Special Events at RoundTable!
RoundTable Events celebrate humanities, history, and cultural heritage. In addition to the Seminar Series and First Fridays, join us for one of these community-based celebrations!
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Haunted America: Ghosts, Spirits, and Mediums in U.S. History
Moderated by J.T. Jamieson
A curious case: in 1869, photographer William Mumler found himself in court, accused of fraudulently concocting photographs of ghosts — including Abraham Lincoln — and fleecing his gullible clients. This was one of several episodes in American life that pit superstitious beliefs in ghosts and spirits against skepticism and rationalism. This session explores why these sorts of confrontations were common at several points throughout U.S. history and discusses how many Americans marshaled supernatural beliefs in ghosts and spirits to reckon with modernizing society — and why others consigned those beliefs to a crude, credulous, and anti-modern worldview. It surveys several instances of supposed ghostly encounters throughout U.S. history, but will pay special attention to the development of Spiritualism (a movement based on the premise that the living could communicate with the dead), which sat at the intersection of popular culture, religion, and science in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
J.T. Jamieson received his B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, his M.A. in History from UC Berkeley, and is currently a doctoral candidate in the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of History. His forthcoming dissertation is entitled “A Mere Change of Location: Migration and Reform in Antebellum America.” He specializes in early, nineteenth-century, and cultural U.S. history. At Berkeley, he has taught undergraduate courses on various topics in U.S. history including Civil Rights and Social Movements in U.S. History; Family Plots: Writing about Kinship in U.S. History; Mobility and Migration in American History. His teaching development and research has been financially supported by several academic institutions across the country. He is a regular lecturer with San Francisco-based “Engage As You Age,” which brings educational programming to 55+ communities around the Bay Area.