UNM’s American Studies Department announces an exciting lecture featuring Professor Phil Deloria titled “The Year the Stars Fell: Toward a Continental History of a Very Few Hours” on Thursday, March 21, 2024, from 6-7:30 p.m. as this year’s Joel M. Jones lecture. The lecture will take place in the Bobo Room located in Hodgin Hall. A reception will immediately follow the lecture. The lecture is open to the public.

Almost two centuries ago, meteors from the annual Leonid showers fell in such abundance, frequency, and size that people ran from their homes to contemplate the celestial light show.

The lecture focuses on the annual Leonid meteor shower, which first appeared in the late night/early morning hours between Nov. 12 and 13, 1833. Deloria draws upon the “Year the Stars Fell” to link disparate local histories among American Indian peoples. His research traces references to the meteor shower in the memory and writing from across the continent, from enslaved African Americans in the South to Latter-Day Saints and Second Great Awakening revivalists in small towns to the scientists of Philadelphia, Cambridge, and New Haven, among others.

Deloria explores how the falling stars called into question epistemological assumptions about faith, reason, and nature, and how they invite us to compare disparate responses to understand an unknowably broad geography in the narrowest of historical moments. How did people from diverse sociocultural groups make sense of what seemed a powerful celestial sign?

Deloria is the Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History and Literature at Harvard University. He is a distinguished scholar who has blazed the trail for interdisciplinary scholarship in American Studies, Indigenous Studies, and History. His first book, “Playing Indian” (1998), traced the tradition of white “Indian play” from the Boston Tea Party to the New Age movement and is recognized as foundational to the study of representations of Indians and the tradition of “playing Indian.”

His 2004 book, “Indians in Unexpected Places”, examined non-Indian beliefs surrounding Indian people in the early twentieth century and the ways Native Americans challenged them through sports, travel, automobility, and film and musical performance to unsettle fixed notions that are often attached to how we think we know Indigenous peoples. His other published works include “Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract” (2019), which was heralded as a book of discovery and recovery of an artist’s work that might otherwise have been lost if Deloria had not treated it as a treasure.

Deloria is currently the Katrin H. Lamon Fellow at the School of Advanced Research, Santa Fe. His lecture is based on his research on the meteor shower and on his plans to write a synchronic history focused on a few hours which will present a portrait of an unruly space in a moment of epistemic disequilibrium.

Deloria received a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 1994. He is a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, where he chairs the Repatriation Committee. He is a former president of the American Studies Association, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of numerous prizes and recognitions. Along with Erika Doss, he is the series editor of Culture America, a University Press of Kansas series focused on American cultural history.

The American Studies Joel M. Jones lecture series is funded by an endowment from the family, friends, and colleagues of Jones, a professor and chair of the department. Jones is remembered for his scholarship and his talent for connecting teaching, research, and contemporary social justice issues.

This year’s Joel M. Jones lecture is supported by the generosity of the UNM-CNM Humanities Now!, the Ortiz Center, the Center for the Southwest, and the Institute for American Indian Research (IFAIR).

For more information, contact Dr. Jennifer Denetdale.