AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series. The members featured in this column have been randomly selected by AHA staff or nominated by fellow AHA members. If you would you like to nominate a colleague for the AHA Member Spotlight, please contact Julie Nkodo.
Julio Cesar Pino is a professor of history at Kent State University. He lives in Kent, Ohio, and has been a member of the AHA since 1992.
Fields of interest: Latin America, the Black Atlantic, urban history
When did you first develop an interest in history?
In primary school, after I immigrated to the United States from Cuba. The 1970s were a tumultuous time in both American history and my own family history. The daily headlines dealing with the Vietnam War, Watergate, and conflict in the Middle East all aroused my curiosity as to what lay behind those conflicts, and how my family and I were both participants and victims of history.
What projects are you working on currently?
A collection of essays dealing with Afro-Latin America, focused on means of resistance by marginalized groups, including Muslims in 19th-century Brazil and contemporary shantytown women. My manuscript, currently under review, is entitled Afro-Latin Essays: Re-thinking Race, Gender and Resistance in Latin America. I am also revising several dozen journals I have been keeping for the last 20 years for a venture in philosophy, Man and Mythos: A Case for the Superman.
Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?
I have moved beyond and largely rejected specialization. I started out researching 20th-century Brazilian urban history, but now encompass the broader theme of conflict in the Third World, particularly from the 1960s until the present day. I am also merging philosophy and history in my writing and teaching, by examining the role of ideas, or as I prefer to say, cosmology, in history.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
Historians should take up those books, movies, blogs, etc. that challenge and seek to overthrow the whole notion of narrative in history and the misuses of materialism. I recommend reading Norman O. Brown’s Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History; anything by Carl Jung, but especially Man and His Symbols; and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s essay, “Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough.” Films: Blowup, The Draftsman’s Contract, Last Year at Marienbad.
What do you value most about the history profession?
Paraphrasing Matthew Arnold, the ability and chance to transmit the best that has been thought and taught throughout history, through both my writings and teaching. I enjoy my time in the classroom more than that spent in the archives.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
Yes, the late H.R. Russell-Wood once gave the keynote address at the AHA on the Columbian exchange in the Portuguese colonial world, and the professor who introduced him announced to the audience that “Dr. Russell-Wood has asked me to tell you that much of his talk will be devoted to ‘plontz’” (plants pronounced in the British English manner). The audience roared with laughter.
Other than history, what are you passionate about?
My family, here and in Cuba, Islam, freedom for the Palestinians, and 1970s classic rock.
Any final thoughts?
I would caution my fellow historians to never ignore the foundation stones of history. Particularly in teaching, start with the classics and only with great hesitation and scrutiny beforehand assign any text published within the last 20 years. As Ezra Pound once wrote, “a classic is news that stays news.”