Celebrating MBN, Ithaca, Sept. 28-29, 2012

I heard a rumor recently that Mary Beth Norton will retire from Cornell University this year*, and I was delighted to hear that she’ll be honored at a conference organized by a few of her recent students.  (Apparently, some special people got e-mailed invitations already; I guess mine must have fallen out of one of the fiberoptic Pony Express intertubes in Nebraska, or something!  Thanks to reader Perpetua for bringing it to my attention.)

On Friday, September 28th, participants will gather at the A.D. White House for a series of sessions inspired by distinct aspects of Professor Norton’s scholarship and teaching. That evening, attendees will continue the celebration at a catered reception at the Johnson Art Museum. The conference will conclude with a morning roundtable and brunch on Saturday, September 29th. If you are interested in contributing a brief paper to one of the sessions, please email Molly at mwarsh@tamu.edu or Susanah at ssromney AT gmail DOT com.

The conference is being organized by two of Professor Norton’s former students (and now historians), Susanah Shaw Romney, PhD ’00, and Molly Warsh, BA’99. The event has received generous support from Cornell’s History Department; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Society for the Humanities; and numerous other on-campus and off-campus entities.

You can go to the conference blog and sign up for updates by entering your e-mail address.  I hope that Mary Beth will get a good audience for this event–she has always been among the most enthusiastic of women’s historians, and a very generous mentor and colleague to junior scholars like me.  Continue reading

Academic conference etiquette: do we haz it?

I’ve been hearing rumblings from different friends and colleagues lately about an erosion in history conference etiquette specifically focused on the performance and attitude of speakers on conference programs.  The complaints usually fall into two categories:  first, participants aren’t sending their papers to panel chairs commenters with sufficient lead time, and/or they’re sending 40- or 50-page article or chapter-length discussions rather than 10-12 pages that can be read adequately in 20 minutes or fewer.  Second, panelists and roundtable speakers–and some Chairs and commenters too–aren’t crafting their papers or comments to fit within their allotted times, and are taking time away from fellow panelists and/or the time allotted for audience discussion. 

One colleague mentioned that ze is shocked to see this behavior not just among eminent senior scholars–who were traditionally (if still resentfully) permitted more leeway than junior and/or more obscure scholars, but among very junior scholars and even among graduate student presenters.  Ze wonders, “Is anyone training graduate students in professional conference etiquette any more?”  But, to be clear:  the erosion of etiquette is not something my friends and colleagues or I are blaming on graduate students–this is an observation about the overall decline in conference etiquette by people at all levels of the historical profession.

I’ve always thought that one needed to respect deadlines (or at least communicate to your fellow panelists if you must miss a deadline) and time restraints in deference to one’s audience.  (NOTE:  I’m not claiming a perfect record here myself.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever been egregiously late!  At least I’ve never been publicly scolded by the commenter at the conference with the totally reasonable remark that “Professor Historiann’s paper didn’t get to me until very late, so I don’t have prepared remarks on her paper.”  Commenters have the right to refuse commenting on very late papers.)  If an audience has assembled to hear what I and some other scholars have to say, we owe it to them 1) to complete our remarks in a timely fashion, and 2) to permit them plenty of time, after sitting politely for an hour and a half, to add their thoughts or ask us questions.  Continue reading

Skype interviews to supplant big conference interviews?

Lynn Lubamersky, an Associate Professor of History at Boise State University, makes a pretty good case for using Skype instead of flying faculty and grad students around North America to (usually) northern cities in early January:

[S]ome history departments like mine have tried Skype to do initial screening interviews, and I think that it is a much more humane and effective method of seeing who is best for the job. At first, I thought that using Skype was useful because it is free, but that we should return to the AHA when the economy improves. But now I feel that interviewing via Skype is a better way to find the best job candidates.

Why? Because job-seekers are not required to travel across the country and the world to pay for the opportunity to be interviewed, and they have more control over the presentation of self. Instead of all the candidates appearing relatively the same in a sterile environment, the job candidates interview in their own offices or even kitchens, taking the opportunity to position themselves to best advantage.

I’m with her entirely–using Skype saves everyone’s time, money, and carbon emissions to boot.  And I think the arguments about the greater economic justice for using Skype make it an absolute slam-dunk.  I’ve been on search committees that wanted to inteview people at the American Historical Association’s annual convention, but because of a candidate’s recent surgery, recent or impending childbirth, or perhaps because of plain ol’ poverty, some prospects were unable to meet with us there.

But with respect to Lubamersky’s last point about the charm of seeing people in their home or work environments–I’m a little whingy about considering that at all when considering someone for a job: Continue reading

Classy Claude's report from the Berks

Good morning, friends.  Although I didn’t make it to the Fifteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, my faithful reporter Classy Claude did.  (Does this guy get around, or what?  Some of you may remember Claude’s other reports of recent AHA and OAH meetings.) 

I’m back!  In light of Historiann’s absence from the Berks – and needless to say, she was missed by many – her faithful conference reporter Classy Claude is happy to offer readers a snapshot of one conference-goer’s experience. Obviously a conference is different for different people, depending on sessions attended and so forth, but I will recount some highlights. 

This Berks quite literally got off to start with a bang.  There was a crazy thunderous storm on Thursday afternoon (hail in some places!) as the first sessions were getting underway, as many attendees were taking advantage of tours through local historical sites, and as Classy Claude was doing a little work at the Sophia Smith Collection at nearby Smith College.  All of these opportunities had been coordinated with, or organized by, the conference planners.  Thus, one real highlight of the conference was the opportunity to take advantage of these nearby historic sites and local archives. 

The conference was located on the UMass-Amherst campus, primarily in the Campus Center, which itself houses a hotel (where many of us stayed, though rumor has it that rooms booked up quickly) and was connected via various passageways to the Student Union and a parking garage.  Because the weather was rainy on a couple days (Saturday also), this had the effect of making sessions not in the central complex more sparsely attended.  I found this to be so in a session I chaired and one I attended about young women and premarital pregnancy (which included Historiann’s blogging pal, Knitting Clio).  Continue reading

Off to the Berks!

And don’t expect me to liveblog it–I’ve got too much to do meeting up with old friends and making new ones in the meat world this weekend.  It looks like central Massachusetts is going to be a stinkbox today–with drier and cooler weather on the way for the weekend.  Yay!  Tenured Radical has a nice preview of what’s going on, and I’m sure she’ll have lots to report about the weekend after it’s (mostly) all said and done.

For those of you who will be joining us at the Berks:  watch for the cowgirl boots, and say “hi” if you feel like it!  Continue reading

The intellectual value of being wrong

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

Deep in the Heart

Howdy, folks!  I made it to Austin, Texas last night for an intense conference here over the next two days, Centering Families in the Atlantic World co-sponsored by the Omohundro Institute and the Institute for Historical Studies here at the University of Texas.  And then Thursday afternoon, I’ll be talking about this here blog at the Symposium on Gender, History, and Sexuality in a talk called “Cowgirl Up,” in which I’ll address some important eternal questions of the academic feminist blogosphere, such as Continue reading