Lectures and Podcasts

The Plains Humanities Alliance sponsors visits from writers and scholars who address public policy in the Plains and who bring critical approaches to regional studies.  Clicking on the highlighted titles of the talks below will take you to the audio podcast or video if one is available.

PHA and Partners Upcoming Events

"The Future of Ecosystem-Based Agriculture,"
Wes Jackson, April 26, 2013.

Jackson, president of the Land Institute in Salina, Kan., has pioneered the technique of natural systems agriculture -- an agriculture informed by nature that preserves biodiversity. With this technique, fields would be planted with a variety of perennial plants, leading to less erosion and healthier soil.

In his talk at the Center for Great Plains Studies, Jackson address public policy for land use in the Plains in the context of how the history and cultures of the region intersect with biology to shape our decisions.

Jackson is a recipient of the Pew Conservation Scholars award and a MacArthur Fellowship and has been listed as one of the Smithsonian's "35 Who Made a Difference." He is the author of many books on ecologically sensitive agriculture, including "Becoming Native to This Place" and "Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture."

The Land Institute has worked for more than 30 years to develop an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops. They have researched, published in refereed scientific journals, given hundreds of public presentations here and abroad, and hosted countless intellectuals and scientists. The Institute is now assembling a team of advisors to endorse the feasibility of what they call Natural Systems Agriculture.

View the press release | visit the Land Institute's site

"Lack of Opportunity on the Plains: How Law and Public Policy Have Shaped Tribal Economic Development, " Lance Morgan, Sept. 19, 2012.

Lance Morgan is President and Chief Executive Officer of Ho-Chunk, Inc. Ho-Chunk, Inc. is the award-winning economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Morgan is an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe and one of the initial founders of Ho-Chunk, Inc.
Ho-Chunk, Inc. was launched in 1994 with one employee and a start-up investment from the Tribe’s Winnavegas Casino. Today, Ho-Chunk, Inc. employs over 1,400 people in ten(10) states and three (3) foreign countries. Under Morgan’s leadership, the company operates eighteen(18) subsidiaries and has revenues in excess of $195 million.

Morgan is also the managing partner in the law firm of Fredericks, Peebles and Morgan, LLP with offices in California, Colorado and Nebraska. The firm specializes in Indian law and economic development issues.

Morgan has served as economic adviser to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was a member of the Federal Reserve Consumer Advisory Committee. He is an adjunct professor at Arizona State Univesity and University of Arizona. He also serves as a board member for several corporate entities. He is a frequent speaker across the country on topics of Indian Law and of Tribal Economic Development issues. Morgan earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Nebraska (B. S. 1990) and graduated from Harvard Law School (J.D. 1993).

He is a member of the American Bar Association, Minnesota Bar Association and the Nebraska Bar Association.

Sponsored by the Plains Humanities Alliance and the Center for Great Plains Studies with support from the University of Nebraska College of Law and from Native American Studies, Institute for Ethnic Studies, UNL.

"Braided Channels: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on Environmental Art, Science, and Humanities focused on the Australian Outback and the American Great Plains," Mandy Martin and Guy Fitzhardinge, Oct. 5, 2011.

Mandy Martin, one of Australia's leading contemporary artists, will speak on "Landscape Studies: Environmental Art and the Impulse to Conserve." Guy Fitzhardinge, a rancher who manages several properties in New South Wales and Queensland, will speak on "Production Lands, Philanthropy, and Biodiversity." Both speakers are involved in promoting environmental protection and sustainable rural economic development in arid and semi-arid grasslands. |

Members of the symposium?s panel of discussants include UNL associate professor of art Dana Fritz; UNL assistant professor of art Jeff Thompson; UNL professor of English Robert Brooke; UNL extension specialist Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel; UNL associate geoscientist Mark Burbach; Martin Massengale, Foundation Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Grassland Studies; National Drought Mitigation Center researcher Donna Woudenberg; Teresa Franta, communications fellow with the Grassland Foundation; and Larkin Powell, UNL professor in the School of Natural Resources.

"The braided river channels of both the Australian Outback and the American Great Plains provide an imaginative model for how different academic disciplines, different human communities, and diverse ways of knowing can combine to further conservation efforts and to nurture a common human and natural landscape," said UNL Associate Professor of English, Tom Lynch, who organized the event.

The symposium was sponsored by UNL's Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, University Research Council, Plains Humanities Alliance, Center for Great Plains Studies, and Department of English.

Mark Tredinnick

"From the Blue Plateau to the Great Plains: Sensing Place in Environmental Writing," Mark Tredinnick, April 6, 2011.

Australian writer Mark Tredinnick will focus on the relationship between local 'sense of place' literature and global environmental awareness. Tredinnick wrote "The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir" (2009), which won the Queensland Premier's Literary Award and was shortlisted for both the Prime Minister's Literary Award and the Australian Capital Territory Book of the Year prize.

Tredinnick's other books include "A Place on Earth" (2004), an anthology of Australian and American nature writers published jointly by the University of New South Wales Press and the University of Nebraska Press, and "The Land's Wild Music" (2005), interviews and analysis of four American nature writers.

Additional sponsors include the Center for Great Plains Studies, and the Academic Senate Convocations Committee.

"Changing Places: The Geographic Turn in the Digital Humanities," Eric Sanderson, Philip Ethington, Kenneth Winkle, Kenneth Price, March 10, 2011.

This panel presentation features three speakers whose path-breaking digital projects have propelled them into new areas of research on regions.

Eric Sanderson is senior ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City and the author of "Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City." He directs "Beyond Mannahatta, The Welikia Project," http://welikia.org/ a digital effort to reconstruct the ecology of Manhattan Island at the time of European discovery. His talk is titled "The Mannahatta Project: Integrating History, Geography and Natural Science to Explore the Place of Cities in Nature."

Philip Ethington, professor of history and political science at the University of Southern California, creates a cartography of time by combining his photography with maps of historical change. He is the author of "The Public City: The Political Construction of Urban Life in San Francisco, 1850-1900," and a digital project called "Ghost Metropolis: Los Angeles, 13,000 B.P. to the Present." http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~philipje/Ethington_GM/index.html His talk is titled "Deep Historical Regionalism: Los Angeles and the Institutional Ecology of a Global Metropolis."

Kenneth J. Winkle, Thomas C. Sorensen professor of history at UNL, will speak on "Civil War Washington: Interpreting a National Capitol in Crisis and Transformation." Three of his books -- "The Politics of Community: Migration and Politics in Antebellum Ohio," "The Young Eagle: The Rise of Abraham Lincoln," and "The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War" -- received, respectively, the Allan Sharlin Award of the Social Science History Association, the Abraham Lincoln Institute Book Award and the Society for Military History's Distinguished Book Award. He is writing a new book on the Civil War in Washington, D.C., to be published in fall 2012.

Kenneth M. Price, Hillegass professor of English and co-director of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at UNL, will moderate the panel. He is also co-director of two digital projects, including the "Walt Whitman Archive" http://www.whitmanarchive.org/ and "Civil War Washington: Interpreting a National Capitol in Crisis and Transformation."http://civilwardc.org/about.php

Additional sponsors at UNL include the Department of English, Department of History, Center for Great Plains Studies, the Convocations Committee, and the Research Council.

Alexandra Fuller

'The Legend of Colton H. Bryant': Exploring a Sense of Place on the High Plains," Alexandra Fuller, Sept. 29, 2009.

Fuller was born in England in 1969 and moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with her family when she was 2. After that country's war of independence in 1980, her family moved first to Malawi and then Zambia, where she met her husband. In 1994, she came to the U.S. and lives now in Wyoming with her husband, two daughters and son.

Fuller's first book, "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood," was a New York Times Notable Book and national bestseller. Her second memoir was "Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier."

Fuller wrote "The Legend of Colton H. Bryant" after moving to Wyoming. Fuller said she was expecting the fierce weather and the roughnecks, the big skies and the oil industry men, but she wasn't expecting to encounter a real-life cowboy. Then Colton H. Bryant happened into her story, "a soulful boy with a mustang-taming heart and blue eyes that'll look right through you." The story of his life took over Fuller's writing and became a book that is the focus of her talk.

Fuller's visit to UNL is sponsored by the Plains Humanities Alliance, Center for Great Plains Studies, the departments of English and History, UNL Research Council, and Convocations Committee.


"Fasting Girls: A Historical Perspective on Anorexia Nervosa," Joan Jacobs Brumberg, April 20, 2009.

Brumberg, professor emerita in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, lectures nationally about the history of adolescent girls, their body image concerns and changing sexuality. In 1988, she published "Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa," which won a number of awards and prizes, including the John Hope Franklin Prize and the Berkshire Book Prize.

In 1998, Brumberg's next book, "The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls," was selected by for a Choice Award by the American Library Association. Brumberg said, "I argued that our current cultural environment is especially 'toxic' for adolescent girls because of the anxieties it generates about the developing female body and sexuality."

Brumberg then turned her attention to adolescent boys and produced "Kansas Charley: The Boy Murderer," a true story about a young boy murderer and how the debate about his conviction and subsequent execution in 1892 at the age of 17 contributed to the development of the juvenile court system. Brumberg's appearance is also sponsored by the Center for Great Plains Studies, the Women's and Gender Studies Program, the Humanities in Medicine Program, the Women's Center, departments of Sociology, History, Psychology, Educational Psychology, the 19th-Century Studies Program, and the Research Council.

"Landscape and Identity in Modern Germany," David Blackbourn, Nov. 5, 2008.

Blackbourn, Coolidge professor of history and director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University, is the author of "The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape and the Making of Modern Germany" (2006). His book begins in the 1740s with Frederick the Great of Prussia, who regarded the reclamation of marshland as "conquests from barbarism." In the 19th century, taming the Rhine River and constructing ports became symbols of Germany's naval ambitions. Dams were built to provide drinking water and power to a fast-growing population.

In the 20th century, the Nazis began a physical and ethnic reshaping of the east European landscape, which resulted in the murder of millions of Jews and Poles. Following Germany's defeat in 1945, a renewed attachment to an idealized landscape and struggle for economic recovery caused major problems of pollution and environmental destruction. Not until the 1970s did West Germany begin a political agenda of protecting the environment. Then the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 revealed the catastrophic state of the environment in East Germany, a country that had been under Soviet-style industrialization.

Blackbourn's talk is also sponsored by the Center for Great Plains Studies, with additional support from the UNL Department of History

"Toxic Civics for the 21st Century," Thomas Frank, Sept. 25, 2008.

Frank, author of "What's the Matter with Kansas," asks if a 19th-century style of corruption has returned to our national politics. Casting back to the early days of the conservative revolution, Frank describes the rise of a ruling coalition dedicated to dismantling government. He will argue that rather than cutting down the big government they claim to hate, conservatives have simply sold it off, deregulating some industries, defunding others, but always turning public policy into a private-sector bidding war. The end result is a disturbing picture of an America that is no longer for the people and by the people, but instead benefits those with the most cash and the best connections.

"There are plenty of good individual conservatives in Washington, honorable folks who would never participate in the sort of corruption we have watched unfold over the last few years," Frank writes. "But put conservatism in charge of the state and it behaves very differently. Now the 'values' that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities -- priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism."

Born in Kansas, Frank resides in Washington, D.C., where he is a political commentator, the editor of The Baffler magazine, and recently published a book about conservative governance, "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule." In the words of the late Molly Ivins, humor and political columnist: "A heartland populist, Frank is hilariously funny on what makes us red-staters different from blue-staters (not), and he actually knows evangelical Christians, anti-abortion activists, gun-nuts, and Bubbas. I promise y'all, this is the only way to understand why so many Americans have decided to vote against their own economic and political interests. And Frank explores the subject with scholarship, understanding, passion, and -- thank you, Mark Twain -- such tart humor."

Frank's visit is also sponsored by the Center for Great Plains Studies, with additional support from the UNL departments of History and Political Science.

Guy Vanderhaeghe

"History, Fiction, and Film: A Reading," Guy Vanderhaeghe, Nov. 7, 2007.

Vanderhaeghe is a renowned Canadian novelist and the St. Thomas More scholar at the University of Saskatchewan. Prior to his writing career, Vanderhaeghe worked as an archivist, researcher and high school teacher. He has twice won Canada's most prestigious literary prize, the Governor General's Award for fiction, in 1982 for his short story collection, "Man Descending," and in 1996 for his novel, "The Englishman's Boy." He adapted "The Englishman's Boy" into a screenplay for a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. miniseries, released in 2008.

Vanderhaeghe's most recent novel, "The Last Crossing," was a national bestseller and winner of the Saskatoon Book Award, the Saskatchewan Book Awards for fiction and for Book of the Year, and the Canadian Booksellers' Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year. The novel was selected for the 2004 edition of "Canada Reads" as the one book that should be read by all Canadians. "The Last Crossing" is a tale of quests, adventurous detours, and hard-won redemption as two Englishmen leave Victorian England to search for their missing brother in the North American West.

In 2003 Vanderhaeghe was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit and made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He lives in Saskatoon.

Vanderhaeghe's visit is also sponsored by UNL?s departments of History and English, and the Center for Great Plains Studies.

William Cronon

"The Portage: How to Read a Landscape," William Cronon, Sept. 27, 2007.

Cronon is the Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, Geography and Environmental Studies and Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of "Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature" (1996). He is researching the land between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers on which the small town of Portage, Wisconsin, was established. Like other portages that traverse two watersheds, the area has been a key region in the patterns of human migration, transportation, and exchange since humans first entered the area after the last Ice Age. Cronon's goal has been to write a complete history of the place from the glaciers to the present, viewed through the prism of individuals' personal memories and stories. He is particularly interested in exploring how people's sense of place is shaped by the stories they tell about their homes, their lives, and the landscapes they inhabit.