Dr Christine Arnold-Lourie
LA PLATA, Maryland – Thanksgiving is traditionally a holiday where Americans celebrate community, whether it’s by hosting reunions with family and friends or reflecting on pilgrims and Indigenous people who gathered to share a meal 400 years ago. So it makes sense that this is a rich area of research for Christine Arnold-Lourie, professor of history and chair of the humanities and social sciences department at CSM, who considers herself a historian of how communities develop, define and change over time.
“I care about telling a truer, more accurate version of the story,” she recently shared. “I look at the groups that are excluded and tell their story.
This kind of storytelling is exactly what Arnold-Lourie does in a new article published in The Review of Faith and International Affairs, where she explores how Americans have long used the history of pilgrims to determine who belongs to our country.
“The question I always ask is, ‘Who owns this story, the American story?’ », Explained Arnold-Lourie. “Who can call pilgrims their spiritual ancestors? “
The current issue of the journal includes a special symposium marking the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving. This symposium explores “Who ‘Belongs’ at Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Table? Reflections on American History, Identity and Immigration ”and features academics from institutions around the world, including Arnold-Lourie of the CSM and contributors from the University of Notre Dame and Harvard Divinity School. – discuss topics such as the historical memory of Americans, migration in American history and how the first Thanksgiving was told in presidential proclamations.
Arnold-Lourie’s article, titled “‘Inharmonious Elements’ and ‘Racial Homogeneity’: New England Exceptionalism and Immigration Restriction,” examines how the stories of Pilgrims and Puritans became the epitome of American history, leading to immigration restrictions that targeted those considered foreigners.
“Protestants in New England were trying to protect their cultural heritage from the people who entered, bringing in cultural and religious traditions that they rejected,” she said. “But the idea that America is traditionally white and Anglo-Saxon is absurd. We have always been a diverse people.
The article originated from a 2015 article published in the Massachusetts Historical Review, which traced the first 300 years of the Pilgrim’s legacy, from 1620 to 1920. This article elicited fan mail for Arnold-Lourie and, more importantly, an invitation to look at the coming decades for this symposium.
This invitation arrived last May, during a tumultuous time. The pandemic was just beginning – “Researching a pandemic is a whole different thing,” Arnold-Lourie noted – and she was reimagining courses for online education. She was also appointed Chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at CSM in August 2020.
“The MSC is fortunate to have such a dedicated American-Mericanist and history teacher as a leader on our campus,” said MSC President Dr. Maureen Murphy. “His inclusion in the seminar is a well-deserved recognition of his fascinating work, which gives us new perspectives on history. “
The theme of questioning established narratives comes up often in courses she has developed for CSM, such as “Women in America” and “History of Race and Racism,” where she helps students establish links between people and problems of the past and their present lives.
“I want students to ask more complicated questions and I want to empower them to make a mark in American history,” she said.
Arnold-Lourie will continue to write the history of American communities this month, as she expands on her article in an essay for the Thanksgiving edition of the Berkely Forum, an online platform for public scholarship hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World. Business at Georgetown University.
For more information on the seminar, visit: https://globalengage.org/publications/faith-international-affairs/symposium-who-belongs-at-uncle-sams-thanksgiving-table-reflections-on-american-history -identity- and-immigration.