Archive for the 'conferences' Category

May 26th 2009
Art, history, colonialism, and violence: my weekend in the O.C.

Posted under American history & art & conferences & Gender & race & women's history


Not this "O.C."

At the end of my trip to “Disneyland for Scholars,” I met up with Notorious Ph.D, Girl Scholar for an excellent lunch in Little India, where I learned all of the fascinating details about her research interests that she’s dying to share with the rest of you.  (Trust me–it’s really smart stuff, very innovative, and the product of lots and lots of original archival research.  Aren’t you all jealous?)  You can’t know what her book is about specifically, but she’s asking for help in choosing an image for the cover, so go over and share your two cents. 

Then, I spent the weekend in Orange County with Rad Readr and his family:  Mrs. Readr, Mini-Rad, Marxist Deluxe, and their rescued greyhound Marcus.  (The Readrs are old friends from back when Rad and I were on our first jobs.  And yes, we ran on the beach twice, two mornings in a row–what fun it is to run at sea level since I train at 4,875 feet elevation!)  The Readr family took me to an exhibition at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, “Of Rage and Redemption:  the Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín” (1919-1999), an Ecuadorean artist whose works were filled with images of suffering human bodies in an effort to express the violence of colonialism:

Non-academic in style and subject matter, Guayasamín established his signature style of indigenismo which is especially recognized for its dramatic representation of the human figure. Defined in powerfully exaggerated proportions and forms, Guayasamín figures are charged with a range of emotions—from human dignity to grief, loss and anguish. Guayasamin said about his art, “My painting is to hurt, to scratch and hit inside people’s hearts. To show what Man does against Man.”


"Mother and Child 1," 1941

(Rad is originally from Ecuador and has a print signed by Guayasamín, whom he was introduced to once by a family member.)  This exhibition was really fascinating to view in light of the “Territorial Crossings” conference I attended last week, which was broadly conceived as a conversation about broad comparative frameworks for the history of the colonial Americas, in which we were asked to consider “[w]hat kinds of questions are made possible only by thinking across territories, and what subjects of analysis best suit comparative or more broadly contextualized scholarship?”  It seemed to me that the (obvious, perhaps) price of broad comparative histories is the loss of detail about the people who worked, suffered, and died–and the Guayasamín exhibition served as a reminder of this finer-grained side of the story of colonialism. Continue Reading »


May 20th 2009
Sure wish I could be a California girl…

Posted under American history & conferences

cowgirlbikiniHowdy, friends!  I turned in my last few grades yesterday, so I’m on a little early summer trip to the Golden State for a little R & R (“Research and wRitin’,” that is), and a conference later this week..  I’ll be checking in occasionally but otherwise am trying to stay mostly off-line and outdoors as much as I can for the next few days.

What are your plans for summer?


March 31st 2009
OAH wrap-up, Part II: Gender and Sexuality in Early American History

Posted under American history & conferences & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race & women's history

oahorbust2Here are some more highlights from Saturday, March 28 at the Organization of American Historians’ annual meeting in Seattle.  (In case you missed it, Part I of my wrap-up is here.)  As I was pulling myself together for my 8:30 a.m. session, I ran into Tenured Radical, who confessed that she was feeling a mite queasy.  (Was she ever!  Poor thing.)  But, the show must go on, and I was looking forward to hearing Mary P. Ryan’s comments at the women’s lunch at noon.  My next post will cover Ryan’s comments at lunch–please allow me to indulge in some in-depth reporting on the “State of the Field” roundtable I was on, as I think some of the issues raised there may be of interest to many of you, because we’ve chewed over some of these questions here before.

State of the Field:  Gender and Sexuality in Early American History featured Carol Karlsen, Jennifer Spear, Todd Romero, Historiann, and Susan Juster serving as chair and moderator.  Kirsten Fischer organized this panel, and it was co-sponsored by the Steven J.  Schochet Endowment for GLBT Studies and Campus Life, although she was unable to be with us because she is on leave this year and out of the country.

  • Karlsen offered what she called “the long view” of these topics and said there wasn’t much historiography to speak of until the mid-1990s, but that what has appeared since then has revolutionized our view of early American history with insights about the intersectionality of race and gender, the idea that urban environments are spaces for negotiation, the importance of masculinity as well as examining women’s gender roles, and the notion that the sexual conquest of women of color was central to the colonization of the Americas.  Continue Reading »


March 29th 2009
OAH wrap-up, part I: Borderlands, Oysters, Strangers, and–who invited Norovirus?

Posted under American history & class & conferences & fluff & Gender & Intersectionality & unhappy endings & women's history


(See Part II of the wrap-up here.)

Historiann coming at you again from the High Plains Desert.  I had planned to update the blog more frequently but was unable to do so, for reasons which will become apparent in the following wrap-up.  It was a (mostly) great trip and all of the panels I saw were really interesting and useful.  Here are some of the highlights (and a dramatic lowlight!):

  • Thursday morning’s ”State of the Field:  Borderlands History in Early America,” featuring Juliana Barr, Jane Merritt, and Alan Taylor, with Susan Sleeper-Smith serving as chair.  Merritt provided a detailed overview of post-Turnerian borderlands history, Barr’s comments focused on the problematic fact that ”borders” still usually means fictitious borders on maps drawn in Paris, Madrid, and London instead of equally contested Native American geographies, and Taylor sounded the alarm that borderlands might become the next “Atlantic  World”–a concept that loses its focus or explanatory power because everyone claims to be doing it.  Sleeper-Smith’s summary comments noted the power of studies on gender and sexuality to illuminate connections between geographically and culturally different borderlands spaces, and she also confided to Historiann after the panel re: Taylor’s concern that “borderlands” is on its way to being the next “Atlantic World”:   ”It’s already happened.”  Given that the theme of the conference was “History Without Boundaries,” that seems very likely!
  • A longshoreman’s lunch of beer and oysters with Tenured Radical Thursday afternoon, at a tavern with an excellent view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Range. 
  • An private insider’s tour of Seattle fashion shopping with Stephanie M. H. Camp, late of the University of Washington and now at Rice University.   She got a fab DvF wrap dress, and I got a fun spring/summer caftan-style dress and a spring raincoat.  (We don’t see many raincoats for sale around these arid parts!) Continue Reading »


March 26th 2009
OAH or Bust!

Posted under American history & conferences

oahorbustHi all–Historiann here, coming at you from weakly sunny downtown Seattle, because the Organization of American Historians’ Annual Conference starts in a few hours.  Pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee!  Only, I won’t be here long to pour–I’ve got meetings, meet-ups, and fun planned all week, so posting will probably be light since I  have the opportunity to meet and talk to historians in Real Life and not on-blog.  I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing here, since I feel less like an American historian every day–and this is very much a modern (and even recent) U.S. History conference.  It seems like the OAH is getting with the transnational program, since the theme this year is “History Without Boundaries.”  Don’t fence me in, babies!

As for Seattle:  I visited a few times in the mid- to late-90s, back when it was the cool place to be, and had an epic hiking and camping trip on the Olympic Peninsula back in the day.  But–Kurt Cobain’s been dead for nearly fifteen years now.  Oh well–whatever.  Nevermind.


February 16th 2009
Vaycay roundup: fun in the sun, yee-haw! edition

Posted under American history & conferences & fluff & Gender & Intersectionality & race & women's history

cowgirlbikiniI’ve got another day of fun in the sun planned, so I’ll just leave you with a few quick linkies to get your holiday Monday started right:

  • For Presidents’ Day, here are their current rankings, according to this group of historians (via Inside Higher Ed).  The thing I always find really silly about these rankings of presidential greatness is the obvious bias towards more recent presidents.  You’d almost be relieved to have lived in the twentieth century, because of all of the presidential awesomeness then.  Of the top ten on this ranking, only two (#1, Abraham Lincoln, and #7, Thomas Jefferson) are from the nineteenth century.  There’s your obligatory citation of George Washington  (#2?), which just seems like Founding Fathers tokenism, and the chronic overrating of John F. Kennedy (#6–who wants to bet that his stock drops dramatically when people born after 1963 dominate the historians who do these rankings?)  Seriously:  James K. Polk is #12?  Whatever, dudes.  Clearly, starting unnecessary and unprovoked imperial wars isn’t a disqualifying feature in these rankings, with George W. Bush listed at the high rank of #36.  (And bien sur, most of the historians who did the rankings are dudes:  57 men, 10 women by my quick count.) Continue Reading »


January 6th 2009
Modern graduate studies and the value of historiography

Posted under American history & conferences & jobs & students

According to this article at Inside Higher Ed about an AHA roundtable last Sunday, “A Learning Process:  Revisiting the Role of Graduate Coursework in the Making of a Historian,” graduate courses should be “more relevant to training their students for their teaching duties.”  Sounds good, right?  Well, how that’s actually supposed to happen is a little unclear.  On the one hand, Kathleen Canning of the University of Michigan decried what she called the old model of “[p]ick your favorite books, hold forth, and wait for the graduate students to do the same.”  On the other hand, faculty shouldn’t just “‘pick the latest, hottest, coolest books and throw them at students with no background,’ without a ‘sense of where these books have come from.’”  Instead, faculty should strive to

frame the entire course around books they haven’t previously read or taught. The goal is not just to pass along “truncated knowledge,” but to “enter the defamiliarization of the students and experience it with them.” Also along those lines, Canning said she makes sure that her graduate students are asking the first questions, and offering the first opinions in class. “I’m not letting them rely on me to be the interpreter,” she said, even if, as the course proceeds, she shares plenty of information and ideas. “I’m trying to model the kind of professional participatory skills and ethics they need.”

I realize that most of us with Ph.D.s have only one graduate institution–and therefore can’t know what graduate training is like at other institutions in any detail–but this doesn’t strike me as a particularly new model of graduate education.  This sounds like just basic, thoughful instruction at the graduate level–like the graduate education I received nearly 20 years ago at the University of Pennsylvania.  Our profs assigned a few classics–in my area of specialization, books like Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom, and Winthrop Jordan’s White over Black, and perhaps signal works by Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood, but nothing more than 25 years old at the time.  Otherwise, we read mostly new to newish contributions to the historiography (in 1990-93, I read books that were overwhelmingly published between 1980-93).  Maybe Penn was just an incubator of brilliant graduate advisers and self-confident grad students, but professors rarely “led” discussion–it was more like they had to duck out of the way of the volley of impassioned comments from scary smart graduate students.  (I’m talking about my classmates–Historiann was too young and out of her league, and by far the dumbest in the class.) 

Continue Reading »


January 6th 2009
(More) bad news and helpful hints

Posted under American history & conferences & GLBTQ & jobs & unhappy endings

Wicked Walter from Waxahachie got his “crazzy” on and informed Rate Your Students yesterday that “[y]ou done killed it. And I hate you for it.“  Says Le Mauvais:

I loved this site. I think a lot of longtime readers did. And now the place is all clean and well lighted (and heavily advertised!) and it’s just another mainstream piece of bull$hit. You know what it means if an idea has 75% of the faculty in favor of it? It’s a colossal waste of time. If you let 5 academics run anything, it turns into the biggest f#@king mess since the Bay of Pigs. (See, I read my history, too.)

Well, good for you, Walter.

Walter also gives props to our pal Archie, who checked in again from the dwindling hours at the AHA yesterday morning.  Well, mostly he was complaining about the job candidates he interviewed, and Historiann (aided by the white-robed angel on my left shoulder, who goes by the name of GayProf) is feeling like this website has already given itself over to teeing off on the youngest and most vulnerable among us…and that’s not the Historiann way.  We are not Rate Your Students, not even the shinier, better-lighted version that Walter complains about–we’re about compassion and understanding for all (except the Chapstik guy.  That was just nasty.)  The funny thing about Archie’s last post is that he agrees entirely with Tenured Radical about the 2010 San Diego conference kerfluffle and suggests that there are more (and less expensive) ways to piss off a homophobe than boycotting the 2010 conference or trying to move it to another hotel at this late date.  Says Tenured Radical:

I would like to propose an alternative for next year’s AHA: I think we should go. I think queer folk and their allies should go to San Diego in unprecedented numbers. I think we should occupy Doug Manchester’s hotel, and I think we should hold mock weddings in the lobby. I think we should pass out literature to his guests educating them on civil rights issues and their connections to queer citizenship. I think we should move our queer programming out of the meeting rooms and into the public spaces of the hotel — the lobby, the restaurants, the shops. . . . [A] good start for queer historians might be to go to San Diego in vast numbers and queer the convention, and queer that hotel, big time.

And, as though he is channeling a fouler-mouthed TR, here’s Archie

[W]e wound up with a resolution that created a fund to hold a bunch of history of marriage panels in this a$$hole’s hotel. This strikes me as the saner route. It might even get picked up in the media, which might then actually cause this f^*khead some embarrassment at the country club. I mean isn’t that better than giving him half a million free dollars because we all want to be pure?

Well, you know what they say about politics making strange bedfellows.  Finally, in a helpful public service, Squadratomagico has reposted some links to two tasty and nutritious posts from yesteryear on 1) mistakes to avoid on job interviews (for both the interviewing departments and the job candidates), and 2) how to craft a job talk.  (That second one seems particularly timely and useful.)  Have a great day, darlings–I’ll be checking in later, so play nice!


January 5th 2009
Tales From the Pit, part deux: Classy Claude files his report on AHA 2009

Posted under conferences & jobs

Classy Claude, just phoning it in.

In academic hiring, universities are represented by two equally important groups:  the job candidates, and the search committees interviewing them.  Classy Claude, an American Studies scholar at Hudson University, spent most of last weekend in the Job Register, also known as “the Pit,” or “the Killing Floor.”  These are his stories:

The wireless miraculously appeared when I turned on my computer this morning.  I’m due to check out in an hour or so and head back downtown, but here are some thoughts:

AHA winds down today (panels through the early afternoon).  In a change from the normal Thursday-Sunday routine, this year in NY the festivities began on Friday and continued through to Monday.  My sense was that most people had hightailed it out of here sometime yesterday and, if not (and as in the normal routine) were using the final morning as a travel day with perhaps a brief stop in the book fair (Knopf paperbacks reduced to 3 bucks) before heading out.

I was on a search committee this year and am rather a junior member of my department so had not long ago been on the other side of the table.  We interviewed in the room I heard referred to as the Killing Floor: the bad rayon curtains (red this year), the distracting voices, the Dixie cups for water, the crowd of anxious interviewees awaiting their fate.  

I heard a few horror stories, but I’ll start with my own (admittedly basic) observations:

Continue Reading »


January 4th 2009
AHA blogging round-up: how will we keep them down on the ranch, now that they’ve seen NYC?

Posted under conferences & jobs

In case you missed it, Hotshot Harry checked in with us last night from the AHA with his second report.  Meanwhile, there are some other folks blogging the conference–some of the most interesting posts are listed below (with thanks to Cliopatria and The Way of Improvement Leads Home for pointing them out to me.  Please note Cliopatria’s pickup on Indyanna’s reminiscences about Nat Hentoff being called a very bad word–repeatedly–at an early 1970s AHA!)

Here’s a hint to the grad-flakes in the audience: the first question you will face in every AHA interview (and I mean every single f#%king one) is some variation on the old standby, “tell us about your $hitty f#&king work and its relationship to the boring-a$$ field.” This is a softball. This is the easiest motherf*!king question you can get. You should have a 45 second answer to this question in your back pocket. And when I say 45 second, I mean 45 f#&king seconds and not a second more. Practice it in the mirror if you have to. Go to an acting coach if you must. But if you cannot state the importance of your work and its relationship to the field in 45 seconds or less, you are not getting the job. Sometimes candidates can get away with a 90 second answer if they have charm, but your goal should be 45 seconds. I mention this because today the self-immolating candidate took up the entire interview trying to answer this question. And I tried to stop him. My colleagues tried to interrupt. But he was having none of it. He spent 40 minutes trying to answer the question. And when we told him his time was up, he said “I guess what I’m trying to say is that my ideas are really complex.”

The first session I attended was The Promise and Pitfalls of Writing for Readers beyond the Academy, at which I was that guy who embarrassingly enters late and bumps into people while finding a seat (in this case, on the floor). It was a relatively informal panel, with none of the typical reading of papers in a monotone voice, and with a lot of back-and-forth with the audience. I found it interesting that for the first part of the session, blogging was never touched upon. Then an audience member brought it up, and the panelists began to fervently speak about it for a fair amount of time. What surprised me was the relatively positive attitude many of the panelists carried towards blogging. This might be a kind of self-selective mechanism, as panelists for a session on popular writing are probably not the stuffy academic types that look down their noses at blogging. On the other hand, I got the sense that blogging as a whole has become much more mainstream and accepted within the academy. The panel also reminded me of the kind of “exercise” aspect of writing on a blog – in that it forces you to write and is a great tool for experimentation and self-improvement.

That’s a little too high-falutin’ for this cowgirl.  I see blogging–even professionally-related blogging–mostly as a tool for entertainment and self-promotion.  At their most serious, academic blogs can be sites for communities of likeminded individuals to meet and share ideas and concerns–my blogging about bullying work environments and urging people in academia to be fair and decent has served that purpose, I hope, as has some of my women’s history blogging.  But I’m not on board with the movement of academic bloggers who want job credit for blogging.  Putting this baby on my annual review would make it feel like work–and although I enjoy my work, I like thinking of this space as a not-work space.

Anyhoo–back to y’all in New York.  Good luck, greenhorns and vaqueras!  Let me know how it goes for you–send in a dispatch before you start that long cattle drive home.


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