April 22nd 2014
From the land of WTF

Posted under: bad language, jobs, local news, students, unhappy endings, wankers, weirdness

wtfHere is the text of an email I received yesterday from my university. I honestly have no idea what it’s talking about. Does any part of this sound familiar to any of you? (Are there any palaeographers among you?)

This seminar will provide information about the university’s involvement in a national consortium that promises to enhance learning and teaching. The consortium, which includes several leading research universities, is exploring new directions in the use of instructional technologies. The intent is to facilitate and accelerate digital learning using the best integrated digital systems available that make it easy for faculty and enhance learning. The ecosystem consists of three components: a digital content repository/reflector, a service delivery platform, and a learning analytics service. The digital content repository/reflector will allow us to regain control over our digital learning objectives, allow faculty to choose to share/reuse digital content easily and seamlessly while preserving their digital rights. The service delivery platform is Canvas by Instructure, and has the characteristics of easier use by faculty and faster development of courses in it. The best learning analytics will be deployed and evolve apace as this area develops.

My first thought when I tried to read this email:  was this written by one of those software robots that allegedly can fairly grade essays? Continue Reading »

30 Comments »

April 21st 2014
Josephine Baker’s postwar/Cold War “rainbow tribe”

Posted under: American history, art, book reviews, childhood, European history, Intersectionality, race

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.

Guterl makes it sound like Baker’s family was kind of a multicultural Trapp Family Singers or a Partridge Family, crossed with the Dionne QuintupletsContinue Reading »

2 Comments »

April 19th 2014
Saturday: Thank Dog.

Posted under: American history, bad language, book reviews, childhood, class, jobs, local news, nepotism, the body, unhappy endings, weirdness

Lucky dog!

Lucky dog!

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 »

11 Comments »

April 16th 2014
In memorium: Stephanie M. H. Camp, 1967-2014

Posted under: American history, Gender, Intersectionality, race, the body, unhappy endings, women's history

scampStephanie 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 »

15 Comments »

April 15th 2014
Aux Armes, Citoyennes! Sign the National Women’s History Museum petition.

Posted under: American history, women's history

libertyleadingdelacroixFormez 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 »

26 Comments »

April 11th 2014
Off to OAH to answer the question: is blogging scholarship?

Posted under: American history

Rarin' to get to Atlanta!

Rarin’ to get to Atlanta!

UPDATE 4/16/2014:  The video of our panel is now online.  Thanks to Nic Champagne (@videobynic) who was the videographer & who alerted me to the video.

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 »

26 Comments »

April 10th 2014
My sabbatical year: swimming pools, movie stars!

Posted under: American history, happy endings

2014-15 is going to be a pretty sweet year for me, as I’m going to be a long-term fellow at the Huntington next academic year!  Yes, from August 2014 until June 2015, I will hold the Dana and David Dornsife Fellowship there.  (I’ve known for over two months now and have been waiting for the Huntington to update their website, but I just can’t wait any longer to share the good news!)  That’s right, friends:  it’s swimming pools & movie stars for Historiann next year, at least on the weekends.

Here’s what the entire famille Historiann will look like on our way west this summer:

Lest you think my success this year was a coup de foudre, I’ll have you know that I have applied unsuccessfully for a long-term fellowship at the Huntington four times in the previous five years!   Continue Reading »

30 Comments »

April 8th 2014
Women’s historians told “you’re history” during Women’s History Month by the National Women’s History Museum

Posted under: American history, class, Gender, GLBTQ, Intersectionality, jobs, race, unhappy endings, wankers, weirdness, women's history

cowgirlcensoreddumbHow’s that for irony?  That’s what the Scholarly Advisory Council was told by the National Women’s History Museum’s President and CEO Joan Wages last month, according to former SAC member Sonya Michel.  (You can see the NMWH’s announcement of the SAC’s walking papers here.)  Michel, for those of you who don’t know her or her work, is an eminent scholar of gender, povery, and social welfare.  She writes:

Last month’s dismissal of the scholars followed yet another example of a museum offering that embarrassed those of us who were trying to ensure that the institution was adhering to the highest standards in our field. In mid-March, the museum announced that it had launched a new online exhibit, “Pathways to Equality: The U.S. Women’s Rights Movement Emerges,” in conjunction with the Google Cultural Institute. Never informed that the exhibit was in the works, much less given an opportunity to vet it, we were appalled to discover that it was riddled with historical errors and inaccuracies. To pick just one example: Harriet Beecher Stowe was described as having been “born into a family of abolitionists” when, from the time of her birth through her young adulthood in the 1830s, her family actively opposed the abolitionist movement. “Pathways to Equality,” noted Kathryn Kish Sklar, the nineteenth-century specialist who pointed out the error, “could have been written by a middle-school student.”

Actually, if I were Sklar, I would have said that “a middle-school student who had consulted my prizewinning biography of Catherine Beecher could have put together a stronger online presentation.”  Continue Reading »

23 Comments »

April 5th 2014
Just wondering: is being a jerk an important part of “conservative thought and policy?”

Posted under: American history, Gender, GLBTQ, jobs, local news, students, unhappy endings, wankers

Steven Hayward, The University of Colorado-Boulder’s first Visiting Scholar of Conservative Thought and Policy, has worked to ingratiate himself with his students and faculty colleagues.  By “ingratiate,” I mean he wrote an assy blog post for the noted conservative policy journal non peer-reviewed blog Powerline called “Off on a Gender Bender,” in which he complained about and ridiculed some diversity training in which professors were instructed to ask students which pronouns they prefer:

I’m more curious to learn whether there have been many students—or any students, ever—who have demanded to be addressed in class by a different gender pronoun, or called by a different gender name . . . , let alone turn up in class in wardrobe by Corporal Klinger.  My guess is the actual number of such students approaches zero.

So why is this gender-bending diversity mandate so prominent at universities these days?  The most likely explanation is that it (sic) is simply yielding to the demands of the folks who dislike any constraint of human nature in what goes by the LGBTQRSTUW (or whatever letters have been added lately) “community.”  I place “community” in quotation marks here because the very idea of community requires a certain commonality based ultimately in nature, while the premise behind gender-bending is resolutely to deny any such nature, including especially human nature.

Did Professor Hayward ever participate in a study abroad program, or take an anthropology class?  Has he never been introduced to the concept of observing politely the customs of the locals before insulting and belittling them? Continue Reading »

34 Comments »

April 3rd 2014
The author, the work, and “the objectivity question.”

Posted under: American history, book reviews, Gender, GLBTQ, Intersectionality, jobs, race, students, weirdness, women's history

Claire Potter (aka Tenured Radical) has an interesting post on her book blog about the assumptions that audiences make about the politics of historians based on their subject matter choices.  She writes:

It isn’t uncommon that, when hearing about the research I have done on the history of anti-pornography feminism, audiences assume that I must be an anti-pornography feminist too.But do you know that? Do you even have the right to ask? Should I tell you?

My hope for this book is that you will be so compelled by my scholarship that you will never know my private views on this question.

I found the assumption really interesting, in that the vast, vast, vast majority of feminist intellectuals I know and have worked with are far from anti-porn feminists.  Maybe my experiences are idiosyncratic, but in my experience academic feminists–much as most of us are disgusted by mainstream pornography–tend also to be First Amendment absolutists.

Potter continues with a meditation about identity politics and historical subject matter that is really worth the read:

Making assumptions about intellectuals based on superficial knowledge of their research interests is fairly common, but honestly? I think it happens to women, queers and people of color more often. I have a friend and colleague who is African-American, and writing a history of African-American conservative thought. That colleague is frequently assumed to be a conservative, much as I am often presumed, on the basis of nothing, to be an anti-pornography feminist. Continue Reading »

17 Comments »

« Prev - Next »