Archive for January, 2008

January 19th 2008
Senatorella’s coach stops at Caesar’s Palace tonight

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history

cinderellas-coach.jpgWell, it looks like Senatorella has pulled it off again.  With 90% of all precincts reporting, Hillary Clinton has beaten Barack Obama decisively with 51% of the vote to 45%.  Never has a front-runner done so unexpectedly well!  (Please, Crayzee Chris, insanity means never having to say you’re sorry for your misogynist rants!  With enemies like you, who needs delegates?)  Complete results here, with age and sex breakdowns for both Republicans and Democrats.

It looks like as in New Hampshire, the Alice vote is what put her over the top–59% of Democrats who caucused today were women, and fully 68% of the Democrats were 45 and older, an excellent demographic for Clinton.  The OC vote, which showed up to caucus in Iowa in historic numbers and put Obama over the top, didn’t make it out to caucus in Nevada.  18-29 year-olds appeared at an anemic 13%, and Historiann’s own demographic of 30-44 mustered only a scandalously low turnout of 19%.  (Whazzup, peeps?  Stuck in your minivans shuttling kids from ballet to soccer to circus day-camp this morning?  Did you stay up too late fooling around with TurboTax 2007 and trying to program your TiVO to record Desperate HousewivesAlexis de Tocqueville would be appalled had he lived another 149 years to see this!)

Memo to my generation:  Kiss my grits!


January 18th 2008
Friday Captivity Blogging: Colonial Food Network edition

Posted under American history & book reviews & captivity

captivity-parents2.JPGWhen I wrote Abraham in Arms, one of the things I found most interesting was the use of food in captivity narratives as a means of criticizing one’s captors.  That is to say, after English people had returned home and sat down to write their captivity narratives, several of them decided to use the food that was shared with them in captivity as proof of the savagery of their Indian captors.  This happened in so many captivity narratives that it was clearly not an accident, but rather a feature of the genre.  English captives chose not to point out that foods eaten on the run in wartime were not in fact normal daily fare, but it’s so much more exciting to tell stories about lurid menus of raccoon grease, boiled horse legs, and deer fetuses instead of corn, beans, and squash.  Besides, it’s easier to reassure your Anglophone audience of their superiority if Indians aren’t portrayed as eating the same things that the English ate.

There are two interesting new books on food and culture in colonial America that Historiann wishes she had had the pleasure of reading before putting her manuscript to bed.  James E. McWilliams’s A Revolution in Eating:  How the Quest for Food Shaped America (Columbia University Press, 2005) is a regionally-structured tour through the kitchens and campfires of early American cookery from the beginning of English settlement through the American Revolution.  (Tips for grad students:  you’ll find here the culinary version of the Anglicization thesis.)  The details he offers about la vie quotidienne have been really useful to me as I’ve tried to reconstruct what might have been on offer for breakfast in a New England garrison town around the turn of the eighteenth century, but his vigorous argument moves the reader forward without wallowing in antiquarian detail.

Next, Trudy Eden’s Cooking in America, 1590-1840 (Greenwood Press, 2006) offers a look at both Native and English colonial cuisine through period recipes.  Seriously–it’s a recipe book, complete with a helpful glossary explaining ratafia, frumenty, saleratus, and other lost ingredients.  I am pleased to see the book, because I have read (and cited) her very fine essay, “Food, Assimilation, and the Malleability of the Human Body in Early Virginia,” in A Centre of Wonders:  The Body in Early America, edited by Janet Moore Lindman and Michelle Lise Tarter (Cornell University Press, 2001), and look forward to more interesting work from her.  Eden’s colonial and early national cookbook is a companion piece to Alice L. McLean’s Cooking in America, 1840-1945 (Greenwood Press, 2006). 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m making dinner tonight chez Historiann, so I’d better go pound samp.

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January 17th 2008
The Huckabeast with Two (or more) Backs

Posted under Gender & wankers & weirdness

Over at Washington Monthly, and with the assistance of the L.A. Times, Kevin Drum looks behind the aggregate numbers of the drop in abortion rates reported recently by the Guttmacher institute.  He writes, “here are the basic numbers: excluding miscarriages, the pregnancy rate among women aged 15-44 has dropped by 13 per thousand since 1990. At the same time, the abortion rate has dropped by 8 per thousand. By itself this isn’t conclusive, but it strongly suggests that the reduced abortion rate is mostly due to fewer unwanted pregnancies in the first place. If increased regulation were the prime driver, you’d be more likely to see the pregancy rate staying about the same while abortions drop, and you’d be more likely to see bigger drops in states with more regulation. But that hasn’t been the case. So yes: better access to contraception, better education, and better access to the morning after pill seem to have made a difference over time. For anyone who’s pro-life but not anti-sex, that ought to be good news.” 

Well, good news for all of those pro-life, pro-sex, non-misogynists out there.  Yeah, that’s a big constituency.  (Wait–I think I know that guy.  Hello, Bill!)  And, like, duh, the feminist answer to unwanted pregnancies turns out to be the correct one.

Meanwhile, in pro-life, anti-sex news, Mike Huckabee says that homosexuality is the same as polygamy, child molestation, and bestiality (hat tip to Greg Sargent at the the Talking Points Memo Media Borg for that pickup.)  But he’s not judging–God is.   (Why does God have such a dirty mind?)


January 16th 2008
Faust-us too, or why you want a book agent

Posted under American history & book reviews

gloria-swanson.jpgBook agents can do more than just procure fat advances from trade presses.  Drew Faust’s appearance on Fresh Air last week was apparently just the kickoff to her major media blitz.  Her new book is reviewed this week in both The Nation and in The New Yorker.  (OK–maybe “major media blitz” is an exaggeration–after all, it’s not People magazine’s Picks and Pans–but “a great slice of media that people who buy and read books pay attention to.”) 

Memo to all of you book agents out there who read  I’m ready for my closeup.  And no, I won’t mind addressing all correspondence to “My Dark Lord (or Lady) Satan.”


January 15th 2008
They Hate Huckabees

Posted under American history & unhappy endings & weirdness

New rule:  Apparently it’s now a bad thing for a Republican presidential candidate to be a “divisive vessel of religious and class warfare,” at least if your last name starts with Huckabee.  Surprisingly, in benighted, post-globalization Michigan, he drew only 15% today, at least as of 9:54 EST.  Let’s all pray that he doesn’t go Huckabroke on the way to South Carolina.

Historiann’s parents live in Michigan–Mom is a Democrat and voted for Hillary Clinton, and she was happy to lend Clinton her support because of all of the unfair, sexist coverage in the leadup to the New Hampshire primary.  Historiann’s father is a Republican–and a very faithful voter–and he didn’t manage to get out to vote today.

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January 15th 2008
The War Between the States (of employment)

Posted under conferences & jobs & unhappy endings

Michael Bowen has an article up at Inside Higher Ed that argues that the American Historical Association (AHA)  should do better by graduate students.  He wants the organization to 1) stop touting an improved job market without taking into consideration the backlog of un- and underemployed Ph.D.’s from years past, and 2) to formulate uniform deadlines and standards of communication for search committees.  I think point #1 is reasonable (although I think if you read Robert B. Townsend’s reports, and not just the headlines, they are much more cautious), but I have some doubts about #2.  The discussion in the comment section, especially the comments by “Nimrod” and “AHA Veteran,” does a good job of explaining the limits of both the AHA and search committees themselves to control the hiring process.  (One exception:  I like Bowen’s deadline of offering interviews 30 days before the convention, although 3 weeks is usually early enough to get a decent non-refundable plane fare.  It’s horribly exploitative to invite graduate students and the underemployed interview at the AHA after mid-December.)  Bowen’s article is a fair shot, unlike some of the overheated discussions on the job wiki, but both this article and the job wiki are striking in that they suggest that job candidates feel very alienated from the faculties they want to join. 

Historiann has been thinking a lot recently about how technology has changed the job search process, and how it may have raised expectations that neither technology nor the search process can satisfy.  As recently as the mid-1990s, search committee correspondence took place entirely via Pony Express–just kidding!–I mean the U.S. Mail and telephone calls, and most departments didn’t have web pages, so job candidates had only the AHA Directory of History Departments and course catalogs on microfilm (!) to prepare for interviews.  E-mail has made getting and staying in touch with job candidates easier, and search committees who don’t take advantage of this to keep their applicants posted on major search developments are indeed neglectful.  But the ease of discovering information about a prospective employer via the web doesn’t seem to have improved job candidates’ preparation for interviews, especially on-campus interviews.  Nor have laptop computers and the ease of making revisions on the spot improved people’s job talks–things like practicing the talk 5 times in your hotel room and being able to think on your feet aren’t technology dependent. 

The main thing that technology has done–like “just in time” ordering and delivery of parts in the auto industry–is allow us to work up to deadlines.  It also allows both job candidates and hiring departments to vent in places like the wiki, so we’re more aware of the antagonism on the other side.  As a job candidate, I’ve been treated shabbily by hiring committees and prospective departments both before and after the technological divide, and I try to use those experiences to make the job interview process saner and fairer for others.  As a faculty member now, I believe that’s the way the majority of us approach the hiring season, but I know from experience that it only takes a few jerks (or a few jerky departments) to poison the well.  Sad to say, but I don’t really remember the kind, respectful people who took me out to dinner, or asked thoughtful questions on my job interviews for positions I wasn’t offered.  The jerks, however, are etched onto my brain in stark relief (and you know who you are!)


January 14th 2008
Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations

Posted under book reviews & Gender & jobs & women's history

waves-generations.jpgThis post is a follow-up to the previous discussion of Nancy Hewitt’s AHA paper.  If you are interested in reading more about how universities have changed in the past thirty years as women, queer scholars, and scholars of color have integrated (or infiltrated?) the faculty, see Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations:  Life Stories From the Academy (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), edited by Hokulani K. Aikau, Karla A. Erickson, and Jennifer L. Pierce.  The contributors for the most part are or were UM faculty or graduate students, and span three generations of scholars.  See in particular Janet D. Spector’s essay on feminist archaeology, Toni McNaron’s description of gay and lesbian faculty life from the 1960s to the 1990s, Jennifer L. Pierce’s story of her abuse by one UM department, and her (successful) efforts to fight back, and Roderick A. Ferguson’s “Sissies at the Picnic:  The Subjugated Knowledges of a Black Rural Queer.”  (Sorry–I couldn’t shorten, let alone improve on that title!)  Finally, returning to the this blog’s preoccupation with the exploitation of women’s labor, don’t miss “Innovation is Overtime:  An Ethical Analysis of ‘Politically Committed’ Labor” by Lisa J. Disch and Jean M. O’Brien.  It explains how Corporate University (TM), despite giving politically committed faculty only resistance and no resources, nevertheless benefits from the uncompensated and unrewarded labor of many faculty members because of their commitments to change.  Those Women’s Studies programs and Ethnic Studies departments weren’t there fifty years ago, and you didn’t think they invented themselves out of thin air like the Invisible Village of Peace, Freedom, and Love, did you?


January 12th 2008
Nancy Hewitt dishes on “The Leaky Pipeline”

Posted under conferences & Gender & jobs & women's history

You’re probably like Historiann, in that you didn’t get to see the recent AHA panel called “The Leaky Pipeline:  Issues of Promotion, Retention, and Quality of Life Issues for Women in the Historical Profession,” chaired by Leo Spitzer, and starring Tiya Miles, Claire Potter, and Nancy Hewitt.  (Potter has posted a brief description at Tenured Radical, in which she reveals that the room this panel was assigned was in fact IN a garage, presumably with leaky pipes about to burst all over the assembled pilgrims.  Surely, it’s just a coincidence that the panel on women’s working conditions was given this room!)  The title of the panel appears to have been inspired by a 2005 Report on the Status of Women in the Profession by Liz Lunbeck, which argues that the “pipeline” from Ph.D. to full Professorship for women “is in fact quite leaky, with women dropping out at every step up the ladder.” 

The most senior of the three panelists, Nancy Hewitt, wrote to Historiann and very generously shared the full text of her comments with me, the title of which was “The Feminization of History, or the Disciplining of Women?  Women in the Historical Profession since the 1970s.”  It is a reflection on Hewitt’s own career, as well as her observations of changes in women’s status since she was the first woman hired by the History department at the University of South Florida in 1981, to full Professorships at Duke and now Rutgers.  As a historian of women activists and reformers (her books include Southern Discomfort:  Women’s Activism in Tampa, Florida, 1880s-1920sand Women’s Activism and Social Change:  Rochester, New York, 1822-1872) her thoughts are I think particularly compelling, and deserve some serious consideration, especially by those behind Hewitt in the “pipeline:”  graduate students, adjunct and junior faculty, and the newly tenured.

Hewitt’s analysis–as the title of her paper suggests–is that there are mixed results from the last 25 years of struggle by and for women in the profession.  She writes that today “nearly half of PhDs in History go to women, and the face of the discipline has changed dramatically. It is no longer a singular event when a history department hires or tenures a woman or when women historians are elected to the presidencies of professional associations or selected to serve as editors of major journals. There are many reasons to celebrate the new demographics within the historical profession, which include far more scholars of color as well as women than ever before. Yet these very changes-what some have called the feminization of history–have also created new burdens, highlighted long-term problems, and inspired in some departments a backlash against further change.”  In sum, “even as adding women to History and other disciplines has transformed the academy in numerous ways, universities have also sought to contain and discipline women.”  Lots more dish after the jump… Continue Reading »


January 11th 2008
Career Opportunity (the one that never knocked)

Posted under jobs & unhappy endings


(Photo: the last candidate’s dinner Historiann attended.)

All of you who had interviews at the MLA and AHA are finding out about now if you’re still in the hunt. If you are preparing to go to on-campus interviews, Historiann wishes you good luck. Squadratomagico has a thorough post up about how to write and deliver a job talk, the most difficult to master genre of academic performance. Remember: table manners are very important in a bourgeois profession, so try not to drink so much this time, and don’t ask to borrow the department chair’s Chapstick at dinner. Or ever, for that matter.

Do you want to make tea for the BBC? That was a summer job Historiann once had, and it wasn’t that bad.

UPDATE, 1/15/08:  Check out this nonpareil advice for on-campus visits from Sivacracy

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January 10th 2008
Workers of the Corporate University, Unite!

Posted under book reviews & jobs

how-the-u-works.gif Inside Higher Ed has a lengthy article on a smokin’ hot new book by Santa Clara University English Professor Marc Bousquet called How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (New York University Press, 2008). Ever since he was a graduate student in the 1990s, Bousquet has worked to bring attention to the degradation of American higher education caused by the declining numbers of regular (tenured or tenure-track) faculty and its increasing reliance on ill-paid, easily exploitable graduate student and adjunct instructors. Quite cleverly, Bousquet has a blog now by the same name, and it looks like a rich source of information and commentary about faculty working conditions across the spectrum. The Inside Higher Ed article does a good job explaining the book, but you might throw the working man some coin and pick up a copy yourself, or at least order one for your university’s library.

Arise, ye prisoners of starvation, and click on over for a visit. Tell him Historiann sent you.


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