Talking History: Professor Al-Tikriti

Professor Al-Tikriti gave a talk on Monday about the types of routes history majors may choose to take after college.  To explain these paths, Professor Al-Tikriti used his own experiences.  He described his undergraduate career at Georgetown and graduate experience at Columbia.  Here he focused on International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies, which brought him to travel and work for organizations in the Middle East.  He worked for organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, before finding a passion for consulting.  It wasn’t until later that Professor Al-Tikriti realized he had an interest in understanding the history of the places he was living in.  This interest took him to the University of Chicago where he received his PhD in History.  This degree helped him to write articles and reports that would be used by the US Government.  However, Al-Tikriti made it very clear that his accomplishments were the result of working hard and establishing strong connections with professionals in many areas.  He also reassured that his successes were also the result of many failures.  He encouraged the students to take chances by applying for opportunities that they found interesting and studying abroad, because your career could take many turns throughout your life.

Hanna, “Cartographic Memories of Slavery and Freedom”

Hanna’s article describes the changing intention and use of maps through one created by John Washington, an enslaved man during the Civil War.  Washington, a literate man who fled slavery to find freedom, displays a particular point of view since many slaves at the time were not able to read or write.  In 1873, Washington revealed his story in a memoir, where he also provided a map of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  On this map, he points out specific landmarks that tie back to significant moments in his life.  Hanna explains that while Washington’s memoir has attracted much attention from historians, his map is not considered as important.  Hanna challenges this, using arguments made by J.B. Harley, saying that Washington’s map reveals more about southern society than it does about Washington’s cartography skills.  Hanna argues that the places Washington marks on the map represent moments where he was able to defy his position in the slave system.  While Hanna mentions that Washington’s true intention for creating the map is unknown, the current use of the map illustrates how cultural context can change.  Currently, Washington’s map is used by historical societies and the National Parks Service to show the experiences of an enslaved person in Fredericksburg during the Civil War.  Washington’s map allows scholars to connect Fredericksburg today to the lives of those whose stories are not always written.  Washington’s map has changed from a sketch in a book for reference, to a source that symbolizes African American experience during the Civil War.

“Texts and Contexts”

In this piece, J.B. Harley argues that maps are a resource just as important as textual sources.  He talks about how the science of mapmaking has led many to the idea that the main concern of mapmaking is accuracy when really maps display the intentions and goals of many parties.  Harley explains how maps can be looked at in three different contexts: the context of the cartographer, other maps, and society.  In talking about the context of cartographers, Harley mentions how many workers went into creating a map, and also how these creators were under the order of patrons, such as rulers or governments.  This confuses where the goal of creating the map may come from.  In discussing the context of other maps, Harley talks about how the technology of maps has changed, which make it difficult to compare maps to one another.  Also, the texts on maps have been altered due to errors in translation.  When Harley talks about the context of society, he explains how the interests and biases of society impact what the cartographer creates and how they choose to portray it.