Department News

November 2015


Congratulations to Paul Lerner who has just been promoted to Full Professor of History!

The History Department is proud to announce that our PhD candidate Stefan Smith has been hired as a writer for the television program Drunk History!  

Marjorie Becker’s poetic and historical eulogy for our colleague Maria Elena Martinez just appeared in the Hispanic American Historical Review on line.  The eulogy is entitled, “And Cry Again and Shout as We . . .”  She also was invited to and has agreed to chair the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Grant Committee, on which she served last year.  She is co-chairing the history department’s colonial Latin American search committee, and will serve again on the Woodrow Wilson Charlotte Newcombe grant committee.

Bill Deverell and Darryl Holter have just published Woody Guthrie L.A., 1937-1941 with Angel City Press.

Wolf Gruner organized together with Nick Strimple (USC Thornton School of Music) "Singing in the Lion's Mouth: Music as Resistance to Genocide," a successful two-day event series on campus. The program began with two film screenings, Screamers, a film by Carla Garapedian, and Following the Ninth, a film by Kerry Candaele. Both films were followed by very interesting discussions involving the audience and the filmmakers. The second day started with an academic symposium with seven scholars from Europe, Indonesia, South Africa, and the United States. Their research presentations discussed and challenged our understanding of how music serves as a means of resistance. The events series on October 10th and 11th, 2015, supported by the USC Vision and Voices initiative and co-hosted by the USC Shoah foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research and the USC Thornton School of Music, ended with a moving evening concert that included performances by choral and instrumental USC students as well as original recordings of songs used or created as resistance during the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide and the Indonesian Purges.

Peter Mancall has received a Dyason Fellowship from the University of Melbourne and is the PI for a newly awarded ACLS Postdoctoral Partnership Initiative grant.   He is also now the Vice Dean for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Dornsife.

Vanessa Schwartz delivered a lecture on Teaching Western Civ. at Berkeley at a conference in honor of Tom Laqueur;  delivered the closing keynote, “Paparazzi: The Last Professionals" at the Reconsidering Photography Conference for the Mois de la Photo in Montréal, at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art lectured on “Networks” at the Terra Foundation Symposium, "Shifting Terrain: Mapping a Transnational American Art;” at the Cullman Center at the NYPL spoke on “Jet Age Aesthetics” and will give the Edith Bleich Lecture at the University of Miami Center for the Humanities on the origin of media events in late nineteenth century Paris. She is also an invited Professor at the Van Leer Institute at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at Ben Gurion University in December 2015 where she will lecture on France and the culture of mobility. 

Schwartz also published a response essay in Elkins, et. al. Farewell to Visual Studies. A Stone Seminar Book. (Penn State, 2015).

October 2015

Wolf Gruner was invited to author two chapters, one about his early research on Jewish Forced labor and one about his recent work on local and regional anti-Jewish policies in the annexed territories, to a two volume special edition of Revue d’histoire de la Shoah on German historiography on the Holocaust since 1990 which features original contributions by the most influential German historians. The planned volumes are a cooperation of the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris and the Center for Holocaust Studies of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich.

Steve Ross was interviewed by Vince Houghton, director of the International Spy Museum, for his hour-long Spycast Podcast as part of the first Politicon Convention held in Los Angeles October 9-10, 2015. He was also interviewed by the Boston Globe for an article on “Presidential Celebrity Endorsements.”

September 2015

Based on her committee work for the AHA and for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Marjorie Becker was asked to help link the two regarding a new Woodrow Wilson fellowship.  She was also invited to the first ever poetry reading of her longstanding poetry salon, populated by poets trained by English Department chair and professor David St. John. She and her poetry from her previous collections and the one in the making were introduced by St. John.  Among other poems, she read her eulogy to the late Colombian writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who emerges in a distinct form in her forthcoming history article, itelf in part based on her longstanding experience teaching ARLT students fashions in which to assess history and literature. Her last poem was a eulogy to her late father, Marvin Jerome (“Buddy”) Becker.

Daniela Bleichmar's article, "The Imperial Visual Archive: Images, Evidence, and Knowledge in the Early Modern Hispanic World," has just appeared in the Colonial Latin American Review.

August 2015

Marjorie Becker’s article, “Had Pilar Ternera Co-Written Cien Aňos de Soledad, Gabo, I’d Never Write You Now: Toward a Letter to the Dead,” has been accepted for publication in Rethinking History. She has been invited to serve a third year on the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s Charlotte Newcombe Fellowship prize committee.  She has also been invited to participate in a panel focusing on the Spanish Civil War and the literature it prompted.

Daniela Bleichmar has co-edited (with Meredith Martin of NYU) the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Art History, a collection of twelve essays entitled Objects in Motion in the Early Modern World that will also come out as a stand-alone paperback book from Wiley in a few months. Daniela's contribution is a co-written introduction and an article entitled "History in Pictures: Translating the Codex Mendoza," which is part of her ongoing monograph project on knowledge-making in colonial Mexico and early modern Europe.

Wolf Gruner
received a USC Vision and Voices grant to organize together with the Center for Advanced Genocide Research and the Thornton School of Music several events around the international symposium “Music as Resistance to Genocide” on October 10th and 11th, consisting of documentary screenings and an evening concert, where students performed pieces of resistance music.  In June and July, he stayed in Berlin, Germany as a DAAD fellow at the Center for Jewish Studies in Berlin. During his residency he gave an invited paper on “What could Germans and German Jews in the Third Reich know about the Armenian Genocide?” at the Third international ICRAR conference “Gender, Memory and Genocide - Marking 100 Years Since the Armenian Genocide”, organized by the Technical University Berlin, the Central European University Budapest and Sabancı University Istanbul, on June, 5th 2015 at the Center for the Research on Antisemitism in Berlin. On June 27th, he gave an invited paper for the concluding round table at the international conference “Der Ort der »Volksgemeinschaft« in der deutschen Gesellschaftsgeschichte. Internationale Abschlusskonferenz des Niedersächsischen Forschungskollegs »Nationalsozialistische ›Volksgemeinschaft‹?« in Hannover, Germany.  On 9 July 2015 Wolf Gruner led a workshop about the “USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen für die Forschung” at the Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Jewish Studies. The same day he gave there an evening keynote lecture: “Defiance and Protest. Forgotten Reactions of German Jews to the National Socialist persecution 1933-45”.  Gruner was also invited for a guest lecture at the class “Modern German Jewish History and the Holocaust” of the international Berlin Leo Baeck Summer School 2015 by Dr. Stefanie Fischer.  On 21 July 2015 her seminar was on “Persecution, Nuremberg laws, Kristallnacht and Emigration”. The assigned text was an article by Gruner on the initiative role of municipalities regarding the persecution of the Jews that the students would discuss with the author. Lastly, In August a digital reprint of Gruner’s 2005 book “Widerstand in der Rosenstrasse” was published by S. Fischer in Frankfurt.

George Sanchez is President of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association in 2015-2016.  He will preside over the 109th annual meeting of the Pacific Coast Branch on August 4-6, 2016 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott in Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii on the Big Island.  This year’s theme is “Uncharted Terrain: The Challenge of Re-Imagining Traveling to the Past.”  You are welcome to submit a complete panel proposal or individual paper submission to the program committee by December 4, 2015.  The Program Committee chairs are two USC Ph.D. Graduates, Associate Professor Ana Elizabeth Rosas (of History) at and Assistant Professor Mark Padoongpatt at

April 2015

Congratulations to Sachiko Kawai (,  who will graduate from the PhD program next month, and has accepted the position of College Fellow in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard for the 2015-16 academic year.

Three of our graduate student colleagues have received Graduate School Advanced Fellowships—Nicholas Gliserman ( and Christian Paiz ( have been awarded year-long Dissertation Completion Fellowships and Karin Amundsen ( has been awarded a Graduate School Endowed Fellowship.  Congratulations Nick, Christian and Karin.

Keith Pluymers ( has just learned that he has been selected as a two-year environmental history postdoctoral instructor in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Caltech.  Congratulations, Keith!

Daniela Bleichmar and Vanessa Schwartz have received $175K from the Mellon Foundation to organize a Mellon Sawyer seminar in 2016–2017. The grant will provide funding for a postdoctoral fellow, two graduate fellowships, and a year-long series of meetings on the topic "Visual History: The Past in Images."

Richard Fox has been elected to membership in the Society of American Historians, based at Columbia University.  He has also been appointed to a three-year term as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, the main professional body for scholars of the United States and its colonial antecedents.

Wolf Gruner was awarded a faculty research grant by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Program) to conduct research for 2 months in Germany on individual defiance and resistance of Jews during the Holocaust and its remembrance after 1945. He will be in residence at the Center for Jewish Studies in Berlin in June and July, and give a talk on his topic and host a workshop about testimonies and research. He was invited to give a talk at an international conference on Genocide and Gender, organized by the Technical University Berlin and the Central European University Budapest in early June in Berlin, as well as to participate in a concluding Key note panel at a conference about the society in the Third Reich at the University of Hannover, Germany, in late June.

From Wolf Gruner’s book, Jewish Forced Labor Under the Nazis: Economic Needs and Racial Aims, 1938–1944 (Cambridge UP 2008), the chapter 6 on “Camps and Ghettos – Forced Labor in the Reich Gau Wartheland” was published as a reprint in the extended 2nd edition of: The Holocaust: Origins, Implementation, Aftermath, ed. by Omer Bartov (Rewriting Histories series) Routledge, 2015.

Lon Kurashige’s article, "Rethinking Anti-Immigrant Racism: Lessons from the Los Angeles Vote on the 1920 Alien Land Law," has been selected the best article by an established historian to appear in the Southern California Quarterly in the past three years (2012-2014).  The award is called the Carl I. Wheat Award and was announced at the Historical Society of Southern California-Occidental Conference on April 4th.

In March Peter Mancall spoke on “Writing America’s Origins” at the Sorbonne and on “The Landscape of History” at the École normale supérieure de Lyon.

Nathan Perl-Rosenthal co-authored an op-ed on with Sam Erman (USC Law) about a court case they worked on together regarding the citizenship status of American Samoans.  "Not another Dred Scott case, please"

Vanessa R. Schwartz was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She was also awarded the Charles Lindbergh Chair for a fellowship at the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian. She gave lectures at the Penn Forum for the Humanities, keynoted at the Future of Photo History Conference at the Ryerson Image Center in Toronto and returned to Philly to speak at the Penn Art Museum.

Brett Sheehan has published Industrial Eden: A Chinese Capitalist Vision. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.

On March 26, Jacob Soll presented his book The Reckoning at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Please join us in congratulating Keith Pluymers, who will graduate from the PhD program next month, on his selection as an inaugural Dornsife Preceptor for 2015-2016.  This new and highly selective program will bring Keith into the classroom to teach two courses next year and to assist other colleagues with TA-ing work. Congratulations,  Keith!

March 2015

Marjorie Becker was nominated by the American Historical Association’s committee on committees to serve on it Albert Beveridge grant committee. That entailed reading and assessing 129 grant proposals by grad students and faculty colleagues writing about Canada, the U.S. and Latin America.  Because it was so competitive key issues, including the construction of the prose, the editing of the proposals, proved even more important than usual.

She is also setting up a memorial for Maria Elena Martinez at the Latin American Studies Association to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico this May.

Wolf Gruner was invited to speak at the panel “Holocaust & Genocide Studies: Complementary or Competitive Paradigms?” The panel discussion on February 12th 2015, organized by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies and cosponsored by the UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies and the UCLA Department of History, also featured A. Dirk Moses (Dept. of History and Civilization, European University Institute, Florence) and Benjamin L. Madley, Dept. of History, UCLA). Gruner also gave an invited lecture on "Jewish Defiance, Resistance, & Protest in Nazi Germany" at the Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies at Pepperdine University on Thursday, February 19, 2015.

Vanessa R. Schwartz was awarded a fellowship at the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, where she will be in residence in AY 15-16. She also contributed to a published discussion on “The Nineteenth Century through the Lens of Visual Studies” in the Revue d’histoire du XIX siecle n. 49, 2014/2, pp. 139-178.

Governing the Sea in the Early Modern Era, edited by Carole Shammas and Peter Mancall, is a collection of essays published in honor of Roy Ritchie, the legendary research director at the Huntington Library.  The volume, published by the Huntington and distributed by the University of California Press, features chapters by Keith Pluymers, who recently defended his dissertation in the department, and Adrian Finucane, a former EMSI Mellon fellow who taught in our department for two years.

Brett Sheehan’s “Shotgun Wedding: The Dongya Corporation and the Early Communist Regime,” was published in Sherman Cochran, ed., The Capitalist Dilemma in China’s Communist Revolution: Stay, Leave, or Return?, Cornell University Press, 2014, 21-43.

Jacob Soll gave the annual Rava Lecture in Italian Studies at Washington University of St Louis on Florentine libraries in the 18th c; he took part in a debate about his work at the LSE; he also was invited by the dean of social sciences at UC Irvine to present his work last Wednesday. He was on Readers’ Corner on Idaho NPR on Feb 8; he is working with translators on the Japanese version of his book The Reckoning.   He organized the first Martens Economic Forum at USC, which brought acclaimed scholars from around the world and the country to USC to discuss 18th century British fiscal history; he also signed a contract for his new book, Free Market: The History of a Dream.

Please join us in congratulating our postdoctoral colleague Allison Miller; Allison has just accepted the position as editor of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives magazine.  Congratulations, Allison!

Anne (Andie) Reid, who did her dissertation work on the California mission system with Peter Mancall and Bill Deverell, has accepted a tenure-track appointment in the History Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Congratulations, Andie!

Congratlations to our colleague Vanessa Schwartz who has just been awarded a 2015 USC Mellon Mentoring Award for Faculty Mentoring of Postdoctoral Scholars.  She has previously been awarded the Mellon Mentoring Award for Mentoring Graduate Students.  We are so proud!

Our recent Ph.D student Julia Ornelas-Higdon, who worked with George Sanchez and Bill Deverell, has accepted an appointment as a tenure-track ass't professor in the Department of History at the California State University, Channel Islands.  Congratulations!

February 2015

Lisa Bitel has just published Our Lady of the Rock: Vision and Pilgrimage in the Mojave Desert (Cornell, 2015)

Richard Fox's Lincoln's Body: A Cultural History (W. W. Norton) has been released; author photo by Phil Ethington.

Wolf Gruner’s co-edited book: The Greater German Reich and the Jews: Nazi Persecution Policies in the Annexed Territories 1935-1945 was published with Berghahn Books New York.

Vanessa Schwartz’s Getting the Picture: The Visual Culture of the News co-edited with Jason Hill, with contributions by former USC History students Ryan Linkof, Catherine Clark and Matt Fox-Amato, has been published by Bloomsbury Press. In addition, The Getty Research Journal (n.7) has just been published. Vanessa Schwartz and Jan von Brevern wrote the forward and edited a special section called “Photography’s Past Futures.”

Jake Soll’s
The Reckoning has been chosen by Castle Harlan Private Equity firm as their book of the year (2014) and is also included in Dropout Nation’s 2014 edition of The Top Eight Books That School Reformers Should Read.

Diana Williams has been asked--and agreed--to join the amicus brief of historians of marriage in the DeBoer case, which is being appealed from the 6th Circuit to the U.S. Supreme Court.

January 2015

Alex Aviña who is Marjorie Becker’s former graduate student in Latin American History with a focus on Modern Mexican History, has been promoted to associate professor with tenure at Florida State University.

Phil Ethington just signed the first-ever (peer-reviewed) contract with a University Press
(UC Press) for a born-digital, online book, with a scaled-down full color print version as a stand-alone companion to the digital version.  Ghost Metropolis: Los Angeles Since 13,000, written in many genres and across several disciplines, has been in the making for 14 years, so Phil will be very happy to see it reach the public about a year from now, in both formats.

Wolf Gruner was invited to give a talk on “Jewish Forced Labor in the Service of Private Industry,” as part of the Shoah Teaching Alternatives in Jewish Education (STAJE) seminar on “Big Business and the Holocaust” on 14 December 2014  at the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial New York.

Congratulations to our doctoral candidate colleague, Sari Siegel on the publication of her peer reviewed article, Treating an Auschwitz Prisoner-Physician: The Case of Dr. Maximilian Samuel (Sari J. Siegel, Holocaust and Genocide Studies 2014 28 (3): 450-481, doi: 10.1093/hgs/dcu041).  To read Sari's article, please click here

Professor Jacob Soll traveled to Southern Europe to meet with officials and share his research on the relationship between history and modern economic crises.  The entire article can be found here.

Our colleague, Professor Vanessa Schwartz, has been awarded the 2015 Associates Award for creativity in research and scholarship -- the Associates Awards are the highest honors the university bestows upon its members for distinguished intellectual and artistic achievements and for outstanding teaching, both in and out of the classroom.

We are delighted that our colleague, Francille Wilson, has been elected National Director of the Association of Black Women Historians.  Founded in 1979, ABWH is the professional association for all scholars of black women's history.  As the new National Director, Francille is following in the footsteps of such scholars as Nell Irvin Painter and Darlene Clark Hine.  Many congratulations, Francille!

Wonderful news to start the year – our colleague Glenda Goodman, who is serving as an ACLS New Faculty Fellow in the department, has accepted an offer from the University of Pennsylvania to become an assistant professor of music, starting in Fall, 2015.  Congratulations, Glenda!

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