In his recent talk for the Second Tuesday Social Sciences Cafe series, Professor and Chair of History Timothy Burke discusses why he finds it useful to teach a course on counterfactual history. In "The Perils of Imagination: Why Historians Don't Like Counterfactuals," he describes the current state of play in the debate among historians and other social scientists about "might-have-beens." Burke also demonstrates how the discussion of counterfactuals illustrates history's uneasy location in the borderlands between the social sciences and the humanities.
Burke's main field of specialty is modern African history, specifically southern Africa, but he has also worked on U.S. popular culture and on computer games. He has maintained the blog, "Easily Distracted: Culture, Politics, Academia and Other Shiny Objects," since 2002.
Sponsored by the Aydelotte Foundation, Second Tuesday Social Sciences Cafes are monthly events that encourage faculty and staff to come together for a light lunch and learning. The 2014-15 series features presentations by faculty members on public education, the economics of MOOCs, and motivation, among others. Events are geared for individuals with no formal background in the social sciences.