Tag, I'm it–Yo la tengo!

malintzin.jpgOrtho at Baudrillard’s Bastard has tagged me on a bit of bloggy fun.  Here are the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

I picked up Malintzin’s Choices:  An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico by Camilla Townsend (2006).  Here are the selected 3 sentences on p. 123:

“About the same time as the students of the Franciscans were interviewing elderly men who remembered the battle for Tenochtitlan, other friars were supervising the transcription of some of the old Nahuatl songs that had come down through the years.  For centuries, the songs had evolved with each new generation; they were malleable, constantly reflecting the new experiences of the singers and their audiences.  By the 1550s and 1560s, many of them contained references to the Christian god and to other elements of life with the Spanish.”

Not coincidentally, this is a woman’s biography–have any of you out there read it yet?  Any thoughts?  I’m considering it for my early American women’s history class in the fall, and for a historiographical essay I’ve agreed to write.

A pox in your trousers? Not if your Pal MD can help it.

two-sex-woman.jpgHistoriann realizes that she’s been blogging a lot about lady parts recently–my apologies for those of you who don’t have lady parts, or who aren’t particularly interested in getting close to anyone else’s lady parts.  Blame the wandering uterus, if you must, but if you’ve been following the ridiculous public conversation recently on Gardasil, the miracle anti-cancer vaccine that can benefit our students, younger sisters, daughters, granddaughters, goddaughters, and nieces, and all other people with lady parts, you’ll be interested to read our friend Pal MD’s brief review of the latest research at WhiteCoat Underground.  Predictably, instead of rejoicing at the discovery of a cure for cancer, there are a lot of people who are worried that this vaccine is going to unleash the inner slut inside all of our girl children.

Smallpox inoculation in the eighteenth century provoked even more anxiety and fear than vaccination does today in some tiny but stubborn sub-cultures.  In all fairness, inoculation (also known as variolation) was in fact a risky procedure, unlike modern vaccination, which involved infecting a healthy body with live virus to induce a mild course of the disease that would render the patient immune to future infection.  People who were inoculated were infectious to others, and some died from the resulting illness.  Many, many articles and books in the history of medicine that have addressed inoculation, but to my mind, the best of them are explorations of cultural history, and view disease and disease prevention as a window into past worlds.  Elizabeth Fenn’s Pox Americana:  The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 (2001) includes a nice overview of smallpox inoculation in colonial America, in addition to exploring the course of a disease and its effects on a continent.

Robert V. Wells’s essay, “A Tale of Two Cities:  Epidemics and the Rituals of Death in Eighteenth-Century Boston and Philadelphia,” which appeared in a collection called Mortal Remains:  Death in Early America (2003), edited by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein, actually managed to elicit some sympathy in me for Cotton Mather, who although a horrible warmongering racist, was also a pioneering advocate for inoculation.  Mather’s life was tragically deformed by a measles epidemic in 1713, which took the life of his second wife, a daughter, newborn twins, and a servant girl in his household when he was forty.  Eight years later when smallpox came to Boston, he inoculated two of his sons and was rewarded for his brave public advocacy by a “fired granado” thrown into one of the bedrooms of his house, with a note that read, “Cotton Mather, you dog, damn you:  I’ll inoculate you with this, with a pox to you.”  (Fortunately the bomb fizzled, and Mather continued to promote inoculation.)  And there is an almost brand-new book by David E. Shuttleton called Smallpox and the Literary Imagination, 1660-1820 (2007), which includes a chapter about inoculation and the specifically racialized and gendered fears surrounding the procedure, which was first promoted in England by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (herself a possesor of lady parts) after she witnessed its successes on a trip to Turkey (scandalously exotic!) in the early 1720s.     

So, please follow in Lady Montagu’s (and–uuggh–Cotton Mather’s) footsteps.  Fight the woo–get your kids the Gardasil vaccine. 

Friday Captivity Blogging: Colonial Food Network edition

captivity-parents2.JPGWhen I wrote Abraham in Arms, one of the things I found most interesting was the use of food in captivity narratives as a means of criticizing one’s captors.  That is to say, after English people had returned home and sat down to write their captivity narratives, several of them decided to use the food that was shared with them in captivity as proof of the savagery of their Indian captors.  This happened in so many captivity narratives that it was clearly not an accident, but rather a feature of the genre.  English captives chose not to point out that foods eaten on the run in wartime were not in fact normal daily fare, but it’s so much more exciting to tell stories about lurid menus of raccoon grease, boiled horse legs, and deer fetuses instead of corn, beans, and squash.  Besides, it’s easier to reassure your Anglophone audience of their superiority if Indians aren’t portrayed as eating the same things that the English ate.

There are two interesting new books on food and culture in colonial America that Historiann wishes she had had the pleasure of reading before putting her manuscript to bed.  James E. McWilliams’s A Revolution in Eating:  How the Quest for Food Shaped America (Columbia University Press, 2005) is a regionally-structured tour through the kitchens and campfires of early American cookery from the beginning of English settlement through the American Revolution.  (Tips for grad students:  you’ll find here the culinary version of the Anglicization thesis.)  The details he offers about la vie quotidienne have been really useful to me as I’ve tried to reconstruct what might have been on offer for breakfast in a New England garrison town around the turn of the eighteenth century, but his vigorous argument moves the reader forward without wallowing in antiquarian detail.

Next, Trudy Eden’s Cooking in America, 1590-1840 (Greenwood Press, 2006) offers a look at both Native and English colonial cuisine through period recipes.  Seriously–it’s a recipe book, complete with a helpful glossary explaining ratafia, frumenty, saleratus, and other lost ingredients.  I am pleased to see the book, because I have read (and cited) her very fine essay, “Food, Assimilation, and the Malleability of the Human Body in Early Virginia,” in A Centre of Wonders:  The Body in Early America, edited by Janet Moore Lindman and Michelle Lise Tarter (Cornell University Press, 2001), and look forward to more interesting work from her.  Eden’s colonial and early national cookbook is a companion piece to Alice L. McLean’s Cooking in America, 1840-1945 (Greenwood Press, 2006). 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m making dinner tonight chez Historiann, so I’d better go pound samp.

Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations

waves-generations.jpgThis post is a follow-up to the previous discussion of Nancy Hewitt’s AHA paper.  If you are interested in reading more about how universities have changed in the past thirty years as women, queer scholars, and scholars of color have integrated (or infiltrated?) the faculty, see Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations:  Life Stories From the Academy (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), edited by Hokulani K. Aikau, Karla A. Erickson, and Jennifer L. Pierce.  The contributors for the most part are or were UM faculty or graduate students, and span three generations of scholars.  See in particular Janet D. Spector’s essay on feminist archaeology, Toni McNaron’s description of gay and lesbian faculty life from the 1960s to the 1990s, Jennifer L. Pierce’s story of her abuse by one UM department, and her (successful) efforts to fight back, and Roderick A. Ferguson’s “Sissies at the Picnic:  The Subjugated Knowledges of a Black Rural Queer.”  (Sorry–I couldn’t shorten, let alone improve on that title!)  Finally, returning to the this blog’s preoccupation with the exploitation of women’s labor, don’t miss “Innovation is Overtime:  An Ethical Analysis of ‘Politically Committed’ Labor” by Lisa J. Disch and Jean M. O’Brien.  It explains how Corporate University (TM), despite giving politically committed faculty only resistance and no resources, nevertheless benefits from the uncompensated and unrewarded labor of many faculty members because of their commitments to change.  Those Women’s Studies programs and Ethnic Studies departments weren’t there fifty years ago, and you didn’t think they invented themselves out of thin air like the Invisible Village of Peace, Freedom, and Love, did you?

Workers of the Corporate University, Unite!

how-the-u-works.gif Inside Higher Ed has a lengthy article on a smokin’ hot new book by Santa Clara University English Professor Marc Bousquet called How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (New York University Press, 2008). Ever since he was a graduate student in the 1990s, Bousquet has worked to bring attention to the degradation of American higher education caused by the declining numbers of regular (tenured or tenure-track) faculty and its increasing reliance on ill-paid, easily exploitable graduate student and adjunct instructors. Quite cleverly, Bousquet has a blog now by the same name, and it looks like a rich source of information and commentary about faculty working conditions across the spectrum. The Inside Higher Ed article does a good job explaining the book, but you might throw the working man some coin and pick up a copy yourself, or at least order one for your university’s library.

Arise, ye prisoners of starvation, and click on over for a visit. Tell him Historiann sent you.

Drew Faust on NPR's Fresh Air

suffering_200.jpg Drew Gilpin Faust, an important American women’s historian and now president of Harvard University, was Terry Gross’ guest on Fresh Air today to discuss her new book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. You can hear the interview at no charge–just click the link! From her description and Gross’s questions, it sounds like it is an important contribution to the new historiograpy of the body as well as a fascinating exploration of the nineteenth century culture of death–religious beliefs, material culture, and burial practices. Interestingly, Gross asked Faust if her own experiences with breast and thyroid cancer influenced her interest in death as a historical subject. (Her answer? Yes, undoubtedly.) Gross said at the end of the interview that Faust declined to discuss the controversy that led to the dismissal of her predecessor as Harvard president, Lawrence Summers.

I’ve tagged this as a post on bodily modification, in part because of the disfiguring injuries suffered by Civil War soldiers (which Faust discusses in passing during the interview), but also because it was Civil War surgeons who invented the surgical sub-specialty of plastic surgery. There was a small but excellent exhibition on this at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, on the campus of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington D.C. back in the early 1990s. Even now there are (perhaps the same?) permanent exhibitions there on medicine in the Civil War. I remember them as being very good, and very responsible and eighth-grade hygiene class-ish compared to the freakshow at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum. Historiann used to live right around the corner from the Museum, which is housed at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and have nightmares about the giant distended colon on display there.

Abraham in Arms reviewed in the American Historical Review

aina.jpg A review of Abraham in Arms by Sarah Purcell appeared in the December, 2007 American Historical Review, which seems (remarkably) to be available to non-subscribers. (Let me know if the links don’t work for you.) It’s an excellent review that captures the complexities of the argument and evidence (if Historiann may say so herself), although Sarah offers some opinions as to where I might have done something differently or read the evidence another way. But that’s all fair game in a book review. The Journal of American History review of A in A by Matthew Ward (sorry–link for subscribers only) was a rave, so Historiann is satisfied with the judgment of the two biggest journals.