Archive for February, 2010
An anonymous correspondent wrote in last week:
I had an experience the other day which I’m still puzzling over. I serve on a major university committee, and I have known for some time that a colleague’s daughter is not at home, but in residential care in Big City more than a hundred miles away, and has been in and out of hospital. The other day I asked how her daughter was doing, and she started talking. It turns out her daughter’s problems (and a suicide attempt) are related to two rapes in school, which the young woman didn’t tell anyone about until recently. Suddenly my colleague stopped, and said “I’ve just told you more than I’ve told anyone else, and more than I should have.” It turns out they have been told that because of their daughter’s privacy rights they can’t talk about what is happening to her, so that (for instance) if I meet my colleague’s daughter some time down the road, I don’t look at her and say, “Oh, you’re the girl who was raped”. From other things my colleague said, it sounds as if her town HS has a culture of athletic impunity – ie. The athletes can do whatever they want.
This exchange has troubled me as a feminist on multiple levels: Continue Reading »
Posted under jobs
Female Science Professor had an interesting post earlier this week about a side-effect of tenure that bugs a lot of people: many faculty who were tenured and promoted under one set of standards are now responsible for applying a more demanding set of standards to today’s tenure and promotion candidates. (I freely confess that I’m one of them–I went up for tenure under the existing standards in my college, and a few years later, those standards were significantly revised and elevated.)
A not-uncommon complaint of tenure-track faculty, particularly during the tenure decision year, is that some of those who are deciding their Fate would not get tenure under today’s rather rigorous system of evaluation. How can the process be fair if people unqualified for tenure today participate in decisions about the tenure of others?
It’s a complicated question because, although the tenure bar has definitely been raised with time, you can’t know whether someone who had too-low-for-tenure-today productivity way back when would rise to the challenge of today’s standards or not.
FSP decides that ultimately this isn’t such a big problem, and I agree. There are jerks everywhere, and having an awesome record of publications and grants is no guarantee of sanity or reason in tenure votes. Continue Reading »
No kidding! See Larissa McFarquar’s portrait of Krugman in The New Yorker:
Krugman went to Yale, in 1970, intending to study history, but he felt that history was too much about what and not enough about why, so he ended up in economics. Economics, he found, examined the same infinitely complicated social reality that history did but, instead of elucidating its complexity, looked for patterns and rules that made the complexity seem simple. Why did some societies have serfs or slaves and others not? You could talk about culture and national character and climate and changing mores and heroes and revolts and the history of agriculture and the Romans and the Christians and the Middle Ages and all the rest of it; or, like Krugman’s economics teacher Evsey Domar, you could argue that if peasants are barely surviving there’s no point in enslaving them, because they have nothing to give you, but if good new land becomes available it makes sense to enslave them, because you can skim off the difference between their output and what it takes to keep them alive. Suddenly, a simple story made sense of a huge and baffling swath of reality, and Krugman found that enormously satisfying.
Awesome!!! It’s all so simple! Never mind why only certain people were enslaved, and others weren’t; never mind how slavery made ideological sense as well as economic sense to the architects of slavery; never mind what the lives and deaths of the enslaved were like; never mind how masters maintained their dominance even in the face of a massive enslaved majority of people. It’s all just so much simpler when you look at it as an economist! You know that old joke about economists: “Sure it works in reality, but will it work in theory?”
The paragraph above, about mid-way through the article, helps explain Krugman’s description of his political quiescence through the 1980s and 1990s: Continue Reading »
You know how there are no jobs in history this year? Well, unfortunately for me, my friends who are Associate Professors are finding jobs and leaving Colorado! I’m happy for them and all of the new challenges and opportunities that they’ll face in their new jobs and new lives, but really: where is their consideration? Clearly, they haven’t been thinking about me at all! Seriously: I’m looking at three friends moving out of state this summer, and a fourth friend who teaches here is shopping for apartments three states away! (This is why I’m posting a photo of the sad monkey today. The sad monkey is me!)
I’ve written here before about how the academic life’s peripatetic nature means always leaving friends behind. Well, I’m now officially the friend who is being left behind! I guess that’s a lesson to remember: things change even when you stay in place. I love having so many readers and commenters here–but it’s not like I can have a cup of coffee with you whenever I want to and get your advice about my research, or you could ask for my help with yours, or like I could walk your dogs for you, or stay up late with you over a bottle of wine.
There is a point to this post, aside from indulging my self-pity: Continue Reading »
Today we have in a letter from the mailbag at Historiann HQ some interesting questions about finding appropriate publication outlets for interdisciplinary work. We all say we support interdisciplinarity and admire it–and yet, scholars whose work is truly interdisciplinary have a damnably hard time finding jobs and appropriate outlets for their publication. Here, a young scholar wonders about the politics of attempting to publish an article in one field when she’ll one day be looking for a job in another discipline
I’m a long time reader and lurker. I’m a history grad student with one toe in [a Closely Related Discipline, or CRD for short]. I did an intensive study of an unpublished collection [in CRD], which my committee is suggesting I publish separately from the dissertation because it’s heavy on details appreciated more by practitioners of CRD than history, and because getting an article out in grad school looks good.
The problem is, while “interdisciplinarity” is all the rage, I don’t know where to publish. I wanted to throw this out to someone outside my department and committee, because they’re starting to sound like an echo chamber. CRD journals seem like a good fit, but I’m worried that history department hiring committees won’t know what to make of an article that’s not published in a history journal. What kind of audience should a first article be aimed at? Do interdisciplinary journals really live up to their goals? Would it be better to go with a full on CRD journal and hope some historians read it, or try to pitch it to a history journal with interdisciplinary aspirations? How does one measure the “prestige” of the journal and their readership? (This is something my committee keeps telling me to keep in mind, but I have no idea what it means!) How does interdisciplinary work look to hiring committees? Will publishing in a CRD journal mark me as a bad fit for a history department hire, even if I have history conference CV lines?
Thanks for your help,
First of all, congratulations on having written something that your committee believes should be published. That is quite an achievement for a graduate student, and you should feel proud of your committee’s confidence in your work. Secondly, I think you’re worrying yourself unnecessarily about hypothetical problems. Continue Reading »
Posted under jobs
Undine writes that ze knows “where politeness dwells on the internets:”
But politeness does still exist–in professional email.
A few years ago, I started noticing that a number of academics didn’t just launch into requests or whatever when writing emails. Instead, the emails began with the sentence “I hope you are well” or another courteous phrase unheard of back in the olden days.
And the complimentary closes of the emails became more polite, too. Although a lot of people still apparently prefer “best,” I’ve seen comments at the Chronicle saying that this is too curt, and in the last couple of years, I’ve seen a lot more variety in this part of the email, too: “best regards,” “warm regards,” “all best,” “with best wishes,” “cordially,” and so on.
That’s my experience. I always err on the side of formality when e-mailing complete strangers, addressing people by titles and last names unless and until invited to do otherwise. And, it seems like this is the “house style” among professionals. As Undine writes, “I’m charmed by this politeness. It makes me feel as though I’m in a Jane Austen novel and am receiving a letter, not an email.” Continue Reading »
Katha Pollitt, in an article called “Whatever Happened to Candidate Obama,” writes this (emphases mine):
I’m still glad I supported Obama over Hillary Clinton. If Hillary had won the election, every single day would be a festival of misogyny. We would hear constantly about her voice, her laugh, her wrinkles, her marriage and what a heartless, evil bitch she is for doing something–whatever!–men have done since the Stone Age. Each week would bring its quotient of pieces by fancy women writers explaining why they were right not to have liked her in the first place.Liberal pundits would blame her for discouraging the armies of hope and change, for bringing back the same-old same-old cronies and advisers, for letting healthcare reform get bogged down in inside deals, for failing to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan–which would be attributed to her being a woman and needing to show toughness–for cozying up to Wall Street, deferring to the Republicans and ignoring the cries of the people. In other words, for doing pretty much what Obama is doing. This way I get to think, Whew, at least you can’t blame this on a woman.
Now, I’m actually sympathetic to Pollitt’s viewpoint that “at least you can’t blame this on a woman.” If we had elected Hillary Clinton President of the U.S., I’m sure she’d be getting even less credit for things that had gone well and even more blame for things that had gone poorly than President Barack Obama. But–did Pollitt or anyone else proofread this paragraph? As my professors used to say in cultural studies seminars in the early 1990s–there’s a lot of “slippage” here.
I’m sure everything will be so totally different when we have that perfect, unassailable, totally awesome female Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate! Instead of that unstable freak Victoria Woodhull, or the dangerously radical Shirley Chisholm, or that crooked, incompetent Geraldine Ferraro, or that unserious, stupid “Caribou Barbie” Sarah Palin, or that old b!tch, Clinton. (Or, as Pollitt calls her instead, “Hillary,” in a column in which she never refers to President Obama as “Barack.” Not once.) Continue Reading »
Some of the left blogs are up in arms over a would-be production History Channel miniseries about the John F. Kennedy presidency. (Here’s an overview of the controversy, and here’s the petition drive with the slick video protesting the Kennedy script.) I utterly disagree, for three reasons. First of all, the Kennedys, an immensely privileged, powerful, and wealthy family that has been prominent in American politics for sixty more than seventy years, are no one’s property. They’re not the property of Democrats, of Irish-Americans, of Massachusetts residents, of Roman Catholics, or even of historians. They were public figures, so even in life anyone was allowed to say anything about them, true or not, and they’re even entitled to call what they say “history.” (It’s up to us readers to render our own judgment.)
Secondly, great writers and artists throughout history have used real people and historical events as inspirations for works of art–”Richard III,” Jacques-Louis David’s portraits of Napoleon, “Nixon in China,” and even “Let Them Eat Jellybeans,” for example–most of which were not “historically accurate” because they were made or produced to make a larger point about human nature, the nature of power, and/or the power of the state. I’m not saying this silly flick will amount to great art, since it’s just a made-for-cable miniseries, but the point is that no one owns American history. Anyone can tell any stories they like about American history–some may find that disturbing, but that’s what I like about it. It’s a free country.
Finally–have any of you ever tried actually watching the History Channel? Continue Reading »