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Past 2017 Events & News


MARCH 23, 2017, at 4 pm

Lecture: “Literary Afterlives of the Cuban and Angolan Revolutions

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Lanie Millar, 2016 Kluge Fellow, Assistant Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon

Cuba and Angola are two nations linked by a history of Iberian colonization and leftist revolutions that triumphed in Cuba in 1959 and Angola in 1975. The recent histories of Cuba and Angola come into closer contact via the fifteen-year military collaboration between the two nations during Angola’s civil war (1975-2002). As the Cold War came to an end, however, Cuban and Angolan literature turned away from ideas of revolutionary utopia to disappointment with wartime violence, politically-motivated censorship and unresolved social realities. Kluge Fellow Lanie Millar discusses how recent Cuban and Angolan literature reexamines these histories of revolution.


APRIL 4, 2017, at 4 pm

Lecture: “Songs of Faith and Devotion: Discovery of the K'iche' coplas in Kislak ms. 1015”

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Frauke Sachse, Kislak Fellow

The Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress houses a unique early colonial missionary document from Highland Guatemala. Manuscript 1015 is a small leather-bound handbook that was compiled from different types of texts in several Highland Mayan languages and probably served as a vademecum to a parish priest. While the compilation of the volume dates to 1567, most texts are copies of earlier documents. The most noteworthy of these is a collection of songs that can be linked to the evangelisation of the tierra de guerra ("Land of War") under Bartolomé de las Casas in 1537, and may, thus, turn out to be the earliest preserved doctrinal text in a Highland Maya language. This talk will give an overview on the initial findings of a joint research project with Garry Sparks (George Mason University).

APRIL 6, 2017, at 4 pm

Lecture: “The Cultural Memory of Robert Burns in 19th Century America”

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Arun Sood, Fulbright Fellow

Though Robert Burns (1759-1796) is most commonly known as Scotland’s “National Poet”, he also made a significant impact in the United States of America during the late-18th and 19th centuries.  From Frederick Douglass to Ralph Waldo Emerson to groups of Southern secessionists, the life and work of Burns was frequently drawn upon and remediated to various ends.  During the Civil War, Burns’s songs were even appropriated by both Northern abolitionists and Confederate soldiers; proving just how malleable his work and reputation had become by the mid-19th century.  In this lecture, Fulbright Scholar and Kluge Fellow Arun Sood discusses the complex, layered and multi-faceted cultural memory of Robert Burns in the United States of America, c.1800-1900.

APRIL 13, 2017, at 4 pm

Lecture: "'How Long, Oh Lord, Do We Roam In the Wilderness?':  A History of School Librarianship"

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Wayne Wiegand, Distinguished Visiting Scholar

The biblical passage in the title—quoted by a famous school library leader in a 1979 article—expresses school librarianship's decades-old frustration at being positioned between the education and library professions  and having its obvious contributions frequently overlooked and undervalued by both.  During his tenure at the Kluge Center Wiegand has been researching his current book project—a history of the American public-school library. The project incorporates five perspectives: the history of public-school education; the history of American librarianship; the social history of reading (including the history of print culture); the history of childhood; and the history of cultural institutions as places. Wiegand is the F. William Summers Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Studies and American Studies at Florida State University.

APRIL 20, 2017, at 4 pm

Lecture: “What Time Was the American Revolution? Reflections on a Familiar Narrative”

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Timothy Breen, Kluge Chair in American Law and Governance 

This lecture challenges our traditional assumptions about the chronology of the American Revolution. T.H. Breen rejects a familiar story that begins in the early 1760s with the coronation of George III and then traces a slow buildup of grievances until the colonists declare independence and set the country on the road to the Constitution.  This talk introduces a radically different timeline that reinterprets the beginning and end of the Revolution and, in the process, restores the ordinary American people to the events that shaped the nation.  Breen is the William Smith Mason Professor of American History Emeritus at Northwestern University and the James Marsh Professor at-large at the University of Vermont.

MAY 2017

MAY 4, 2017, 3-5 pm

Panel Discussion: “Religion in American History: Moments of Crisis and Opportunity”

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

John Witte, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University
Sarah Barringer Gordon
, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania
Peter Manseau
, Lilly Endowment Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History
Ted Widmer,
Moderator, Director of the John W. Kluge Center 

The panel discussion is part of the annual meeting of the Library’s Scholars Council, which is a body of distinguished scholars, appointed by the Librarian of Congress to advise on matters related to scholarship at the Library, with special attention to the Kluge Center.

During the panel on May 4, each of the three speakers will discuss a year of great significance for the course of American history: 1785 and the separation of Church and State in the Early Republic; 1860, on the eve of the Civil War; and 1947, the year the Supreme Court took its first major First Amendment Establishment Clause case and inaugurated the modern era of constitutional religious freedom. 

Learn more

MAY 16, 2017, at 4 pm

Lecture: “Toward a Transcontinental Theory of Modern Comparative Literature”

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Shaden M. Tageldin, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Frederick Burkhardt Fellow

Taking the case of Arabic, English, and French from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries, this lecture traces the rise of modern comparative literature to a new global regime in which a language acquired power in the world (empire) insofar as it held the power to capture the world “exactly” (empiricism).  In the shadow of imperialism and empiricism, languages that once had styled themselves “incomparable”—larger than life—now were urged to simulate life:  the really seen and heard.  This turn from “artificial” to “natural” literary languages newly bound word to world, making “incomparable” languages comparable.  Languages now had to share the sense that words should be life-like, even to the letter:  all their vowels and consonants had to be written, they had to record and reflect speech, and they had to be made mutually legible, audible, and intelligible.  Even today, comparative literature ascribes its disciplinary origins to Europe and the United States, often eliding developments elsewhere.  By revisiting this shared history of language and life, can we develop a transcontinental theory of modern comparative literature?  Shaden M. Tageldin is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature and Director of the African Studies Initiative at the University of Minnesota.

MAY 18, 2017, at 6:30 p.m.

Daniel K. Inouye Distinguished Lecture

Coolidge Auditorium, Ground Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The third annual Daniel K. Inouye Distiguished Lecture, "Inspiring a Sense of Service and Idealism," will feature speeakers Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation; Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix; and, moderator Ann Compton, ABC News. Learn more

MAY 25, 2017, at 4 pm

Lecture: “Early Modern Globalization through a Jesuit Prism”

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Jose Casanova, Kluge Chair in the Countries and Culture of the North

The Jesuits were arguably the first corporate group in history to think and to act globally.  In the early modern era Jesuits functioned as pioneer globalizers, making substantial contributions to the growth of connectivity and global consciousness around the world.  The lecture will examine the external and internal opportunity structures which made it possible for a Catholic missionary and teaching order such as the Society of Jesus to play such a prominent role as cultural brokers between East and West and North and South in the first phase of globalization.  Their global “way of proceeding,” however, became so controversial that at the end, enemies and friends conspired in their eventual suppression.  Looking at the Jesuits through the prism of globalization and at globalization through a Jesuit prism offers the opportunity to rethink some of the origins and characteristics of our contemporary global age. Jose Casanova is a professor in the Department of Sociology at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs focusing on globalization, religion and the secular. 


JUNE 15-16, 2017: Congress & History Conference

Thursday, June 15, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Friday, June 16, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The conference is an annual meeting of political scientists and historians focused on the examination of the United States Congress through a historical lens. This year’s conference is taking place in the magnificent Thomas Jefferson Building, just steps from the U.S. Capitol, and will focus on the evolution of congressional leadership, the role of party and committees, and legislative branch reform efforts. Learn more

This conference is by invitation only, and an RSVP is required.

JUNE 22, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Lecture: “The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation”

Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, Associate Professor of History and African and African Diaspora Studies and the Oliver H. Radkey Fellow in American History at the University of Texas at Austin

From the moment of birth and before, those invested in buying and selling human beings put a price tag on enslaved people. This fiscal marker served as a projection of future worth as well as a monetary value of a market price. Regardless of what the figure meant, enslaved people created their own system of valuation that neither the auctioneer nor enslaver could control. Exploring enslaved people’s inner spirits expressed in plantation records, newspapers, testimonies, and letters brings us to an entirely different system of values developed and determined by the enslaved for the survival of their souls. Daina Ramey Berry is an Associate Professor of History and African and African Diaspora Studies and the Oliver H. Radkey Fellow in American History at the University of Texas at Austin. Copies of Dr. Berry's most recent book, The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from the Womb to the Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Beacon Press, 2017) will be on sale after the discussion.  Reception to follow.


SEPTEMBER 21 at 4:00 p.m

Lecture: "The Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex" with Daniel Else

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Daniel Else, the 2016 Kluge Staff Fellow at the Library of Congress, will explore the results of his year-long inquiry into the organizational underpinnings of that military technological revolution of the 1940s and 1950s. By mining the Library's resources, Dr. Else will trace the evolving relationship between science and the federal government leading to the creation of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) in 1941. A temporary wartime agency, OSRD mobilized the nation's academic and industrial technological resources in support of the war effort, and in so doing profoundly altered the linkages between science and engineering, industry, and government. Dr. Else will explore those wartime changes and outline their impact, still seen and felt today more than seven decades after V-J Day.

SEPTEMBER 22 at 1:00 p.m.

Public Conference - “Transatlantic Call: People to People”

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

“Transatlantic Call: People to People” will be a week-long “work-a-thon” that concludes with a public conference co-sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center and the American Folklife Division. The project goal is to bring together former AHRC/Kluge scholars to apply their skills to the transcription, annotation, contextualization, digitization and preservation of Transatlantic Call and other related broadcast materials that are being brought online by the American Folklife Center. They will return to support the analyzation and contextualization of broadcast materials in the Folklife Division. On the final day they will present a public conference on Transatlantic Call and related topics that will highlight the national and international relevance of the Library’s folklife collections.


  • Lawrence Davies, British Research Council Fellow, 2015, King's College London; Kluge Center Project: "The Role of Blues Music in American Jazz and Folk Revivalism, c. 1930-60."
  • Elizabeth (Kate) Neale, British Research Council Fellow, 2015, Cardiff University; Kluge Center Project: "Distant Cousins: Music, Identity and Community in the Cornish Diaspora."
  • Delaina Sepko, British Research Council Fellow, 2012, University of Glasgow; Kluge Center Project: "The Impact of Technology on the Curation of Music."
  • Thomas Western, British Research Council Fellow, 2012, University of Edinburgh;Kluge Center Project: "Alan Lomax in the UK: An Investigation into the Practice of Field Recording in 1950s' Britain."

SEPTEMBER 28, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Life as it Could Be: Astrobiology, Synthetic Biology, and the Future of Life

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

What is life? How might life have emerged on Earth or on other worlds? And how might we engineer the future of life—what might we make life to be? Astrobiologists and synthetic biologists grapple with these questions every day. To further explore the intersections between these sciences and the humanities, the Library of Congress is bringing together scientists, scholars, artists, and journalists for a special symposium on the intersections of astrobiology and synthetic biology. Learn more

Free and open to the public. No RSVP required.


November 2 at 4:00 p.m.

Lecture: "Morality, Contraception, and Liberal Religion in Post War America," with Samira Mehta

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The intersection of religion and contraception is generally perceived in oppositional terms by most Americans because current socio-political divides. However, in the 1950s and 60s one of the most significant groups to advocate for the development and dissemination of contraception were Protestant and Jewish clergy.

Dr. Samira K. Mehta is wrapping-up her year as a David Larson Fellow at the Kluge Center, where she has been studying the history of contraception and religion in America for a new book: “God Bless the Pill: Sexuality, Contraception, and American Religion.”   For her required public lecture to close-out her fellowship, Dr. Mehta would like to discuss how these clergy framed the need for contraception in theological terms—including morally inflected understandings of marriage and the family and Biblically based commandments to care for the earth. This talk forefronts the role of ministers and rabbis in using their clerical authority to make contraception socially acceptable, but also in in creating a moral language that would be used in support of birth control long after religious voices were the movement’s strongest advocates.

November 9 at 4:00 p.m.

Lecture: "Mapping the Landscape: Vision, Memory and Place-making," with Dr. Xin Wu

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

To cap off her time at the Library, Professor Wu will present a richly illustrated public lecture that will explore the story of mapping the landscape in 12th-century China, when the center of politics and economy was shifting from the North to the South, and military defeats spurred a new search of identity. This interdisciplinary talk, entitled “Mapping the Landscape: Vision, Memory and Place-making,” will cross-examine visual, physical and textual materials in poetry, paintings, prints, architecture, gardens, landscape, and philosophy, and explore the impact of pedagogy and ritual upon vision and place-making, as well as the relationship between education and natural environment.

Xin Conan-Wu is an Associate Professor of art & art history at the College of William & Mary. She specializes in the history of the representation of nature in East Asia art (2D & 3D), and global contemporary environmental art and landscape architecture. As a Kluge fellow for the last year, Professor Wu has leveraged the Library’s collections to help develop a book manuscript on “Vision and Place-making in the neo-Confucian Academies of Song China.”

November 17 at 4:00 p.m.

Lecture: "Mapping a Persian Literary Sphere, 1500-1900," with Dr. Kevin Schwartz

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

For several centuries, Persian literary culture shaped the socio-political and intellectual environments of the greater Islamic world, in particular in the territories and diverse societies of West, Central, and South Asia. Persian cultural traditions helped dynasties manage empires and enabled inter-imperial communication. Interest in Persian language and culture promoted cross- regional fertilization among poets and authors. The common language and cultural focus allowed such groups to travel across borders in search of professional opportunities or personal enrichment. Over the centuries, despite political upheavals and dynastic conflicts, the position of Persian as the dominant cultural-linguistic force survived across large parts of the eastern Islamic world.

In this presentation Dr. Kevin Schwartz uses tazkirahs – authoritative collections of Persian literary works – to map divergent conceptualizations of the world of Persian literary culture. By connecting tazkirahs to one another through their geographically and historically diverse use of documented sources and methods of cataloguing and classification, Dr. Schwartz shines light on how different individuals demarcated the conceptual and geographic boundaries of the nineteenth century Persianate world and shows the hidden value of the tazkirah genre as a historical source for documenting the intellectual, social, and cultural life in the wider Persianate world.


December 1 at 4:00 p.m.

Symposium: Early Research of Papers of King George III

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

In 2016 the Library of Congress, the Royal Collection Trust and King’s College London signed an agreement to collaborate on the digitization, dissemination and interpretation of the papers of King George III, the English monarch in power when the American colonies declared independence. The Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture (OI) and William & Mary are the primary U.S. partners for the Georgian Papers Programme (GPP). The Library of Congress joins the Sons of the American Revolution and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association as a critical part of the American collaboration. Historians and other invited scholars gathered in the fall of 2017 at Windsor Castle to discuss the preliminary findings resulting from increased opportunities to examine the Georgian Papers. The Library of Congress, made possible by a generous Madison Council gift, has partnered with the OI and King’s to bring several scholars to speak publicly and present their research and scholarship for the first time. The program will be followed by a reception and a small display of political cartoons from the Windsor Castle Caricature Collection here at the Library of Congress. Read news release

December 14 at 4:00 p.m.

Lecture: "How Effective Is Social Media, Really?" with Dr. Todd Beltz

Room LJ-119, First Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Much has been made about the impact of fake news on the 2016 presidential election, but what impact do such messages have on voters? Are memes, videos, and other means of social media expression changing the electoral information environment for the better or worse? Has the digital revolution altered how citizens vote? Dr. Todd Belt evaluates these questions by drawing upon the Library of Congress’ U.S. Elections Web Archive, Meme Database, and ProQuest Archives.

John W. Kluge Fellow in Digital Studies Dr. Belt joins Kluge Center Director John Haskell for a conversation on the effectiveness of social media. Dr. Belt will discuss what cutting-edge research shows about the impact of social media on individuals’ attitudes, behaviors, and vote choices. The conversation will also focus on the practical advantages and drawbacks of various social media strategies for interacting with Congress members’ constituents.

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