Archive for January, 2010

January 19th 2010
I do not think that question means what you think it means

Posted under American history & jobs & wankers

From a story at Politico claiming that the White House “plans a combative response” in the event that Scott Brown (R) beats Martha Coakley (D) today to succeed Ted Kennedy as the next Senator from Massachusetts:
Press secretary Robert Gibbs said a key theme of 2010 will be asking voters “whether the people they have in Washington are on the side of protecting the big banks, whether they’re on the side of protecting the big oil companies, whether they’re on the side of protecting insurance companies or whether they’re on the people’s side.”

Unless the White House has been relocated, isn’t the Obama administration among “the people” we “have in Washington?”  Continue Reading »

34 Comments »

January 19th 2010
From the Department of False Analogies: reforming professional training in the humanities?

Posted under American history & jobs & students

Did anyone else hear this interview with Louis Menand on All Things Considered last night?  On the one hand, he gave some important context for understanding that the academic job crisis in the humanities is nothing new–like Historiann, he sees it as directly linked to the halt of the massive institutional expansion of higher education after the 1950s and 1960s.  But then he beats (once again!) on the dead horse of the years-to-degree for most humanities Ph.D.s, and says something astonishingly stupid:

[Prof. MENAND:]  The other piece of it, which is even more amazing to me, is that the time it takes to get the PhD has been increasing steadily since the 1970s so that the median time to get a PhD in a humanities discipline, like philosophy, English, art history, is nine years. Half of people who get PhDs…

[Host Robert] SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Prof. MENAND: …in those fields take more than nine years to get the degree.

Now, if you think that you can get a law degree and argue a case before the Supreme Court in three years, get a medical degree and cut somebody open in four years, why should it take nine years to teach poetry to college freshmen? Continue Reading »

60 Comments »

January 17th 2010
MLK holiday weekend special: Jennifer Baszile’s “The Black Girl Next Door”

Posted under American history & book reviews & childhood & class & Gender & Intersectionality & race & women's history

One of my Winter Break reading pleasures was Jennifer Baszile’s The Black Girl Next Door, a memoir of growing up in Palos Verdes, California in the 1970s and 1980s as the youngest daughter of the only black family in her neighborhood, and one of only a handful of African American children and teenagers in her schools.  This title piqued my interest for a few reasons:  first, I should say that I met Baszile through a good friend and had friendly conversations with her when she was at Princeton in the 1990s, although I doubt she would remember me.  She was training as an early Americanist there, another point of common interest, and wrote a fine dissertation on colonial Florida using French, Spanish, and English-langage sources.  Finally, she’s just a year younger than me, so I was interested in a memoir by someone in my generation who wasn’t the son or daughter of a famous writer or other celebrity–someone who got a book contract because she had an interesting story to tell, and she tells it well, with evocative details and striking originality.

Baszile’s experience introduces us to a rich and important subject, the first generation of African American children to be raised in integrated schools and neighborhoods.  Her book is especially poignant as she develops and explores the breach that separates her sister and her from her mother and father, who had grown up in segregation in Detroit and Louisiana, respectively, and who strove to live the American integrated dream for their daughters’ sakes.  But there are troubling silences when, for example, racist graffiti was sprayed on the street in front of their house and a cherub on a fountain in their yard is painted black.  Young Jennifer wants to talk to her father about this and to ask questions, but knows somehow that questions won’t be welcome, just as she knows somehow that putting on a wig and glasses and performing a pantomime as her “country granny” for white neighbor children one afternoon won’t be applauded by her parents the way it was by her white friends. Continue Reading »

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January 16th 2010
Saturday Valley of the Dolls blogging

Posted under American history & art & childhood & Dolls & Gender & the body & women's history

"Deborah," Alex Prager, 2009

Over at The Daily Beast, Rachel Wolff informs us of two exhibitions of photographs by L.A.-based artist Alex Prager opening in both New York and L.A. this winter.  Check it out–and be sure to click through the gallery of Prager’s “living dolls.”  There are samples from two series by Prager–”Weekend” and “The Big Valley.”  (I thought the photos in “The Big Valley” were more interesting.)  Wolff writes:

In many ways, Prager’s women—draped in faux fur, coolly smoking cigarettes—are metaphors for Los Angeles itself, which the artist has called “a strange picture of perfection… with a sense of unease under the surface of all this beauty and promise.” It’s an easy metaphor (and one we’ve seen before) but there is a certain allure to Prager’s images. They recall the roleplay and self-imposed artifice of Cindy Sherman’s film stills; they offer a user-friendly antidote to the sort of palpable grit embraced by other female artists living and working on the West Coast (Katy Grannan and the duo Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn among them); they’re pretty, private, and self-referential—the sort of thing you’d want to hang in a bedroom instead of over the couch—but nonetheless macabre, especially given the recent demise of pretty young things Brittany Murphy and Casey Johnson.

Wolff calls the images “living dolls,” not because they’re perfect–far from it, in most cases.  Continue Reading »

4 Comments »

January 15th 2010
Friday food fights! Plus evidence of my evildoing, with links.

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & publication & students & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

What’s your pleasure?  There are lots of snarling fights all over the place these days:

  • Tenured Radical returns to the U.S. from her travels and mulls over the question, “How Should Graduate Schools Respond to the Bad Job Market,” and gets accused of and blamed for all sorts of crimes she never committed and things she never said.  (So does Historiann, in the comments!)  Yeah–because Tenured Radical has never, ever offered any helpful advice or a sympathetic ear (or shoulder) to graduate students negotiating the job market.  What a horrible, horrible person!
  • Katherine Franke at Feminist Law Professors, in “Marriage Equality:  The Old Fashioned Version” schools us on what’s wrong with feminism today:  “Among the things that drives me to the highest levels of frustration when I consider the state of feminism today is the way in which women, particularly mothers and wives, have given up on men. Not so long ago we had a rich, systemic and unrelenting critique of the ways in which fathers and husbands felt little or no obligation to do domestic work – whether it be taking care of kids, maintaining the household – even clearing the table – or other “reproductive” work. The fact that men felt entitled to and received a free pass when it came to this work received a thorough working over by those who cared about dismantling the second class status of women.” Continue Reading »

84 Comments »

January 14th 2010
Cosco Go-seat, ca. 1970

Posted under American history & art & childhood & fluff

We’ve been pretty serious here all week long, so I thought I’d lighten this place up a bit with a blast from the past, the Cosco kids’ booster seat.  Ever since my post last summer on the lost dangers of mid- to late twentieth century American childhood, I’ve been wanting to show you kids born after 1980 or so what a “booster seat” used to look like.  It wasn’t so much about safety–after all, we just had lap belts on the bench seats in my parents’ cars in the 1960s and 70s.  (Five-point harness–ha!  Kids in my day used to roll around–and off–of the back ledge, sunning themselves through the rear window.)  These seats were more about making car rides more tolerable for children, because they were “boosted” up high enough to see out of the windows.  This little number was perfect for car rides–the lap belt slid through the armholes, and you were ready to roll.

My parents still have the seat my brother and I used as toddlers–I meant to take a picture of it while we were visiting over Christmas break.  Continue Reading »

20 Comments »

January 13th 2010
Women in Catholic higher ed: do we exist yet?

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

Mary, Please

Historiann friend and commenter Rad Readr passed along this obituary for Mary Daly, which puts her academic career and struggles at Boston College front and center.  I’ve been thinking a lot about Daly and the remarkably brave stands she took in her career as a feminist theologian at a Jesuit college, especially as a feminist who although not Catholic has taught at two different Catholic universities in my (still relatively brief) career. 

As this article suggests, women at Catholic institutions still struggle for tenure and to make their mark on these schools.  The linked article reports that at DePaul University this year, seven out of 33 tenure applicants were denied, and of those seven, five were women, including (for example) a women’s studies professor who was asked by the tenure review board how many men enrolled in her classes.  This is eerily significant, especially since Daly’s “retirement” was precipiated by a final showdown with BC over her policy of refusing to admit male students to her classes.  (H/t to Fannie of Fannie’s Room for sending the DePaul article on to me.)  The gender breakdown is pretty stark when you look at who was tenured at DePaul:  16 of 18 male applicants were successful (88.9%), whereas only 10 out of 15 women applicants won tenure (or 66.7%).

I haven’t written about my experiences at Catholic universities before, because my research right now focuses on a Catholic religieuse in the eighteenth century, and I’m loathe to give voice to anything that might be interpreted as breathing life into anti-Catholic stereotypes, especially since I’m not a Catholic myself.  Part of my first book and recently published work is an exploration of English and Anglo-American anti-Catholicism in the eighteenth century, which was not just rhetorically vicious but sometimes literally murderous.  I’ve come to really admire the early modern version of the institution because of the different roles and opportunities it preserved for women in Catholic countries.  Also, I think the traditionally protestant and male-centered Anglophone history of education has systematically left out the vital importance of Ursulines and other Catholic women religious in the history of the education of girls and women–but I digress.  

Because I’ve taught at two different Catholic institutions of higher education for a total of 5 years–although neither of them were Jesuit, they were founded by or closely associated with men’s religious orders (Paulists and Marianists)–Daly’s struggles at BC resonate with me, and I wonder if they resonate with some of you who were or currently are affiliated with Catholic schools.  Continue Reading »

36 Comments »

January 12th 2010
Historiann exclusive: Our Holiday Murder

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & happy endings & jobs & local news & race & unhappy endings

Dear Readers:  I was contacted a few days after Christmas by commenter Lance Manyon*, a colleague of the late Don Belton, an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Indiana University who was murdered in his home on December 27.  Lance was, in his words, a “friendly colleague” of Professor Belton’s, and spent Christmas Eve with him at a party.  Today, he offers some thoughts about Professor Belton’s life, and the ways in which both small-town gossip and media narratives have distorted the memory of this funny, smart, and above all complicated man after his murder.  Like many of Professor Belton’s friends and colleagues, Lance is left with the “cognitively unimaginable” fact of the murder, trying to make sense of the many different versions of the story and what they suggest about the deeper town/gown divisions in his college town and in the wider world.

*”Lance Manyon” is a pseudonym for a person on the faculty in the humanities at IU.

Our Holiday Murder, by Lance Manyon

Two days after Christmas, Don Belton, an Indiana University Assistant Professor of English, was murdered in his kitchen. More precisely, he was stabbed five times in the back and several times in the stomach and the chest. Belton was a small, black, gay man with a wicked sense of humor, and could easily have been a character in a Wallace Thurman novel. He was a renowned novelist and scholar of the HIV/AIDS experience. He was gentle, thoughtful, and sweet: when he arrived in Bloomington two years ago, he asked one program secretary for a campus map, and then offered to pay her back for it. For now, his murder is a cognitively unmanageable fixture of our day-to-day.  For the foreseeable future, it will force us to think carefully about the intersection of race, class, and sex in our college town. Continue Reading »

12 Comments »

January 10th 2010
AHA report part deux, check (it) out now! Hugs and learning for everyone! (Except straight historians.)

Posted under conferences & GLBTQ & happy endings & jobs

UPDATED BELOW

Classy Claude has returned from the American Historical Association’s annual conference in San Diego to the wintry climate were he currently resides.  Classes begin tomorrow for Claude–alas, what lessons did the professor learn at the 2010 AHA?  You might be surprised!   

I have now returned from San Diego – and leaving was somewhat painful, I have to say.  The weather was just about perfect, and the sad truth was that anyone leaving San Diego today was clearly going somewhere where it would not be.  

I don’t have oodles to report because, in true AHA fashion, I didn’t actually go to all that many sessions – only one yesterday, and it was my own, and none today.  (I did not see the John D’Emilio talk discussed in the comments yesterday, but I, too, heard that it was fantastic.)  I did, however, attend the anti-Manchester rally yesterday right outside the Hyatt.  The protest was scheduled yesterday for two reasons: it was the two-year anniversary of the day that Doug Manchester made the donation that enabled people to begin the signature drive, which put Proposition 8 on the ballot in the first place.  His involvement was even more insidious and instrumental than I had thought!  Secondly, the AHA is among the few major organizations not to honor the boycott.  So, I went to the protest in solidarity with the anti-Manchester, anti-Hyatt, anti-Prop 8 gang.

The protest, which was supported by many different organizations, was a joint venture of both queer and labor organizers and it was – some grandstanding aside – pretty wonderful to see the kind of cross-class, multiracial support that was in evidence.  Fired Latina Boston Hyatt housekeepers roused the crowd talking about Hyatt hotels’ nasty labor practices and a racially diverse crowd of queer activists talked about their support for labor, and then labor talked about the fact that there was no real equality for them or for anyone at all until all people were treated with justice.  There’s nothing like a common enemy to unite disparate groups.  Be still my leftist heart!  Continue Reading »

12 Comments »

January 10th 2010
AHA 2010 report: no jobs, but excellent views

Posted under conferences & jobs

Reader and commenter Frustrated Full Professor sent along this photos of the view from her hotel room.  First thing in the morning, at right:

Similar view at dusk, at left.

And finally:  lest we forget, San Diego is a big military town.  Anchors aweigh!

I’ll post Classy Claude’s second report as soon as it comes across the teletype machine.  (Claude’s kind of a retro guy.)  Don’t miss C. Vann Winchell’s reporting on this year’s “still sleepy AHA,” as ze calls it.

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