29th Annual Symposium of the Friends of the GHI

May 14, 2021  | 10am - 2pm ET

Award of the 2020 & 2021 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize at the GHI | Prize Winners: Emma Thomas (PhD., University of Michigan, 2019) and Richard Calis (PhD., Princeton University, 2020)

The 29th Annual Symposium of the Friends of the GHI will feature lectures from the 2020 and 2021 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize winners. The prizes are kindly sponsored by the Friends of the German Historical Institute. Please register for the lectures individually.

“'Contact' Embodied: German Colonialism, New Guinean Women, and the Everyday Exploitation of a Labor Force"

The 2020 Fritz Stern prize lecture will be delivered by Emma Thomas for her dissertation, “Contested Labors: New Guinean Women and the German Colonial Indenture, 1884-1914" (PhD. Dissertation, University of Michigan, 2019). This talks explores the histories of indigenous women and their participation in the indentured labor force that formed the foundation of German colonial rule in New Guinea (1884-1914). Drawing on an archive that includes imperial ordinances, European travel writings, photographs, and colonial court records, this talk reveals the significance of women’s labors to Germany’s colonial project, and the myriad exploitations that accompanied it. Homing in on embodied sites of colonial “contact,” it demonstrates how New Guinean women negotiated European claims to their laboring, racialized, and often eroticized bodies, and confronted German efforts to align local understandings of gender, sexuality, family, and labor with imperial concerns.

"Martin Crusius (1526-1607) and the Lutheran Discovery of Ottoman Greece"

The 2021 Fritz Stern prize lecture will be delivered by Richard Calis for his dissertation, "Martin Crusius (1526-1607) and the Lutheran Discovery of Ottoman Greece" (PhD. Dissertation, Princeton University, 2020). From the comfort of his Tübingen home, and in ways that were both innovative and conventional, a Lutheran professor of Greek by the name of Martin Crusius (1526-1607) compiled the early modern period’s richest record of Greek life under Ottoman rule. Through analyses of an extraordinary well-preserved set of sources—hundreds of Crusius’s books and manuscripts have survived in Tübingen—my talk reconstructs the particular confluence of historical circumstances that allowed Crusius to become the period’s foremost expert on Ottoman Greece. I show how religion furthered ethnography and how unknown forms of Mediterranean mobility turned a deeply gendered professorial home into a site of trans-national and cross-cultural encounter, bookish, social, and otherwise. Telling Crusius’s remarkable story thus reveals how three fields of inquiry now often studied separately—the Lutheran Reformation, the history of the early modern Mediterranean, and the history of cultural encounter—were once a single arena of experience and investigation.

Prize Citations

2020 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize Laudatio

Selection committee: Tanya Kevorkian (chair, Millersville University), Frank Biess (University of California San Diego), and Lisa Fetheringill Zwicker (Indiana University South Bend)

Emma L. Thomas, “Contested Labors: New Guinean Women and the German Colonial Indenture, 1884-1914” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of History, University of Michigan, Director: Prof. Kathleen Canning)

We are delighted to honor Emma Thomas with the 2020 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize. Her clearly and compellingly argued thesis recovers the lives of New Guinean women as they made their way through periods of German colonial indenture. Thomas assimilates, challenges, and extends a range of approaches by historians, anthropologists, and other scholars: an impressive analytical range. She provides a fresh perspective on the German colonial project by showing how closely sexual and economic exploitation were linked in everyday life. The women’s reproductive and productive labor were likewise linked. Thomas’ combining of analyses of representations and actual practices is enlightening. She also demonstrates the gendered nature of this project’s resonance in the metropole. She starts by reconstructing colonizers’ sexualization of New Guinean women and preoccupation with vernacular marriage practices, and then explores a range of sites of contact between New Guinean women and German colonial men, from plantations to colonists’ homes to colonial courts: well beyond the formal and expected.

Thomas undertook imaginative and impressive research to build this picture. Many imperial records fail to mention women, but she pieces together a fuller picture by working with sources from numerous Australian and New Guinean libraries and archives, as well as missionary archives in Germany and beyond. Thomas’ research allows her to uncover a wide spectrum of everyday interactions and types of labor. Interactions included routine sexual violence, which courts processed as sexual promiscuity on the part of the women. Thomas investigates the actual dynamics involved in relations that colonists (and some historians) characterized as “cohabitation,” “marriage,” and “prostitution.” For example, what colonizers presented as prostitution was actually sexual violence against New Guinean women. However, the women did maintain agency, including active social and personal networks, marriages to New Guinean men, and litigation in colonial courts. The picture Thomas develops thus is nuanced as well as original.

2021 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize

Selection Committee: Frank Biess (chair, University of California, San Diego), Daniel Riches (University of Alabama), and Lisa Todd (University of New Brunswick

Richard Calis, “Martin Crusius (1524-1607) and the Discovery of Ottoman Greece” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of History, Princeton University, Director: Prof. Anthony Grafton)

Richard Calis’ dissertation Martin Crusius (1524-1607) and the Discovery of Ottoman Greece is a remarkable and stunning achievement. In the best tradition of Natalie Zemon Davis and Carlo Ginzburg, Calis’ global microhistory succeeds in using the figure of a relatively obscure Tübingen Professor of Greek to open up a unique window into different geographical, intellectual and cultural worlds. While Crusius was known among specialists for his study of Ottoman Greece, the Turcograecia published in 1584, Calis’ dissertation reveals the rich ethnographic work on which this study was based. He analyzes, for instance, the massive notes that Crusius collected from his encounters with many Greek visitors who stayed in his home and with whom he engaged in extensive conversations. Crusius’ dissertation reveals a far-reaching culture of migration and knowledge transfer from the different parts of Ottoman Greece to a small South German university town. Early modern knowledge transfer, he argues, occurred not primarily through travel but mainly through reading and face-to-face conversation. This process allowed Crusius to become an expert in all things Greek without ever visiting Ottoman Greece.

Calis’ dissertation also unearths the global ambitions of early modern Lutheranism. While Catholic missionary activities and the emergence of a global Catholicism have received increasing scholarly attention in recent years, Calis’ dissertation challenges the notion of a relatively provincial Lutheranism. He demonstrates how Crusius’ scholarly efforts were motivated by an urgent desire to convert Orthodox Christians as well as by a sense of Christian brotherhood against Muslims. Crusius’ missionary fervor originated from the fact he was among the first generation of those who were born into the Lutheran faith. In this dissertation, the small university town of Tübingen – a prototypical example of Mack Walker’s German Hometowns - does not appear as isolated and provincial but rather integrated into vast networks of migration and knowledge. The dissertation also makes several additional contributions. Calis’ close reading of Crusius’ extensive marginalia points to a history of reading and scholarship. His analysis of Crusius’ household and of the important roles that his three wives played in hosting so many visitors demonstrates the gendered basis of Crusius’ scholarly endeavors.

Calis’ dissertation is based on vast empirical research, particularly on a close analysis of Crusius’ diary, nine thick leather-bound volumes that have remained largely untapped as a historical source for the last 500 years! Calis succeeds in linking his close reading of primary sources to many of the most important strands of the historiography on early modern Europe. In particular, he questions the current historiographical obsession with transregional connections and challenges us to analyze the nature of these connections more closely, calling for a more nuanced approach to the local contexts within which the ‘global early modern’ manifested itself. The result is a work that, when published, will undoubtedly make a seminal contribution to several subfields in the scholarship of early modern Europe, including the history of cross-cultural encounters, the social and cultural history of knowledge, and the history of global Protestantism. The dissertation is also beautifully written, it is nuanced and theoretically sophisticated, yet without resorting to jargon and always accessible to a non-specialist audience.

The prize committee is pleased to award ­– enthusiastically and unanimously – this year’s Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize to Richard Calis.