Archive for the 'the body' Category

March 2nd 2013
New research on Nazi slave labor camps shocks even Holocaust scholars

Posted under captivity & Gender & Intersectionality & race & the body & unhappy endings & women's history

This is certainly shocking to me as well. From the New York Times article:

[R]esearchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.

The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

Interestingly, the researchers at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. have uncovered a number of camps and slave labor sites in which sexuality and reproduction were central to the torture inflicted on women.  Continue Reading »

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February 25th 2013
Oscar d00dly b00bfest best for lying down, avoiding

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness & women's history

We had a much-needed little Front Range snowstorm yesterday.  It was so peaceful and quiet–Sundays are usually pretty quiet days in Potterville, but with the snow swallowing all outdoor sounds, it was even quieter.  I had a beef burgundy* in the oven, and we made a fire and watched a Harry Potter movie instead of the Academy Awards.

It turns out that it was a really excellent decision to shut out the rest of the world last night.  I keep thinking about the old Monty Python skit about Australian wines:  “this isn’t a wine for drinking!  It’s a wine for lying down and avoiding.”  (Don’t miss Linda Holmes’s review at NPR.)  In the end, I think Amy Davidson’s analysis was the best I’ve read today:

Watching the Oscars last night meant sitting through a series of crudely sexist antics led by a scrubby, self-satisfied Seth MacFarlane. That would be tedious enough. But the evening’s misogyny involved a specific hostility to women in the workplace, which raises broader questions than whether the Academy can possibly get Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host next year. It was unattractive and sour, and started with a number called “We Saw Your Boobs.”

“We Saw Your Boobs” was as a song-and-dance routine in which MacFarlane and some grinning guys named actresses in the audience and the movies in which their breasts were visible. That’s about it. Continue Reading »

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February 11th 2013
Defending the liberal arts against the ignorance caucus

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & the body & women's history

Many of you probably heard about North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s attack on liberal arts education on the Bill Bennett Old-Timey 180-Minute Hate Radio Program.  He argued that the state should invest its money in fields like “mechanics” instead of liberal arts degrees, because vocational training will help North Carolinians get jobs.  (Is he unfamiliar with his state’s community colleges, which offer a range of Vo-Tech programs?  I guess so.)

Have you ever heard of that old story about Winston Churchill refusing to engage in a battle of wits against an unarmed man?  McCrory’s comments were more of the seat-of-the-pants playing-to-the base pulled-out-of-his-a$$ kind, and far from a well-crafted policy paper or legislative proposal, but historian Lisa Levenstein of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, has published a vigorous response arguing for the value of the liberal arts, and even for the value of women’s studies programs in an op-ed at News-Record.com:

Today’s labor force also depends on work by women, who now comprise about half of all U.S. workers. Yet McCrory exhibited particular disdain for courses in “gender studies,” suggesting that this discipline has nothing useful to contribute to the challenges confronting North Carolinians. At UNCG, teachers and students in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program explore pressing issues ranging from breast cancer to homelessness. They create strategies to eradicate domestic violence and analyze how women’s labor force participation fosters global economic development.

Graduates of the program have built meaningful careers as counselors, sign language interpreters, teachers and advocates for the mentally ill, positions that not only contribute to the economy but also foster the well-being of our communities. These students are workers, parents and engaged citizens, and they make our lives better. Continue Reading »

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February 5th 2013
Life, death, and early America

Posted under American history & class & European history & students & the body & unhappy endings

Richard III’s skeleton, showing a massive skull fracture and evidence of corpse desecration.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find the story about the discovery and identification of Richard III’s remains just about the coolest historical and biomedical discovery since Thomas Jefferson’s DNA was found in Hemings family descendants back in the last century.  It’s a terrific example as to how the historical and archaeological records are still viable and valuable in investigations like this.  I’m sure my students in Life and Death in Early America will want to talk about this when we meet for class this week!

Speaking of death and early America:  The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture’s newsletter, Uncommon Sense, has published an online memorial to Alfred F. Young that includes links to reflections on his life and work from thirty different historians, including yours truly and several of this blog’s readers and commenters.  Continue Reading »

5 Comments »

February 3rd 2013
Intimate body care: never a highly paid occupation

Posted under American history & class & European history & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & the body & women's history

NPR featured a story tonight about how poorly compensated home health care work is.  Currently, they are not entitled either to the minimum wage nor to overtime pay.  Most make between $8-10/hr., while the company that employs them pockets the $18/hr. payment from Medicare. Spokespersons for the home health-care industry were permitted to whinge and whine about the terrible hardship that a minimum wage and overtime requirements would put on their businesses.

The tone of the story tilted towards compassion for the workers and their clients, but they story’s historical perspective looked back only 40 years when I think a critical component of this story is the longue durée of this kind of low wage work, work that now (as in the past going back at least 500 years) is performed overwhelmingly by working-class women, and in the Americas for the most part, by black and brown-skinned working-class women.

Intimate body care has never been a well-compensated occupation.  Continue Reading »

26 Comments »

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 »

23 Comments »

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 »

9 Comments »

January 6th 2013
Oxycodone addict and member of notoriously drunken rich clan with fortune built on bootlegging opposes decriminalization of pot

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

 

Alcohol is legal; smashing up bars is not.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Retired Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy is taking aim at what he sees as knee-jerk support for marijuana legalization among his fellow liberals, in a project that carries special meaning for the self-confessed former oxycodone addict.

Kennedy, 45, a Democrat and younger son of Edward Kennedy, is leading a group called Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) that opposes legalization and seeks to rise above America’s culture war over pot.

The sense of entitlement boggles the mind:  why would anyone find him a credible advocate?  Or is this a case of the convert being more Catholic than the Pope, as it were?  Continue Reading »

18 Comments »

January 5th 2013
2012: the Year of the Asshole?

Posted under American history & bad language & book reviews & European history & fluff & Gender & the body

Some of you have probably heard of Geoffrey Nunberg’s Ascent of the A-word:  Assholism, the First Sixty Years (2012) because of his platform as the resident linguist for NPR’s Fresh Air.  A few weeks ago, we learned that Aaron James, a philosophy professor at the University of California, Irvine, published a book in 2012 called Assholes:  A Theory, and this article describing James’s book made me laugh out loud:

So what is an asshole, exactly? How is he (and assholes are almost always men) distinct from other types of social malefactors? Are assholes born that way, or is their boorishness culturally conditioned? What explains the spike in the asshole population?

James was at the beach when he began mulling those questions. “I was watching one of the usual miscreants surf by on a wave and thought, Gosh, he’s an asshole.” Not an intellectual breakthrough, he concedes, but his reaction had what he calls “cognitive content.” In other words, his statement was more than a mere expression of feeling. He started sketching a theory of assholes, refining his thinking at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, where he spent a year as a fellow in 2009.

Now here’s the part I really like as a historian.  James pushes beyond the linguist’s focus on the word to explore the history and philosophy of the asshole avant la lettre:

He consulted Rousseau (who, James notes, was something of an asshole himself on account of his shabby parenting skills), Hobbes (especially his views on the “Foole” who breaks the social contract), Kant (his notion of self-conceit in particular), and more-recent scholarship on psychopaths. He spoke with psychologists, lawyers, and anthropologists, all of whom suggested asshole reading lists. “There are a lot of similar characters studied in other disciplines, like the free rider or the amoralist or the cheater,” James says, calling his time at Stanford an “interdisciplinary education in asshole theory.”

James argues for a three-part definition of assholes that boils down to this: Continue Reading »

18 Comments »

December 26th 2012
Historiann, archived

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

Hi, friends!  I hope you’re enjoying a lovely holiday and/or winter vacation.  Several of you have e-mailed me or left questions in the comments here on the blog about whether the lecture I recorded for C-SPAN, “A Pair of Stays,” would be archived or available as a podcast.  The answer to both questions is yes, so here are the relevant links:

 

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