NEH Colloquium

Weaponizing the Past: Art, History, and the Rhetoric of National Greatness

The KHC has served as a national demonstration site for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) since 2011. This recognition showcases the KHC as a cultural center that provides programs and offerings which positively impact QCC’s humanities curriculum and shares that information on a national level. For more information, click here.


2023-24 Colloquium

Speaking of German fascism, Walter Benjamin famously wrote, “The logical outcome of fascism is an aestheticizing of political life.” The 2023-24 colloquium entitled, Weaponizing the Past: Art, History and the Rhetoric of National Greatness, is a yearlong series of events that seek to explore this notion by examining movements built through the reappropriation of historical memory into a romanticized ideal that requires the exclusion and elimination of ideas and identities. Our touchstone for this series is the German art festival held in Munich in March 1939, just months before the invasion of Poland and in the shadow of years of anti-Jewish legislation in Germany after 1933.

This event is captured in the film Good Morning Mr. Hitler which features color footage of a public event designed to celebrate 2,000 years of German cultural history and includes interviews with participants of the parade and their retrospective thoughts in their celebration of the German Reich. Using this film as a starting point, we seek to explore how the Nazi party and other radical movements have utilized the fetishization of the past to violently erase those out of compliance with their retroactive national norm. We examine historical artifacts as representations–visual art, film, and literature–and how the iconography of these ideologies and their eras has found afterlives in neo-fascist coalitions. This resurgence of an ethos that romanticizes the past is not only present in radical circles, but has spread to the legislative branches of government, determining local, state, and national policy.

Spring 2024 Events

Uncomfortable Histories: From Nazi Book Burnings to Contemporary Book Bans
Recorded on February 14, 2024
Click here to watch the recorded event

Join us for a conversation about the erasure of uncomfortable histories, beginning with an overview of the 1933 Nazi book burnings as part of Adolf Hitler’s plan to “cleanse” public discourse and participate in an “Action Against the Un-German Spirit.” Within this nationalist framework, our speakers will address the current drive to ban, censor, and eliminate texts from libraries and schools. Featuring Dr. Christina Dobbs, Assistant Professor and Program Director for English Education at Boston University and Dr. Eileen Chanza Torres, Assistant Professor of English at Westminster College of Salt Lake City.

Paragraph 175: The Contemporary Impact of Nazi-era Homophobia and Persecution
Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 12:00pm EDT
Click here to Register: http://tinyurl.com/3bhejrkb

Paragraph 175 was an 1871 German statute criminalizing sexual relations between men. Predating the Nazi regime, it was revised in 1935 allowing the Nazis to persecute larger numbers of men more aggressively. Join Dr. Jake Newsome, Scholar and Author of Pink Triangle Legacies: Coming Out in the Shadow of the Holocaust, for a discussion about Paragraph 175’s significance, other Nazi-era attacks against the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as how this history is reflected in contemporary anti-transgender legislation.

Genetic Discrimination: Exploring the Echoes between Nazi and American Eugenic Histories
Wednesday, April 10, 2024 at 12:00pm EST
Click here to Register: http://tinyurl.com/35bzw8u5

When Adolf Hitler established the involuntary euthanasia program in 1939 codenamed Aktion T4, he empowered medical personnel throughout the Third Reich to sterilize and kill those deemed “unworthy of life.” Join Tiarra Cooper, Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Associate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for a brief overview of the Nazi sterilization and euthanasia programs, and how these histories have functioned in/from American medical and political discourses.

Pedagogical Strategies: Making History Visible in the Classroom
Wednesday, April 17, 2024 at 4:00pm EST
Click here to Register: http://tinyurl.com/yc3p5cv9

Join us for a workshop on pedagogical strategies that instructors can use in the community college classroom to make the past visible in the present through creative expression. Featuring Drs. Aliza Atik and Kathleen Alves, both Associate Professors of English at Queensborough Community College-CUNY and the 2023-24 KHC-National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Faculty Fellows.

Fall 2023 Events

Archives of Nostalgia: Exploring America’s Many Pasts
Recorded on November 1, 2023
Click here to watch the recorded event

How do archival collections and their commercialization frame contemporary American narratives of belonging? Join us for this roundtable discussion examining the archives of nostalgic American pasts, including memorabilia related to antebellum, postwar affluence, and idealized suburbia. The conversation featured Dr. Erin Thompson, Professor of Art Crimes at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY; Dr. Tim Keogh, Assistant Professor of History at Queensborough Community College (QCC)-CUNY; and Irvin Weathersby Jr., Lecturer of English at QCC-CUNY.

Weaponizing the Past: German Fascism in the Twentieth Century
Recorded on September 27, 2023
Click here to watch the recorded event

Join Drs. Aliza Atik and Kathleen Alves, both Associate Professors of English at Queensborough Community College-CUNY and the 2023-24 KHC-National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Faculty Fellows, for a discussion about the cultural rhetoric of German “greatness” surrounding the anti-Jewish legislation and violence immediately prior to start of World War II. The program featured selections from the film, Good Morning Mr. Hitler (1993), which captures footage from the 1939 German Art Festival—a mass celebration in Munich, Germany in honor of 2,000 years of German culture that took place six weeks before the war’s outbreak.

2023-24 Faculty Fellows

The Center welcomes this year’s Queensborough Community College 2023-24 KHC-NEH Faculty Fellows, Dr. Kathleen Alves, Associate Professor of English, and Dr. Aliza Atik, Associate Professor of English, who are joining together to create a provocative series of timely and thought provoking programming.

Previous Colloquia

1943 Rosenstrasse Women's Protest Monument in Berlin, Germany

Trauma, Remembrance & Compassion

The 2022-23 colloquium explored remembrance as a social action that speaks back to the destructiveness and dehumanization of trauma, as well as how to hold space for and learn from past traumas. Click here to watch the events.

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Image of iron faces from the Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman at the Jewish Museum Berlin

Incarceration, Transformation & Liberation

The 2021-22 colloquium explored the gradual and subtle processes of liberty and loss, the processes that constitute transformation from the state of incarceration to one of liberation or freedom, and the civic and pedagogical implications resulting from such an inquiry. Click here to watch the events.

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Image of barbed wire at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2019

Internment & Resistance

The 2020-21 colloquium focused on global constructions of concentration camp systems and the challenges that they present while highlighting acts of resistance. Click here to watch the events.

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Image of protesters at a climate change rally

Authoritarianism on the Continuum

The 2019-20 colloquium focused on myriad forms of opposition and resistance to right-wing authoritarian movements and regimes around the world, including artistic activity and public protest. Click here to watch the events.

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Image of students touching RYAN! 'Unveiling the Romantic West,' 2015

Native American Cultural Survival & Resistance

The 2018-19 colloquium and related exhibition and library guide introduced audiences to histories of indigenous people on this continent and the concept of “Survivance.” Click here to watch the events.

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Image of student response notes from 'Conspiracy of Goodness' exhibit

Displacement, Exile & the Refugee

The 2016-17 colloquium and accompanying library guide explored the genocides that create refugee populations, as well as the challenges facing refugee populations as they seek to find asylum in countries and communities that are often resistant to accepting them. Click here to watch the events.

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Image of students sharing their reflections in a circle during a 2017-18 class workshop

Collaboration & Complicity

The 2017-18 colloquium and accompanying library guide used a social psychological lens to evaluate the way that dominant institutions and situational factors impacted the behaviors (or passivity) of individual bystanders and larger communities. Click here to watch the events.

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Image of Yazidi Women exhibition, 2015

Gender, Mass Violence & Genocide

The 2015-16 colloquium and library guide focused on how gender structures and mediates experiences of mass violence and genocide as well as how attention to gender can help to predict, prevent, and reconcile mass violence and genocide. Click here to watch the events.

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Image of students performing music during the 2014-15 KHC/NEH Colloquium

Cultural & Artistic Responses to Genocide

The 2014-15 colloquium, exhibition, and library guide incorporated students’ research and responses to genocide and organized hate through work with scholars, Holocaust survivors, workshops, an exhibit, and recital. Click here to watch the events.

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Picture of passport forgery tools

The Holocaust in Context

Along with Holocaust survivors who gave personal testimony, the 2013-14 colloquium and accompanying library guide provided an interdisciplinary perspective to help students understand the past and make connections to the world that they know. Click here to watch the events.

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