Having already devoted my two last posts to John Pepall's attack on "university historians", I don't wish to go on beating a dead horse. But inasmuch as I find his take on the nature of history's relevance misguided, and his understanding of history as an academic discipline factually incorrect, I am loath to leave the subject on a wholly … Continue reading What’s the Use of History? A Postscript
Continued from here. For Pepall, then, the relevance of history to any member of the public is rooted explicitly, indeed exclusively, in that person's identity -- an identity conceived, moreover, in terms of birth, nation, and a kind of essential ethnic continuity ("some of what happened [in Sumer] is with me still"). Yet Pepall is at … Continue reading What’s the Use of History? Part 2
So asks John Pepall in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of the Dorchester Review. Not that he really thinks there's any question. As he informs us on page one, The use of history, the only use of history, is its being known and understood by the general public, those of us who are not historians, not producers … Continue reading What’s the Use of History?
Forgive the self-indulgence of a post about my writing; but it's my birthday, and I'll cry if I want to. The hiatus in posts here began as a way of dealing with grading and continued as I shifted gears to the early summer "return to research" that begins in May and lasts... well, not long … Continue reading The Dreaded Second Book
One of the many things no graduate school teaches you is how universities work. Because of this it can take many years, even on the tenure track, to figure out exactly what your position entails in the way of power and responsibility within the institution that employs you. Moreover, since your encounters with this aspect of … Continue reading Governance
In light of this recent Chronicle Vitae piece by Jonathan Rees, on the ethical dilemma posed by leaving a job, historian and blogger John Fea asks about the limits of faculty members' loyalty to their institutions. I started writing a response to his post, but one thought followed another until I'd written more than a "comment" should … Continue reading Loyalty
The anniversary of my first post on this blog comes as friends and colleagues again debate the merits, costs and consequences of various forms of academic engagement with the public. This time the occasion is the forced resignation of Andrew Potter from the directorship of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, in the wake … Continue reading Universities, Academic Freedom, and the Advertising Imperative: Thoughts on the Potter Case
When stupidity and mendaciousness rule the roost it is hard not to think that something has gone wrong with education. The last year -- probably much longer, but it was about a year ago that this piece appeared, and I've seen several like it since -- has seen a lot of accusations being hurled along … Continue reading Historians, Public Intellectuals in Waiting
A distinguishing feature of academic life is the sense that one's job and one's work are in perpetual conflict. This is most obviously and damagingly the case for the vast majority of part-time or adjunct academic staff, whose jobs are insecure or insufficient to make ends meet (let alone pay for research or time to write); … Continue reading Saying Yes to Academic Service
Many colleagues and friends whose ethical and scholarly judgment I greatly respect are calling for an academic boycott of the United States. Or, more specifically, a boycott of US-based academic conferences, which are probably the most frequent form of professional contact many of us have with US soil. A petition is doing the rounds. I waver on this both … Continue reading Against an Academic Boycott. For Now.