Nadja Durbach is an historian of modern Britain who specializes in the history of the body. Educated at the University of British Columbia (BA Hons) and the Johns Hopkins University (PhD), she joined the University of Utah in 2000 and is currently Professor of History.
Her first book, Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853-1907 (Duke 2005) is a social, cultural, and political history of widespread resistance to compulsory smallpox vaccination. It locates anti-vaccinationism at the very center of wider public debates over the extent of government intervention in the private lives of its citizens, the values of a liberal society, and the politics of class. In addition, it explores a range of cultural anxieties about bodily integrity and the maintenance of blood purity. This work has been cited in British government sources as an evidence-based “lesson from history” relevant to current disease-control policy-making and has been featured in recent press coverage of resurgent anti-vaccination sentiment. Her second book, Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture (California, 2010) examines commercial displays of anomalous bodies as critical sites for popular and scientific debates over the significance of bodily difference during the heyday of Britain’s modern and imperial self-fashioning. Although scholars have often attacked the freak show as prurient and exploitative, this approach oversimplifies the complexities inherent in displays of corporeal difference and in the process refuses any real analysis of the freak show’s cultural work. Durbach argues that displays of “human oddities” functioned as important spaces for popular and professional negotiations over the boundaries between human and animal, black and white, male and female, middle and working class, civilized and savage, ancient and modern, and ultimately British and foreign.
During her Guggenheim Fellowship, Professor Durbach will be working on a monograph entitled, Many Mouths: State-Feeding in Britain from the Workhouse to the Welfare State. Many Mouths is a study of both the material and symbolic importance of feeding programs initiated by the British government for particular target populations from the 1830s workhouse to the post-war Welfare State. The book uses a series of case studies—paupers, famine victims, prisoners, schoolchildren, prisoners of war and civilian internees, wartime civilians on the home front, and pregnant women and young children--to think about the place of food in forging relations between the citizen and the state. Durbach argues that food was central to the governance of populations, and to the making of national, class, ethnic, racial, colonial, generational, and gender identities during a period when Britain promoted itself in a variety of ways as a modern and thus model nation. But this is not a top-down administrative history of government programs. Many Mouths proposes that beneficiaries of state-feeding services were not passive recipients but rather active participants in shaping how these policies would be put into practice. These case studies reveal how a variety of different British subjects responded to, and thus re-worked, the practices of food aid, investing their own meanings in the act of using or refusing these services. Many Mouths thus takes food seriously both as a cultural artifact, and thus something good “to think with,” and as a basic human need whose distribution and consumption has very real and significant political and social effects.
Most Recent Faculty News
Save the date! Our annual conference of undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research presentation is just around the corner. Check here for the most up-to-date scheduling information.
Our award-winning and internationally-recognized faculty educate students in a myriad of time periods, world regions and areas of interest. Guided Pathways will allow students to customize a learning experience specific to their interests and future career goals.
New for 2018, we are introducing a regular blog post feature from our faculty members wherein they tackle current topics from a historical perspective. Our inaugural essay comes from Dr. Nadja Durbach on the phenomenon of "lunch shaming" schoolchildren and its relationship to education standards in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century.
Dr. Elizabeth Clement, along with other specialists from the College of Law and Marriott Library, contributed to Quiet Heroes, which will be screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Dr. Clement served as historical consultant and conducted interviews with subjects in the film. She has also worked to solicit and evaluate archival materials and conduct oral histories.
In Spring 2018, Dr. Maile Arvin will begin teaching her first classes with the U History Department, rounding out our course offerings with her expertise in the Pacific Islands. Professor Arvin comes to us from her postdoctural fellowship at UC Riverside and will also be teaching classes for the Gender Studies department. Enjoy this brief introduction to Professor Arvin and her work!
History Professor Dr. Paul Reeve has been appointed the first Simmons Mormon Studies professor, advancing the University's Mormon Studies initiative.
An introduction to our newest Ancient Mediterranean specialist, her research interests, and her plans for the future at the U.
Associate professor of history Dr. Bradley Parker has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue his archaeological work on Inca and Wari Imperialism in Ayacucho, Peru.
Safi S. M. Safiullah, a native of Bangladesh and Manager of the Salt Lake City Public Library’s Marmalade Branch, was recognized for his career in community engagement and lifelong support of libraries and education around the world.
The American Historical Society has announced its participants for the 2017-18 Career Diversity for Historians Faculty Institute, including Department Chair and Professor Eric Hinderaker, Professor Matt Basso, Professor Greg Smoak, and Professor Paul Reeve.
Dr. Clement was one of 20 faculty members selected out of over 200 nominations to receive this year's award. Her nomination by student Amy Brown emphasized Dr. Clemet's "dedication to helping students find resources, figuring out their career passions, and realize the possibilities that exist for their futures".
Professor Matthew Basso has been named the State Scholar for the Smithsonian Institute's The Way We Worked, a Museum on Main Street program. Presented by Utah Humanities and the Smithsonian Institute, this exhibition of work and labor in American history began its year-long Utah tour in January at the Ogden Union Station.
Danielle Olden, Assistant Professor in the Department of History, has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. The year-long NEH Fellowship will enable Danielle to complete her book, Racial Uncertainties: Mexican Americans, School Desegregation, and the Making of Race in Post-Civil Rights America,which examines Denver, Colorado's battle over school desegregation in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The Utah Council for the Social Studies recently honored Professor Paul Reeve with its University Teacher of the Year Award at its annual conference in Salt Lake City. The UCSS recognized Professor Reeve for his contributions to the teaching of Utah history in particular and his efforts to re-imagine and reinvigorate pedagogical approaches to that subject.
Professor Bradley Parker guests on the Thinking Aloud podcast to discuss Utah's archaeological treasures, the dangers facing petroglyphs and material remains, and how archaeologists and the public can work to preserve them for future generations.