Crisis, Uncertainty, and History: Trajectories and Experiences of Accelerated Change

Thousands of protesters gather at Fifth Avenue and Washington Street in downtown Seattle

The Ohio State University Center for Historical Research
2021-2023 Series

Historians study trajectories of change through time. We are concerned with the pace and causes of change and we are concerned with its experiential impact and societal outcomes. And sometimes change accelerates, in a swirl of dynamic interactions that take us by surprise, leading us out of routines into unfamiliar spaces.

The CHR presents a two-year series on the problem of crisis in history. This series was launched in the spring of 2020 by the sudden challenges and uncertainties in our recent and ongoing experience with the Covid-19 pandemic: our opening conversations revolved around the sudden impact of epidemic disease but soon broadened out into a consideration of the more general nature of crisis. Since our first conversations the explosive sequence of events unfolding with the death of George Floyd, the 2020 election, global fires and floods attributed to anthropogenic climate warming, and most recently the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan have made our inquiry into the dynamics of crisis all the more pressing. We hope that as the series begins the public and academy will want to engage in an assessment of our longer moment of crisis, and to situate in into a sequence of conditions, impacts, and consequences: what we might call the “before, during, and after” of the events of 2020-2021.  We hope that our presentations over these two years will help up with this assessment of these recent experiences, as well as those of people in moments of crisis in times past.

Friday, September 10, 2021 – Roberto Barrios, Professor of Anthropology, University of New Orleans
“A Crisis for Whom? Epistemologies, Historiographies, and Praxis in Times of Upheaval” 
View a video of this presentation. (Available for a limited time.)
Professor Barrios is the author of Governing Affect: Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction (Nebraska, 2017)
This talk is co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology.
Read the abstract.

Friday, October 1, 2021 – Robin Wagner-Pacifici, University Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research
“Double Exposure: Pandemic and Protest in 2020”
View a video of this presentation. (Available for a limited time.)
Professor Wagner-Pacifici is the author of What Is an Event? (Chicago, 2017)
This event is co-sponsored by the OSU Office of Diversity
Read the abstract.

Friday, October 22, 2021 – Chad Wellmon, Univ. of Virginia and Paul Reitter, Ohio State Univ., in conversation with Ying Zhang, Ohio State Univ.
“Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age”
Zoom event: Noon-1:30 p.m. EST
Register Here
Read the abstract.

Friday, October 29, 2021 – Anna Tsing, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
“Is the Anthropocene amenable to historical analysis? Feral Atlas for historians”
Zoom event: 3:30-5:00 p.m. 
This event is co-sponsored by the Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme and the Department of Anthropology.
Register Here

Anna Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, where she is the director of the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene. Tsing is the author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton, 2015) and the co-creator of The Feral Anthropocene
This event is co-sponsored by the Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme and the Department of Anthropology.
Read the abstract.

Friday, November 19, 2021 – Geoffrey Parker, Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History and Associate of the Mershon Center, Ohio State University
and Adam Izdebski, Independent Research Group Leader, Palaeo-Science and History Research Group, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
“Climate Change, Crisis, and Resilience in The Pre-Modern World”
Zoom event: 1:30-3:00 p.m.: Please note our special time for this event.
Register Here
Professor Parker is the author of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (Yale, 2013), and Emperor: A new life of Charles V (Yale, 2019). Dr. Izdebski is a widely published historical climatologist specializing in the Ancient to early modern Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.
Read the abstract.

Spring 2022 [Hybrid events]

Friday, January 21, 2022 – Michael Berry, Professor, Modern Chinese Literature and Film, UCLA;
“Translation Diary: Disinformation Campaigns, US-China Relations, and COVID19.”
Zoom Event, 3:30-5:00PM
Co-sponsored with the Institute of Chinese Studies.
Author of A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film (New York, 2008).

Friday, February 4, 2022 – Jacob Soll, Professor and Professor of Philosophy, History and Accounting at the University of Southern California
“Crisis, Accounting, and Accountability in the French Revolution.”
A Zoom Event, 3:30-5:00PM
Author of The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (New York, 2014).

Friday, February 25, 2022 – Julia Keblinska, The East Asian/Slavic, East European and Eurasian CHR Crisis Post-Doctoral Fellow:
Genres of Crisis: Cinema at the Brink of Postsocialism”
A Hybrid Event, 3:30-5:00PM
Keblinska earned her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 2021, in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Her dissertation is titled “New Era, New Media: The Postsocialist Chinese Media Ecology.”

Friday, April 8, 2022 – Joseph Manning, William K. and Marilyn Milton Simpson Professor of Classics and Professor of History and Senior Research Scholar in Law, Yale University,
A Hybrid Event, 3:30-5:00PM
Author of The Open Sea: The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome (Princeton, 2018).

Ling Zhang, Associate Professor of History at Boston College author The River, the Plain, and the State: An Environmental Drama in Northern Song China, 1048-1128 (Cambridge, 2016), Will be in China in 2021-22, and will present in 2022-23.


Painting - Julius Caesar Assassin Ides of March
CHR-Crisis Steering Committee:
John Brooke, History, Series Chair and CHR Director
Joan Cashin, History
Jeffrey Cohen, Anthropology
Amy Fairchild, Dean of Public Health
Anthony Kaldellis, Classics
Peter Mansoor, History
Dorothy Noyes, English and Comparative Studies
Chris Otter, History
Paul Reitter, Germanic Languages and Literatures
Tina Sessa, History
Jennifer Siegel, History
Sarah Van Beurden, History
Ying Zhang, History

Please send any inquiries regarding this program to John Brooke,