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Writer and Educator Michael Bellesiles to Speak at SUNY Arts Conference

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09/06/2001

NEW PALTZ --

After reading a summary of Michael Bellesiles' research in the English journal The Economist, Charleton Heston, President of the National Rifle Association, called for historians to stop wasting their time in the archives and just stick to the traditional narrative of American history.

Michael Bellesiles, whose book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture has caused a firestorm of controversy with the National Rifle Association will deliver a keynote lecture at the 2001 Arts Now Conference "Sites of Conflict: Art in a Culture of Violence." The conference is held September 20-22 at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Bellesiles will present a lecture titled "Peacemakers, Little Gents, and the Lady's Companion: Promoting Gun Use in Industrial America," on Friday, September 21 at 9am in Lecture Center 112.

Micahel Bellesiles is a Professor of History at Emory University in Atlanta where he was the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Violence. Arming America (Knopf, 2000) examines the history of gun use in the United Stated and sheds new light on the relationship between gun manufacturers and gun owners. Professor Bellesiles has written extensively on early American history and on issues related to an expanding gun culture. His scholarship includes a commitment to an active dialogue with students and professional colleagues around the country, as evidenced by his three dozen papers and invited lectures at scholarly conferences and on campuses nationally and internationally in the last decade.

The gun has been a significant part of the nation's history, but Bellesiles' thesis raises salient questions about the immutability of violence and the historical myth-making that is frequently invoked to defend and condone gun use and ownership as intrinsic to the American character. By challenging this long-held belief, Bellisiles has subjected himself to both praise and criticism. "Dr. Bellesiles conclusions are certainly not unimpeachable," says one reviewer, "but they are supported by substantial evidence, contrary to the comments made by the well-organized campaign to discredit him.... The zeal of gun-cultists in this campaign is quite incredible. Dr. Bellesiles has in fact received death threats from those uncomfortable with his conclusions."

In his lecture, Peacemakers, Little Gents, and the Lady's Companion: Promoting Gun Use in Industrial America, Bellesiles examines an unexplored aspect of United States history-the role of advertising in the promotion of an American gun culture in the half-century after the Civil War. The presentation highlights particularly effective advertising motifs, while focusing on the efforts of gun manufacturers to identify and respond to popular fears and concerns.

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"Sites of Conflict: Art in a Culture of Violence," the third of five planned biennial Arts Now Conferences, is scheduled for September 20-22, 2001. Conceived with an objective to explore issues of contemporary art and culture, each conference provides a reflective occasion to look at timely issues in the arts and contemporary culture through an interdisciplinary lens. Like its predecessors, "Sites of Conflict: Art in a Culture of Violence" includes featured presentations and conversations by noted authors, artists and scholars; papers and other contributions selected from a national call for proposals; and exhibitions and performances.

Keynote presentations by playwright Anna Deavere Smith, author and Holocaust scholar James E. Young, poet Carolyn Forché, and artists Bradley McCallum and Carl Pope are augmented by performances including Marisol by José Rivera, and Delirium for Two by Eugene Ionesco. Numerous exhibitions and lectures will occur on the SUNY New Paltz campus before and after the conference, effectively promoting a broad dialogue on the subject of violence and the arts. For additional information visit www.newpaltz.edu/arts_now or call the Office of the Dean, School of Fine & Performing Arts, SUNY New Paltz, 845-257-3860.

SUNY New Paltz is a university of nearly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students located in the Mid-Hudson Valley halfway between New York City and Albany. SUNY New Paltz is committed to providing high quality, affordable education to students from all social and economic backgrounds. For more information about the university, visit its web site at http://www.newpaltz.edu.