Teaching queer history in the Ellenic vs. the Ellenistic eras

The Ellenic vs. Ellenistic Eras

Over at Notches, they’ve got yet another excellent description of a panel last month at the 2015 meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City, this time reporting on “Teaching Queer History.”  John D’Emillio described his brilliant periodization for students of queer history:  “Pre-Ellen” and “Post-Ellen.”  Or, to put it in terms of the Classics, we might call them the Ellenic versus the Ellenistic generations.  To wit:

Familiar with the oppression LGBT people faced in the past, the undergraduate students of the “pre-Ellen” generation (before 2001 or so) were thrilled by the stories of resistance to that oppression. By contrast, D’Emilio found the “Post-Ellen” generation (undergraduates coming of age after 2001) more normalized to the idea of LGBT people and less comfortable with the narratives of oppression and resistance. Because of ongoing cultural normalization, LGBT oppression and the resistance movements they spawned seem distant and foreign to these recent students. This shift, D’Emilio noted, is reflected in the students’ own involvement with and awareness of LGBT politics today: while many students know of or attend pride parades, few of them have heard of Stonewall or know its significance.

D’Emilio ended hopefully, adding that while these somewhat more disengaged Post-Ellen-ites were unaware of much of LGBT history, they were nonetheless keen to learn. The clear solution was greater exposure to LGBT history earlier in their education.

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From the mailbag: ConfusedProf needs advice on resignation

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Regrets? I’ve had few.

A reader left a comment on an old post that I thought would be a good question to ask the rest of you in the academic blogosphere, especially those of you who either 1) have navigated a resignation like this, either successfully or unsuccessfully!, or  2) have experience as a Department Chair or Administrator who has dealt with colleagues in this situation before, again either happily or most unhappily.  

Here we go:

Dear Historiann,

I would like to seek your advice about a tormenting situation I live in. I am a t.t. assistant prof who has been in her position for four years. I am unhappy for several reasons: being away from home and teaching courses that are not really in my field among other similar reasons. I have applied to other positions and did not get any interview. I am thinking now of resigning, going home to my hometown, and searching for jobs from there. If I don’t end up landing another academic job, I am fine with leaving academia. I would like to pursue other para-academic interests …..

What are the best reasons to give my institution for my resignation which will allow to keep good relations with them, and would be reasonable to ask them to give me a reference letter or is this an unreasonable request when you leave an institution?

Signed,

ConfusedProf

Dear Confused,

First of all, no!  It’s not at all unreasonable to expect a collegial and positive recommendation from former colleagues, provided that you don’t leave a pile of road apples in your stall on the way out of the barn.  (Your question makes me think we’ve set the bar far too low for collegiality in academic employment if it’s even a question in your mind!) Continue reading

Obligatory comment on this week’s outrage that broke the internets.

Historiann1990Once upon a time, a privileged white guy with writing gigs at various legacy mags and a prominent perch now at New York Magazine wrote an essay warning darkly of today’s “P.C. Police” on our college campuses and the internet because people sometimes say mean things about him and his writer friends (who also have sweet gigs at legacy magazines) on Twitter or in the comments on his articles.  (Or something.)  Full disclosure:  I’ve mentioned his work exactly once on this blog, and it was only to give him a nod of agreement.

There have been a number of serious and productive responses that point out the folly of Jonathan Chait’s claims about the “dangers” of “liberal P.C.,” but also agree with him that arguments among putative liberal allies can be aggravating and sometimes turn on absurdities á la “the Judean People’s Front” or the “People’s Front of Judea,” such as Megan Garber at The Atlantic, or J. Bryan Lowder at Slate.  In other words, they grant that yes, people on the internet are sometimes major jerks.

Yes, people are a-holes in general, and people with blogs are probably on average bigger a-holes than most.  But, for the most part, straight, white guys on campus or on the internet just get criticized or maybe called names, or get told to “check your privilege.”  White men don’t (for example) regularly get calls for their rape and murder, or death threats if they show up to give a speech on a U.S. college campus, which is the kind of thing that happens to feminist women writers on the internet.  A lot. Continue reading

Beyond the Binary: Trans* History in Early America

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Fall 2014 special issue

Rachel Hope Cleves has a detailed and interesting report on a panel she convened earlier this month at the Annual Meeting of the American HIstorical Association in New York City over at Notches: (Re)marks on the History of Sexuality. This panel was an outgrowth of a special issue of Early American History she edited for Fall 2014 on the subject of Beyond the Binaries:  Critical Approaches to Sex and Gender in Early America.

Cleves describes each of the four panelists’ contributions, describing their work on flexibly-gendered or trans* people and describing the conversation among the panelists and the audience on the salience of gender binaries as well as the value of reading trans* identities into the more distant past of early America.  I thought this exchange was particularly interesting on the question of viewing early America as a “golden age” of gender flexibility and trans* possibilities:

Questions from the floor followed, sparking productive disagreements. Questions from Kathryn Falvo, Maddie Williams, and Jesse Bayker, pushed [Sean] Trainor’s observation of the optimistic bent of the special issue. Trainor suggested that variations in the expression of masculinity in early America need not be treated as “assaults” but could be understood as tolerated iterations. [Greta] LaFleur stressed that her attention to the wide-range of non-binary gender expression in early America was not optimistic but intended as a corrective to the paucity of alternative stories. She announced herself willing to work in the speculative mode, not just the declarative. [Scott] Larson went further, insisting that he felt an ethical imperative to make bold claims for trans* history, and to escape the “land of caveats” in which academic history often operates.

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Whatever the reason, it’s your fault.

Via Theresa Kaminski on Twitter (@KaminskiTheresa), we find this McSweeney’s article, “Reasons You Were Not Promoted That Are Totally Unrelated to Gender” by Homa Mojtabai  To wit:

You’re abrasive, for example that time when you asked for a raise. It was awkward and you made the men on the senior leadership team uncomfortable.

You don’t speak up. We’d really like to see you take on more of a leadership role before we pay you for being a leader.

You’re sloppy. Like when you sent that email with a typo. You need to proofread your work.

You’re too focused on details. Leaders need to take the 50,000-foot fighter pilot view. No, I never served in the armed forces, what’s your point?

You’re not seasoned. Oh, wait, you’re 35? Well, you look young. Maybe if you were more mature, like if you were married or had kids (why don’t you have kids, by the way? We’re all a little curious) then we could envision you as being a leader in this organization.

Oh, you do have kids? Well, we’re concerned about your ability to balance everything and you look really tired all the time and I feel guilty asking you to stay late so I just ask good old Tom who’s a great guy and simple and easy to talk to.

You’re argumentative. For example, right now you’re upset that you didn’t get a promotion and you’re asking for concrete examples of what you can do better. I really don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty and you should trust my judgment anyways.

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“Who can you trust?”

Stressed out?  At the end of your rope?  You have to hear this story by Mary-Claire King on the Moth.  King is the American Cancer Society Professor in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Her name probably sounds familiar to you because she was the discoverer of BRCA1, the gene she named that proves that breast cancer is inherited in some families.

I had the honor of meeting King a few times in the 1990s because one of my best friends from college was her microbiology Ph.D. student.  We had a fascinating conversation about mitochondrial DNA (the kind you get from your mother & can use to trace the maternal line), and the possibilities it opened for learning more about Native American history and early American history in general. Continue reading