Author Archives: Katie Smyser

Straight Edge: Historian vs Hardcore Kid

This week, we are talking Straight Edge and the Hardcore music scene with not one but two special guests!  Colin Eager is a PhD candidate at the University at Buffalo who studies youth culture and political radicalization in the Reagan era, and Mark Miller is the host of HMNI Fanzine podcast, a hardcore podcast inspired from his earlier work on hardcore fanzines.  Join Marissa, Averill, Colin, and Mark as they discuss music, the Straight Edge scene, activism, and youth culture.  It’s a crossover episode you won’t want to miss!

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The band Minor Threat coined the term "straight edge"

The band Minor Threat coined the term “straight edge”- Photo By Malco23Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Show Notes and Further Reading (and Listening!)

Ross Haenfler, Straight Edge: Hardcore Punk, Clean Living Youth, and Social Change, (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2005).

Ross Haenfler, Subcultures: The Basics, (London: Routledge, 2013).

Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, (London: Routledge, 1979).

Gabriel Kuhn, Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics, (Oakland: PM Press, 2010).

Jamie Mullaney, “All In Time: Age And The Temporality Of Authenticity In The Straight-Edge Music Scene,” Journal Of Contemporary Ethnography 41:6 (2012): 611-635.

Robert Wood, “The Straightedge Youth Sub-Culture: Observations on the Complexity of Sub-Cultural Identity,” Journal of Youth Studies, 6:1 (2003): 33-52.

Black X, Mark’s Buffalo-based Hardcore Straight Edge band

HMNI Fanzine Podcast, Mark’s podcast

Devil’s Advocate-Buffalo Style Demo 2005

Minor Threat-Straight Edge

Youth of Today biography on Revelation Records

“The American Drug Panic of the 1980s: Social Construction or Objective Threat?”

“Break Down the Walls: An Oral History of Youth of Today’s 1987 tour, a Defining Moment for American Hardcore,” May 11, 2017



How America Got Its Bases


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It should come as no surprise that the American military has bases all over the world in strategically important places.  But how did we obtain them, especially those ones that exist in the middle of other sovereign nations?  Join Averill, Katie, and Dan as they discuss American base acquisition in this week’s episode of the History Buffs Podcast.

Show Notes and Further Reading

Diego Garcia:

Diego Garcia Islanders Displaced in U.K. Failure Hope to Return Home,” NPR, April 16, 2015

Scott Foster and Robert Windrem, “Tsunami Spares U.S. Base in Diego Garcia,” NBC News, January 4, 2005

Joshua L. Harris, “U.S. Military Presence in Diego Garcia: National Interests vs. Human Rights,” ICE Case Studies No. 120, December 2003

David Vine, “The Truth About Diego Garcia,” The Huffington Post, June 15, 2015

David Vine, Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, Princeton University Press, 2011

Guantanamo Bay:

Copy of checks sent to Cuba

The United States, Cuba, and the Platt Amendment, 1901,” Office of the Historian

Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval stations, February 23, 1903Yale Law School Avalon Project 

The Case for CLosing – and Keeping Open – Guantanamo,” NPR (6 Mar 2016)

Jess Bravin, The Terror Courts (Yale University Press, 2013) 

Philip Ewing, “Fact Check: Is Obama Handing Guantanamo Bay Back to Cuba?NPR (Feb 25, 2016) 

Alyssa Fetini, “A Brief History of Gitmo,” Time (12 Nov 2008) 

Jeannette L. Nolen, “Guantanamo Bay detention camp,” Encyclopedia Britannica (Updated 22 May 2013)

Michael J. Strauss, The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay (ABC-CLIO, May 14, 2009)

Featured image: Panorama showing 1st, 2nd & 3rd Regiments, U.S. Marines, Deer Point Camp, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 26, 1911 (Library of Congress)

Cash in a Bag

Today we’re talking about corruption in American politics.  And honestly, is there a better time to talk about this topic than now?  Join Elizabeth and Katie as they discuss some scintillating political scandals in U.S. politics.

Speaking of politics, have you registered to vote yet?


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Featured image:  Harry F. Sinclair, multimillionaire oil magnate (left) and his counsel Martin W. Littleton. Teapot Dome hearing. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA  Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-hec-44031

Tammany Hall:  A rational law, or – Tammany // C.J. Taylor. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA  Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-7884

ASGA: Spiritualism in America

In the second part of our Second Great Awakening series, Sarah and Katie talk more about one of the most interesting new religious practices to come out of the Burned Over District – Spiritualism!

Show Notes and Further Reading:

Braude, Ann. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth Century America. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2001.

Carlisle, Linda. Elizabeth Packard: A Noble Fight. Champaigne: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Cox, Robert S. Body and Soul: a Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003.

Grogan, Susie. “A Solace to a Tortured World: The Growing Interest in Spiritualism During and after Wold War I.”

Hazelgrove, Jenny. Spiritualism and British Society Between the Wars” amd Spiritualism After the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000.

Winter, Jay.  Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Wright, Ben and Zachary W. Dresser, eds. Apocalypse and the Millenium in the American Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013.


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Some things we mentioned in the episode:

Stuff You Missed in History Class: The Sisters Fox

National Spiritualist Association of Churches

Lily Dale Assembly

The Zu Füß Podcast


Global Nineteenth-Century Revolutions

During seventeen tumultuous years in the mid-19th century, it seemed like the whole world was in chaos. Revolution broke out in Europe, South Asia, East Asia, and the United States. What was going on? Katie, Dan, and Tommy investigate.


Show Notes and Further Reading

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Civil War Isn’t Tragic,” The Atlantic, April 26, 2011

Christopher Hibbert, The Great Mutiny (1978)

Thomas R. Metcalf, The Aftermath of Revolt (1964)

Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century.  Trans. Patrick Camiller (2014)

Feature images, clockwise from top: Suppression of the Taiping RebellionViennese students during the 1848 revolutionThe British Lion’s Vengeance on the Bengal TigerBombardment of Fort Sumter.  All works in the Public Domain.

Mini-Cast: How Britain and Russia made Afghanistan

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about international borders. See, for example: Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014; the question of EU nations protecting their own borders from the overwhelming flow of migrants into Europe; the fluidity  and conflict of the Turkey-Syria border, and Donald Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for a wall along the US-Mexico border. This got us to thinking:  what goes into making a border?  Who decides where the line is, and how is it enforced?  Marissa and Katie look to answer this question by exploring the the creation of Afghanistan’s borders in the late nineteenth century.  It’s a dramatic Victorian conflict that’s still relevant today. Join us!

The Great Game: the afghan Emir Sher Ali Khan with his “friends” Russia (the bear) and Britain (the lion), by Sir John Tenniel (1878).  Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.


Show Notes and Further Reading

Special thanks this week goes out to Dr. John Brobst, Assistant Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies at Ohio University, whose work on Central Asia inspired and informed much of this week’s episode.


Brobst, John.  The Future of the Great Game: Sir Olaf Caroe, India’s Independence, and the Defense of Asia (2005)

Fromkin, David. “The Great Game in Asia,” Foreign Affairs, Spring 1980

Hopkirk, Peter.  The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (1992) and Tresspassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet (1995)

Sergeev, Evgeny. The Great Game, 1856-1907: Russo-British Relations in Central and East Asia (2013)

Feature image:  A map of the countries between Constantinope and Calcutta:  including Turkey in Asia, Persia, Afghanistan, and Turkestan. London : Edward Stanford, 1912. Library of Congress.



Tainted Love: Love Canal and the Fight for Environmental Rights

Welcome to this year’s issue of Tainted Love, our annual installment of unusual love stories just in time for Valentine’s Day!


An abandoned house in Love Canal, circa 1978 | EPA / Wikimedia Commons

Today, we’re headed just up the road from Buffalo to Love Canal, New York, a small suburban development that made big headlines when toxic chemicals started to appear in residents’ yards.  After a damning health study was released in the summer of 1978, the residents there became arguably the most influential environmental advocates of the late twentieth century.  Join Katie and Tommy as they talk environmental justice from then until now with their guest, Dr. Richard S. Newman.  It’s a Valentine’s Day special, History Buffs style!



Protests by a Love Canal resident circa 1978 | EPA / Wikimedia Commons


As mentioned in the podcast, Dr. Newman will be giving a talk at the Buffalo History Museum on Wednesday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m.  His talk is entitled “Love Canal: A Toxic History,” and comes from his new book, Love Canal: A Toxic History from Colonial Times to the Present.  The book is published by Oxford University press and will be released in April 2016.



An abandoned street in Love Canal | Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Show Notes and Further Reading

Edkardt C. Beck, “The Love Canal Tragedy,” EPA Journal 5.1, 1979, 17-20

Elizabeth Blum, Love Canal Revisited: Race, Class, and Gender in Environmental Activism, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2008

Nicol Bryan,  Love Canal: Pollution Crisis,  Milwaukee: The World Almanac Library, 2004

Craig E. Colton and Peter N. Skinner, The Road to Love Canal: Managing Industrial Waste before the EPA, Austin: The  University of Texas Press, 1996

Kate Davies, The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2013

Nicholas Freudenerg, Not in Our Backyards! Community Action for Health and the Environment, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984

Lois Gibbs, Love Canal: The Story Continues…., Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 1998

Adeline Levine, Love Canal: The Issues and Controversies. Produced through the Educational Communications Center, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, 2013

Love Canal Emergency Declaration Area Remediation of EDA 2 and 3: Final Study Report,  New York State Department of Health and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, May 1991

Ellen Griffith Spears, Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014


Feature image: Valentine’s Tree with Hearts | Johntex / Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.5,




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