When what to my wondering ears did appear. . .

nicholassyrettbut my BFF (and this year, my housesitter), Nick Syrett, who was interviewed on Morning Edition by Renee Montagne on college fraternities sexual assault over the  longue durée.  That guy gets more free media for his book, The Company He Keeps:  A History of White College Fraternities (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2009) than any university press author I know.  UNC Press must love him.  I was impressed by how scholarly the interview itself was–you can see a transcript here, or listen to the interview yourself.

I don’t think it’s just the commenters at the NPR website, but what is it with the need for members of the general public to tell scholars that their research is either unnecessary or irrelevant?  (I’ll leave aside the commenters who resent “the PC odor around this collective guilt-mongering.”  That’s sadly predictable!)  The majority of the commenters today at NPR (so far!) are appreciative of story and seem to agree with Nick that the connections between fraternities and sexual violence is both longstanding and robust, but then someone like Theresa Younis writes, “Research?  Everybody knows that.”  (Eyeroll implied?) Continue reading

“Worlds of Rape, Words of Rape:” Sharon Block on UVA Prez Teresa Sullivan’s public statement on gang rape

No time to blog today–instead do not walk, run! over to Nursing Clio to read Sharon Block’s analysis of the UVA gang rape story and UVA President Teresa Sullivan’s victim-denying and victim-blaming public statement, which focused on the harm to Mr. Jefferson’s University and its “dedicated Student Affairs staff” instead of the victims of rape.

Once again, as Block described so brilliantly in her 2006 book Rape and Sexual Power in Early America, the harm of rape is to men and to historically male institutions like universities, the law, the courts, fraternities, and the like.  And even women–just like Teresa Sullivan!–participate in blaming women victims and protecting men and male institutions.  Yes, indeed:  Block’s book demonstrates that in Anglo-American law then and now, rape is a crime so horrible that it never happens, unless its perpetrators are even more marginal than its victims. Continue reading

John D’Emilio: marriage equality “a sad misdirection?”


Marriage is an institution, and what kind of radicals want to live in an institution?

John D’Emilio, queer history founding father and all-around badass, is unafraid to pee in anyone’s Wheaties (even in his allies’ breakfasts) to make a point.  Via Tenured Radical and the Twitter musheen, John D’Emilio is “Thinking About Marriage” over at OutHistory:

When I think of the long history of LGBT activism in the U.S, stretching back to the post-World War II years, I’m struck by how the periods of most creativity, the periods that involved the biggest leaps forward, were those in which activists most clearly challenged common assumptions and core institutions.  The U.S. LGBT movement was launched by a group of gay men who had ties to the Communist Party and who theorized that “homophiles” were a distinct minority with a special role to play in society, based on their difference.  The Stonewall-era gay liberation and lesbian-feminist movement saw the oppression of queers as thoroughly linked to gender, racial, and class inequalities; it believed liberation would come only if one thoroughly re-imagined and reconstructed the nuclear family; and it sought to make common cause with other radical movements.  The radicalism of ACT-UP that AIDS generated by the late 1980s wanted to remake the health-care system in the United States and provoked a community debate about sexuality and pleasure as key elements of human life.  By contrast, the movement for marriage equality aligns itself with an institution that is not only in decline. It is also an institution that acts as gate-keeper for who deserves key benefits basic to a human’s survival – parenting, an income in old age, health care and insurance, and many more.  Significant and exciting as this campaign has often been, it seems a sad misdirection of a social change movement’s limited resources.

From what I’ve seen, marriage isn’t in decline everywhere–it’s mostly in decline among poor and struggling working-class families.  Bourgeois folks meet in college or professional school and enjoy expensive weddings, and they even seem to enjoy their marriages too in that their divorce rate is also pretty low.  Marriage is now functioning almost as marriage did in the ancien régime among aristocrats, as a system that shores up inherited and accumulated wealth and privilege as well as serving as a gate-keeper to middle-class privileges that really should be entitlements for all of us. Continue reading

Historiann: The New York Times Book Review Interview



Today’s post is was inspired by the interview with James McPherson in the New York Times book review last weekend.  I reviewed that interview in yesterday’s post.  Today, I’ve interviewed myself, and I encourage you to interview yourself too, either in the comments below, on your own blog, and/or on Twitter.  (Be sure to tag me @Historiann and #historiannchallenge.)

What books are currently on your night stand?

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, and some travel guides for southern California.

What was the last truly great book you read?

If you mean a work of history, I’d say Foul Bodies:  Cleanliness in Early America by Kathleen Brown. That’s a book that makes a powerful argument about status and cleanliness, and how women became responsible for both of these things in their families and in the wider world. It’s a book that has tremendous implications about the ways in which body care became intensely gendered over the longue durée, which is something I think about whenever I see a housekeeper, a janitor, an employee of a nursing home or rehab facility, or a home health aide.

Who are the best historians writing today?

In no particular order: Lynn Hunt, Jill Lepore, Annette Gordon-Reed, Natalie Zemon Davis, and Judith Bennett. I could go on, but just reading those authors will keep anyone busy for a few years.

What’s the best book ever written about American history?

That’s a ridiculous question. What the hell is a “best book ever?” What do you think I’m going to say–France and England in North America by Francis Parkman?  Best book in the last century? Best book since 1776? Doesn’t the answer vary according to the fashion of the times and our own tastes? History is constantly being revised and updated by each succeeding generation of historians, so no book can ever be a “best book ever” for more than a few years. Continue reading

Happy Labor Day!


After driving all over L.A. and Orange Counties yesterday to visit friends, I’m taking it easy today.  Here’s a cool Labor Day poster, especially for those of us who work for government.  Enough of the attacks on public sector employees and the small subset of us who are still unionized!  Solidarity forever.

Here’s something I heard while driving around what Southern Californians apparently call “the Southland.”  (Maybe it’s just because I’m an American historian and a professional Yankee by birth, inclination, and residence, but I’d never call anyplace I live “the Southland.”  Just sayin’.): a hilarous segment from Latino USA:  “The Worst Latino.”  Well worth a hearing for anyone who’s ever felt like an inferior member of an ethnic group, political movement, religion, or whatever.  It’s all about interest group boundaries, and how they define us and bring us together as well as potentially alienate us. Continue reading

We U.S. Americans are now beyond parody: guns, race, gender, and parenthood, ca. 2014



Jesus Mary and Joseph.

As I’m sure all of you know already, a nine-year old killed the man who was instructing her in the use of an Uzi submachine gun this week at a shooting gallery in Arizona.  The  juxtaposition of this story with a story from earlier this summer, in which a mother spent more than two weeks in jail for letting her 9-year old girl play in a park by herself while she did her shift at McDonald’s, says it all:  “In America Today, a 9-Year Old Girl Can’t Play Alone in a Park But She Can Play With an Uzi.”

Andy Borowitz satirized the current conversation about parenting and guns yesterday in “Nation Debates Extremely Complex Issue of Children Firing Military Weapons,” but then I open the L.A. Times this morning to find exactly this kind of “experts say. . . “/”others argue that. . . ” debate as to the best way to teach children to use guns in the pages of one of America’s great newspapers.  As though the use of semiautomatic weapons by children is a debatable issue!  Where were the voices of public heath experts, family practice doctors, and pediatricians?  Where were the voices of parents in Chicago, whose neighborhoods are routinely interrupted by gun violence and who fear for the safety of their children just walking to and from school? Continue reading

The Native American & Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) annual meeting needs early Americanists!

Dear Readers,

Historiann here.  Today’s post is from a comment from Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, who teaches in the Department of Transnational Studies at the University of Buffalo.  We clashed a bit around my post criticizing this year’s Omohundro Conference, as she thought that my post overlooked her panel (and it did), but in the end I believe we agreed that we’re both rowing in the same direction when it comes to diversifying early American studies.  

We emailed a bit over the following month, and she graciously agreed to permit me to publish a modified version of one of her comments on the Omohundro post to help advertise the 2015 Native American & Indigenous Studies Association conference.  Alyssa is concerned that very few early Americanists, so far, are involved in NAISA.  So if you are an early Americanist, or anyone working on Native American or Indigenous Studies, read on and consider putting together a proposal for the seventh Annual Meeting of NAISA, which will meet in Washington, D.C. on June 1-6, 2015.  Take it away, Alyssa!

It’s been a few weeks since I jumped into the fray here, and I wanted to follow up with some comments that developed out of a very productive email exchange with Historiann.

I want to make clear that I am invested in opening up lines of communication regarding scholarship among and between those working in Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) and those whose work focuses on the early Americanist period. From what I’ve seen over the past seven years since the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) was founded, there are very few early Americanists who regularly attend NAISA meetings. I’m interested in working to change that and toward that end I helped Coll Thrush organize two sessions around the theme of “Indigenizing Early Modern and Early American Studies” at the 2014 annual meeting of NAISA in Austin. The standing room-only crowds (over 100 people) that attended the linked panel and roundtable seemed to signal that there is a significant scholarly audience for this work and this discussion. Continue reading