JHI Faculty Research Fellowships awarded to Dimitry Anastakis, Eric Jennings, and James Retallack

December 10, 2021 by Department of History Staff

We are delighted to announce that Professors Dimitry Anastakis, Eric Jennings, and James Retallack have been awarded the 2022-2023 Jackman Humanities Institute Faculty Research Fellowships on the Annual Theme of Labour. Below you will find descriptions of their projects.

Twelve-Month Fellowships, 2022-2023

Eric Jennings, Department of History

“Vanilla Labourers: 1841-2000”

This project is a component of a monograph tentatively titled A World History of Vanilla (under contract, Yale University Press). It will examine the history of vanilla labour in the nineteenth century from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives including environmental studies, gender studies, French studies, colonial commodity studies, visual studies, African/Indian Ocean studies, and food studies. Vanilla’s moment of globalization is deeply connected to slavery, but in different ways and with different chronologies than cotton or sugar. Prior to 1841, Mexico held a small near-monopoly over vanilla output. In 1841, an enslaved Black teenager named Edmond – subsequently given the surname Albius upon emancipation in 1848 – completely transformed the vanilla sector. He discovered an efficient way of artificially pollinating the vanilla orchid in a matter of seconds with a toothpick or a needle. My project will contextualize his status as a so called “specialist slave,” the ways he acquired botanical knowledge, as well as his triumphs, trials and tribulations, rooted in local and global contexts.

Six-Month Fellowships, 2022-2023

Dimitry Anastakis, Department of History and Rotman School of Management

“Neoliberalism and its Discontents: A Canadian History, 1945-2020”

Neoliberalism has been Canada’s dominant ideological, policy-framework and political, economic, and social reality for the last half-century. Neoliberalism’s defining elements— free trade, individualism, market fundamentalism, privatization, deregulation, and a weakening of the state –have profoundly reshaped Canadian discourse, governance, and society since the 1970s, and marked a departure from the Keynesian interventionist and social welfare approaches that dominated Canadian policy and culture from 1945 until the 1970s. This project seeks to historicize Canadian neoliberalism’s emergence, its ascendance, and the resistance that this ideology and its policies have engendered from its beginnings in the postwar period to the present, and within a transnational context. In so doing, the project aims to explain a fundamental transformation of Canadian life. Neoliberalism and its Discontents is much more than the intellectual history of an ideology and its spread; it is the story of how business, politics, work, governance, welfare, and discourse itself was transformed in postwar Canada from a Keynesian mode to a neoliberal model, much of it through the rhetoric and realities surrounding the debate and enactment of free trade. Above all, it seeks to understand how ordinary Canadians across the generations understood and engaged with abstract ideas of neoliberalism and free trade, and how these ideas came to shape, in very real ways, their lives, jobs, communities, nation, and the broader world in which they live.

James Retallack, Department of History

“August Bebel: Labour, Class, and Social Democracy in a Global Age, 1840-1913”

This project will support work on my biography of August Bebel (1840-1913), who began adult life as an apprentice turner making doorknobs and window-pulls from buffalo horn but rose to become leader of the largest and most powerful socialist party in the world before the First World War. In the coming year I will draft Chapter 3 on the 1870s, which was one of the fullest and most dramatic decades of Bebel’s career. In 1870, from the floor of the Reichstag, Bebel attacked Chancellor Otto von Bismarck—and Prussia itself—for launching a war against France and annexing Alsace and Lorraine. Almost a year later, he defended the Paris Commune in the same forum. The result? A spectacular trial for treason that dominated European headlines for weeks. The expected guilty verdict put Bebel under lock and key for more than two years. Although the term did not yet exist, Bebel was the first “political prisoner” of the new German Empire. During that time he read voraciously and learned the rudiments of Marxism. He drafted one of the bestsellers of the nineteenth century, Woman and Socialism. And he corresponded clandestinely with his wife Julie and others in the rapidly expanding German labour movement. The SPD became an outlawed party for twelve years, beginning in 1878 with passage of Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Law. Soon Bebel was on the run again from gendarmes, spies, and local officials, all of whom were cheered on by an upper middle class (Bürgertum) that saw him as Germany’s own Robespierre. Chapter 3 will introduce and integrate some of the most compelling themes in my book: war and violence, peacemaking and nation-building, state repression and “class justice”, the spectre of revolution, gender relations, and the dawn of modern mass politics in Germany.

My book is planned at roughly 400 printed pages for the trade market: it has the working title August Bebel: A Life for Social Democracy and a projected completion date of 2025. This fellowship will also provide me with time to supervise a local arrangements committee of graduate students to host an international conference in May 2023 on “Labour, Class, and Social Democracy in the Global Age of August Bebel (1840-1918)”. The year 2023 marks the 110th anniversary of August Bebel’s death and the 160th anniversary of the founding of Germany’s first labour party.