Joseph Amato has spent the better part of his career thinking deeply and writing about local history as a credible topic of study. He has helped create a sense of place in southwestern Minnesota, defining its boundaries, and exploring its waters and landscape. Amato has also explored the region’s culture, and its economies, and its people. Much his work has been focused on redeeming local history as a subject worthy of intellectual study. Amato’s publications explore topics as diverse as immigration and population decline, and from agriculture to murder in books such as The Decline of Rural Minnesota, Servants of the Land, When Father and Son Conspire, and The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus. Amato has taken on subjects as broad as walking and as minute as the history of dust. A defining book for local historians was his 2002 book, Rethinking Home: A Case for Writing Local History. Here, Amato discussed the many ways history in a locality was experienced and how it could be integrated into the greater national and international stories.
Joseph A. Amato is Professor Emeritus of History and Rural and Regional Studies at Southwest Minnesota State University. He is the principal founder of the Society for the Study of Local and Regional History, as well as the past Director for the Center for Rural and Regional Studies at Southwest State. He and his wife Cathy live near the Twin Cities and he’s currently working on a fictional mythology set along the Minnesota River.
Based on years of advanced work in European cultural history, Amato has sought fresh themes for the study of local history since his first years at Southwest Minnesota State University
While, he contends, that the local historian must acknowledge and elaborate the uniqueness and variety of place, past and present, he also argues places must be located in region, nation, and world in light of dramatically changing times.
Amato will first underline how a community of friends and a history center, and a university center for local and regional studies shaped his work.
With slides he will show how individual chap book and books shaped the work and the direction of the University of Center for the Study of Local and Regional History and the university History Center.
(Four themes that underpinned the Center and his work were the demographic transformation of the countryside; the clandestine and its changing nature; the potential use of emerging environmental history; and the irresistible subordination of everyday local life to a changing world.)
Amato will briefly conclude his talk his most recent project, Buffalo Man: Giant of the Minnesota River stressing how historical fiction can be used to transform our understanding of river-dominated Minnesota Territorial.