2019 Great Lakes History Conference - GVSU Pew Campus, Grand Rapids, MI


Photo of Professor Gobodo-Madikizela

Professor and Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

September 20 & 21, 2019

Bent metal protruding from the sand


Sylt Buhnen, © J B Köhne


Picture of Professor Herzog

Distinguished Professor of History and Daniel Rose Faculty Scholar at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Co-Organized By

  • Jason Crouthamel (Grand Valley State University)
  • Julia B. Köhne (Humboldt University in Berlin)
  • Peter Leese (University of Copenhagen)
  • Ville Kivimäki (Tampere University, Finland)


Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela's ​work explores ways in which the impact of the dehumanizing experiences of oppression and violent abuse continues to play out in the next generation in the aftermath of historical trauma. She also analyzes the relationship between remorse and forgiveness after historical trauma, and examines what she terms “reparative humanism” as an alternative to the notions of “healing” and “closure.” Her critically acclaimed work includes A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness, which explores the interweaving of guilt, shame and remorse on the one hand, and trauma and forgiveness on the other. The book won the Christopher Award in the United States and the Alan Paton Prize in South Africa.

Dagmar Herzog writes and teaches on the history of the Holocaust and its aftermath, the histories of religion and Jewish-Christian relations, and the histories of gender and sexuality. She is the author, most recently, of Cold War Freud: Psychoanalysis in an Age of Catastrophes (Cambridge, 2017), Unlearning Eugenics: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Disability in Post-Nazi Europe (Wisconsin, 2018), and Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth Century History (Cambridge, 2011).



Specialists in trauma studies and gender studies have collaborated to produce innovative research on war, genocide and other sites of extreme violence. Building bridges between scholars in trauma research and gender studies leads to important discoveries finding new source bases, methods and directions of inquiry, opens up new areas of research and raises critical questions. This conference aims to:

  1. Foster interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars in history, literature, media (film/popular and fine arts) studies, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, women and gender studies and other fields.
  2. Share new sources, topoi, and approaches in gender and trauma research.
  3. Explore the different ways in which concepts of ‘masculinity,’ ‘femininity,’ or ‘queerness’ are shaped and affected by traumatic events (including war, genocide, economic crisis, environmental disaster, domestic violence and other forms of violence).
  4. Explore and debate unconventional trajectories and tendencies in historiography and theory on gender and trauma.
  5. Build connections between scholars and the public/community in discussions of gender and trauma as they relate to historical and contemporary sociopolitical issues.

This year's conference will also feature several sessions of 'Reacting to the Past (RTTP) organized by David Eick and Janel Pettes Guikema (Grand Valley State University)

Reacting to the Past is a method of complex role-playing games for the college classroom. It is used in disciplines including history, post-colonial and area studies, women’s and gender studies, political science, philosophy, English, foreign languages, and STEM, at over 350 universities and colleges in the U.S. Informed by rich texts, games revolve around flashpoints when ideas clashed: Athens 403 BCE, the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, India on the eve of independence, the 1968 Democratic convention, Title IX etc. Students are assigned roles with victory objectives: in order to “win,” they must write copiously, speak persuasively, read closely, collaborate, solve problems and take creative initiative. RTTP promotes engagement, deep learning and the honing of general education skills.

At the conference there will be RTTP training, including condensed versions of the following games:

  • Changing the Game: Title IX, Gender and Athletics in American Universities
  • The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994
  • The Prado Museum Expansion: The Diverse Art of Latin America

An RTTP Registration Form will be available soon.  

Conference Sponsors

Grand Valley State University's Area & Global Studies, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), Department of History, Psychology Department and Women and Gender Studies.  In conjunction with the Michigan Council for History Education (MCHE)

History of the Great Lakes History Conference

Acting on the suggestion of Professors Charles Sorensen and Anthony Travis, the history faculty of Grand Valley State University established the Great Lakes History Conference in 1975 to allow faculty from teaching institutions in the Midwest to present their scholarship to colleagues.  Until 1982, the conference was held in the famed Pantlind Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The conference has evolved since its founding, now attracting faculty, graduate students, public historians, and independent scholars from across the country and now meets in the Eberhard Center on GVSU’s downtown campus.  The conference places special emphasis on fostering collaboration among scholars in Grand Rapids and West Michigan history, academic and non-academic alike.

Even as the conference changes, it remains a general-interest history conference drawing participants from all fields and all periods.  The goals of the conference organizers remain:

  • To gather historians to present and discuss their research
  • To bridge the divide between the university and the public
  • To cultivate interdisciplinary work