Archive for the 'GLBTQ' Category

January 19th 2012
Teaching the history of sexuality: more men but less rape, please?

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race & students & the body & unhappy endings & women's history

Yesterday, I read the comments on the teaching evaluation forms my students filled out last semester for the pilot course in the History of Sexuality in America class I co-taught with a colleague.  (We covered just about 1492-2011.)  The comments were overwhelmingly positive with only a few outliers.  Even people who liked the course complained that there was too much reading, but I and my co-instructor always get that on our teaching evaluations.  (Here’s an easy solution:  read through the syllabus on the first day of class, and drop the class if you don’t want to read all that!  It’s win-win for everyone that way.)

We had one suggestion–and only one–from a student who suggested that next time we might consider offering the course with one man and one woman professor, instead of two women.  Right–because our male colleagues are just lining up to teach this course, and it will be soothing and more objective if a male professor is in the room.  Continue Reading »

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January 9th 2012
The limited (and queer?) vision of American historical reenacting

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race

Fort Number Four, Charlestown, NH

Nick Kowalczk offers us a detailed look at historical re-enacting in “Embedded with the Reenactors,”  in which he ponders the fascination that some Americans have with reliving the bloody, imperialistic wars of the past.  I thought this article was noteworthy too because 1) they’re not Civil War reenactors, they’re  reenactors of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), and 2) the Seven Years’ War guys (and yes, they’re mostly middle-aged guys, according to Kowalczk’s reporting and my own observations of all kinds of reenactors over the years) have been enjoying their 250th anniversary moment in the spotlight for the past few years. 

I found Kowalczk’s article fascinating, although it’s written in a more “new journalism” style that includes him as both participant and observer, and I kept wishing he would go deeper into some of the questions he raises about reenactors based on his participation in a battle of the Siege of Fort Niagara:

It’s not every 4th of July you get to be around nearly 3,000 people inhabiting an amalgam of time, and especially in a place as lovely as Fort Niagara State Park. The water in Lake Ontario actually was blue. And the fortification, now known as Old Fort Niagara, has been well-preserved even though it was built by the French in 1726 and took a 19-day pummeling in July 1759, when a few thousand British and Indians out-maneuvered 600 Frenchman sitting pretty in a big castle protected by cannons and stone walls.

But being on the battlefield exactly 250 years later, I couldn’t help but imagine the 348 people who died and the many others who were injured or suffered. When they trembled for their lives could they ever have imagined that a bloodless, G-rated recreation of their deaths eventually would become someone’s hobby?   Continue Reading »

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September 25th 2011
Liberal racism: a possible explanation for an Obama loss in 2012?

Posted under American history & GLBTQ & jobs & race

Still, electoral racism cannot be reduced solely to its most egregious, explicit form. It has proved more enduring and baffling than these results can capture. The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.

The relevant comparison here is with the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Today many progressives complain that Obama’s healthcare reform was inadequate because it did not include a public option; but Clinton failed to pass any kind of meaningful healthcare reform whatsoever. Others argue that Obama has been slow to push for equal rights for gay Americans; but it was Clinton who established the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Obama helped repeal. Still others are angry about appalling unemployment rates for black Americans; but while overall unemployment was lower under Clinton, black unemployment was double that of whites during his term, as it is now. And, of course, Clinton supported and signed welfare “reform,” cutting off America’s neediest despite the nation’s economic growth. Continue Reading »

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September 22nd 2011
I can’t get out of what I’m into

Posted under American history & art & bad language & captivity & Gender & GLBTQ & the body & women's history

WARNING: NSFW or young children.

‘Cos it’s a steady job
And it’s the only thing that makes me money Continue Reading »

9 Comments »

September 19th 2011
How we teach history? Thoughts on the work of professional historians.

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & women's history

Joshua Kim writes at the Technology and Learning blog at Inside Higher Ed that he’s reading and really enjoying Charles Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.  Then, unfortunately, Kim makes a whole lot of questionable assumptions about the ways in which history is currently taught or should be taught in university classrooms.

The last time I learned about the Columbian Exchange was in high school. Learning dates and the sequence of events, and getting familiar with maps and geography, was central to my high school history experience. As a history major in college the emphasis on maps, dates, and events diminished, as the work in primary sources came to the forefront.

I can’t imagine 1493will be much required in college history courses, as this type of historical narrative for a popular audience (written by a journalist and not a historian) probably does not conform to how postsecondary history is taught. This is perhaps too bad, as I just did not know most of the history of Columbian Exchange described in 1493.

Learning how to “do history”, to work like historians, is probably not a bad thing. But most history undergraduate students will not go on to graduate school. A book like 1493, a book with strong opinions and lots of dates, geography, people and events, might be an example of the kind of works we should make room for in our history courses.

Kim is probably right that a synthetic work aimed at a popular audience probably won’t be on a whole lot of college and university syllabi.  But why should books aimed at a general audience be taught by professional historians, when students might instead read a more challenging book with a professor on hand to guide them through it?  Students are perfectly free at any point of their college or post-collegiate lives to pick up a book like 1493 and read and enjoy it, just as Kim did.

Quite frankly, I don’t think I need to show my students how to read a book like 1493 or celebratory biographies of the so-called “Founding Fathers” by David McCullough.  Continue Reading »

32 Comments »

August 17th 2011
Grad students of color and white faculty FAIL

Posted under Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students

Via Inside Higher Ed, Karen Kelsky at The Professor Is In has a riveting post about the challenges facing graduate students of color and in overwhelmingly white departments, which is to say, the vast majority of academic departments in any discipline you can think of in the United States and Canada.  She’s been affiliated with three public research university Anthropology departments, and she details the ways in which the faculty in two of the three failed to respond effectively to the questions that graduate students of color posed to them, their discipline, and to their way of conducting business. 

The whole thing is worth a considered read, especially if you serve as a professor or advisor of graduate students and/or if you’re interested in dysfunctional departmental dynamics.  (Like most of us, she’s like a neurologist:  more certain on the diagnosis than on ideas towards a cure.)  While it won’t be a surprise to any nonwhite readers, perhaps some white readers will be taken aback by her frankness in discussing white privilege among so-called “white allies:”

Here’s what I want to say. I learned through these interactions that the vast majority of white people in the academy are absolutely clueless when it comes to race. Not race as some abstract category of analysis “out there,” but race as it is manifested daily in their/our own subject position and actions.

One archaeology colleague remarked to me at a cocktail party, . . . “Too bad for you cultural anthropologists. You should be like us in archaeology. We don’t have any race problems. Because all of our students are white!” I gamely tried to explain to this colleague that the absence of students of color in her program was actually a more profound sign of a “race problem” than any visible conflict could be, but she was unmoveable. Continue Reading »

21 Comments »

June 25th 2011
Gender and performance in grad school

Posted under Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students

Via Canada-Supporting Women in Geography, I found this article by Duke University Literature Professor Toril Moi, “Discussion or Aggression? Arrogance and Despair in Graduate School.”  In it she writes about speech, authority, and power dynamics in the graduate seminar, specifically about the gendered nature of these dynamics:

Every year some female graduate students tell me that they feel overlooked, marginalized, silenced in some seminars. They paint a picture of classrooms where the alpha males—so-called “theory boys”—are encouraged to hold forth in impossibly obscure language, but where their own interventions elicit no response. These women, in short, say that they are not listened to, that they are not taken seriously, and that they get the impression that their perceptions of the matter at hand are of no interest to anyone else. 

Such experiences tend to reproduce a particularly clichéd ideology in which theory and abstract thought are thought to belong to men and masculinity, and women are imagined to be the bearers of emotional, personal, practical concerns. In a system that grants far more symbolic capital, far more intellectual power, to abstract theorizing than to, say, concrete investigations of particular cases, these women lose out in the battle for symbolic capital. This is bad for their relationship to the field they love, and it is bad for their careers in and out of graduate school. This is sexism, and all this goes to show that sexist effects often arise from the interactions of people who have no sexist intentions at all.

But there is another side to this. Sometimes I have a conversation with someone who has been described to me as a theory boy. Then I invariably discover that the theory boy doesn’t at all sound like an intellectual terrorist. He is, simply, profoundly and passionately interested in ideas. He loves theory and precisely because he loves it, he has strong theoretical views.

Moi concludes that faculty play a critical role in encouraging dialogic conversation rather than monologic performance, and that “[s]ome of us—professors and graduate students—need to learn to stop being so touchy, vain and self-regarding, so that we can listen to well-founded criticism without becoming defensive. Others need to learn to become more assertive and how to stand their ground when their views come under pressure. We all need to care more about formulating our thought precisely and less about the impression we make on others.”  But the point about faculty leadership is key, I think–it’s fun to engage in a lively discussion with passionate students, but we need to consider why some may not want to engage in the conversation, and how we can ensure that the ideas of those students get a full and fair hearing.

Moi’s article struck me as relevant because I’ve had a few interesting conversations recently that suggest that faculty play a role in perpetuating this division by using different language and different standards in evaluating their women versus men graduate students.  Continue Reading »

47 Comments »

June 23rd 2011
I just went gay all of a sudden!

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & happy endings & Intersectionality & women's history

Maybe it wasn’t all of a sudden–maybe it’s a process that has happened over the last few years, or maybe I was born this way, but I find myself wanting to align myself with the queer bloggers ever more closelyThe queer bloggers I read and feel a comradeship with don’t think that there is only one way to be a good lesbian or gay man.  They don’t police the language that other gays and lesbians use to write about or talk about their own experiences.  We sometimes disagree, but they don’t feel the need to lecture me about daring to write about queerness or question the authenticity of my queer sensibilities. 

Some of you heterosexualists, especially some of you who identify online as mothers:  not so much!  Continue Reading »

76 Comments »

June 15th 2011
Call for Contributors: Women in Early America

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & publication & women's history

Thomas Foster, author of Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man (2006), and the editor of two recent collections of essays in early American history of sexuality and gender, Long Before Stonewall:  Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America (2007) and New Men:  Manliness in Early America (2011), is looking for contributors for a new volume to be published by New York University Press called Women in Early America.  I’ll let Foster take it from here–this is from an e-mail he sent to me, which I believe was also published recently on h-net:

Women in Early America is an anthology on women in America from contact through the Revolutionary era. Proposals for essays that employ a transnational approach and that rewrite master narratives are especially encouraged. As the volume is largely intended for use in undergraduate courses, essays that are written for that audience and that address major themes in women’s and gender history courses are also particularly desirable.

New York University Press has expressed strong interest in publishing this project. I’m in the process now of soliciting proposals for chapters so that I may put together a book prospectus within the next few months to secure a contract. If you are interested in proposing an essay for this volume, please send an abstract and cv to tfoster4 AT depaul DOT eduContinue Reading »

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June 7th 2011
The intellectual value of being wrong

Posted under American history & Berkshire Conference & conferences & European history & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & women's history

I’m off to a conference this week, and I’ve been thinking about some of the wacky papers I’ve given over the years.  I’ve always looked at conferences as opportunities to test out new ideas, and the best times I’ve had at conferences have been times when I’ve delivered a paper that offers a fresh–some would say dubious–new interpretation or argument.  After all, most conference papers are 10 pages long and should take no more than 20 minutes of the audience’s time–it’s not like we’re going to be able to clobber them with a truly convincing pile of evidence, so why not focus more on the specific interventions we’re making?

I once gave a conferece paper titled “Fields of Screams,” after an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon on an old episode of The Simpsons.  It was about borderlands warfare and masculinity, and although I discarded the specific argument in that paper it helped me work out some ideas about space and gender.  Recently, I’ve been having fun shocking people with Judith Bennett’s “lesbian-like” interpretive frame for understanding eighteenth-century Ursulines.  I’m not sure where this idea is going, but it’s fascinating to see some people react so strongly and so negatively to the use of the word “lesbian” to talk about the eighteenth century!  Continue Reading »

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