Upcoming Events

March 7: Caribbean Shores: Networks and Materialities, From Slavery to Freedom

**Note Venue Change**
Due to the ongoing COLA strike, this event has moved off campus
Veterans Memorial Hall (846 Front St., Santa Cruz), room 21 (the Post Room)
9 AM – 5 PM

A joint conference of the UCSC Center For World History and the UCSC Archaeological Research Center

Keynote Speakers:
Vincent Brown, Professor of History, Harvard University
Theresa Singleton, Professor of Archaeology, Syracuse University

Full Program Here.

The past few decades have witnessed the rapid growth in interest by both historians and archaeologists, in the everyday lives of enslaved Africans in Caribbean colonial settings. At the same time, however, scholars in these closely related fields find few opportunities to interact and learn from one another. In light of this emerging demand for intellectual cross fertilization, we are hosting a one-day conference to bring scholars of Slavery and the African Diaspora from the UC Campus and beyond into dialogue with one another. A joint collaboration between UCSC’s Center for World History and Archaeological Research Center, Caribbean Shores will invite scholars in archaeology, history, and other related fields to explore the interrelated concepts of networks and materiality, resistance and marronage, and sovereignty after slavery,  to understand the lived experience of enslaved peoples in the Caribbean and its broader littoral.

Sponsored by the University of California Humanities Research Institute and the UCSC Humanities Institute


Past Events


Historic map of the Lower Mississippi Valley

Barthélémy Lafon, Carte Générale du Territoire D’Orléans Comprenant aussi la Floride Occidentale et une Portion du Territoire Du Mississipi (1806). From the Historic New Orleans Collection.

January 15: The Thom Gentle Environmental History Lecture

Urmi Engineer Willoughby, “Cultivating Malaria in the Gulf South, 1718-1860”
Hum 1, rm. 520, 4:00 – 5:30 PM

In this talk, Urmi Willoughby will present her research on agriculture, development, and the growth of endemic fevers in lower Louisiana. She will explore why fevers spread in the borderlands of the Gulf South and lower Mississippi Valley in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and show how economic and agricultural systems associated with white settlement and plantation slavery fostered the spread of malaria and yellow fever. Malaria

Historic drawing of a mosquito

The anopheles mosquito, carrier of malaria.

grew endemic in new settlements and plantations as newcomers cleared forests, drained swamps, and grew rice and maize. Yellow fever caused seasonal epidemics in the built environment of New Orleans, as a result of ecological changes caused by sugar plantations and urban construction. Studying these processes in a global framework, this project considers the Gulf South region as a representation of global patterns of development and ecological change in fostering the growth of malaria and yellow fever in diverse geographical and historical contexts.

Urmi Engineer Willoughby is the current Molina Fellow in the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences at the Huntington Library and the author of Yellow Fever, Race, and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans (LSU Press, 2017). She completed her Ph.D. in History at UCSC.

This lecture is made possible by the generosity of Thom Gentle (Cowell ’69, History), a pioneer class alumnus who established The Thom Gentle Endowment for History to support student awards in environmental history as well as lectures of distinguished speakers with an environmental emphasis.


General Pancho Villa, 1914. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Public domain.

November 14: Mikael Wolfe, “Extreme Weather and the Mexican Revolution: Historical Reality and Perception”

In this talk, Mikael will present recently published research that combines environmental history and historical climatology to examine the relationship between extreme weather events, especially drought and frost, and the origins of the Mexican Revolution. His findings suggest that inaccurate and misleading weather reporting—what he calls “politico-environmental” coverage—by a variety of newspapers throughout the country was as important as actual climatic variability in exacerbating the economic and political crises that culminated in the 1910-11 armed insurrection. The research not only changes our understanding of the Mexican Revolution; it also helps to historicize the current study of climate change and conflict, such as in the Syrian civil war, which has a number of striking parallels to Mexico’s civil war exactly one century before.

Mikael Wolfe is an environmental historian of water and climate issues in modern Latin America. He is currently Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University and the author of Watering the Revolution: An Environmental and Technological History of Agrarian Reform in Mexico (Duke University Press, 2017), which won the Elinor K. Melville Book Prize for Latin American environmental history and was short-listed for the María Elena Martínez Prize on the history of Mexico in 2018. His second book project is tentatively entitled Revolution in the Air: A Comparative Historical Climatology of the Mexican and Cuban Revolutions.


2018-2019 Events

Photograph of Agpaoa placing his hands on the abdomen of a male patient.

Famous psychic surgeon Antonio (Tony) Agpaoa operating on a patient.

May 9: Deirdre de la Cruz, “Psychic Surgery and Other Philippine Phenomena of the Global Occult”

In the variegated landscape of the Filipino paranormal, one phenomenon garnered worldwide attention in the last quarter of the twentieth century: psychic surgery. A form of spiritual healing in which the practitioner, or espiritista, usually male, operates on the body of the patient without anaesthesia and using only his hands, psychic surgery achieved particular renown in the United States in the 1980s when celebrity practitioners of New Age spirituality like Shirley MacLaine spoke publicly about their experience with Filipino psychic surgeons. This talk first provides a broad historical outline of the esoteric movements in the twentieth-century Philippines that culminated in the convergence of New Age spirituality and Filipino Spiritism seen in psychic surgery, paying particular attention to the axial shift from Espiritismo (the science of communication with the dead codified by French educator Allan Kardec and introduced to the Philippines at the turn of the twentieth century), to transpacific New Age movements. It then digs deep into the spectacle of healing that drew thousands of patients from around the world at a time when the Philippines was in the sway of the greatest cheat of all, Ferdinand Marcos.

Deirdre de la Cruz is an Associate Professor of Southeast Asian Studies and History at the University of Michigan. Her first book, Mother Figured: Marian Apparitions and the Making of a Filipino Universal, examined the frequent reports of visions and miracles of the Virgin Mary in the Philippines in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to explore the intersections between particular local practices and global Catholicism.


Painting of a Dutch family in Indonesia

Pieter Cnoll, Cornelia van Nijenrode, and their Daughters in Batavia (now Jakarta), by Jacob Coeman, 1665

April 25: Susanah Romney, “Unfree Intimacies: Gender and the Taking of Terraqueous Space at Batavia in the Seventeenth Century”

Colonization is not a one-time land grab, but rather an ongoing process of claiming space. Batavia, as the Dutch urban port city on Java in the seventeenth century was known, provides an opportunity to explore the role of gender in this unfolding process. There, the appropriation of local and regional terraqueous space relied on a simultaneous colonization of intimate space. Women of Batavia, as wives, concubines, and slaves, played an often unwilling role in the construction of empire at the intimate, local, and transoceanic scales.

Susanah Romney is an Assistant Professor of History at NYU. Her first book, New Netherland Connections, garnered three book prizes, including the 2014 Book Prize from the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. Professor Romney is also a UCSC alum.


Conference FlyerApril 12: 2nd Annual Grad Student Conference: “Citizenship in Flux: Migration and Exclusion in World History, 1750-2019”
Hum 2, rm. 259; 8:30 AM – 6:00 PM

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Harry Nii Koney Odamtten
Associate Professor of African and Atlantic History at Santa Clara University

The rise of nativist or nationalist movements in many countries and the closing of borders to migrants seeking refuge from persecution, war, and violence calls into question the world historical context of migration, borders, and political belonging. This conference queries citizenship and borders across time and region to make sense of their implications for citizens, non-citizens , subjects, refugees, and exiles in world history. We welcome broad definitions of “border,” “citizenship,” and “migration”to include boundaries that migrate even when people themselves do not, citizenships that are defined by entities other than the state, and migrations that don’t require physical movement (e.g., movement among identities that can affect citizenship, like race or religion).

View the program here.


Watercolor of Matavai Bay

George Tobin painting of Matavai Bay, Tahiti, 1792

March 13: Thom Gentle Environmental History Lecture

Kevin McDonald, “Babbo and the Breadfruit: Plants, Oceans, and Empires in the Age of Enlightenment”
Hum 1, rm. 210; 4:00-5:30 PM

At the end of the eighteenth century, a fantastic global plot was conjured up by a network of invested individuals that eventually reached the highest levels of the British state and the Admiralty. The plan: to transplant South Pacific breadfruit to the Caribbean Islands to feed the slaves of empire. Slaves grew sugar that fueled the proto-industrial workforce of England, and sugar produced rum, that powered the imperial navy. This research talk will explore the trans-oceanic exchanges not just of breadfruit, but of Atlantic and Pacific maritime cultures from ca. 1767-1798. Tracing the story of Babbo and the breadfruit allows us to intersect the surprisingly entangled histories of the South Pacific, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean, in a global history connected by plants, oceans, and empires; and the fusion of not two but three tropical farming systems (Africa, the West Indies, and the South Pacific).

Kevin McDonald is an Associate Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, who received his Ph.D. from UCSC in 2008. His first book, Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World examined the important role played by pirates in the informal trade networks that integrated economies throughout the Indian and Atlantic Ocean trading worlds. His new project focuses on the transfer of breadfruit from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean as a potential crop to feed the Caribbean’s massive plantations.

This lecture was made possible by the generosity of Thom Gentle (Cowell ’69, History), a pioneer class alumnus who established The Thom Gentle Endowment for History to support student awards in environmental history as well as lectures of distinguished speakers with an environmental emphasis.


Ottoman refugees in South China

Ottoman refugees in South China

November 14: Isa Blumi, “The Ottoman Refugee and Euro-American Colonial Terror: A Global Story”

Although the majority of Ottoman refugees in the 1878-1912 period remained internally displaced, significant numbers found their way to new continents, themselves in the throes of colonialist expansion. These pioneers’ stories require looking into the larger context of modern exploitation economies under which these Ottomans also suffered (and subsequently resisted in various ways). Blumi will chart how colonialist projects harnessed the capacity of Ottoman refugees (victims of expansionist European violence in their homelands) to subjugate indigenous peoples of what is today known as Southern Philippines, the Swahili hinterland, and the borderlands of an expanding US and Mexico/Comanche. In other words, Euro-American imperialism took its ‘destined’ genocidal turn by often calling on various Ottoman subjects to make themselves useful in ways contradictory to their normative place in world history.

Isa Blumi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies at Stockholm University. He is the author of Ottoman Refugees, 1878-1939: Migration in a Post-Imperial World and several other books.

2017-2018 Events

May 24: Mitch Aso, “Rubber and the Making of Vietnam”

Mitch Aso is an Assistant Professor of the Global Environment, at the University at Albany (State University of New York). Rubber has been a key commodity for industrial societies since the nineteenth century. Yet, studies of the impact of the production of this good on various regions around the world have mostly been narrowly focused on the industry and its workers. Mitch Aso’s forthcoming book, Rubber and the Making of Vietnam, adopts a broader lens–what Aso calls an ecological history–to examine the role of rubber in shaping Vietnamese society in the twentieth century. Through this lens, Aso examines how the evolving relationships between humans and non-humans contributed to both the projects of empire and nation building. He argues that rubber, and rubber plantations, structured the material and symbolic bodies and landscapes of the postcolonial nation of Vietnam. The talk will touch on the promises and the perils of such ecological histories and the new perspectives on the past that they offer.


May 16: UCSC Night at the Museum — “Global 1968: Race and Revolution around the World”

Fifty years ago, countries and cities around the globe erupted with protests and revolutionary movements demanding change and seeking to create a better future. Featuring four renowned historians, “Global 1968” spotlights marginalized groups and lesser-known events and places in the global upheavals of 1968—from Mexico to China, Oakland to West Africa—while considering what lessons can be drawn for politics and protest today.


Jean Allman (Washington University in St. Louis)
Jaime Pensado (University of Notre Dame)
Donna Murch (Rutgers University)
Emily Honig (UC Santa Cruz)
Moderated by: Marc Matera (UC Santa Cruz)

Co-sponsored by: The UCSC Humanities Institute and the History Department. Part of The Humanities Institute’s Freedom and Race Series, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


watercolor of a woman appearing before a Chinese court official for punishmentApril 7: CONFERENCE: Intimate States: Family, Domestic Space, and the State
Co-Sponsored by the Society for the History of Children and Youth, Cowell College, and the UCSC Humanities Institute

View the program here.

During the global modernization drive, states and political movements often tied modernization to changes in gender roles and family structures; however, states’ and political movements’ attention to family practices was not new to the modern era. Efforts at state intervention in the domestic sphere have included early modern China’s regulation of family structures, colonial states’ removal of indigenous children from their families, and Soviet housing construction and provision. The UCSC Center for World History is excited to host a graduate-student conference that will explore early-modern and modern examples of such state and political interactions with the family. The program was coordinated by graduate students at UCSC, and the presenters include graduate students from around the UC system. Professor Mary Jo Maynes, of the University of Minnesota, author of The Family: A World History and Schooling in Western Europe: A Social History, will give a keynote lecture.


Watercolor of a Calcutta boatman.February 22, 2018: Titas Chakraborty, “Controlling ‘Quarrelsome Workers’: Boatmen of Bengal, English East India Company State and the Global Mobility Transition, 1701-1806”

Titas Chakraborty completed her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas. She is writing a book with the working title of “Mobile Workers of the Companies: Labor, Migration and Resistance in Bengal, 1650-1837.” It investigates Bengali workers for the East India Company and their lives, mobility, and resistance in the Indian Ocean World.




January 11, 2018: Ana Candela, “From Compradors to Hacendados: Cantonese Merchants in Peru and the Expanding Settler Colonial Frontiers of the Cantonese Pacific

Ana Maria Candela is an assistant professor of sociology at Binghamton University. Her research focuses on Chinese migrations to Latin America and on the global dimensions of Chinese history and China’s social transformations. She is currently working on a book manuscript that examines Peruvian Chinese transnationalism through a translocal history of Chinese migrants to Peru within the context of the unfolding global processes of migration, colonization and national development from the 1870s to the 1940s. [Dr. Candela earned her Ph.D. from the UCSC History Department in 2013.]



Event flyerOctober 6, 2017: “Writing Across Cultures in the Early Modern World

In the past decade, historians and literary scholars have become increasingly interested in the global circulation of the written word. Much of this scholarship has focused on the movement of printed books. Other projects, such as Stanford’s Mapping the Republic of Letters initiative, have traced epistolary networks that spanned continents and oceans. But what about the cross-cultural movement of textual artifacts that weren’t books or letters? This symposium will explore the limits of book history. At what point does an object shade into being a textual artifact? How can we make space for a less Eurocentric book history by following the itineraries of objects, like textiles, tattoos, or mummies, which encoded information in ways that differed from the format of book or the letter?
Co-sponsored by the “Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Books School”


2009 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar