The following is an interview given by Dr. Kristina Poznan, the 2020 recipient of the Fisher Fellow Award. The Fisher Fellow Award offers support to junior scholars to attend the Summer Research Lab (SRL) at the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois in the spirit of scholarly advancement and collaboration. While both the Fisher Fellow Program and the Summer Research Lab looked quite different this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, SRL associates were able to continue projects via remote research and collaboration.
Dr. Poznan received her Ph.D. in History from William & Mary and has previously taught history at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, La Salle University, and Randolph-Macon College, among others. Her research interests include transatlantic migration, migrant identities, and migration to the United States following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Dr. Poznan generously agreed to answer a few questions about her experiences as a Fisher fellow and with SRL.
The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What brought me to the SRL was their strong collection in both secondary resources and primary access. A lot of graduate institutions have excellent library subscriptions, but once you finish your Ph.D. and are out in the wider world of the institutions that you’re teaching at, access to some of these things can get kind of spotty. The SRL really helps to maintain access to world-class institutions for scholars over the summer.
What has been the primary focus of your research during SRL this summer?
I am working on studying the migrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the United States and the way that the process of transatlantic migration influences and, in some cases, accelerates, separatist nationalisms. I have been utilizing the University of Illinois’ library collections on some of the locations the migrants were coming from, but also transatlantic shipping and the locations within the United States where the migrants decided to settle. Access to both the library’s extensive Slavic history holdings and Illinois history holdings (and also information on Illinois immigration history) have been paramount to my SRL experience.
My library goals for the Summer Research Laboratory were two-fold: first, to mine the library’s extensive published primary source holdings on the Cunard steamship line, which was contracted by the Hungarian government to be the only legal carrier of Hungarian emigrants after 1905, and which sought to quickly reestablish transatlantic migration after WWI before the quota laws substantially lessened demand (Illinois’ holdings on Cunard are robust!), and second, to update my footnotes and bibliography utilizing the library’s secondary sources as I work on completing my book manuscript. While I had access to much of the secondary literature related to my research at William & Mary, the library’s holdings at New Mexico do not contain many Eastern European volumes.
This summer, the SRL looked and operated a bit differently due to the pandemic. So far, what have you found to be the most useful regarding the collection and reference services here at Illinois?
The database access at Illinois is far more extensive than I have had access to in several years. Being able to loop back to areas that perhaps on a first pass I didn’t always know exactly what I was looking for…I have been able to revisit things now in a later stage of the project, which has been really helpful in, in some cases, yielding hits that I hadn’t found during initial searches. Access to older, rarer, and less formal publications that are unfortunately not always considered worth saving has been very useful in collecting information. Finally, duplication services are a rare and serious boon during pandemic library closures.
What are your plans following the conclusion of SRL?
My plans in the coming weeks following the conclusion of the SRL are to keep working on my book manuscript and to finalize revisions on an article on the dual effects of new European borders after 1918 and American restrictions on immigration from the successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the United States. Post-World War I borders, accompanied by the staunching of the flow of new immigrants by the war and restrictive quotas in the United States in the 1920s, together recast the relationship between many immigrants and their homelands. During the hearings before the passage quota legislations, Census Bureau officials had to admit to Congress that they had engaged in “guesswork” (sic!) to create quotas for new post-war states, even though the quotas were supposed to seem so objective and scientifically derived.