Dr Timo Schrader is a Fritz Thyssen Foundation Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Warwick. He currently works on his second major research project: “Super Citizenship: American Veterans and the Fight for Human Rights.” This project will produce the first comprehensive history of veteran activism and protest in the US. Previously, Timo Schrader worked as a Global Slavery Index Research Associate in the Rights Lab to deliver the Global Slavery Index’s government response assessment: a global ranking system for how well governments are doing to tackle modern slavery. In 2018/19 he was Course Leader of the MA Slavery and Liberation at the University of Nottingham.
He obtained his PhD in American Studies in 2018 at the University of Nottingham examining Puerto Rican community activism in New York City in the second half of the twentieth century. He also holds an MA in American Studies (University of Nottingham) and a BA in English and Educational Sciences (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg). Since 2017, he has taught and convened various undergraduate and postgraduate modules at the University of Nottingham, the University of Lincoln, the University of Leicester, and the University of Warwick. Timo has held several jobs in his academic career, including Student Assistant at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (2012-13), Impact Coordinator at the Department of American and Canadian Studies (2013-15), Co-director of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights (2015-17), Student Representative for his student cohort at the University of Nottingham (2013-17), and Research Associate with the AHRC-funded Antislavery Usable Past project (2017).
Timo has organized various academic conferences over the years, such as the Spring Academy (2012-13), the October Dialogues (2015-16), the American Studies Retreat (2014-17), Historians Against Slavery (2017), and Veteran Politics and Memory: A Global Perspective (2021). He has published peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of Urban History, the Journal for the Study of Radicalism, and Anglistica/AION. His research has been supported through various awards from various organizations, including the following: British Association for American Studies, Royal Historical Society, Economic History Society, Historians of Twentieth Century United States, and the European Association for American Studies. He has presented his research at annual meetings of the Urban History Association, the British Association for American Studies, the American Historical Association, and Historians of Twentieth Century United States.
Below are my current and former research projects. Broadly speaking, my research interests are in twentieth century American history, community activism, social justice movements, US citizenship, the history of veterans, radical history, and urban history.
This post-doctoral project will produce the first comprehensive history of veteran activism and protest in the U.S. Whenever soldiers have returned home from a conflict, they have attempted to re-integrate into civilian life in the U.S. However, veterans throughout US conflicts have emerged to claim, complicate, or contest American citizenship by engaging in protests or activist causes—often opposing the very government that enlisted them. Soldiers are trained to serve and protect but what do veterans do with this sense of duty after war? Whether it is segregation, land ownership, or LGBT rights, ex-soldiers have historically been present to lend their status as veterans to support numerous human rights issues. This project contends that U.S. veterans have played a major role in shaping American society since World War I, despite a significant lack of scholarly attention to the history of veterans. In exploring the intersections of citizenship, activism, and veterans, this project will provide a radically new perspective on the limits and opportunities of U.S. citizenship and the involvement of veterans in social movements.
This PhD project offers the first in-depth analysis of the network of Puerto Rican community activism in the Lower East Side from 1964 to 2001. The community of Loisaida organized itself to fight against postwar urban deindustrialization, housing disinvestment, and gentrification, which threatened to displace an entire generation of Puerto Ricans who migrated to this New York neighborhood and tried to make it their home. Using an amalgam of unprocessed organizational archives, oral histories, ephemera, and neighborhood publications, this project recreates the history of community action in Loisaida. Focusing on key institutions and community groups that mobilized residents and built a lasting activist network, it demonstrates how community groups pioneered a methodology for more sustainable community activism. These activists turned Loisaida into their laboratory, constantly experimenting with and adapting new strategies to put up a solid defense against absentee landlords, greedy developers, opportunist politicians, and an era of increased policing of urban space. Analyzing the interplay of community activism, urban politics, and Puerto Rican history in this urban laboratory of Loisaida provides three crucial insights: (1) the necessity for grassroots organizations to adapt their activism to the changing needs of the community, (2) the creativity of urban communities to transform and design their immediate environment, and (3) the root causes that keep activist campaigns from reaching their full potential.
University of Georgia Press (15 November 2020)
Loisaida as Urban Laboratory is the first in-depth analysis of the network of Puerto Rican community activism in New York City's Lower East Side from 1964 to 2001. Combining social history, cultural history, Latino studies, ethnic studies, studies of social movements, and urban studies, Timo Schrader uncovers the radical history of the Lower East Side. As little scholarship exists on the roles of institutions and groups in twentieth and twenty-first-century Puerto Rican community activism, Schrader enriches a growing discussion around alternative urbanisms.
Loisaida was among a growing number of neighborhoods that pioneered a new form of urban living. The term Loisaida was coined, and then widely adopted, by the activist and poet Bittman "Bimbo" Rivas in an unpublished 1974 poem called "Loisaida" to refer to a part of the Lower East Side. Using this Spanglish version instead of other common labels honors the name that the residents chose themselves to counter real estate developers who called the area East Village or Alphabet City in an attempt to attract more artists and ultimately gentrify the neighborhood.
Since the 1980s, urban planners and scholars have discussed strategies of urban development that revisit the pre-World War II idea of neighborhoods as community-driven and ecologically conscious entities. These "new urbanist" ideals are reflected in Schrader's rich historical and ethnographic study of activism in Loisaida, telling a vivid story of the Puerto Rican community's struggles for the right to stay and live with dignity in its home neighborhood.
Journal of Urban History 44, no. 3 (May 2018)
This article delves into an overlooked ingredient in community activism between the period of the Great Society and Reaganomics. In the midst of the shift from housing disinvestment to gentrification, communities across the United States sought out any means necessary to fight forced displacement. The community mural was one of the most creative tools activists employed to claim their stake in a neighborhood. This article demonstrates how these community murals were deeply embedded within activist projects, not simply as an afterthought but as a crucial catalyst to provoke action among the residents of a neighborhood, especially its young people. Loisaida (Spanglish for Lower East Side) was a pioneering neighborhood where activists democratized art as a means to politicize neighborhood space and organize an entire community. As murals play important roles for struggling communities across the world now, this article traces their role in community activism back to the U.S. mural movement.
Journal for the Study of Radicalism 12, no. 1 (Spring 2018)
This article argues that the work of the Puerto Rican organization Real Great Society (RGS) established a “pedagogy of activism”—a grassroots educational effort to educate poor and at-risk children and teenagers through concrete work and community activism. It examines the efforts of two alternative, community-based educational projects to provide a more relevant pedagogical model in New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1960s, in the context of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, the growing demand for human rights education and the idea of education as a human right, and urban trends of deindustrialization and displacement. This provides a new framework for understanding how members of community groups such as RGS attempted to counteract growing gang violence and youth apathy in their neighborhoods. More broadly, the article argues that RGS’s educational philosophy became the pillar for future community activism in the Lower East Side and reveals new insights into the role of radical neighborhood groups in transforming their communities.
Anglisica/AION 20, no. 1 (November 2017)
Recent scholars such as Yasmin Ramírez, Urayoán Noel, and Wilson Valentín-Escobar have argued for the importance of art in subverting U.S. narratives of citizenship and national identity with regards to the status of Puerto Rico—at times occupied land, a colony, or a U.S. state stripped of its democratic power. This article traces how Puerto Rican artists in New York created an imaginary nation whose members hold an imaginary citizenship that protects how Puerto Ricans identify their nationality beyond the century-old political battle over Puerto Rico’s status as a commonwealth territory. I argue that through the lens of the multi-media, performance project El Embassy, artists and supporters actively promoted a claim to cultural citizenship through a process of decolonizing the imaginary. This surrealist project existed both in the shared, and individual, imaginaries of people and in the physical world they inhabited. This altogether messy approach to activism, the quest to decolonize the imaginary and claim cultural citizenship, deserves attention not only for its unique re-imagining of Puerto Rican citizenship, but also for its broader ideas about citizenship, identity, and nationhood.
I firmly believe that research and teaching should be tightly interwoven. My primary goal when teaching is to instill research skills and habits of critical analysis that prepare students for a range of careers and foster engaged citizens. Through research projects, primary source-based essays, online activities, and in-class lectures students come to understand the complex interplay between high politics and low cultures, between the local and the national, as well as the personal and the political. Introducing students to the agency of historical actors helps them to realize their own agency and teaches them the skills to progress in their search for values. In the process, I create a space in my classroom where students learn to embrace diversity of thought as well as diversity of experience. My work with oral histories, personal archives, and ephemeral primary sources feature prominently in my teaching. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
In the first term of 2020/21, I will be teaching a second-year specialist module entitled “The Right to the City: United States Urban History in the 20th Century” at the University of Warwick. I have designed this module based on my research and expertise in US urban history and the syllabus and readings reflect current-day needs to investigate policing, gentrification, and homelessness in urban America—among other key themes. Since 2017, I have also taught the following modules:
I was the Course Leader for the online-learning MA in Slavery and Liberation at the School of Politics and International Relations. In this capacity, I was responsible for convening the MA program, supervising student dissertations, line-managing module conveners on the course, and teaching the module “Research Methods in Human Rights.” In addition to the MA work, I was also asked by the School to transform one of the popular modules on the MA (“Slavery Since Emancipation”) into a face-to-face module for the general range of postgraduate modules in the School. Instead of a lecture component, which would not have worked for the face-to-face module, I decided to add a research component each week, where students work on a dedicated research project related to the week’s topic. This included working with a database on slave voyages and designing an NGO that would more suitably tackle the issues faced by survivors of modern slavery in the UK. My approach to teaching is co-operative as I provide substantial space for students to design aspects of the module, including readings and weekly topics. I have also invited guest speakers to give students a chance to engage with experts in specific research projects related to the module’s themes.
Below is a selection of student feedback about the modules I have taught over the years and how I created engaged and challenging spaces for learning as a teacher.
And finally here is a teaching reference from Professor George Lewis (University of Leicester), who asked me to co-teach a third-year module on the Civil Rights Movement for two years in a row.
The following excerpts represent a selection of peer review comments and feedback on my research and publications by leading and established scholars in my field.