I am a public historian and a college professor. As a scholar and researcher, I examine the cultural, social and political contexts within which memory is experienced, articulated and expressed. As a public historian, I take an active role in these very processes while sometimes guiding and offering historical perspective and scholarly insight into them. I am interested in participatory memory work at every level and so I initiate projects, advise on them, teach students how to implement them and study them ethnographically. The way(s) we reflect on, live through and transcend the past is my passion.
For more about my commitments to public history, please click here. To see examples of some projects I have developed with my students at Salem State and Sewanee: University of the South, click here.
I found my way to academia after pursuing other endeavors, most of which involved efforts to animate a vision for social justice in places that mattered very much to me, the cities of central Connecticut where I was raised and the hills of western Massachusetts that became my chosen home. I ran a six-bed home for HIV symptomatic residents in my hometown, Meriden, CT. I raised funds and did marketing for a nonprofit community loan fund developed and supported by an eclectic and ecumenical coalition of religious and social justice organizations in New Haven, CT. I spent many years developing and directing service-learning programs, all the while striving to push the movement for civic engagement towards deeper reflection, more critical analysis and more honest dialogue about both the structural inequalities in U.S. society and the ways that our strengths and talents as individuals, communities and constituencies could improve our individual lives and our common lot.
A long time interest in Northern Ireland drew me to Derry in 1998 in the wake of both the Good Friday agreement and the Omagh bombing. As a visiting fellow for community engagement at Magee College of the University of Ulster, I got to know the people of the northwest and became increasingly interested in both memorial landscapes and in the power of the past -- experienced, interpreted and performed. And so began an ongoing relationship with Derry city that ultimately led to graduate study in history and to my doctoral dissertation and my forthcoming book on memory and identity in Catholic Derry from the turn of the 20th century onwards. Derry's history of memory teaches us much about the ways in which conflict shapes and is shaped by interpretations of the past, the ways that family, community and neighborhood sustain and are sustained by acts and expressions of memory and the ways cityscapes themselves are actors in the ongoing displays and negotiations over narrative.
Why the flickering lamp?
You may have noticed the name of my website. It comes from a quote by one of the most quotable figures of the 20th century, Winston Churchill. "History, with its flickering lamp, stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days." I love the image of the flickering lamp and I love the imagery of resolution despite the inevitable clumsiness and incompleteness. I like to think that our curiosity, our imagination and our commitments to deep, careful and generous exploration of the past can help us make better sense of the present and create a more just future.
Note: I am on a leave of absence from Salem State University from July 2015 to August 2017 in order to take on a Mellon fellowship at the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian and Place-Based Studies, located at Sewanee - University of the South.
Around the Web
- My Salem State faculty page
- Some of my published work and the text of talks I've given can be viewed or downloaded from Academia.edu.
****The views expressed on this blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Salem State University.