Humanities Happy Hour set for Sept. 17

September 16, 2015 | Events, Research, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences
By Lindsay Mahaney

When comparing the social sciences and the humanities, it’s easy to see they influence each other.

Dr. Jeffrey Broxmeyer, UT assistant professor of political science, and Dr. Beth Schlemper, UT associate professor of geography, will speak during Humanities Happy Hour Thursday, Sept. 17, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Libbey Hall dining room.

humanities happy hour fall 2015The free, public event will begin at 5 p.m. with a beer and wine cash bar and free refreshments that will continue through the talks and end at 8 p.m.

Broxmeyer’s research surrounds political fortunes in American politics, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which will be the topic of his talk, “Political Capitalism: Lessons From the Gilded Age.”

“Some of the first millionaires in the country were actually political party leaders,” he explained. “I’m really interested in how and why that happened.”

Political institutions in the 19th century, like political parties, were similar to capitalism, Broxmeyer said, which is why he first became intrigued with the time period. Political capitalism is a term he uses to explain how political powers garner wealth.

Particularly in New York, the area he will focus on in his presentation, there was a dominant political machine — a political organization in which an authoritative boss or small group commands the backing of supporters and businesses and reaps the rewards — in the Democratic party called Tammany Hall. These leaders took part in a variety of activities, such as chartering banks and buying and selling real estate for profit, that were hotly debated at the time. As they became successful business owners, large amounts of money were being funneled into the politician’s campaigns for re-election, he explained.

“A number of political figures associated with this faction became hugely wealthy in a very short amount of time,” he said. “In the 19th century, the question of legality was really up in the air. It was always a great public debate whether the public was OK with this or not. It was constantly moving back and forth.”

Schlemper’s presentation, “Place and Belonging in Wisconsin’s Holyland,” will focus on her research about what composes a region and how people identify themselves.

“I was thinking about how places impact our identity and also how our identities are placed,” she said. “Typically, we identify with a particular place, and we do so at different geographic scales.”

She cited her own experience of growing up in central Missouri, which she considers to be in the Midwest. However, when she went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her doctoral program, locals considered her to be from the South.

Wisconsin’s Holyland — an area in east central Wisconsin where a tightly knit group of descendants of 19th-century German Catholic immigrants live — is an example she will explore. The area has been known for its distinctive settlement since the mid-1800s and continues to be a primarily German Catholic community today. However, Schlemper notes that there are pockets of Irish Catholic immigrants surrounding the area that are not considered part of the Holyland.

“Most residents don’t include the Irish as part of this area and have established borders of the region to exclude this group,” she said. “People define the borders in different ways in the Holyland, and this has changed over time; I plan to talk about how regions are created and maintained.”

Humanities Happy Hour was started in 2014 by the Humanities Institute in the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences. The institute serves as an advocate and support for the study of human culture at the University.

“The work of these researchers demonstrates the ways that humanities approaches are important to other disciplines, as well,” said Dr. Christina Fitzgerald, director of the institute and English professor. “Specifically, both Dr. Broxmeyer and Dr. Schlemper use historical investigation and evidence in their work in political science and geography. The division of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences is convenient for organizational reasons, but it’s not always true to the work we actually do in our research.”

For more information, contact the Humanities Institute at 419.530.4407 or

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