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Seminars & Symposiums

Seminar: The Splendid Dead-The Personal and the Political in America’s First Age of Terror by Professor Kevin Boyle

2016-1-23 (Sat) 10:00 - 13:45

Dear Colleagues:

We are looking for discussants/participants for our American Studies Seminar
held at Osaka University on 23 January 2016. We are also looking for a few Graduate Students and young scholars to test their hypotheses on any field of American Studies in the latter part of the seminar.

If you are interested, please contact:

Yoneyuki Sugita
American Studies Seminar at Osaka University


23 January 2016 (Saturday)


Office for University-Industry Collaboration (Building A), Suita Campus, Osaka University (Access map) (Suita Campus Map: #47)

Session 1: 10:00-11:30

Professor Kevin Boyle (William Smith Mason Professor of American History, Northwestern University)

Title: The Splendid Dead-The Personal and the Political in America’s First Age of Terror


In recent years we’ve seen the international order shaken again and again by the violent acts of terrorism’s ordinary men, from the September 11 hijackers to the brothers who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo earlier this year. In the immediate aftermath journalists draw on the moments when the perpetrators came under official scrutiny? an arrest for a petty crime, a stint in prison, an intercepted phone call ? to piece together their path to extremism. It’s revelatory work. But the evidence is too fragmentary to uncover the deeper patterns of thought and behavior, relationships and emotions that course through extremist movements. To reveal those patterns, and the bloodshed they produce, we need the incredibly rich record that current events rarely provide.

Occasionally historical events do create that sort of record. My project centers on one of the most remarkable examples. It was created to chronicle the life and death of Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who for a few years in the mid-1920s was one of the most famous people in the world, the central figure in what was widely seen as one of the age’s great miscarriages of justice. The Splendid Dead isn’t yet another examination of the Sacco-Vanzetti case. There is a shelf full of those already in print, the vast majority of them focused on the trial that convicted Vanzetti and his comrade, Nick Sacco, of murder; a handful of others on the agitation that followed. I turn the story inside out, using the vast material the case created to create an intensely intimate history of political extremism and governmental repression in the early twentieth-century United States.

The Splendid Dead traces Vanzetti’s radicalization, a fusion of the personal and the political that began in a baker’s kitchen in northern Italy and concluded in a Connecticut stone quarry. It follows him into the Galleanisti, a tiny anarchist faction that at its peak had perhaps 500 members in the United States, all of them Italian immigrants, connected through a complex network of ideology, geography, and family. It explores how his commitment fueled his intellectual ambitions, directed his passions, and remade his sense of himself. It sweeps him into the cycle of repression and reprisal that took hold of the group during World War I, a cycle that culminated in the Galleanisti staging eight bombings in seven cities on a single night in June 1919, one of them intended to assassinate the Attorney General of the United States. And it shows how the federal government’s furious response not only caught up Vanzetti? as it clearly did -- but also gave him the opportunity to prove his devotion to the cause. The Splendid Dead, in sum, explores on the most personal level what it meant to live and die for a movement that embraced terror as a path to social change.


1. Professor Naoko Koda (Adjunct Lecturer, Kinki University)

2. Professor Scott Brooks (Specially-appointed Lecturer, Tottori University)

Session 2: 11:45-13:45

Workshop for Graduate Students/Young Researchers

Date: 2016-1-23 (Sat) 10:00 - 13:45
Organizer: Sugita Laboratory
Venue: Office for University-Industry Collaboration (Building A), Suita Campus, Osaka University
Registration: Registration by email is required for this event.
Contact: Yoneyuki Sugita

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