate, and re-construct the image of a country’s identity. Additionally, my study pays particular attention to the current transformation of the Russian anti-American sentiment into a broader anti-Western one, with Russia as the upholder of traditional, “universal” values and rights to its own interpretation of the notion of democratic development.
Using and Abusing Truth in the Time of Trump
John Capps, Rochester Institute of Technology, Philosophy
Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency introduced many of us to the ideas of “alternate facts,” that “truth is not true,” and even a “post-truth” nation. While it should come as no surprise that politicians and others sometimes lie, mislead, and otherwise abuse the truth, what is surprising is how brazen this abuse has become. As McIntyre (2018) notes, in a post-truth culture truth is explicitly viewed as either irrelevant, politically constructed, or subordinate to political goals—with possibly calamitous effects for both democratic decision-making and effective policy-making.
Truth and democracy are often viewed as closely connected: free expression as well as institutions for discovering and communicating truth are widely viewed as necessary for a well-functioning democracy. This holds for truths of all kinds: not just historic truth but also scientific truth.
Here I focus on two closely connected claims. The first concerns the concept of truth in general and, more specifically, how to approach this concept in the current political climate. Many philosophical accounts of truth, I argue, can actually invite the sort of abuses mentioned above; I then consider some philosophical approaches that are more resilient because they view truth as a norm of political and historical discourse.
The second claim concerns the connection between truth and democracy. While it’s widely recognized that truth is good for democracy, there is a further argument that democracy is good for truth. This line of argument, known as the “epistemic” argument for democracy, claims that democratic institutions are epistemically and not just morally superior to non-democratic alternatives. But epistemic arguments have also faced serious criticism that has questioned whether political decisions are best framed in terms of truth and, if they are, whether democracy is actually the best way of arriving at the truth.
Taken together, these two claims shed light on how attacks on truth undermine democratic institutions: not only by making these institutions less effective (because of how lies and falsehoods can detract from their purpose) but by undermining an important reason to have democratic institutions in the first place. However, by highlighting the connection between truth and democracy, these claims also point to how the connection between truth and democracy can be more fully recognized and the epistemic importance of democracy more fully appreciated.
Legal History Reimagined: Hermeneutics, Jurisprudence, and the Rhetoric of the Trump Administration
Joseph Sery, Christopher Newport University, Communication
The law has a tricky relationship with the past, especially in the United States. On the one hand, the Constitution has reigned supreme for well over 200 years while statutes and landmark cases, some of which are decades if not centuries old, guide the decisions of judges. On the other hand, judges and juries must address contemporary issues that may have longstanding future implications. The hermeneutic connection between past, present, and future is complex and nuanced, especially when case law enters uncharted territory. As a result, judges are quite careful in their interpretation of history as they build their arguments toward a particular conclusion. Yet, with the myriad of issues swirling around the Trump administration, such care is abandoned.
This project examines the rhetorical uses and abuses of legal history deployed by President Trump and his administration. Rather than abandoning the common law tradition and the importance that historic documents and decisions play therein, the Trump administration muddies the waters of interpretation as a way to defend against accusations of foul play and advance their agenda. Issues such as whether or not Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause, Mueller’s investigation of collusion with a foreign government to impact and election, the various iterations of Trump’s travel ban, immigration regulation, the possibility of indicting a sitting president, and the unraveling of longstanding voting rights norms indicate that the manipulation of legal history as a means to justify present executive and legislative actions is an essential aspect of the administration’s rhetorical strategy.
The ADA, and Trump v. Trump
Lisa Hermsen, Rochester Institute of Technology, English
On June 25, 2018–the 28th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)–President Donald J. Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation (9769). Trump touts his own achievements for pursuing medical advancements and providing equal employment opportunities for Americans living with disabilities. The Proclamation is, of course, another “Trump v. Trump” moment. The President’s dramatic mockery of a journalist with a physical disability was not his most striking attack against Americans with disabilities. His administration's policies have undermined disability rights from the day he took office.
When President Bush signed the ADA in 1990, it marked the most significant civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. But those rights came only after long battles. The history might go back as far as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Prominent figures in the disability rights movement are too many to mention here, though two figures seem particularly significant. Justin Dart, widely recognized as one of the foremost drafters of the ADA, began his advocacy in 1988 by traveling the country and holding public forums, providing an opportunity for people with disabilities to tell stories about discriminatory practices. Thousands were compiled into a "discrimination diary.” Jennifer Keelan became a media image for the disability movement as one of the 60 people who participated in "the Capitol Crawl." Her forward struggle up the steps to the Capitol is one many lasting images of people using their bodies, on buses or in restaurants, to fight for access.
By the time our President proclaimed his recommitment to the ADA, he had already tried to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, including aspects of Medicaid. Not advancements in medicine for people with disabilities but life-risking health care legislation. His administration had also tried to pass the ADA Education and Reform Act, HR 620. Not equal access or opportunities for people with disabilities, but physical barriers to buildings and businesses, and thus fair employment opportunities. Furthermore, all of his major public policies are socially and culturally divisive, exclusive rather than integrative.
People with disabilities have acted, again by telling stories in various public forums and by protesting physically, bodily in offices, in parks, and at the capital. While the first success with ADA meant struggling with the inclusion of “less visible” disabilities including Mental illness, current success has required similar conversations regarding disability and intersectionality. ADAPT, the most visible disability activist group, recognizes its movement will not succeed unless it “recognizes the coalitional realities . . . of this work among women, people of color, queer people, and those whose disabilities might not be readily identifiable who have put their bodies on the line.” The strategy continues to be one of visibility and community. See the “Disability Visibility Project” (https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/).
It would seem that this would be one place to pause. What is more insidious, however, in this Trump v. Trump saga, is the Trump administration’s use of the ADA to shut down voting in primarily minority districts. While the Trump administration would re-write ADA regulations in order to financially benefit businesses who have yet to make changes for access to their property, he would use the same laws to shut down voting sites without access under the law. The use/misuse of civil rights here is of the usual Trump v. Trump self-serving kind. His own companies are cited for access violations. He cannot allow minority voters access to the vote. The ADA has been claimed.
G-Men Heroes or Deep State Thugs: Hollywood’s Historical Representation of the FBI Contradicts Trump’s View of the Justice Department
Dean Cummings, Georgia Southern University, Communication Arts
The FBI has a long history of investigating, what they believed to be was, “leftist” subversion in the United States (Noakes, 2003). Hollywood directors, writers and actors were frequent targets (Whitfield, 2013). Animosity and suspicion were shared between the left and the right, however the image of the FBI portrayed in Hollywood films is consistent. For most of the 20th century and now in the 21st century, the FBI agent is celebrated as a hero and patriot. The agents are frequently used as main or supportive characters who solve crime and dedicate their careers to seeking justice. The FBI agent is viewed as an apolitical figure. IMDb lists 1,177 movies and TV shows that include the FBI or FBI agents in storylines. This study uses cultivation theory to analyze the positive correlation between film and TV representation and trust in the FBI. President Donald Trump uses dysphemism as an attempt to change the public’s opinion of the FBI. He uses words such as “thugs” and “liars” in his efforts to discredit the organization. Whilst other presidents embraced the FBI, President Trump uses derogatory language toward the Justice Department. His proclamations of political conspiracy within the FBI is contrary to the historical and contemporary view of FBI agents of TV shows, such as CSI and Criminal Minds. A recent NPR/Marist poll indicates the view of the FBI is changing along political lines. 31% of the respondents believe the FBI is biased against the Trump administration and has a political agenda. In some respects, the political theater of the Mueller Investigation is reminiscent of film and TV plots, notably The Untouchables or All The President’s Men. The public’s long-standing image of the FBI is supported by the “left” and only recently challenged by the “right.”
#Twitterstorians in the Age of Trump
Mark Rice, St. John Fisher College, American Studies
Donald Trump’s favorite social media platform, Twitter, is also a platform that many historians are active on. Frequently using the hashtag, #twitterstorians, a network of historians, some with high profiles, others less so, routinely engage with some of the contentious cultural and political battles raised by President Trump and some of his supporters. Using their deep historical knowledge, and tweeting in threads of varying lengths, they provide important perspectives on issues such as birthright citizenship (Martha Jones), athletes and social protest (Lou Moore), Confederate monuments (Kevin Levin), identity politics (Heather Cox Richardson), and the roots of modern conservatism (Kevin Kruse). As Kruse wrote in response to a question about why he engaged with the conservative polemicist Dinesh D’Souza on Twitter: “These corrections aren’t aimed at him or any of his followers. They’re aimed at normal people who don’t have the actual facts at hand and have to encounter this nonsense from friends of family members in the real world and, of course, random partisans here on the internet.” In this way, historians are using Twitter to serve as important public intellectuals in the age of Trump.
"Consent Trump's Everything": Feminist Revisionist History, the Clothesline Project, and the 2016 Election
Jill Swiencicki, St. John Fisher College, English
This presentation examines how an historic feminist craft movement, The Clothesline Art Project, was used by students at St. John Fisher College to effectively shift the campus conversation in the weeks after the release of the 2016 Access Hollywood tape, in which Donald Trump was recorded describing his philosophy and practice of sexual assault against women. This presentation examines how the Feminist Alliance used the Clothesline to identify, critique and replace the sexual assault discourse normalized by Trump with sexual consent logics derived from feminist activism and Title IX initiatives. The presentation argues that supporting student activism is often about adaptation rather than invention: supporting students as they identify the available means of persuasion and adapt existing or historic models for their current purpose, in this case, using a public art project as a wedge to enter and transform a high-stakes political debate. This project also examine the ways feminist activism around sexual assault has changed since the Clothesline was founded in the early 1990s--from a space that protects the anonymity of abusers to one that openly critiques and identifies specific perpetrators.
Reviving the Teach-In as a Site of Social Engagement: Education, History, and Politics in the Present Moment
Stephen Brauer, St. John Fisher College, English
In response to the inauguration of Donald Trump and the subsequent sharp shift in US social and economic policies, members of the St. John Fischer College faculty have organized and run three Teach-Ins on our campus. The Teach-Ins have given faculty the opportunity to provide models of engagement for students and for colleagues. In trying to extend our pedagogy beyond the historical past and into the present moment, we demonstrate the values of our disciplinary backgrounds and show how we can apply our training to today’s issues. Through the day’s many presentations, the Teach-In offers a series of ways to think about the contemporary moment from a variety of disciplinary perspectives – essentially making the educational mission of the college come alive in the political present. This is perhaps ironic, considering that Teach-Ins as they were first conceived in the 1960s at such places as Cornell and Berkeley were meant to disrupt the campus. Our Teach-Ins are not meant to move away from this history of disruption. However, we do seek not only to shake up the campus and our colleagues’ pedagogies but also to model the value of critical thinking and a liberal education rooted in social justice.
Building Campus Coalitions in the Trump Era
Lisa J. Cunningham, St. John Fisher College, Women and Gender Studies
This presentation looks at activism on the St. John Fisher College campus, arguing that Trump’s inaccurate claims about historical greatness in America were a catalyst to coalition-building among minoritized students who had historically been largely siloed within their separate campus clubs. Throughout history, groups of people have come together to fight for rights around a single identity – for example, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, and the Gay Liberation Movement. This singularity in focus was mirrored by college activist groups and student organizations leading to groups such as Black Student Unions, Feminist groups, and Pride groups. In the wake of the 2016 election, with Trump’s slogans and themes romanticizing a time in this country before any of these movements began to see any progress, leadership from the SJFC Black Student Union, Feminist Alliance, Gay Straight Alliance, and later other diversity-based groups that in the past had existed independently of one another each met with faculty to share their concerns. Through our focus on interdisciplinarity and intersectional pedagogy, we encouraged them to reimagine their roles on campus by meeting with one another to strengthen their understanding of multiple identities and lessen their sense of isolation on campus. The efforts by Trump to marginalize and alienate people from minoritized identities by using dog-whistle phrases, exclusionary language, and lies to cover up acts of bigotry has led to an unprecedented level of engagement in coalition-building in a concerted effort to have challenging campus dialogues around issues of race, immigration, gun violence, and queer identity.
Included for conference registrants
(Optional. Space is limited. All who are registered by March 6, 2019 will be given first opportunity to sign up.)