Oral Presentations - Session 1E: UC 332


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Friday, April 17th
9:00 AM

Resisting Purity Politics: Scandal and Dissent in Caminetti's America

Jennifer Pepprock, University of Montana - Missoula

UC 332

9:00 AM - 9:20 AM

In March of 1912, Farley Drew Caminetti and Lola Norris fled to Reno to avoid scandal. Shortly after their arrival, police arrested Caminetti and charged him with violating the Mann Act. The act stemmed from public hysteria over the forced prostitution of young women, termed “white slavery.” Immediately following Caminetti’s arrest, the press saw the potential for scandal in his story. It included an important element of gossip – socially unacceptable sex. More importantly, Caminetti was the son of the newly appointed Federal Commissioner
General of Immigration. The Wilson Administration scrambled to cover up the scandal. Their attempt,
however, only reaped more scrutiny as it interfered with the judicial process. Over the course of the case, the media’s muckraking did significant damage to the reputation of anyone who threatened the Mann Act. In their final decision, the Supreme Court upheld and expanded the act. Both Congress and the Supreme Court were unwilling to take on the Mann Act’s expansion even as it created and aided blackmailing groups. As blackmail continued, public opinion ostracized the Mann Act for the first time in its history. By synthesizing newspapers, court cases and government documents, my project concludes that Caminetti’s scandal demonstrates the growing power of media in politics during the Progressive Era. The media effectively dominated the Caminetti conversation by scrutinizing anyone who posed a threat to the Mann Act. While the media’s actions protected
the Mann Act from government dissent, they ultimately turned public opinion against the act by supporting its expansion which aided blackmailers. While many historians emphasize the power of Progressive Era muckrakers as reformers, my project reveals how the media’s scandals actually inspired government inaction and public dissent through debauched legislation. It speaks to the power of national media in dominating and corrupting the political process.

9:20 AM

Romantic Science

Tylyn Newcomb, University of Montana - Missoula

UC 332

9:20 AM - 9:40 AM

The German authors Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich von Hardenberg, known as Novalis, left behind important literary and scientific legacies that helped shape the way the world considers nature. Both of these authors have backgrounds in science – Goethe highly regarded scientific observation and study, especially in the field of botany, and Novalis was a scientist skilled in mineralogy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and physiology – and their appreciation of science comes through in much of their writing, and in this paper, I examine their scientific background within the context of how each author writes about nature. While different from each other’s, their respective treatments of nature go against the traditional Enlightenment approach to nature, which was to view it as something to be observed, catalogued, and subsequently controlled. In his early work, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, Goethe uses nature as a tool to mirror the moods and emotions of his title character. Werther has an intensely personal connection with the natural world around him, and this kind of relationship with nature was quite novel at the time. Novalis, who greatly admired Goethe’s writing and his background in science, approached nature in a very quintessentially romantic fashion. His fragment novel Heinrich von Ofterdingenplaces nature at the forefront of his main character’s spiritual and poetic transformation. In this presentation, I will analyze both works from the perspective that the authors’ scientific backgrounds helped shape their treatment of nature and thus helped shape the view of nature for following generations.

9:40 AM

Marketing Identity: Consumer Society, Ethnic Sectarianism, and the Commodification of the Orient in Little Syria, America

Eamon Ormseth, University of Montana - Missoula

UC 332

9:40 AM - 10:00 AM

From 1870-1920, Syrians—primarily but not entirely Christian—emigrated to the United States for a suitably modern reason: the devastation of the Lebanese silk industry due to the opening of the Suez Canal and, with it, the Chinese silk market. After stepping off the boat, they found themselves in an America industrializing and urbanizing. As their diasporic economy increased in sophistication, Syrians embraced the growing consumer society. Peddlers went from door-to-door, town-to-town, selling ‘Oriental’ kimonos (scarves) and rugs, illustrating the commodification of the ‘Orient’ in American consumer culture. Their economic success impressed many Americans, but it did not translate into widespread acceptance. Mainstream newspapers often depicted them as spiritually timeless, yet intellectually primitive. Leaders of the community mobilized to prove the whiteness of the Syrians by advancing an argument that partially relied on tropes about the Orient. The mediums and style of their discourse—books, Arabic-language newspapers, and civic associations—showed that race had become commodified in the new market economy. Ideas about race, religion, and their associated privileges had entered the marketplace, and constructing and marketing them became a crucial new aspect of identity politics in America. Much critical work has been done concerning the ways in which Syrians experienced their ethnicization, but this scholarship has not been connected to a wider discourse about broader social forces such as the rise of American consumerism. This paper contributes to a large body of scholarship founded by Edward Said’s seminal work Orientalism. He places the genesis of the American Orientalism immediately after WWII. It joins Naomi Rosenblatt and antedates Said by placing the onset of Orientalism within the swirling onset of consumer society in modernizing America. It contributes by interrogating the how Syrians employed racial and religious constructs to assert their identity within both America and the Syrian/Lebanese nation.

10:00 AM

Butte, America: Poor Practices of the Richest Hill on Earth

Shannon Buswell, University of Montana - Missoula

UC 332

10:00 AM - 10:20 AM

Butte, America has long been referred to as "the Richest Hill on Earth." The discovery of massive ore deposits in the area in the nineteenth century ignited what would become decades of resource extraction that would forever change Butte. Not only would the subsequent decades of mining drastically alter the geographic landscape, environment, and history of the region, but also the very people of Butte. The job opportunities that copper mining in Butte provided at the time led to a wave of (predominately Irish) immigration that helped grow and foster a burgeoning economy, but at huge costs. These costs of Butte's mining practices are environmentally obvious, as one glance at the Berkeley Pit will demonstrate. However, there are significant human costs that are much less evident. The toll that mining in Butte had on human health was immense. The high levels of silicosis in miners from this area offers an example of the human aspect of the toll that mining had on Butte, and the environmental injustices that occurred there. My research will utilize the perspective of environmental justice to examine the impact that mining had on human health in Butte, especially regarding silicosis. Through exploring human health impacts, I will examine an issue that is often overshadowed in the case of Butte's mining - environmental degradation is most often at the forefront of research and concern. Additionally, I will explore the issue in regard to environmental justice, which is not often considered, even though it is significant. I will utilize historical documents and statistics related to the Butte area and its history to gain knowledge of Butte's mining practices, and then apply the current understanding of health and environmental justice to this subject to highlight an issue that is an important part of Montana history that deserves more attention.

10:20 AM

Dibe’ Bikee' Deya: Following Sheep in Coal Country

Caitlin Piserchia, University of Montana - Missoula

UC 332

10:20 AM - 10:40 AM

Black Mesa is a mineral-rich area of the Navajo and Hopi Nations in Arizona; it is both the locus of the historic so-called Hopi-Navajo land conflict and the coal mines that have helped make possible the electricity usage of Las Vegas. It is also a case study in cultural change and resistance in response to pressures of industrialization and capitalism. In an interdisciplinary, creative nonfiction writing project, I am looking in particular at the pressures on sheepherding as livelihood in Black Mesa. I will examine how sheepherding has changed since the advent of the Black Mesa and Kayenta coal mines. I will examine the question of why certain Dine’ continue to oppose the coal mines, and how much agency traditional Dine’ have in “deciding” whether or not to relocate or take part in a coal-driven economy. My approach is qualitative, self-reflexive, and participatory; I am drawing on historical documents, previous economic and anthropological studies, contextual histories of the region, interviews, and my personal experience herding sheep in the vicinity of Black Mesa Coal Mine. Trying to understand these interactions as a nonnative has highlighted for me the importance and politics of storytelling in shaping physical reality. It has also highlighted for me the complications and importance of appropriate interactions between Native and non-native Americans. This is a personally important project that will be relevant to the people struggling to end coal mining in Black Mesa. Aside from that, I hope the integration of my research and experiences will shed some light on lessons of power and resilience, cultural survival, the politics of storytelling, the complicated interactions between white and Native cultures, and understanding land use decisions from Navajo country.