Fellows

Fellows Talk: Kornel Chang on Land Reform in US-Occupied Korea

Liberatory Possibilities:
Korean Peasants and the Struggle over Land Reform in U.S.-Occupied Korea

Kornel S. Chang, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University – Newark
October 16, 2019 (UCHI Conference Room: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor North)

This talk captures a slice of Korea’s “Asian Spring,” by examining the different ways Korean peasants imagined liberation, sought to actualize their aspirations, and clashed over its meaning in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the collapse of the Japanese Empire ushered in a moment ripe with hope, idealism, and uncertainty. It also looks at how the entry of American forces complicated, and, ultimately, narrowed possibilities for agrarian reform. This touched off a struggle with Korean peasants, who, despite their differences, held more far-reaching visions of emancipation. Focusing on land rights, my talk reveals the vitality and complexity of Korea’s “Asian Spring,” by highlighting the emancipatory opportunities that inspired, mobilized, and fractured Korean peasants, while recounting the ways Americans foreclosed many of its possibilities in an effort to establish control in Korea and rebuild a postwar social order in Asia.

Chang Talk Poster

Fellows Talk: Daniel Cohen on Maria Monk’s “Awful Disclosures”

Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures Reconsidered:
From “Me Too” to “Fake News” in the Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of an Anti-Catholic Genre, 1845-1960

Daniel A. Cohen, Department of History, Case Western Reserve University
September 25, 2019 (UCHI Conference Room: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor)

Contrary to the conventional view of Awful Disclosures (1836) as a great triumph of antebellum U.S. nativist propaganda, Maria Monk’s bogus account of sexual abuse, torture, infanticide, and murder in a Canadian convent was actually a disaster for the anti-Catholic cause. Despite its sensationalism, Monk’s exposé struggled to match the extraordinary sales of Rebecca Reed’s earlier Six Months in a Convent (1835); and, after being utterly debunked in 1836–37 as “fake news” by that era’s “mainstream media” (reputable secular and religious newspapers), it was not reprinted again in the U.S. until 1855. More broadly, the public exposure of Maria Monk as an outright fraud largely discredited the entire convent exposé genre, dragging down Reed’s far more credible narrative with it. Only during the century after 1860, did Maria Monk (who had died in disgrace in 1849) complete her posthumous comeback. By the early 1900s, huge numbers of anti-convent narratives, including Awful Disclosures, were being churned out by specialized nativist and anti-Catholic presses based in such cultural backwaters as Aurora, Missouri, and Milan, Illinois, which catered to the tastes of rural Protestant traditionalists and other bigoted, prurient, or unsophisticated readers. These widely dispersed nativist publishers—at least one of whom also peddled stereopticons, slide shows, and even motion picture projectors—constituted a massive communications empire apart from the “mainstream media,” arguably foreshadowing the rise of right-wing talk radio, Fox News, and white nationalist websites in our own time.

Cohen Talk Poster

The Schedule of UCHI Fellows Talks for 2019–2020

As is customary, every year each of our resident fellows delivers a talk on their ongoing research while at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute. These talks are open to the public and take place at UCHI at the Homer Babbidge Library, 4th Floor. More details will be disseminated on social media prior to each talk.