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Past 2016 Events & News



“Imagining the Amazon: European Colonialism and the Making of Modern-Day Amazonia”

Thursday, January 14, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Early (16th-17th-Century) European accounts of travel in Amazonia depict a savage and wondrous place. Over the centuries, travel writing fed into Enlightenment thought and vice versa, never losing its fantastical qualities, until Amazonia was transformed into a modern global icon: the relict, sparsely populated virgin forest of a bygone era. Kluge Fellow Anna Browne Ribeiro examines how, in spite of archaeological evidence that counters this narrative, the language of colonialism shaped—and continues to shape—how the Amazon and Amazonian peoples are depicted, conceptualized, and most importantly, managed.



“Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Politics of Slavery”

Thursday, February 18, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

In his 1858 "House Divided" speech, Abraham Lincoln accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, outgoing President Franklin Pierce, president-elect James Buchanan, and Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas of a conspiracy to perpetuate slavery in the United States. According to Lincoln, this conspiracy took form in the infamous 1857 Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sandford, which excluded African Americans from U.S. citizenship. Kluge Fellow Rachel Shelden re-examines Lincoln’s conspiracy charge in the context of how the federal political system – and particularly the Supreme Court – operated in the mid-nineteenth century.


Astrobiology Program

“The Origins of the RNA World”

Thursday, March 17, 2016, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - note earlier start time
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Nathaniel Comfort convenes four distinguished scientists on-stage for a live oral history interview about the origins of the RNA world, the world at the dawn of life, before DNA, arising nearly four billion years ago. Comfort will interview the scholars about their roles in developing a key model for the origins of life--on Earth and beyond. The event will be structured as a "Witness Seminar"-style group oral history. Audience questions will be included. Read more

Participating scholars:

  • Dr. W. Ford Doolittle – Professor Emeritus, Dalhousie University
  • Dr. George E. Fox – Professor, University of Houston
  • Dr. Ray Gesteland – Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Utah
  • Dr. Walter Gilbert – Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1980; University Professor, Harvard University

Related links:


“American Universities, the 'German Connection', and the First World War”

Thursday, March 24, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Bavarian Fellow Charlotte Lerg examines how cultural diplomacy played out on American college campuses before and during the First World War. Lerg discusses what motivated universities to engage in these endeavors and how they used the opportunity to position themselves nationally and to gain international visibility.


“Medieval Manuscripts in the Library of Congress”

Thursday, March 31, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Kluge Fellow Ilya Dines discusses his current project to catalogue 150 medieval manuscripts and fragments held by the Library of Congress. In his presentation, Dines will analyze in detail the importance of the Library's medieval manuscript collection and outline the role it could play in expanding and deepening understandings of the medieval era.

This event was originally scheduled for March 3, 2016.


Second Annual Daniel K. Inouye Distinguished Lecture

“Protecting National Security and Civil Liberties”

Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
Coolidge Auditorium, Ground floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

A conversation between former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and former U.S. Sen. Alan K. Simpson that explores the tensions between safeguarding Americans’ civil liberties and the need to keep the nation secure—and how policymakers from different political parties try to find common ground in balancing the two. The second event of a five-year lecture series in conjunction with the Daniel K. Inouye Institute. Moderated by former White House correspondent Ann Compton. Read more


“'It from Bit': Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Links in Modern Computing”

Thursday, April 21, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Kluge Staff Fellow and senior librarian at the Library of Congress Jennifer Baum Sevec identifies cross-cultural and interdisciplinary contributions to modern computing using items from the Library of Congress collections. Baum Sevec leverages the information theory of pioneering physicist John Archibald Wheeler, who proposed that the fundamental significance of existence--the “it from bit”--originates in the information-theoretic source of binary indications or bits. The observer-participant dynamic was an elemental part of Wheeler’s theory which will figure into Baum Sevec’s analysis.

Annual Maguire Address

“Humanity in Crisis: Ethical Responsibilities to People Displaced by War”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016, 3:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

David Hollenbach, SJ, 2015 Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History, discusses the number of people displaced by war and other crises--which today is higher than at any time since World War II--and the responsibilities of the U.S., of other nations, and of nongovernmental organizations and religious communities to assist these people. A proposal will be made about the ethical responsibilities to protect people in the midst of humanitarian crises and how to prevent such crises. Hollenbach is the University Chair in Human Rights and International Justice and the Director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College. Read more

This event was originally scheduled for January 26, 2016 but was postponed due to inclement weather.



“Can Depression Be Cured? New Research on Depression and its Treatments”

Thursday, May 5, 2016, 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Four medical researchers at the forefront of developing treatments for depression will present new findings in a special conference held at the Kluge Center. The program will occur as part of the annual meeting of the Library of Congress Scholars Council. It will be hosted and moderated by Dr. Philip W. Gold, a Scholars Council member and Senior Investigator with the Office of the Scientific Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Susan Amara, Dr. Raymond DePaulo, and Dr. Carlos Zarate will also present.


“The 'Law of Nations' in America's Independence”

Thursday, May 12, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Emer Vattel’s "Law of Nations" (1758) remained overdue on President George Washington’s library account until it was returned in 2010 with a waived fee of $300,000. One of the most reliable authorities during the Continental Congress (1774-1789), "Law of Nations" was not only the most consulted book on how to turn dependent British colonies into independent political actors on the international stage; it also marked the Declaration of Independence chiefly as a declaration of interdependence with other major European powers and the Constitution as a powerful statement of international law. Kluge Fellow Theo Christov examines the language of the "Law of Nations" and the impact of Vattel on turning the newly rising United States into an international actor and eventual global power.

Co-sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria as part of the European Month of Culture


“Profiles in Statesmanship: 20th Century Breakthroughs for Global Peace and Security & 21st Century Challenges”

Thursday, May 19, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Who were the 20th century world leaders who forged transformational breakthroughs in global peace and security? Why did they make the crucial choices that they did? How did they pursue their goals? What are the lessons for the 21st century global agenda? Kissinger Chair Bruce Jentleson looks across five dimensions of global peace and security--major power geopolitics, building international institutions, fostering reconciliation of peoples, advancing freedom and human rights, and promoting sustainability--and structures the profiles of leaders in a Who-Why-How-What framework to both gain better understanding of key 20th century events and draw lessons for 21st century challenges. Read more

Co-sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden as part of the European Month of Culture


“The American Research University: The Decades Ahead”

Thursday, May 26, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The university has been one of American society's most durable institutions for more than a century -- and the modern research university its most sophisticated presentation. Yet globalization, technology and market forces are likely to reshape the form and function of the research university in the coming decades. What are the relevant forces and what are their likely effects? John Sexton, immediate past president of New York University and current Kluge Chair in American Law in Governance, offers his perspective on the future of American higher education. Read more



“1871: The Ruins of Paris”

Thursday, June 2, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 ended in the popular insurrection known as the Paris Commune, which was put down in bloody civil strife in May of 1871. Much of central Paris was burned during the “Bloody Week” that saw the death of the Commune. The resulting ruins of Paris at once became a tourist attraction, and the subject of remarkable photographs made for the tourist trade. The novelist Gustave Flaubert came to visit the ruins, and found in them a lesson for his contemporaries: if only they had understood the novel he had published some months earlier, Sentimental Education, this cataclysmic destruction never could have happened. Peter Brooks explore that cataclysm, and the specific role of photography in the historiography of the moment. Representative photographs will illustrate the lecture. Read more


“Saving the Web: The Ethics and Challenges of Preserving What’s on the Internet”

Thursday, June 16, 2016, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Preserving the contents of the World Wide Web is an increasingly vital activity. The Web today is an ubiquitous global information system, and yet significant amounts of its contents disappear daily. The average Web page remains online for barely 100 days. This symposium brings together experts in this field to discuss the major issues in the debate around this topic, the future potential of Web archives to researchers and scholars, and the challenges in Web archiving that face libraries, governments, institutions and individuals. Hosted by Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, England, and holder of the 2016 Kluge Chair in Technology and Society. Read more

Note: The symposium is held at the conclusion of a two-day “Datathon” co-hosted by the Law Library of Congress, National Digital Initiatives, Web Archiving program and The John W. Kluge Center, titled “Archives Unleashed 2.0.” For more information on the “Datathon,” click here.


“The Kingdom of Jerusalem and War Against the Infidel: Sixteenth-Century Doctrines of Just War and the Origins of the Spanish Empire”

Thursday, June 23, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Kluge Fellow Andrew Devereux examines the legal and moral questions of empire on the threshold of the early modern era by casting light on Spain’s expansionary ventures in the Mediterranean basin in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. His talk focuses on Spain’s Mediterranean expansion, particularly on Spanish designs on the Holy Land and the ways in which the acquisition of the title to the defunct crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem served as the basis for legal arguments justifying war and conquest in a range of lands inhabited by non-Christian peoples.



“Popular Politics and Public Opinion in Late Medieval Paris”

Thursday, July 14, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The late Middle Ages was one of the most tumultuous periods in European political history, featuring revolts, riots, popular preachers, processions, and other engagements of the people in the political realm that was "unheard of in previous times" according to one chronicler of the period. On Bastille Day, Kluge Fellow Michael Sizer discusses the popular politics of late medieval Paris (1380-1422) and what bearing it may have on the way we understand popular political culture today.

Botkin Lecture

“Home Canning: Cultural Narratives, Technological Change, and the Status of Traditional Knowledge”

Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 12:00 p.m.
Pickford Theater, Third floor, James Madison Memorial Building (view map)

Kluge Fellow Danille Christensen delivers the American Folklife Center 2016 Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture, discussing her research on masculine narratives of canning and the demonization of women’s experience-based domestic knowledge. Read more

Co-sponsored with the American Folklife Center


“Framing Treason: War, Reconciliation, and Memory in the Making of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Pickford Theater, Third floor, James Madison Memorial Building (view map)

Kluge Fellow Taja-Nia Henderson discusses a section of the Fourteenth Amendment that, by its terms, barred from public officeholding Confederate officials and military personnel who had previously taken an oath to uphold the federal constitution. Implementation of this provision, found in Section 3 of the Amendment, dictated that an entire generation of Southerners would be kept from full participation in the region’s reconstructed governments. Henderson documents their efforts, and argues that the petitions for relief prepared by affected persons reveal that whites’ perceptions of the disabilities imposed upon them by Section 3 formed the prism through which they understood their obligations under Sections 1 and 2.


“Making Patriotic Prostitutes: The South Korean Government's Policies on Prostitution for the U.S. Military”

Thursday, July 28, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Kluge Fellow Jeong-Mi Park discusses how the South Korean government controlled military prostitutes catering to American servicemen, in the context of the U.S. military occupation, the Hot and Cold Wars, economic development, and globalization. She also reveals the ways in which the Korean government strove to make these “dangerous” women into “patriotic” subjects who could contribute to national security.



“Peace and Concord in the Qur'an”

Thursday, August 18, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The Muslim scripture, the Qur'an or Koran, has been analyzed a great deal for its ideas on a whole range of subjects, from late antique economic practices to notions of the just war. The literature on its ideas regarding peace, however, is remarkably small. Yet peace is central to this book on a whole range of dimensions, from community relations to inner, mystical composure, to visions of heaven and the world after the Judgment Day. This talk by Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South Juan Cole will provide a tour of the eirenic messages of the Qur'an. Read more


Astrobiology Symposium

“The Emergence of Life: On the Earth, in the Lab, and Elsewhere”

Thursday, September 15, 2016 -- all day
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The emergence of life is among the most compelling questions in astrobiology. This symposium will bring together scientists, humanists, and authors to explore what we know about the origins of life, how we came to know it, and what it means. Hosted by Astrobiology Chair Nathaniel Comfort.
Read more | See schedule



“The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan”

Thursday, October 20, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Kluge Fellow Sarah Cameron analyzes a little-known episode of Stalinist social engineering, the Kazakh famine of 1930-33, which led to the death of more than 1.5 million people, a quarter of Soviet Kazakhstan's population. Using memoirs, oral history accounts, and archival documents, she explores the stories of those who lived through the famine, asking how this crisis reshaped Soviet Kazakhstan and what it meant to be "Kazakh," and how the case of the Kazakh famine alters understandings of development and nation-building under Stalin.

Annual Maguire Lecture

“The Economy of Promises: Trust and Credit in America”

Friday, October 28, 2016, 3:00 p.m.
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

In an economy that depends on credit, people have to decide who is trustworthy and will keep their promises, and who is not. 2016 Maguire Chair Bruce Carruthers considers how credit and credit decision-making in the U.S. has developed over the 19th and 20th-centuries with the invention and spread of credit ratings and scores. These augmented and even replaced older methods that depended on individual reputations and personal relationships, and eventually governed the allocation of consumer and business credit. Read more



“Delight in What It Is to be American”: Sidney Robertson on the Road, 1935–1937

Thursday, November 3, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

In her travels as a “government song woman” during the 1930s, folk-music collector Sidney Robertson recorded a wide range of musical expression that would help to shape the folk music revival in the decades that followed. Kluge Fellow Sheryl Kaskowitz discusses how beyond this important musical contribution, Sidney's letters and reports from these trips paint a vivid picture of life in Depression-era America and shed light on the government's use of music in the service of uniting the people during the New Deal.


“Neutrality, Print Publicity, and the Politics of Slavery in the Early Republic”

Thursday, November 17, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

As Americans publicly debated their foreign relations in the 1790s, they enacted on their own soil the very foreign conflicts that they claimed not to want. Jameson Fellow Wendy Wong examines the neutrality crisis through the publicizing of information in print, exploring the ways that the struggle to remain neutral was fraught with irony, even as it meant resisting being drawn into foreign conflict. In particular, her talk focuses on how the slavery question arose in public debates over neutrality, challenging the Early Republic’s stability and its ability to remain neutral.



“Contemporary African Immigrants in the United States”

Thursday, December 15, 2016, 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

Hosted by historian Toyin Falola, 2016 Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South and member of the Library of Congress Scholars Council, and featuring:

  • Abdul Karim Bangura, Researcher-in-residence of Abrahamic Connections and Islamic Peace Studies at the Center for Global Peace in the School of International Service at American University and the Director of The African Institution, both in Washington, D.C.
  • Nemata Blyden, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs and Interim Director of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at The George Washington University
  • Kenneth Harrow, Distinguished Professor of English, African Literature and Cinema at Michigan State University
  • Moses Ochonu, Professor of History at Vanderbilt University


“What Americans Want and How to Give It to Them: Market Research and Public Relations, from Edward Bernays to Ernest Dichter”

Thursday, December 22, 2016, 12:00 p.m.
Room LJ-119, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building (view map)

The American public relations expert Edward Bernays and the Austrian psychologist and émigré market researcher Ernest Dichter each had a curious relationship to Sigmund Freud: Bernays was Freud’s nephew, yet his uncle was less a mentor to him than a client, for whom he arranged the publication of American editions of his books; and Dichter lived across the street from Freud in Vienna, but he never studied under him or even met him. Yet in the popular imagination—most prominently in Adam Curtis’s 2002 documentary film, The Century of the Self—their rather flimsy association with Freud was sufficient to presume a masterful, even devious, use of his theories toward the end of mass manipulation. The truth is rather more banal, and in fact Bernays and Dichter worked in different fields and used different methods—but that is not to underestimate their central importance in the history of American public relations and consumer marketing. Jameson Fellow Joseph Malherek considers their roles in the American practice of propaganda and market research in the middle of the twentieth century, and the degree to which their methods could successfully manipulate public opinion and the behavior of consumers and citizens.

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