Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
One small detail that continues to stand out for me, however, is the report that one of the men yelled at the victim, “Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt” when she and another stripper hired by the team attempted to leave due to the frightening and racially abusive behavior of the men during their initial performance. The report of the comment doesn’t come from the account of the victim, but from a neighbor who observed the team yelling abuse at the women when they tried to leave, before the rape occurred. It coincides with what both of the women have said about the racially charged remarks made to them inside the house during their performance.
I think that reported remark is very likely something that was actually said. It stands out to me not just for its stomach-churning racism, but because of what it says about historical consciousness and collective memory.
Scott Eric Kaufman made some interesting remarks recently about a radio host who was fired for saying that Condoleeza Rice was a “big coon”. The thing that Kaufman and others noted was that the context of the remark raises some really complex questions in that the speaker was trying to say that were Rice to be appointed NFL commissioner, this would be a big COUP for her. Not only was it the proverbial slip of the tongue, he immediately was mortified by what he’d said: “Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that”. As Kaufman observes, this came after the host had praised Rice as a “fantastic” potential President of the United States as well as a great candidate for NFL commissioner.
In the discussion of Kaufman’s entry that developed, some commenters followed on his observation that the reaction we have to this incident invokes a particular theory of language’s relationship to the unconscious, an assumption that the slip in this case reveals an underlying, concealed racism in the individual speaker, for which that speaker must be punished through losing his job. You could argue instead that the slip reveals a collective white unconscious, an accursed inheritance, and that the criticism of the speaker is not so much for his individual sin as a way to discipline and suppress that secret sin, to continue to pile dirt on its grave in the hopes of someday seeing its moldering corpse decompose into the dust of far-gone history. I think Kaufman is right that there is something empirically and humanly unfair in responding to this instance as a case of hateful, programmatic individual intention.
Even if you can make a case that there needs to be zero tolerance for what was said on the radio, you have to make that case as a kind of collective action problem, about how you change the relationship between language, consciousness and practice. As Kaufman and several of his commenters note, neither do you want to just brush this off as political correctness in action, because something potent and powerful is revealed in that slip: it is less a slip than a rip, a furtive, ashamed peek at the ruined foundations underneath the finished constructions of the present.
“Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt” is in contrast a demonic revel in those same ruins. There is no mystery here about intent or agency. But there is still a historical unconscious at work, and that’s what really draws my attention most in this case.
I would be willing to wager a good deal that if the sick little punk who said those words was sitting in a course on American history at Duke and was asked to stand up and provide a narrative of the history of slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, he would profess ignorance, or provide a kind of respectable potted Cliff Notes version sufficient to pass the US History AP but no more. Maybe his professed ignorance would be relatively genuine, or maybe it would be the suppression of the story he thinks he knows but also knows he cannot tell, because it’s not real or accurate history, only a shambles of racist tropes. In any event, he didn’t live it, not any of it, not even the events of the last fifty years which brought that history into the central consciousness of American national identity: the struggle for civil rights and racial justice, the cultural tableau of mainstream historical programs like “Roots” or “The Civil War”, the culture war of the eighties and early nineties and its address to race.
Where does that come from, then, that ability to shout in drunken, racist, misogynist rage, with the intent to deliver maximum pain to another human, “Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt”? It doesn’t come from direct experience, likely doesn’t come from direct ideological or dogmatic indoctrination, it doesn’t come from the formal study of history or even traceable dissemination of historical representations in particular texts.
I’ve been teaching this semester about the history of West African societies in the era of the slave trade, and we recently read Anne Bailey’s new book African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Bailey at several points takes up the complex methodological and epistemological problem that tends to frustrate oral historians trying to study the memory of slavery in West Africa, that in many West African societies it is still a powerful insult to associate a contemporary person’s lineage with slave descent. This is partly because such an association still constructs forms of social power even today, but it is also partly because the memory of the slave trade is itself so traumatic and shameful within those societies.
What Bailey notes, and Africanists are well aware of in regard to many issues, is that societies do “memory-work’ in the secret spaces of the unspoken and unrepresented. These might be literal social spaces: secret societies in West Africa, or a gang of privileged male athletes in a North Carolina university. One has to suspect that this wasn't the first time that the Duke lacrosse team had wallowed as a group through the bilgewater of explicit racism.
But that work is also done through and in collective spaces of a thousand fragmented representations and texts: silent speech, blindness in plain sight. Things that everyone knows, and knows how to feel about knowing, but that cannot be found anywhere clearly or in a concentrated fashion. That knowledge is sometimes an innocent thing, in fact, most of the time it is. In my History of the Future class, I’ve been trying to point out to the students that even though most of the representations of the future we’re studying are now wholly “retro-futures” no longer in active circulation, the residual tropes are so integrated into so many cultural and social locations that they still “know” what it means when they see an automobile with a bubble top and rounded edges or a flying car, when they see a boxy humanoid robot or a geodesic dome. They know without knowing that those things are “futuristic”, even if they are no longer part of what we reasonably expect the future to be.
That Duke student had the same kind of knowledge of slavery’s accursed history, and its cancerous infestation within the American soul. He knows it without knowing he knows it, without meaning to set out to know it. It was his choice, his intention, to use what we all know and feel to hurt, his choice to be unforgiveably cruel. That was no slip of the tongue.
We do not bear the collective guilt of having that narrative within our minds, because we do not collectively choose to make it a curdled and vicious part of our hearts. That was this person, those people, them. But we all do need to do a different kind of memory work, now and always, to make silences speak, to excavate the ruins, to trace how the puzzle of collective memory gets assembled from pieces. That is the work of historians: popular and academic, everyday and scholarly, in our classrooms, in our books, in our dialogues, in our ordinary human business. At this moment, we should be reminded of the urgency of that work.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft,"A. J. P. Taylor," Prospect, March 2006, reviews the British historian's work in the centennial of his birth. Wheatcroft describes his own disillusionment with Taylor as the first of the"hackademics" and"teledons" – the forerunner of Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama. Thanks for the tip to Eric Rauchway at POTUS, who is critical of Wheatcroft's sneering attitude toward popularization.
Jacob Weisberg,"The Erring Republican Authority," Slate, 29 March, explains why Kevin Phillips and his American Theocracy should be ignored.
Finally, Rob MacDougall's"Superman I: Secret Origins," Old is the New New, 15 March, prompts Jason Kuznicki to step back in time with"History: Poisonous, Repetitive, Written by Losers," Positive Liberty, 29 March. On the comic book front, see also: Frederic Wertheim, the man who changed comic books forever. Dave found that damn interesting piece at DamnInteresting.com. There's also damn interesting stuff on"The Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637," early photography of nuclear explosions and a lot more DamnInteresting history here. Don't forget to send nominations of your damn interesting posts to Dave for this week's Carnival.
First, a couple of preliminaries: a) no one has been proved guilty yet, so we can't assume that the 46 young white men on Duke's 47 member lacrosse team are guilty (even the accuser says only three of them are); b) contrary to the discussion at ADM's site, this story has been getting enormous coverage in the education press (Chronicle of Higher Education, Duke Chronicle, Daily Tar Heel, and Inside Higher Ed), local press (Charlotte Observer, Durham Herald-Sun, and Raleigh News & Observer), MSM (ABC News, Houston Chronicle, New York Times [its earlier article was the second most commonly e-mailed article of the day], San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post) and on the net (Alas, A Blog, Chris Lawrence at Signifying Nothing, The Smoking Gun, and Margaret Soltan at University Diaries have been all over the story), so it's not as if someone's been hiding Duke's little light under a barrel or anything; and c) I'm a little unclear what to say because my expressions of outrage tend to draw attention to me and my own righteousness. And it isn't about that. So, what to say?
I am deeply embarrassed for my alma mater, but not terribly surprised. Deeply embarrassed because we do aspire to better than that. Not terribly surprised because we fall terribly short of aspiration. We've sent the less privileged peers of these young men to war for democracy (or whatever) in Iraq and they've sent home pictures from Abu Ghraib. Should we be surprised that more privileged men of their age are accused of rape and torture in Durham?
As Tim Burke noted, one reason that Margaret Soltan's coverage of the Duke scandal at University Diaries has been so effective is that she was already"doing a fantastic job lately of tracking stories about the poisoned, hopelessly corrupt relationship between higher education and athletics." And what has she discovered? This isn't"Southern, white racism" at work, as we've understood it. These are the privileged sons of her neighbors in the DC suburbs. They went to the"right" schools. And 15 of the 46 suspects already had prior charges!
I'm afraid to say that I know the type. I went to school with them. They're the children of privilege, prep school graduates from the mid-Atlantic and the North. They're at Duke because they didn't get into Princeton. And they have nothing but contempt for working-class Durham, black and white. The barbarians are among us, privileged and not very well-bred. They are our children and our students.
Eugene McCarraher,"The Incoherence of Hannah Arendt," Books and Culture, March/April 2006, revisits Arendt on the centennial of her birth.
Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray,"Saddam's Delusions: The View from the Inside," Foreign Affairs, May/June 2006, is a double-length article with important excerpts from a recently declassified book-length report by the Pentagon Joint Forces Command's Iraqi Perspectives Project. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.
Lest you go uninformed, George Mason University's men's basketball team is in the Final Four. More importantly, the University has the world's largest known community of history bloggers. They include: Jeremy Boggs, Sheila Brennan, Dan Cohen, Josh Greenburg, Meagan Hess, Stephanie Hurter, T. Mills Kelly, Sharon Leon, Paula Petrik, and Tom Scheinfeldt.
Yesterday, ClioWeb's Jeremy Boggs gave a presentation at GMU on the state of history blogging and edwired's Mills Kelly blogged the event. Here are Jeremy's presentation links. Rightly, I think, he gave Frog in a Well special praise for its design. Jeremy's favorite history blog? Rob MacDougall's Old is the New New,"one of the funniest, smartest, and most entertaining history blogs out there." Amen.
The New York Historical Society has named Doris Kearns Goodwin its American historian laureate and given her its inaugural $50,000 Book Prize for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, a collective biography of the president and his cabinet.
At 93, his Imperial Highness Prince Osman Ertugrul, the heir to the throne of the Ottoman Empire, gets along without his 285-room Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. The tab for his rent-controlled two-bedroom flat over a restaurant on Lexington Avenue in New York is $350 a month.
Evans was a good example of why the Dems were able for so long to retain a House majority. He first won election in 1982, in an upset, helped by the fact that a conservative primary challenger had defeated the moderate GOP incumbent, Tom Railsback. His district retained a GOP tilt at least until the 2002 redistricting, yet Evans compiled a strongly liberal record in the House. He kept his seat by outcampaigning his opponents and by repackaging his agenda as"progressive" or"populist"--a skill too few Dems seem to possess in the current climate. Evans also gave an early endorsement to Barack Obama's 2004 bid for the Senate--long before Obama was the primary frontrunner. Evans was, in fact, the first prominent white Dem officeholder to endorse Obama.
Under Illinois rules, the local Dem leaders will name Evans' replacement, but the party will be hard pressed to keep the seat.
For your Scott McLemee fix: McLemee,"Town Without Pity," Newsday, 19 March, reviews Cynthia Carr's Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden Mystery of White America; and McLemee,"Axis of Ills," Boston Globe, 26 March, reviews Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.
James Kirchick, a senior history major at Yale, publishes tough criticism of the University's decision to admit Rahmattulah Hashemi as a special student:"Afghan Politician Contrasts with Student," Yale Daily News, 27 March. The left has largely ignored the issue; and right-leaning critics of the decision have focused their fire on the University. Why does no one demand that the State Department and INS tell us why Rahmattulah is at Yale, while his compatriots are at Guantanamo? Thanks to David Adesnik at Oxblog for the tip.
Congratulations to our colleague, Hugo Schwyzer, whose blog, er, Hugo Schwyzer, has been named one of the Top 10 Blogs on Feminism and Women's Rights by About.com. But we already knew that.
Finally, OpenTheGovernment.org presents"Are We Safer in the Dark?"
While academics comment on a range of controversial issues all the time, Bowen said that dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian issues posed particular difficulties. Bowen said that one of his “real shocks” at the AAUP was when “a very close friend and colleague” who is Jewish, a “strong civil libertarian,” and has “wonderful values on academic freedom” approached him about trying to urge Duke University to block a group there from organizing a national conference for student supporters of the Palestinian cause. “On that issue, there are blinders,” Bowen said.
I'm suspicious of argument by personal, anonymous anecdote ("As I was riding home today on the subway, I overheard two good friends noting the lack of intellectual diversity in the academy . . ."), but Bowen's anecdote is both distasteful (with his choice to identify the religion of his" close friend and colleague") and off-base: it seems to me perfectly reasonable to question the criteria by which outsiders are invited to speak, or hold a conference, on campus.
Bowen's comments also bring into relief the seemingly one-sided"blinders" through which the AAUP has viewed academic issues related to the Middle East. I agree completely with him that"on that issue, there are blinders." But the only"blinders" with which the AAUP has seemed concerned are pro-Israel blinders. I don't recall Bowen or the AAUP expressing concern when Columbia appointed a MEALAC investigatory committee whose membership consisted of figures who were openly anti-Israel or personally biased. Nor do I recall him saying that the AAUP would monitor the situation to ensure that MEALAC was upholding AAUP policy regarding students' academic freedom. Indeed, neither Bowen nor anyone else at the organization has clarified which AAUP"procedure" was violated by public critics of the Bellagio conference, as former Committee A head Joan Scott claimed.
Could it be that on this issue, the AAUP leadership sees events through"blinders"?
On the centenary of his birth, Geoffrey Wheatcroft,"From Trotsky to Midcult: In Search of Dwight Macdonald," New York Observor, n.d., takes another look at one of mid-20th century America's most important public intellectuals -- as close an answer to George Orwell as the United States had to offer. It's a terrific essay. Here's an excerpt about Macdonald on the"very argumentative and very ambitious" young William Buckley,
whose book defending Joseph McCarthy was"written in an elegantly pedantic style, replete with nice discriminations and pedantic hair-splittings, giving the general effect of a brief by Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft on behalf of a pickpocket arrested in a subway men's room." (Mr. Buckley's first critics, by the way, included Peter Viereck, McGeorge Bundy and August Heckscher, whom Macdonald called"three leading spokesmen for the neoconservative tendency that has arisen among the younger intellectuals." Does any language maven know an earlier sighting of that potent word than 1952?)
Good question, as Andrew Sullivan says, but any earlier usage would have an even more tenuous relationship to its current reference.
Update: Sullivan cites a use of"neoconservative" in Henry Dunckley,"The Conservative Dilemma," Contemporary Review, 1883.
Edward Tenner,"Searching for Dummies," NYT, 26 March, is a provocative op-ed about teaching students how to conduct successful on-line searches for information. It's not at all obvious.
Higher education is fighting back. Librarians are teaching"information literacy" and establishing alternative Web indexes. Graduate students, in the front lines as teaching assistants, are starting to discuss joining Wikipedia rather than fighting it, as many instructors still, quixotically, do.
Can better information in the classroom produce the literate, numerate society the Web once promised? There are two ways to proceed. More owners of free high-quality content should learn the tradecraft of tweaking their sites to improve search engine rankings. And Google can do more to educate users about the power — and frequent advisability — of its advanced search options. It would be a shame if brilliant technology were to end up threatening the kind of intellect that produced it.
The WikiProject History of Science is an exciting example of graduate students leading the fight back. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.
A related issue is the ambiguity of writing which does not make clear where the stress or accent is in the sentence. A classic case is the line variously attributed to Dorothy Parker and George S. Kaufman, "Repartee is what you wish you'd said." The question is, is it ""Repartee is what you WISH you'd said," or "Repartee is what you wish YOU'D said"?
I came across another example of this problm in reading Ron Chernow's recent biography of Alexander Hamilton (excellent, though it really goes after Thomas Jefferson) and was intrigued by a passage I saw about Hamilton's declining influence after 1800, when Chernow says he "aqcquired the uncomfortable status of a glorified has-been." Chernow notes that, while Hamilton kept his law office in lower Manhattan, but the he "spent as much time as possible drinking in the tranquillity of [Hamilton] Grange." Is Chernow describing a contemplative Hamilton "drinking in" the surroundings, or proposing that he hit the bottle?
I think we should go back to the fine old system of italics to show where the stress goes in a sentence, and we should also not fear the application of the comma. Otherwise, we might have to wonder, on reading the title of this little essay, who Mark is and whether he will indeed pardon the accent.
In Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family (1998), Diane McWhorter's Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution (2001), and Cynthia Carr's Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, A Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America (2006), Jonathan Yardley sees a pattern:
In certain precincts occupied by certain members of the American intelligentsia, it has for some time been quite the fashion to ferret out racists in one's familial woodpile and then to write books about them. The ostensible purpose of these books is to provide intimate, confessional evidence of the degree to which racial prejudice has infiltrated every conceivable corner of American life. Their obvious if unstated purpose is to show how the (white) author has triumphed over his or her sordid ancestral inheritance to become a person of impeccable credentials on matters racial. Though all due modesty and claims of imperfection are expressed, the reader is expected to stand and cheer as, at book's end, the author's heroic achievement is revealed in full.
Victor Davis Hanson,"Fighting Words," Opinion Journal, 25 March, nominates the five most important books on 20th century battlefields.
Mix: one part Dorothy Parker, one part Lillian Hellman, and one part NAACP. Deliciously scandalous: Marion Meade,"Estate of Mind," BookForum, April/May 2006. Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily for the tip.
Russell Jacoby,"Brother from Another Planet," The Nation, 10 April, reviews (and rather decimates) Eric Lott, The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual:"an almost flawless exemplar of tenured vacuity and mock radicalism."
Janine R. Wedel,"Harvard's Role in US Aid to Russia," Boston Globe, 25 March, argues that the Andrei Schleifer scandal is exemplary of the failure of accountability in the United States. Says Margaret Soltan:
Notice that Harvard's gigantic endowment fund made out like a bandit because of Shleifer's corruption. It's bad enough that a university just sits there with $26 billion and growing. It's far worse that it gained significant elements of it through self-serving that makes Czar Nicholas look benign by comparison.
And Brother Summers rewarded his friend, Schleifer, with an endowed chair, to boot. Make that: Andrei Schleifer, Czar Nicholas Professor of Economics.
Niall Ferguson,"Hey, Numskulls, better watch out," LA Times, 20 March, argues, rightly, I think, that recent congressional action to kill the Dubai/ports deal and near failure to raise the debt limit threaten to derail economic globalization. Thanks to Nathanael Robinson for the tip.
As with the"working paper" as a whole, it's unclear exactly what constitutes the"lobby" that has attacked the W/M Paper, which has come under vociferous criticism, mostly in the blogosphere but also from figures such as Marvin Kalb (who knew even Kalb was part of the"Lobby"?), for its factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated sweeping assertions. It's also unclear how W&M have suffered"retaliation," unless, as has become so common among the contemporary academy's dominant voices, they're equating"retaliation" with public criticism of their academic work. And if, as Mearsheimer claims, the duo expected their piece to trigger an attack from the"Lobby," it's shocking that they produced a paper so riddled with factual errors and quotations whose full context undermines rather than supports their conclusions. I'd hate to see what criteria W&M apply to determining what constitutes"good" scholarship in personnel matters. When even Joseph Massad (half-heartedly) can't sign on to an anti-Israel diatribe, you know you're in trouble.
The most passionate response to the W/M paper comes from the Forward, which correctly notes that the paper's startling element comes not in its premise but its provenance:"Its authors are not fringe gadflies but two of America's most respected foreign-affairs theorists . . . Though it's tempting, they can't be dismissed as cranks outside the [academic] mainstream. They are the mainstream." Given that, the"flimsiness" of the work becomes even harder to comprehend.
In a lengthy editorial, the Forward concludes that"Mearsheimer and Walt join a long line of critics who dislike Israel so deeply that they cannot fathom the support it enjoys in America, and so they search for some malign power capable of perverting America's good sense. They find it, as others have before, in the Jews." Perhaps the AAUP's Joan Scott will want to gear up Committee A for the duo's public defense.
The second in my series of Letters to Leila -- an introduction to blogging for academics unfamiliar with the medium -- is now available:
It offers a precis of Ralph Luker's AHA Perspectives article,"Were There Blog Enough, and Time," and provides a link to"Custer and the Art of the Blog," a series of posts I composed last year when I was trying to explain the virtues of blogging to my department chair and, to some extent, myself.
At the Media Research Center, L. Brent Bozell III shrewdly notes that critics of the war in Iraq are citing the work of"an obscure professor named Martin Van Creveld."
Adding to the fun, Bozell reveals the origin of a quote from Creveld to have been a"Jewish newspaper."
The tragicomedy grows a little more, you know, tragically comic with each passing day.
Email nominations for recently published posts about history to davissondave[AT]yahoo[DOT]com, or use the submission form provided by Blog Carnival.
Suitable posts for nomination include: writing about a particular historical topic, reviews of history books or resources, reflections on teaching or researching history. The History Carnival is not just for academics and entries don't have to be heavyweight scholarship, but they must uphold basic standards of factual accuracy. If you have any further questions about the criteria for inclusion or submission guidelines, check out the Carnival homepage.
The fat lady sang for Ben Domenech, a 24 year old editor at Regnery Press, three days after he was hired by the Washington Post into a part-time position as a conservative blogger at Red America. There were complaints about his reference to Coretta Scott King a"Communist" the day after her funeral, but evidence that he was a serial plagiarist, as an undergraduate at William & Mary and a contributor to National Review, sealed his fate. As an editor at Regnery, Domenech has handled books by Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Ramesh Pannuru, and others.
The Emory Wheel reports that both civil and criminal charges pending against David J. Garrow for 3½ years were quietly dropped two weeks ago. The terms of the settlement were undisclosed. Charged with simple battery by a female staff member of the Law School at Emory in September 2002, he was suspended for six months and did not return to campus when the suspension ended. Garrow resigned from the Emory faculty in August 2005, when he took a position as a senior fellow in American history and law at Homerton College, Cambridge.
Finally, farewell to Peggy Appiah -- poet, novelist, and folklorist -- daughter of Sir Stafford Cripps, wife of Joe, and mother of Abena, Adwoa, Amma, and Anthony. Thank you for an extraordinary life and to Eric Alterman for the tip.
In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.
The backdrop for thus quote was the tens of thousands who protested new immigration legislation in the streets of Phoenix.
This Dobbs moment was too cute: a quote from a beloved president on an issue of urgency. I wish that Dobbs had first reflected on the fallacy of what Roosevelt said before using it. This is the worst of 'bad history': choosing a quote that itself warped the reality of its time. Addressing immigrants, Roosevelt lumped together all those who came from a non-European, non-English speaking culture into the same category. Yet many Californios, Nuevo Mexicanos, and Tejanos were not immigrants. They had been in their territories for a long time, becoming Americans by annexation and purchase. Until late in the nineteenth century, these territories were better reached from northern Mexican states than eastern and mid-western American states. The experiences of Mexicans in America up to Roosevelt's presidency were exclusionary, not integrative. New Mexico, the most developed part of the Mexican Borderlands, languished as statehood was withheld--despite the eagerness of the Hispanos to prove their loyalty. Moreover, there is something ironic that Roosevelt, hero of the Spanish-American War, would take this attitude since his actions in war brought about the annexation of so much Spanish-speaking territory; the people whom he conquered would be denied membership in the nation.
Anti-immigrant discourse focuses on the introduction of foreign elements that will corrode American culture. Language is but one of these elements that, in their opinion, is in danger. Not that Americans own English ... even Britains no longer own a language that has been appropriated by many as a medium of globalized intercourse; the purity of English is elusive. But proponents of harsh immigration laws should realize the truth. Spanish has always been spoken here. It is not foreign; it was not imported covertly for subversive purposes. (Indeed, it was a language used to dominate Native Americans as much as English.) Moreover, the ability to speak Spanish was preserved in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (along with all cultural traits.) Calling people who speak Spanish immigrants won't make America a country that speaks only English.
Cross-Posted from Blog Them Out of the Stone Age
A few weeks ago I phoned Leila J. Rupp, Professor and Chair of Women's Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (that's her at left in the photo, accompanied by her long-time partner, Verta Taylor).
Leila is also a former colleague in my department. I selected her as my faculty mentor during my first year as an assistant professor, and she graciously served in that capacity until I got tenure. She eventually became Chair of the Ohio State history department before moving on to UCSB. Even after I became tenured and the department no longer required me to have a formal mentor, I continued to consult Leila for three reasons: 1) she is one of the best all-around professional historians I have ever seen; 2) she is one of the kindest, most fundamentally decent people I have ever met; and 3) where Leila is concerned, I have long been smitten with a slight but unmistakable case of puppy love.
In that respect I differ little from many colleagues, staff, and graduate students who have known Leila, because she genuinely cares for others and, in return, is a widely beloved figure.
I called Leila because I needed her advice about something. She supplied it, and then we briefly updated each other about developments in our respective lives. Among other things I told her about my experiences with blogging. She knew nothing about the medium but grasped at once that I found it a useful tool in my professional life and was therefore all in favor of it. In a follow-up email, she wrote:
And thanks for telling me about your blog, I checked it out and it looks really fascinating. I have one question, a stupid one, how does one find blogs? Do they come up on google?
It's not a stupid question at all.
Globe of Blogs maintains a registry of blogs by title, topic, etc.
Cliopatria has a history blogroll.
Phliobiblon is maintained by Natalie Bennett, a freelance writer and commentator based in London. Her blogroll (the links to other blogs running down the righthand margin of the blog) has a lot of women's history/studies/feminism blogs.
Bitch PhD is an anonymous but very popular blog maintained by a feminist academic. On most days it's a lot of fun to read.
Evidently Bitch Ph.D. particularly tickled her fancy, because her next reply quoted just that snip of my email and said,"Thanks!"
Which could have been the end of the exchange. But I got to thinking about last summer and the whole Ivan Tribble affair -- that was when an anonymous academic wrote two essays for the Chronicle of Higher Education in which he more or less declared that academics who kept blogs (especially those without the protection of tenure) were committing professional suicide. Cliopatria closely covered the reaction of the academic blogging community, so I won't rehearse it here. But I will say that in a cycle of private emails, several of us"Cliopatriarchs" -- that is, those listed on the Cliopatria masthead -- discussed how we might go about educating the non-blogging academic community to this new medium.
At one point, I suggested that it might be worthwhile to ask an academic unfamiliar with blogging, yet willing to approach it with an open mind, to read over a few blogs and offer impressions. People thought it a good suggestion; the difficulty lay in finding someone willing to donate their time and effort. On that matter the suggestion foundered -- until I realized that in Leila we might have just the scholar we needed.
So I fired off another email to Leila:
I wonder if I could ask a favor. I have often wondered about what it would be like to be -- for lack of a better term -- a"pre-blog academic" confronting a blog for the first time. The AHA Perspectives had this piece last year: [Ralph Luker's "Were There Blog Enough, and Time"] And a Harvard grad student wrote this in the Chronicle of Higher Education: ["Do Not Fear the Blog," by Rebecca A. Goetz]
But these are mainly conceptual defenses of the blog as a medium. They don't do much to orient new viewers to the practical issue of actually navigating a blog. Moreover, I think we have yet to think through a"best practices" model of academic blogs that would enable viewers to easily unlock the information they contain.
So the favor I'd like to ask is this. Could I compose a sort of [on-going] online open letter to you discussing these practical matters -- for instance, your question about where to locate blogs. You can ask me actual questions or not as may suit your time and interest. But I have found it helps from a human interest standpoint to discuss these things in terms of real people. So what I'd do is introduce you (and your program at UCSB: blogging functions as good advertising too) and then try to anticipate the questions/issues that would arise were you to explore the world of blogs (the"blogosphere"). I think people would find this useful and it would probably attract a number of helpful comments as well.
Let me know your thoughts.
Leila's response came back swiftly:
Sure, this sounds fine to me. I'm remembering one of the early orientations to -- I don't remember what, the internet? something on the computer. The computer people started talking about something and I remember saying,"OK, let's start at the beginning. I'm in my office. I sit down at my computer. I turn it on." That was the place I needed to start.
So that's the place I'm going to start. In order to keep things as straightforward as possible, I'm going to use my own weblog, Blog Them Out of the Stone Age, initially, for purposes of demonstration. (I'll probably shift eventually to a blog more in line with Leila's professional and personal interests). And for the early letters, I'll keep the hyperlinks and other fancy stuff to a minimum.
Although I will inform Leila of each installment of"Letters to Leila," I will as far as possible try to anticipate her most likely questions, because she's a very busy scholar and it would be unreasonable to ask her always to respond immediately or in great detail to each of these missives.
By busy, I mean to say not only that Leila serves as chair of the excellent UCSB Women's Studies Program, but also advises graduate students, undoubtedly has extensive university and professional service obligations, and maintains an enviable record of productivity, most recently an excellent book (co-written with Verta Taylor) entitled Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret (University of Chicago Press, 2003), which examines the ways in which drag queens" complicate," to use the jargon, conventionally accepted dichotomies of gender (male/female) and sexual orientation (gay/straight). I own a copy and absolutely love it. It's not only great scholarship, it's also a work of great humor, accessibility, and humanity. Indeed, I would recommend it to anyone in any discipline seeking a model of how to produce scholarship that entices rather than intimidates the general reader.
I welcome reader feedback and suggestions. Just bear in mind that this project is an introduction for scholars like Leila who are interested but uninitiated. We don't want craft letters that, in effect, are like asking them to drink from a fire hose.
UPDATE, 5:17 a.m.: The maiden"Letter to Leila" -- Navigating a Blog -- is now available.
Brad,"Leggo My Ego; or, An Exhortation to Conference Presenters," The Weblog, 22 March, thinks outside the box, which btw is desperately needed among conference presenters. After the doctors put me on hormone therapy, I told a friend that the opening line for my next conference presentation would be:"Ladies, I'm having a hot flash!" I figured that would get everyone's attention. Fortunately, I've not had any such side-effects.
Here's the videotape of Pat Robertson promoting David Horowitz's The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. 30-40,000"murderers""killers""sexual deviants"" communists" and"supporters of al Qaeda" teaching your children! I keep trying to figure out how" communists" and"supporters of al Qaeda" would be natural allies. Thanks to Scott Jaschik,"Murderers, Video, and Academic Freedom," Inside Higher Ed, 23 March, for the tip.
At Political Animal, Kevin Drum takes it as a sign of the apocalypse that, in OCLC's list of books most commonly found on library shelves, Garfield at Large ranks #15. Despite that amusement, OCLC's list of the top 1000 books owned by libraries is interesting, if you like lists.
Our research suggests that the concept of “repressed memory” or “dissociative amnesia” might be simply a romantic notion dating from the 1800s, rather than a scientifically valid phenomenon. To test this hypothesis, we are offering a reward of $1000 to the first person who can find a description of “repressed memory” in any written work, either nonfiction or fiction (novels, poems, dramas, epics, the Bible, essays, medical treatises, or any other sources), in English or in any work that has been translated into English, prior to 1800. We would argue that if “repressed memory” were a genuine natural phenomenon that has always affected people, then someone, somewhere, in the thousands of years prior to 1800, would have witnessed it and portrayed it in a non-fictional work or in a fictional character.
Jason suggests looking in the writings of the Marquis de Sade and the records of witchraft trials. Shakespeare might also be a fruitful source to mine. I seem to remember Henry V repressing his memories of a riotous youth with Falstaff, but don't trust me on this as I've largely repressed my memories of reading Henry IV, and I could be remembering Kenneth Branagh's interpretation of Henry V rather than the play itself.
A larger question that Cliopatria's readers might be able to address is a question that is begged by this contest: can we really mine history for evidence of clinical conditions that have only been identified in modern times? It's a question that's also been raised by recent debates on Joshua Wolf Shenk's contention that Lincoln was clinically depressed. The other unspoken assumption, it seems to me, of this contest is that a historical description of a physiological or psychological condition is enough to prove that it is a"natural phenomenon." Not sure that I'm sure about that.
At The Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein and Yale's Stephen Carter explore the fascinating counter-factual possibilities in Senator Robert Taft's proposal for federal equal employment opportunity legislation in 1946.
Scott McLemee is too gracious to shove the point in my face, but he explains why I was a muttonhead for noting John Fund's"Sayed and de Man at Yale," Opinion Journal, 20 March. Fund continues his criticism of the University's admission of Sayed Rahmattulah Hashemi as a special student in"Taliban Man at Yale," Opinion Journal, 23 March. He and others ought to ask the State Department and INS why Mr. Sayed has F-1 status, while his compatriots languish in Guantanamo or why Sayed should be a special student at Yale and Tariq Ramadan should not be a professor at Notre Dame.
Robin Wilson,"A Well-Behaved Scholar Makes History," CHE, 24 March, (subscribers only) features Harvard's Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and her well-wrought sentence,"Well-behaved women seldom make history."
Hillel Italie,"Historian Holds Dual Job of Dylan Buff," Washington Post, 22 March, features Princeton's Sean Wilentz. Thanks to Kevin Murphy at Ghost in the Machine for the tip.