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.

Where the Girls Aren't (because they're not getting paid, dammit!)

practice-of.gif Hot off the presses-in both cloth and paperback-Historiann’s latest article is now available in The Practice of U.S. Women’s History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues, a collection of essays edited by S. Jay Kleinberg, Eileen Boris, and Vicki L. Ruiz (Rutgers University Press, 2007). (See the table of contents.) It’s the first article I’ve ever co-authored with a colleague, and I’m grateful to Trevor G. Burnard of the University of Warwick for inviting me to work with him. It’s only his expertise as a Caribbean historian and historian of slavery that allowed us to make a larger argument about women’s labor in the New World, and to include the critical contributions of African women to colonial societies.

Our essay, prankishly titled “Where the Girls Aren’t: Women as Reluctant Migrants but Rational Actors in Early America,” offered me the opportunity to work out some arguments about the transhistorical and transcultural expectation for women to volunteer their labor rather than get a paycheck. We argue that European women’s unwillingness to migrate was enormously determinative of the racist, violent, and exploitative character of North American colonial societies. Although they desperately needed European women’s labor, colonial entrepreneurs offered no incentives to European women to move to America, and in fact demonized those few who volunteered for Virginia or New France as women of loose morals and low character. (Some men, on the other hand, were offered land or cash incentives to migrate, and no men were called names for attempting to improve their material circumstances by migrating to America.) Accordingly, colonial societies turned to the stolen labor of hundreds of thousands of African men and women to fill the gap.

The rest of the book is full of fascinating essays by both established and emerging scholars, and it should become essential reading in upper-level American women’s and gender history courses and on grad student reading lists. See especially the essays by Gail D. MacLeitch, “‘Your Women Are of No Small Consequence” on Native American women, Susan Armitage’s “Turner’s Ghost” on Western women’s history, S. Jay Kleinberg’s and Inge Dornan’s “From Dawn to Dusk,” on women’s work in the antebellum U.S., and Susan-Mary Grant’s “To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds,” an impressively thorough but concise review of women and the Civil War. There is a series of essays in chapters eight through twelve that further explore the themes of imperialism, race, labor, and migration by Laura Briggs, Shirley Hune, Donna R. Gabaccia and Vicki L. Ruiz, Leslie Brown, and a second essay by Vicki Ruiz again, and an excellent survey on sexualities by Leisa D. Meyer.

Dolls are fascinating and creepy, always

In the course of doing some research on childhood in the early eighteenth-century (more on that later), Historiann came across a fascinatingly creepy photograph of a doll that is apparently the oldest rag doll preserved in any American museum. (See the amazing web site developed by Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, Massachusetts.) She became more mysteriously creepy when I learned that her name was Bangwell Putt, and that she was kept by her blind owner over the course of her lifetime that spanned the 1760s through the 1840s:

Bangwell Putt, ca. 1770, at Memorial Hall, Deerfield, Massachusetts (memorialhall.mass.edu)

Bangwell Putt, ca. 1770, at Memorial Hall, Deerfield, Massachusetts (memorialhall.mass.edu)

captain-scarlet.jpg Captain Scarlet, the indestructible foe of the Mysterons

Bangwell Putt made me think about the Lonely Doll books by the enigmatic oddball Dare Wright, and Gerry Anderson’s Captain Scarlet TV series, which were some of the most interesting artifacts of my own childhood. Both creations were based on the photography of dolls as actors in stories.

edith-lonely-doll.jpg Edith, the Lonely Doll edith-and-little-bear.jpg Edith and Little Bear

Captain Scarlet and Edith, the so-called Lonely Doll, have very little in common, aside from being dolls. Captain Scarlet, who “fate has made indestructible,” is the star officer of Spectrum, an international high-tech defense force that works to save Earth from the evil designs of the Mysterons. (Actually, Spectrum seems for the most part to work for a quasi-United Nations organization.) The stories are pretty transparent Cold War fantasies inspired by James Bond movies–Captain Scarlet looks like Billy Zane (when he still had hair), and his voice is a really bad Cary Grant impersonation. All of the “actors” in Captain Scarlet are Ken- and Barbie-scale dolls (or perhaps marionettes), and the animation is crude compared to the digital perfection studios can offer today. But in a way, their obvious doll-like qualities–their stiffness of movement, their precisely tailored tiny clothes–is what makes the show utterly fascinating. It’s like being a fly on the wall to your own games of childhood make-believe, only with unbelieveably realistic and extremely cool sets, equipment, and accessories–my Barbie FriendShip (ca. 1973)-a-go-go. (Check out this unbelieveable fan site, complete with back stories for all of the characters, Spectrum Headquarters.)

In contrast to Captain Scarlet’s dangerous world of secret agents and faith in technology, Edith and her friends Mr. Bear and Little Bear offer domestic tales in a lower-tech setting in black-and-white still photography. In The Lonely Doll, the first book in the Lonely Doll series, Edith is a felt doll with an extensive wardrobe, and she lives alone in midtown Manhattan in her own apartment with a terrace. The bears just show up on Edith’s terrace one day, and Mr. Bear becomes a surrogate father while Little Bear serves as a surrogate little brother. When left alone one day, Edith and Little Bear discover a secret dressing room full of grown-up women’s clothes that Edith was apparently unaware of although it’s her apartment they all live in. They play dress-up and experiment with lipstick, and when they get caught Mr. Bear administers a thorough spanking (although no one ever explains why Mr. Bear might be keeping a mysterious closet full of women’s clothing and shoes). Once again, it’s not the story that’s so interesting, but rather Dare Wright’s moving and evocative photography of her own childhood doll with the two teddy bears, posed in imaginatively designed sets in Wright’s own midtown apartment. The fact that Edith and Wright shared the same hairstyle in the 1950s and 1960s and had very similar wardrobes is another somewhat disturbing detail–Jean Nathan’s The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll documents all of the ways in which Dare Wright’s creation was very much a projection of herself and her own unresolved family conflicts and childish fantasies.

Perhaps dolls (and our memories of dolls) allow us all to work out family conflicts and childish fantasies. All I know is that when my mother got down my suitcase full of old barbies about five years ago, my sister-in-law and I were magnetically drawn to them. We both reached in and started dressing them up, posing them, and making them “walk” and “talk” again after twenty-some years of neglect.

Abraham in Arms on Steve Goddard's HistoryWire.com

Many thanks to Steve Goddard’s HistoryWire.com for noting that Abraham in Arms is now available in paper for the low, low price of $22.50.  It’s loaded with action-packed stories of war, village raids, captivity, daughters lost forever, brothers in arms, grieving parents, macho insults, and intercultural cross-dressing!  Colonial American history the way it was never told to you in school!  And fortunately, the Marxist feminist cant is kept to an absolute minimum. 

 While you’re in the buying mood, click on over to History Wire.  Steve features a very eclectic book list, and updates it almost daily, which means he must read a hell of a lot.