Archive for January, 2013

January 29th 2013
Chauncey DeVega’s interview with Richard Slotkin at We Are Respectable Negroes

Posted under American history & Gender & race & unhappy endings

Check out part two of Chauncey’s podcast series on the relationship between America’s gun culture, citizenship, race, and masculinity, which features Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English at Wesleyan University, and the man whom I would like to nominate as the Dean of American Violence Studies.  Some of you may know Slotkin through his incredible work on the long, dark history of racialized violence and gun culture in the United States in books such as Regeneration through Violence:  the Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (1973), The Fatal Environment:  the Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization (1985), Gunfighter Nation:  the Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (1992), among other history titles and three historical novels.  No other scholar has researched violence, firearms, and America’s frontier mythology across such an enormous span of time and space. Continue Reading »


January 28th 2013
At last! Mansplanations from an angry C-SPAN 3 viewer.

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & the body & wankers & weirdness & women's history

Drat!  My nefarious radical plot to start a “sex week” at Baa Ram U. has been discovered.  Behold!  A viewer named Bruce, who apparently writes like a blog SPAMbot, has caught me out:

I heard your classroom teaching “clothes of the 17th-18th century” It sounded like you were obsessed with breasts, and fully made that your focal point to those innocent brains of the all female class.* NO-not all slaves walked around bare breasted, and in fact, few ever did if you researched the truth.** Just why in the hell have you made this your theme in the class instead of talking about basic items, like dresses, suits, dress up ideology in those days.*** You must be one of those liberals trying to start a sex week on campus there?****

And it would have worked too if it weren’t for those meddling C-SPAN 3 cameras!

On a more serious note:  my C-SPAN lecture has re-opened my eyes to the power of television.  Continue Reading »


January 28th 2013
We can haz ERA now?

Posted under American history & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

Now that we have unisex bathrooms (in many places, they’re disguised under the sneakily wholesome name “family bathroom”) and women fully recognized for the combat roles they’ve played in the past few wars, can we have an Equal Rights Amendment?  I haven’t checked in with Phyllis Schlafly recently, but as I recall, her Eagle Forum was full of dark warnings about the fate of the republic should unisex bathrooms and women in combat ever come to pass.

But lo:  the sun still rises on Columbia in the East!  And don’t tell Mrs. Schlafly, but there are several states that permit not just unisex bathrooms or same-sex civil unions but gay marriage.  Shhhhhhhh!   Continue Reading »


January 25th 2013
DVR alert: Historiann in re-runs this weekend on C-SPAN 3.

Posted under American history & childhood & class & Gender & Intersectionality & local news & race & students & the body & women's history

I’ve been informed that my lecture on stays, material culture, and early American women’s history will air again this weekend on C-SPAN 3:  Saturday at 11:20 a.m., Sunday at 6:20 a.m. (for the after-hours crowd, I guess, or the extremely bored parents of insanely early-rising infants), and Monday morning at 7:20, EST.

Of course, the streaming video is still available, at any hour of the day or night that suits you.

For the real costume history junkies among you:  check out this video of a woman dressing another one in Ursuline choir nun habit.  (Follow that link, then click the link on the right side of the page under “Vidéos” that says, “L’habit religieux des Ursulines de Québec.”)  It’s in French, as it’s on a website assembled by Laval University in Québec, but even non-French speakers can get the gist.  Continue Reading »


January 23rd 2013
Is it really “higher education” without tenured faculty?

Posted under American history & jobs

How many of you college or university faculty members would have gone into your line of work without the hope of tenure?

I was thinking about this with respect to a survey of provosts published by Inside Higher Ed today.  Among other interesting findings, the provosts surveyed said this about tenure:

The survey found that 70 percent of provosts at public and private four-year institutions (and 54 percent of those at community colleges, where tenure is less common than it is at four-year institutions) agree that tenure “remains important and viable at my institution.” (Not surprisingly, the figure was only 3 percent of provosts in for-profit higher education, where tenure is rare.)

But while 70 percent see that as the status quo, support for tenure among provosts appears soft at best. Asked if they favored or opposed a system of long-term contracts for faculty members over the existing system of tenure in higher education, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of provosts said that they favored such a system. Support was strongest among for-profit provosts (80 percent), but at majority-plus levels in every sector of higher education, two-year and four-year, public and private. At private doctoral universities, 67 percent of provosts favor such a system.

Another question sought provosts’ thoughts on the long-term future of tenure. They were asked to agree or disagree (on a five-point scale) with the statement: “Future generations of faculty in this country should not expect tenure to be a factor in their employment at higher education institutions.” The percentage agreeing or strongly agreeing: Continue Reading »


January 21st 2013
In-NOGGER-ation Day

Posted under American history & bad language

Barack Obama has just been inaugurated in the public ceremony in his honor this Inauguration Day.  Once again, most newsreaders fail pronounce INAUGURATION properly, and instead say “In-NOGGER-ate.”

The nog season is over, people.  Please, for the sake of the republic:  encourage your fellow citizens and informed observers around the world to pronounce the whole word “inauguration” clearly and properly, before we face another “In-NOGGER-ation.”


January 19th 2013
We don’t own the guns: the guns own us.

Posted under American history & Gender & students & unhappy endings & wankers

From the Denver Post yesterday morning:

LONGMONT — Police are looking for a .380 semiautomatic pistol that a resident reported he lost while riding a motorized scooter through a north Longmont neighborhood and along a bicycle path on Wednesday, police reported.

Cmdr. Jeff Satur said police volunteers and a police K-9 searched the man’s route along Mountain View Avenue, Pace Street along the east sidewalk, 17th Avenue west from Pace, to Alpine Street and the bike path along the Rough and Ready Ditch to Independence Drive, but did not recover the gun.

“He believes the gun fell out of the holster,” Satur said.

The disabled man has a concealed-carry permit and uses a motorized scooter to help him get around. Satur said the gun was loaded when it was lost.

Police are worried that a child may have found the gun. Continue Reading »


January 18th 2013
Why the fictional death of an imaginary girl is a better story than the actual death of a real young woman

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

Lizzy Seeberg: all too real

Next week, I’ll start teaching a Senior Seminar called Life and Death in Early America.  In reality, it’s mostly about death.  I’ve thrown in some stuff about disease, dirt, starvation, cannibalism, abortion, and contraception, just to keep things lively (so to speak), but the fact is that there is a fascinating new literature on death in my field.  Its common themes are:  how the afterlife was imagined in different places, times, and cultures; how death was experienced and interpreted; and how the living cared for the dying and the dead.

Another of the key features of this emerging subfield is a focus on commemoration:  how different cultures commemorate the dead, and why we remember some deaths and some of our dead and forget others.  Thanks to Manti T’eo, his imaginary girlfriend’s imaginary death, a real St. Mary’s College student’s death, and to Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post, I’ve got a terrific contemporary hook for when we talk about the politics of commemoration.  Henneberger explains:

So many tears for a fake dead girl, but none for a real one. The death of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s beautiful, brave girlfriend Lennay Kekau – widely reported by Sports Illustrated, CBS and many other media outlets — was all an elaborate hoax. So in response, my alma mater held the kind of emotional press conference for the fake dead girl that they never granted for the real one. As I’ve reported before, evidence that the University of Notre Dame covers up for sexual predators on the football team in hopes of winning some games has been mostly ignored. “Who can know?” my fellow alums asked, on their way to snap up some more “Play Like a Champion Today” tee-shirts ahead of the big game. But evidence that the school kept mum after learning that that the story of Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend, who as she lay dying urged him to fight on to victory anyway – gosh, just like the Gipper — was concocted from start to finish? Now that’s a national story, and a real gut-punch to fans, involving important matters like the pursuit of the Heisman Trophy. Continue Reading »


January 17th 2013
Hats off to Mr. Warmup

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & students

We salute you!

I was going to comment on an Inside Higher Ed blog post by “Eliza Woolf” (cute pseudonym–get it?  Alternative:  Virginia Dolittle) because of its tag line, “Eliza Woolf wonders what to make of students who seem disengaged from class and then give her great evaluations.”  This has happened to me over the past few years, and I wondered if it was also happening to some of you.

But the blog post turned out to be extremely depressing in its portrait of an undergraduate population totally disengaged with college and even with one another.  (Go read it yourself–I don’t have the heart to quote even a little of the most depressing parts here.)  I’ve never had the experiences she describes to anywhere near the extent that she reports, although I think the point she makes about walking into a classroom or a lecture hall that’s completely quiet is an interesting one:

I’ve also become accustomed, oddly, to walking into large lecture halls packed with students sitting in near-total silence. The first time it happened I was really taken aback. Are they poised eagerly over their notebooks, ready to begin learning? Unfortunately, no. Some are just sitting there. Most are intimately engaged with their personal technology, be it an iPhone, iPad, iPod, i-book, what have you, blissfully unaware of either their surroundings or other students. Quite a few are caught up in online shopping, at Target, Amazon, Gap. It takes real effort on my part to get some of them to unplug, or at least to minimize whatever distracting screen they’re looking at, and pay attention for the duration of class.

This has started to happen in my classes–I walk into a silent room instead of a classroom happily chatting.  But I think this is less a generational phenomenon than an accidental phenomenon.   Students will be consulting their smart phones silently if there’s no one in the class who greets them and engages them–I do that when I walk in, but I’ve noticed that in some classes, I walk into a “warmup act” already in progress. Continue Reading »


January 14th 2013
The first rule of white club

Posted under American history & race

Why do white people write as though “the South” is comprised only of white people?

A friend of mine, interviewing candidates for a fellowship, once complained that students trained at Yale always wrote “southern history” this way, in the tradition of C. Vann Woodward:  exclusive of African Americans.  My sense is that it’s only a matter of time for white conservative southerners, who will eventually be outnumbered by white northern in-migration, Mexican and Central American immigration, and African American re-migration as the great-grandchildren of the Great Migration return to their ancestors’ native land.

History is powerful, probably more powerful in the American South than in other American regions, so this will likely take the majority of the present century, but the shift is already well under way.  Continue Reading »


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