Faculty of Philosophy,
Welcome, Professor Erik Seeman!
In the summer semester, the Department of History at the University of Erfurt welcomes four renowned international visiting scholars. One of them is the historian Professor Erik Seeman from the University of Buffalo.
Actually, it all started back in 2019, when Martin Christ, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Max-Weber-Kolleg, invited Seeman to give a keynote lecture at a conference he was organizing, "The Moment of Death in Early Modern Europe, 1450-1800," to be held in Erfurt in August 2021. As was often the case during this period, however, the conference could not take place in attendance - the Corona pandemic made it impossible. "So I attended online," Erik Seeman reports, laughing, "but I was still in Germany, because I attended the conference from a hotel room in Frankfurt, so I could be in the same time zone. I was taken with the conference and the people I met here, so I decided to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to deepen my collaboration with Martin Christ and his colleagues in Erfurt. Because quite a number of them are working on the topics that also interest me in my research. And I was successful: I received a teaching and research Fulbright scholarship and was thus able to come to Erfurt in person for the first time in March 2023." Since the beginning of the summer semester, he has now been teaching a seminar at the University of Erfurt on the topic: "Death and Dying in America and Europe."
As a historian, Erik Seeman is particularly interested in colonial North America and the early modern Atlantic world. His specialty: religious history. "Over the past two decades, I have done a lot of work on the history of death: rituals, practices, and the meanings people draw from them," he reports. His current book project, "Boston's Pox of 1721: A People's History", on the other hand, is about pox, the first epidemic in the Western world to use vaccines to control a disease - vaccines that had been used in Asia and Africa long before. "Yes, other historians have written about this epidemic before, but they have focused on the controversy surrounding vaccinations. In contrast, my book focuses on the lived experiences of the 11,000 residents of the city of Boston. In it, I explore, for example, how they were cared for, how the epidemic affected their financial situation but also their religious beliefs, and so on."
But Professor Seeman also plans to use his time in Erfurt to research 18th-century German funeral sermons and compare death scenes with those in Puritan New England. To do this, he will be working in the Gotha Research Library, among other places, which has a wealth of material ready for this purpose, as printed funeral sermons permeate the research library's entire holdings. In more than 40 mostly thick anthologies, there are more than 9,000 individual prints from the 16th to the 19th century. Remarkable are the memorial volumes, some of them elaborately designed, on princes and princesses of the Central German region and the Gotha ducal house.
"I'm looking forward to new impulses and discoveries," says the historian from Buffalo. "But of course, above all, I'm also looking forward to working with colleagues who have similar research interests to mine, but who work in different geographical contexts. And I'm curious to hear from my students about how they view and reflect on their educational systems and the material we work on together. That will also give me another new insight and broaden my horizons."