Archive for the 'American history' Category
Does anyone else feel like he’s a Mad Men character (Donald Draper/Roger Sterling) who showed up forty years late with ideas that are seventy years out of date? Every time I hear his name it’s like I’m in a meeting at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
Junot Diaz, an alum of the Cornell University MFA program, on MFA vs. POC: “Lately I’ve been reading about MFA vs NYC. But for many of us it’s MFA vs POC.” He continues,
I didn’t have a great workshop experience. Not at all. In fact by the start of my second year I was like: get me the fuck out of here.
So what was the problem?
Oh just the standard problem of MFA programs.
That shit was too white.
Some of you understand completely. And some of you ask: Too white … how?
Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it. Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem. (At least the students are diverse, they told us.) Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it’s class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all. Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that “race discussions” were exactly the discussion a serious writer should not be having.
. . . . .
In my workshop what was defended was not the writing of people of color but the right of the white writer to write about people of color without considering the critiques of people of color.
Oh, yes: too white indeed. I could write pages on the unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop—I could write folio, octavo and duodecimo on its terrible whiteness—but you get the idea.
In seventeen years of teaching the U.S. History survey through the Civil War and Reconstruction, I have never failed to cry while reading the Gettysburg Address.
I feel like such a sentimental dork, but it’s one of the few times that you can hear a pin drop in the classroom as the students wait for me to pull myself back together.
Modupe Labode, Assistant Professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, sent out a tweet yesterday: “Where are the analyses of Cliven Bundy & race from western and/or public historians? Was looking for my students and found v. little.” This anti-racist, feminist, fake cowgirl has been looking around too and found little beyond stuff on political blogs and websites.
Now that the work week is officially over, it looks like I just might have to start mucking out this nasty little stall, as it seems to have a great deal to do with the stuff I’ve written a lot about from the other end of North American history: guys, guns, whiteness, and gender. You know what those cheese-eating surrender monkeys say, mes amis: plus ca change. . . plus c’est le meme chose. Or to quote William Faulkner, a dude who doesn’t get a lot of airplay on this blog, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Although I am loathe to direct any more attention to this failed rancher who nevertheless has figured out how to whip up the rubes to his defense, I have a few things to say about Bundy’s recent bout of whistling Dixie. Continue Reading »
The book that kept Matthew Pratt Guterl indoors all last summer was published last month by Harvard University’s Belknap Press. Rebecca Onion gives it a nice rundown here at Slate:
Baker was born in St. Louis but moved to France in 1925. Her danse sauvage, famously performed in a banana skirt, brought her international fame. During World War II, she worked for the Red Cross and gathered intelligence for the French Resistance. After the war, married to her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon, she struggled to conceive a child. Meanwhile, her career waned. Guterl’s book is about this period of Baker’s life, as she built her large adopted family, became ever more active on behalf of the nascent civil rights movement in the United States, and re-emerged into fame.
Baker purchased her estate, known as Les Milandes, after marrying Bouillon in 1947. In addition to the chateau, the property boasted a motel, a bakery, cafés, a jazz club, a miniature golf course, and a wax museum telling the story of Baker’s life. As Guterl makes clear, the place was over-the-top, but its ostentation was a political statement. Les Milandes, with its fairy-tale setting, announced to the world that African-American girls born poor could transcend nation and race and find wealth and happiness.
My weekends are just too freakin’ short this semester, as I’m teaching two lecture classes on a MWF schedule. I honestly don’t mind teaching three days a week–I’m just frustrated that I don’t have a discretionary extra day to prep for Monday lectures, finish the neverending piles of grading, etc., let alone think for 20 minutes about how to get back to writing my book and figuring out what needs to happen archival research-wise before I make my base camp at the feet of the San Gabes. What’s with the MWF; can’t we get a MWR, or a MTR, or a TWF? Let the people who teach twice a week show up on Mondays and Fridays, as they’ll have three weekdays in-between without classes to TCB.
I know this is an academic blog, but you didn’t come here to see me b!tch about my mostly-imaginary and very temporary frustrations now, did you? So here are some random tidbits of THC, TBD (The Big Dog), and OMs on TDIS (Thank Dog It’s Saturday).
- Nepotism alert: Sometime in the next generation, every single American roots music recording artist will be either a member of the Wainwright-McGarrigle clan or of the Carter-Cash family clan. Seriously: are there no other worthy recording artists these days?
- Recreational reefer madness 2014! Earlier this week, some dip$hit in Denver ate some marijuana-infused candy and then shot his wife in the head and killed her in front of their three little kids. Of course, the media conversation in Denver is all about the marijuana edibles instead of the gun in the home. (Because that’s what all upper-middle class people need in their homes with three children in perfectly safe neighborhoods: easily accessible handguns!) You gotta love the politics of Colorado! Or just shake your head in wonder at the criminal stupidity of it all.
- Speaking of polidicks: I’m reading Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (which, BTW, is pure political crackerjack, so delicious and so non-nutritious!), and I get to this paragraph: Continue Reading »
Stephanie Camp died two weeks ago. I know many of my readers know this already, as a few notices have appeared on Twitter and other blogs as well as everywhere on Facebook. I wanted to wait to post a notice until I could link to a formal obituary and also pass along information for those of you who might want to write to her family members or to donate to the causes she supported in her lifetime. Here’s the obituary last week from the Seattle Times:
She was a well-known feminist historian who wrote a groundbreaking book on enslaved women in the antebellum South, and a social-justice activist who dared to take controversial stands. But Stephanie Camp was also known for her love of popular culture and her sense of adventure and for hosting great parties.
The University of Washington history professor died April 2 of cancer at the age of 46.
Professor Camp’s book, “Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South,” which is in its second printing, led to a new understanding of how enslaved women resisted their captivity in the 19th century. It was cited not only for the quality of its scholarship but also for the beauty of the writing.
The book “transformed the field of American social history,” said Chandan Reddy, an associate professor of English at the UW.
That’s not hyperbole. It’s a book that every time I recommended it to a graduate student or assigned it in class was a revelation to my students. They raved about Closer to Freedom because of the ways in which it challenged our traditional understandings of slave resistance and made convincing arguments about how women’s lives and work in slavery demanded that we take a broader view of what “counted” as resistance to enslavement. Continue Reading »
Formez vos bataillons! Via a fired-before-she-could-quit board member, I was alerted to the petition to reform S. 398 in the service of creating the National Women’s History Museum. (If you missed my post on the NWHM Women’s History Month massacree last week, click here.) It is addressed to the women of the U.S. Senate and asks them to rewrite S. 398 to require that actual women’s historians and actual museum experts be appointed to the board. To wit:
[W]e are concerned that the bill, as currently written, does not mandate a place for women’s historians on the Commission. This is a serious oversight. Thus we call upon you to consider submitting an amendment or amendments to improve your bill.
We are aware that amending a bill that you have already supported is an unusual step for members of the Senate to take, but we believe that it is warranted because the project as currently constituted is at risk of failure. The non-profit National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) has, over the past 16 years, done a great deal to publicize the need for a museum of women’s history; indeed, without their persistence, there would be no bills in Congress today. Nevertheless, we fear that, under its continued leadership, the project will not come to fruition because NWHM’s conceptualization and mode of presentation of U.S. women’s history is unprofessional, inaccurate, and incomplete. Since the time when many of you agreed to co-sponsor the bill, the NWHM has dissolved its Scholars Advisory Council, thus barring a distinguished group of professional women’s historians from participating in the project at the outset and making sure that it reflects the highest standards of scholarship in the field. Continue Reading »
Posted under American history
Sometime last winter, Rosemarie Zagarri invited me to appear on a panel at the 2014 annual conference of the Organization of American Historians on the subject “Is Blogging Scholarship?” (Tenured Radical has written about our session, pointing out that it’s unfortunately scheduled for Sunday morning in the last sesssion the whole conference!) I’m really looking forward to meeting (finally!) my fellow panelists Jeffrey Pasley of the University of Missouri and Common-Place; John Fea of The Way of Improvement Leads Home, Michael O’Malley of The Aporetic, and Ben Alpers of USIH Blog.
I’ll give you the big reveal now: my answer to the question is for the most part Continue Reading »