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Public History for a Post-Truth Era
Fighting Denial through Memory Movements

By Liz Ševčenko

July 2022

Public History for a Post-Truth Era explores how to combat historical denial when faith in facts is at an all-time low. Moving beyond memorial museums or documentaries, the book shares on-the-ground stories of participatory public memory movements that brought people together to grapple with the deep roots and current truths of human rights abuses. It gives an inside look at "Sites of Conscience" around the world, and the memory activists unearthing their hidden histories, from the Soviet Gulag to the slave trade in Senegal. It then follows hundreds of people joining forces across dozens of US cities to fight denial of Guantánamo, mass incarceration, and climate change. 

As reparations proposals proliferate in the US, the book is a resource for anyone seeking to confront historical injustices and redress their harms. Written in accessible, non-academic language, it will appeal to students, educators, or supportive citizens interested in public history, museums, or movement organizing.

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Climates of Inequality: Community Co-Curation and Action-Oriented Public Humanities at Minority Serving Institutions

Article in The Routledge Companion to Public Humanities Scholarship, Edited by Daniel Fisher-Livne & Michelle May-Curry

By HAL Hub Team Members Wilmarie Medina-Cortes & Raquel Escobar

May 2024

The Humanities Action Lab’s (HAL) Climates of Inequality project fostered the creation
of local stories on climate change and environmental justice between faculty, students
and community partners at institutions across the nation. This chapter discusses two of
HAL’s partners' experiences in developing a praxis of building partnerships and co-
creating public humanities projects that are mutually beneficial and center community
needs. The experiences of partners from the Inland Empire of California and Chicago,
Illinois highlight how “moving at the speed of trust” brought value to their project
relationships and helped achieve co-creation processes that served students,
community, and faculty. While both teams engage in the process of moving at the
“speed of trust” we can see that it created different approaches for co-creation in each
location. These case studies provide a glimpse into the methods employed locally to
create public humanities projects while engaging with local community organizations to
bring public humanities to environmental justice work. 

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Environmental Justice Tours: Transformative Narratives of Struggle, Solidarity, and Activism

Article in Toxic Heritage: Legacies, Futures, and Environmental Injustice, Edited By Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, Sarah May

By Ana Isabel Baptista

July 2023

The Ironbound community, located on the eastern edge of the City of Newark, New Jersey, is known for its industrial history and legacy of grassroots activism. The Ironbound also has a rich oral history tradition of resident-led tours that highlight their toxic struggles and environmental justice organizing. Communities like the Ironbound also exist around the globe, where marginalized, low-wealth, Indigenous, Black, Brown, and other communities of Color are impacted by the exploitative forces of globalization, ecological destruction, colonialism and dispossession, industrial pollution, and racism. Guided by a principle within the environmental justice movement of “We Speak for Ourselves,” environmental justice tours center frontline voices to reclaim the spaces and stories associated with EJ communities, transforming the stigma of sacrifice zones into powerful windows into local resistance. The narratives of impacted residents can shape action and support systemic change, framing a call to action for people both within and outside the community. This chapter explores how environmental justice tours address legacies of disenfranchisement, misrecognition, and stigmatization of environmental justice communities. Tours also amplify the authentic voices of those most directly impacted by environmental racism and transform toxic sites into spaces of solidarity and activism.

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Toxic Heritage and Reparations: Activating Memory for Environmental and Climate Justice

Article in Toxic Heritage: Legacies, Futures, and Environmental Injustice Edited By Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, Sarah May

By Liz Ševčenko

July 2023

This chapter frames the climate crisis as a problem of history and memory, making heritage work central to environmental and climate justice. The chapter considers climate denial as a form of historical denial, largely driven by the US, rooted in this country's deep culture of refusing to acknowledge and assume accountability for its global leadership in structural racism. It explores the potential of participatory public memory, drawing lessons from the environmental justice movement as well as heritage and public history, to confront that denial. In particular, it builds on the vision of the environmental justice movement that building an equitable future out of the world we have just destroyed requires redressing the historical inequities that brought us here, through reparations. The chapter shares stories from communities around the country that came together to create Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice, a project through which students collaborated with frontline environmental justice organizers and community members to create public histories of environmental justice in their localities, and how these histories shaped climate change, in support of local and global campaigns for a Just Transition. The coalition applied environmental justice principles to heritage work, including EJ communities “speaking for ourselves”; building generative, not extractive, ways of sharing memories and knowledge; focusing on EJ communities themselves as the primary audience, as opposed to raising awareness among people more insulated from environmental harms; and building translocal solidarity by connecting local communities into a national coalition. Together their projects suggest possibilities for how participatory public memory can be activated in service of reparations and a Just Transition.

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Critical Tourism and Embodied Geographies: Touring Southern California with the Bureau of Goods Transport

Article in  Engaging Place, Engaging Practices: Urban History and Campus-Community Partnerships

By Cathy Gudis

July 2023

This paper is based on the experience of HAL faculty lead at UC Riverside working on Climates of Inequality:  Stories of Environmental Justice.  It explores the concept of critical tourism and its implications for understanding the geographical and socio-political landscapes of Southern California. Through the lens of the Bureau of Goods Transport, Gudis examines how tourism can serve as a tool for revealing hidden histories and challenging dominant narratives. The research highlights the importance of embodied experiences in shaping our understanding of place and history, emphasizing the potential for tourism to foster critical engagement and promote social change.

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An Environmental Justice Lens on Indianapolis’ Urban Ecosystem: Collaborative Community Curation

By Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, Laura M. Holzman, Aghilah Nadaraj, & Leah Humphrey

August 2022

What happens when an urban university and a nonprofit organization dedicated to community empowerment explore the history of environmental justice in their city? How does cocreation of knowledge contribute to the city’s sustainability as an urban landscape and an ecosystem of advocates, activists, and affected communities? This chapter presents the experience of developing Indianapolis’s contribution to the international collaboration “Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice,” led by the Humanities Action Lab (HAL). IUPUI students and faculty worked with the Kheprw Institute (KI) staff and other community partners to engage public audiences in the legacies of environmental injustices in Central Indiana. The team focused on inequity and environmental justice along Indianapolis’s waterways and developed companion exhibits, digital humanities projects, and public programs for HAL’s traveling exhibit and website. Designed to amplify the voices of Indianapolis’s affected communities, the project invited diverse audiences to engage with the history and consequences of environmental justice, build empathy with affected communities, and take action for a more sustainable city. This chapter explores the process and pedagogy of community-engaged collaboration and reflects on how this cocurated project illuminates different dimensions of the city as ecosystem.

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Museums & Social Issues: A Journal of Reflective Discourse

By John Fraser, Judith Koke

May 2017

In 2011, Museums & Social Issues dedicated an entire issue to prisons and individuals who were incarcerated. This issue of Museums & Social Issues revisits the contemporary issues of mass incarceration and the role that museums and public history play in working alongside and with different communities to promote greater public awareness. All authors featured in this issue participated in the 2015 project with the Humanities Action Lab to create the States of Incarceration traveling exhibition. This exhibition was a coalition of 20 universities who focused on the past, present, and future of incarceration. The authors in this issue reflect on their experiences in creating the States of Incarceration exhibition and examine how their experience relates to the wider work of museum professionals.

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