Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love letter to ourselves from Audre Lorde

 This morning, I am thinking of Audre Lorde.  So, in honor of Valentine's Day, self-care, bravery and voice, I give you the poet who changed the way I see the world when I encountered her:

“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you.... What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language."

I began to ask each time: "What's the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?" Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, "disappeared" or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What's the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it's personal. And the world won't end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don't miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." And at last you'll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
Audre Lorde

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Truth, Truthiness and Trump

I went to a spatial humanities workshop last summer at the National Humanities Center.  The best thing about the three-week seminar was the opportunity to spend time thinking and talking with artists, political scientists, philosophers, literary theorists, language experts and, of course, my fellow historians.

We were chatting after the seminar one evening and the awesomely intelligent Liz Corsun said something that hit me hard.  I am paraphrasing here, but it was essentially this, "Isn't it funny that once women, working class  people & queer people and people of color finally became established and influential within the academy, all of a sudden there was no such thing as truth anymore?  As soon as the marginalized could claim authority through information and evidence, suddenly there were no more 'facts,'  just texts with varying claims to fact?"* 

Funny.  That.

And here we've been, thinking postmodernism and poststructuralism lend themselves to enacting liberatory possibilities.  Multivocality and multiplicity should bend, ultimately, to more nuanced, inclusive, democratic representations of experience and of history, right?  Forget that "hegemonic narrative."  Let's have alternatives!   Following folklorist Henry Glassie's observation that countermemories are often the "resort of people who feel removed from power, the imagination’s parallel to armed resistance," it's been common to applaud the prism, the fragment, the partial.  We liked the non-totalizing, we embraced the variabilty of variousness.  

Ahem.

In the past few months, and certainly since the inauguration of Donald Trump, we have been privvy to the slide of facts.   Facts have been portrayed as simply a matter of interpretation.  This means, in a sense, there are no facts.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Class Discussion Guidelines

I am sharing these class discussion guidelines because I think they are great.  My students arrived at them after a conversation about what makes group discussion helpful, productive and energizing.  They also asked me to make them  lovely and to share them on Blackboard so everyone has a copy.  I am hopeful that they will guide us as we learn together this semester.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

(White) Academia Needs Work

Tiffany Martinez didn't need to add the "white" to her statement that "academia needs work." She experiences the power and exclusion of whiteness all the time. For her, the academy is white.  I hope you've already read her piece, Academia, Love Me Back, but if you haven't, you need to.  Anyone working in the academy needs to.  White people need to.

I needed to.  I know, from my own experiences and my own mistakes, that the worst injury a professor inflicts on a student is the false assumption that work they have submitted is not their own.

That is what happened to Martinez.  She used the word, "hence" in an essay.  Her professor insisted that this was not her word.  They underlined "not" twice.  As in, "no freaking way do you know this word."  Not to mention this young woman is a serious scholar  and can probably out-write every kid in that class.

 The damage we can wreak as professors by making assumptions about students, about their writing, about their ideas is tremendous. As Martinez notes, it can set students back, as their own doubts and feelings of not belonging are codified and wrapped in the mantle of authority.  Of knowing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Look, Mom! Margo on TV!

I had the total pleasure of being on GCTV6 this morning, talking about the Places Project, Monteagle Homecoming and the importance of local and community history. 


Posted by GCTV 6 on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

Who Controls History? Facebook and the "Napalm Girl" Photograph

It is one of the most iconic photographs of the twentieth century.  I would argue that for many, it tells the story of the American war in Vietnam, or the Vietnam War, more eloquently than any other image.  The picture is often called simply, "the napalm girl."

And Facebook decided to censor it.  Because the child depicted is not wearing any clothes.

Because she was burned so badly that she was basically on fire.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Erasing Labor Day?

A friend of mine posted this picture yesterday:

She took it at her dry cleaners.  It led to a very funny thread on her Facebook wall:

"Someone might need a tutorial on holidays?"

"Police?  Well, they are usually unionized, right?"

"Union organizers! They keep us strong and free."

"My shop steward definitely keeps me safe from management."

And it went on from there.  One person made the case that the dry cleaners' experience was directly connected to the events at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York and  made them, possibly, more amenable to learning the stories of America's labor organizing histories. "History is a weapon."


Several people mentioned American flags flying everywhere in honor of Labor Day.  Here in Tennessee, college classes ran on schedule and even the campus post office was open for half the day.

Labor Day seemed a non-event.

Are we erasing Labor Day from our national commemorative calendar?  Are we in danger of forgetting the importance of organized labor to our history?

It is a distinct possibility.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bishop Edward Daly, 1933-2016: May You Find Your Own Heart's Ease, Bishop Daly

Bishop Edward Daly passed away today. He leaves behind a lifetime's commitment to his corner of the world and a faith that expressed itself in innumerable ways.

Priest, bishop, historian, author, writer, archivist,  performance director, radio and television producer, hospice chaplain, brother, friend. He was so many things.

Most of all, he was a decent and a good man.



Thursday, July 21, 2016

Since when were the Gardaí on the other side of the Northern Ireland conflict?

Today, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience announced its grant awards for 2016.



Photo courtesy of SHOUT
One grant was awarded to an organization called  Diversity Challenges, whose mission is "to assist culturally specific groups in integrating community relations principles and considerations within all aspects of their work."

(No, I don't actually know what that means either.)

According to the Sites of Conscience the grant will fund “Voices from the Vault,” a project that collects stories from former police officers in two police forces on either side of the (Northern Ireland) conflict. The work is groundbreaking in the sense that it is uncommon for state agents in any dispute to talk about their experiences."

Ummmm, what?

As a public historian, I tend to dismiss academics who get petty about semantics.  They always seem to have an air of the kid in the front of the room just dying to get the answer right. (The kid waving their hand in the air so hard you think they might pee themselves.)


As an historian of Northern Ireland, though, this term "on both sides of the conflict" jarred.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Low Voter Turnout in Derry Dishonors the Past


According to Northern Ireland elections statistics, only 56% of registered voters in the Foyle District turned out to vote in last month's elections. As an historian of Derry, this breaks my heart a little.

Look at the photo to the left.  Those are real people.  Historical figures, some of them, like Eddie McAteer and Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. Civil rights steward Vinnie Coyle.  Others, probably, not known to me.  And then the faces of the young, the hopeful, the indignant, the worried.  The faces of the civil rights movement.  


Which -- of course -- was in large part a movement for for the right for every adult citizen to have a vote.