2019-20 EIHS guest lecturers: top, left to right: Eve Troutt Powell, Earl Lewis, Tera Hunter, Scott Spector; middle, left to right: Samia Khatun, Ruth Mostern, Victoria Langland, Michelle Murphy; bottom, left to right: John Carson, T.J. Tallie.


The Eisenberg Institute will feature ten guests and introduce two new themes for its 2019-20 lecture series. The fall talks will focus on "Historical Truths"; the winter talks on "Human Nature." See below for theme descriptions. Guests include:

  • September 19, 2019: Eve Troutt Powell, University of Pennsylvania
  • October 3, 2019: Earl Lewis, University of Michigan
  • October 18, 2019: Tera Hunter, Princeton University (presented in partnership with Women's Studies)
  • November 7, 2019: Scott Spector, University of Michigan
  • December 5, 2019: Samia Khatun, University of London (presented in partnership with the Center for South Asian Studies)
  • January 30, 2020: Ruth Mostern, University of Pittsburgh 
  • February 20, 2020: Victoria Langland, University of Michigan
  • March 19, 2020: Michelle Murphy, University of Toronto (part of the Human Conditions Eisenberg Forum)
  • April 2, 2020: John Carson, University of Michigan
  • April 16, 2020: T.J. Tallie, University of San Diego (presented in partnership with Women's Studies)

Speakers were nominated by faculty and graduate students from the Department of History or collaborating units and selected by the institute’s Steering Committee. The institute will announce 2019-20 workshops, symposia, and other special events later this summer.

These events are made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.

Fall 2019 Theme: Historical Truths

Historical truths are rarely self-evident. Whose truths? Whose methods? Whose discipline? we are bound to ask. Historians also face persistent questions about sources and evidence, where both scarcity and abundance, and, indeed, silence pose their own problems about selection, reading, and interpretation. Truth claims in history have a precarious status, but not many historians are comfortable giving them up entirely. They arise from historians’ heterogeneous inquiries, investigations, practices, and narrations. By definition, they are open to revision. What is more, various scholarly, public, and other communities have a stake in debating what passes as historical knowledge. If the purpose of histories is to unlock aspects of the past for the benefit of the present and future, then our theme encourages us to discuss how precisely we can activate historical thinking in a variety of settings – and how we might react to the ways that historical thinking is appropriated by various publics.

Winter 2020 Theme: Human Nature

Human nature has a history. Presumptions about what humans are, what different kinds of humans can do, who gets to have “human nature,” and indeed whether there is even something that might be called human nature are fundamental to societies and cultures around the globe, past and present. Political institutions, economic organizations, social structures, and cultural productions routinely build in, and are built on, beliefs about human nature, beliefs that themselves vary widely across time and space. To some, “human nature” is an oxymoron, while to others humans are as natural as anything else. Furthermore, in the age of the Anthropocene, questions about humans in nature are more pressing than ever. This EIHS series of events invites us all to investigate the multiple understandings of human nature not only as a concept, but as part of the practice of life in all its aspects.