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Loyolans share their experience at the Midwestern History Conference in Grand Rapids, MI

Loyolans share their experience at the Midwestern History Conference in Grand Rapids, MI

At the end of May, several members of Loyola’s History Department travelled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to present research at the Fifth Annual Midwestern History Conference, which was hosted at Grand Valley State University. The presenters included faculty member Dr. Ted Karamanski, recent PhD alumni Dr. Meagan McChesney and Dr. Joshua Wachuta, PhD candidate Chelsea Denault, and Public History MA alumna Alex Gradwohl.

“The Midwest History Association is a new and growing organization that blends the friendliness one would expect of Midwesterners with the excitement of a field of study coming into its own,” remarked Dr. Karamanski, who was also appreciative of Midwest hospitality when he noticed “a generous spread of food at each break and lively discussion.”

On the first day of the conference, Dr. Karamanski, along with Dr. McChesney and Dr. Wachuta, each presented as part of a panel titled “Midwest Indian ‘Survivance’ Strategies,” chaired by Dr. Susan Sleeper-Smith of the Newberry Library’s McNickle Center of American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Dr. Karamanski gave a presentation entitled, "Founding Fathers and Sons: One Anishinaabe Family's Multigenerational Struggle to Resist Settler Colonialism on the Great Lakes Borderland,” based on research for his book Blackbird’s Song: Andrew J. Blackbird and the Odawa People. Dr. McChesney’s presentation, “Exhibiting Sovereignty: Activism in Great Lakes Tribal Museum Exhibits and Programming,”  and Dr. Wachuta’s presentation, “All and More Than Was Owed: The Making of Indigenous Debt and Midwestern Capitalism, 1820-1860” both came from their extensive research for their recently defended dissertations.

“The well-attended session went very well with the commentator especially impressed with Josh's paper applying the new history of capitalism to the fur trade,” said Professor Karamanski. “Comments from the audience revealed a strong interest in Meagan's analysis of the way cultural trauma was presented at several tribal museums.” At the end of Thursday, the Loyolans celebrated with a buffet at a local brewery and an awards ceremony.

On the second and final day of the conference, Chelsea Denault and Alex Gradwohl presented on separate panels. Chelsea presented from her current dissertation research, titled, “‘We ALL Live Downwind’: The Detroit Trash Incinerator and the Battle for Community-Centered Development.” Alex presented on a panel on memorials and remembrance with a paper titled, “More Than a Cat, More Than a Friend: Grave Markers and the Human-Animal Bond in Chicagoland Pet Cemeteries,” which originated as a project for Dr. Elizabeth Fraterrigo’s Material Culture course in Spring 2018. Alex remarked about her experience, “There were a number of interesting talks at the conference and I learned a lot from fellow panelists and attendees. I also very much enjoyed exploring Grand Rapids with my colleagues!”

Reflecting on his time spent at the conference, Dr. Wachuta said, “The conference was a good opportunity to get out and share a bit of my dissertation research after a long spell of solitary writing. The size was ideal for striking up conversations and making connections with other scholars studying places and themes close to my own work. It was hard to choose between panels to attend. Taken together, the variety of papers really challenged preconceptions about rural Midwestern homogeneity by highlighting the cultural diversity and social conflicts that have shaped the region's history.”

Professor Karamanski noted the strong representation Loyolans brought to the conference in Grand Rapids: “In future LUC grad students should have this conference on their radar as a venue for presenting research that is both inexpensive and supportive.”