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‘Goat Bones in the Basement’ lecture explores ‘dark tourism’

Monday, October 19, 2015

LAWRENCE – A chance visit to a haunted house tour in Savannah, Georgia, led to a new area of research for a scholar who will present the lecture “Goat Bones in the Basement: A Case of Race, Gender and Haunting in Old Savannah” at the University of Kansas.

Tiya Miles, the Mary Henrietta Graham Distinguished Professor at the University of Michigan, will deliver her talk as this year’s Bill Tuttle Distinguished Lecturer in American Studies. Miles was awarded a 2011 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship for her work on African American and Native American history.

The event will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in Woodruff Auditorium of the Kansas Union and is free and open to the public. Miles will also do a reading and book signing at the Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St., at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Miles wrote an essay of the same name as her lecture for the South Carolina Review Spring 2015 edition. In the essay, she recounts her experience in unknowingly partaking in “dark tourism,” which is the act of visiting sites which are known historically for violent or morbid events. Miles visited the Sorrel-Weed House in Savannah, which she discovered was known as “the most haunted house” in the city. The visitor tour emphasizes not just that the house is haunted but that it is haunted by a slave woman and her mistress.

As a scholar of African-American and Native American history, among other subjects, Miles became interested in the portrayal of slavery at haunted tourist sites in the South. In the essay, Miles questions how “the figure of the slave as ghost affects the already troubled dynamic of black representation at historic homes.”

“A writer of great range and insight, Tiya Miles has become an authoritative voice in reframing and reinterpreting the history of our diverse nation,” said Bill Tuttle, professor emeritus in the Department of American Studies.

Miles is a professor at the University of Michigan in the Department of American Culture, Department of Afro-American and African Studies, Department of History, Department of Women Studies and Native American Studies Program. Her research and creative interests include African-American and Native American interrelated and comparative histories (especially 19th century); black, native and U.S. women's histories; and African-American and Native American women's literature. Her most recent book, “The Cherokee Rose,” was published to rave reviews this year. The novel examines a little-known aspect of America’s past – slaveholding by Southern Creeks and Cherokees.  

The Department of American Studies and friends and family of Bill Tuttle established the annual Tuttle Lecture in 2008 to honor Tuttle for his 40 years of academic excellence in research and teaching as well as his service to the university, the Lawrence community and the nation. The Tuttle Lecture focuses on Tuttle’s primary teaching, research and civic concerns: African-American history and culture and recent American society and politics. The Tuttle Lecture provides an open forum for distinguished lecturers to talk frankly about American culture and society, speaking truth to power.

The 2015 Tuttle Lecture is made possible by the support of the Department of African & African-American Studies, the Department of American Studies, the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Sociology, the Museum Studies Program, the Indigenous Studies Program, the Hall Center for the Humanities, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Student Athlete Support Services, Office of the Provost and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

Seven of the presenting and sponsoring units are part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.