Would I do it tomorrow?

Why did I agree to do this?

Why did I agree to do this?

Great advice for academics planning next year’s conference and travel schedule, from David Plotz of Slate:

What an honor! You have been asked to appear on a panel, to keynote a conference, to advise a celebrity, to be publically acclaimed. Perhaps you have been offered a plump check. Perhaps you’ve even been promised a prize! Of course you’re flattered. Of course you accept, because you have so much time to prepare. After all, this thing isn’t happening until October. It’s next year. It’s in 2018. It’s so far in the future, you’ll probably be dead by then.

You’ve made a terrible mistake.

Here’s what will happen. Though the engagement seems infinitely far away today, it will eventually, inevitably, be a week away. Then it’s a day away. And you still haven’t written the speech you need to write. You still have to make a hotel reservation and buy a train ticket and find a baby sitter and apologize to your sister for missing her birthday dinner and beg Dan to cover for you in a meeting. (Sorry, Dan.) The opportunity that sparkled so brightly when they flattered you into it six months ago isn’t gleaming anymore. It’s just a gigantic hassle.

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Women’s History & Public History: NWHM update, Berks alert, and the Peg Strobel Travel Grant winner

cowgirlrarintogoI won’t be at the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women this year, but I wanted to alert you to a few sessions in particular that focus on women’s history and public history, the National Women’s History Museum controversy, and finally, the winner of the first Peg Strobel travel grant competition.

First, Sonya Michel has informed me that she has posted a number of relevant responses to the breakdown between Joan Wages, President and CEO of the NWHM, and professional historians at the Coordinating Council for Women in History website.

Second, there are two events that will interest folks gathering in Toronto at the Berks that pertain to the NWHM fracas:

  • Session 123: “Women’s History Meets Public History,” Saturday May 24, 8-10 a.m., University College 144
  • Open Meeting re: Historians and the Women’s History Museum in Washington, DC, Sunday May 25, 9:30-11:30 a.m., University College 44 (lower level)

cowgirl3Third, congratulations to Tracey Hanshew, a Ph.D. student at Oklahoma State University, who won the Peg Strobel Berkshire Conference Travel Grant!  And you will not believe what she’s writing about, friends:  cowgirls! Continue reading

Western Lands, Western Voices: The American West Center at Fifty

AWC50thFrom the Call for Papers I received from the American West Center‘s Director Greg Smoak:

“Western Lands, Western Voices,” a three- day interdisciplinary symposium exploring the past, present, and future of public engagement in the Humanities and Social Sciences will be held in Salt Lake City, September 19-21, 2014. The symposium marks the fiftieth anniversary of the University of Utah’s American West Center, the oldest regional studies center of its kind in the West. Our goal is to bring together college/university and community based practitioners for a lively discussion of the place and power of publicly engaged/applied scholarship in the American West.

Subjects:  We seek submissions from college and university based scholars, community based organizations and institutions, state and local historical and cultural entities, and indigenous Nations. The symposium will engage diverse fields including history, anthropology, political science, ethnic studies, literature, cultural studies, and the arts. We strongly encourage participants and projects that span disciplinary divides.  Submissions from graduate students, early career scholars, and community based scholars are particularly encouraged, as are those that address innovative ways of reaching public audiences. Continue reading

What I saw at the AHA 2014: Who are the ladies?

elvgrenartistHowdy, friends!  I spent last weekend at the American Historical Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.  Here’s what I saw & did, at least the not-unbloglich parts.

  • Tenured Radical and I had coffee on Friday and then dinner on Saturday and spent the whole time figuring out how to silence and oppress more junior scholars, in-between her multiple appearances on the program and her incessant blogging and tweeting about the conference.  Honestly, those of you who want to take her on had better stock up on your Power Bars and Emergen-C, because her energy and enthusiasm for her work online and as a public intellectual are utterly overwhelming.  I’m ten years younger than she is, and I’m already at least a week behind her!  For those of you who are interested, see her three blog reports:  AHA Day 1:  Digital History Workshopalooza, AHA Day 2:  Fun With the Humanities, AHA Day 3:  Remember the Women, and her always lively Twitter feed.  (Excuse me–I have to go have a lie down after just linking to all of that activity.)
  • Clever readers will hear echoes of Abigail Adams’s counsel to John Adams in Tenured Radical’s “Remember the Women” blog post.  I also keep thinking of that scene from Lena Dunham’s Girls in which the character she plays, Hannah, asks the other women, “Who are the ladies?”  (Shosh has been quoting a heterosexual dating advice book aimed at “the ladies,” and Hannah’s question implies that “ladies” is a stupid, made-up, narrow way to talk to real women, who come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities, etc., and both Hannah and Jessa resent being lumped into the notional category of “ladies”–just click the embedded video below.)  That was the essence of Tenured Radical’s question for the women on the “Generations of History” panel she writes about in her AHA Day 3 post when she asked what the panel would have looked like if it had included a lesbian, for example, or even some women for whom marriage and children were never a part of their life plan.
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Peace on Earth! Or, the Christmas that job wiki rage went viral.

Read thisThen this.  Then read this, and finally, this post.  This last post is like a personalized rant from the job wikis, in which everyone with a job is a defender of the oppressive status quo, no one with tenure deserved it, and everyone on a search committee is making decisions with the specific intent to hassle, rip off, or shame the job candidates.

As to the original topic of this flamewar:  I think most of us here can agree that it’s pretty abusive to give people less than a month’s notice, let alone less than a week’s notice that they’ll need to buy a plane ticket etc. for a mere first-round interview.  Regular readers will remember that I am in principle against the convention interview, and urge committees either to use Skype or to dispense with the semifinalist interviews all together and just bring people straight to campus.  It seems to work in other nations and in other fields, but historians and lit perfessers tend to resort to the “but that’s the way we’ve always done it!” excuse. Continue reading

Conference themes: why, dear Lord, why?

Miss Shields says you must write a theme today.

Miss Shields says you must write a theme today.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about conference themes, specifically organizing themes for some of the really big conferences like the AHA, the OAH, the Berks, etc., as opposed to smaller conferences focused on more specific subfields. He wondered why historians bother with coming up with themes, when the themes tend to be so broad that pretty much anyone with a brain can figure out a way of making their research fit the chosen theme, which ends up making the conference about everything and no specific theme in the end. Continue reading

Wednesday round-up: What I saw at the OAH

Attending a big conference like the Organization of American Historians is fun, especially when it’s in an pleasant place like San Francisco in the spring in mid-April.  What I do is so marginal to the OAH conference that I’ve got lots of free time to attend panels and hear how experts in other subfields talk about their work, explore the city with old friends, and go to parties!  Here are some observations and lessons learned, in no particular order:

  • No matter how big the conference, you will never see some people, and you will continue to run into the same people again and again.  Aside from the few early American feminists I kept running into at some of the same panels, over the course of three days every time I strolled through the hotel lobby or some of the other open spaces I saw either Roy Ritchie or Alice Kessler-Harris.  I also never saw a colleague of mine who was there the whole time–not even at a distance.
  • “Early America” now goes through most of the antebellum period, at least according to the OAH.  Stop fighting it, Historiann and others who specialize in anything before the nineteenth century!  I think I witnessed the single paper that included anything on the seventeenth century.  These are now like the Dodo–and not even in much greater evidence at conferences like the Omohundro Institute annual conference.  (Speaking of which:  did you hear that they cancelled their party scheduled for Friday night when they learned that they had booked it in a club that doesn’t offer membership to women?  Good for them, but that’s quite a huge loss on the party, in addition to what’s surely a major donor problem now.)
  • (Aside on the temporal issue:  I keep hearing that The Sixteenth Century Society is a fun group, and their understanding of the long sixteenth century is pretty long, from 1450 to 1660.  Your thoughts?  I was becoming kind of a semi-regular at the Western Society for French History and French Historical Studies, so I’m all for going European if that’s what it will take.)
  • My source inside the Journal of American History editorial board meeting said Continue reading