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Showing posts from February, 2014

Vanishing and Secret Apps: approximating ephemerality?

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What we say on the record has changed radically over just the past five years or so.  I think it has also devalued the first-person narrative.  Basic economics, right, 'cause there's an awful lot of it out there.    So, of course, I am interested in how the way we communicate is changing.  There was an interesting article by Hiawatha Bray in the Boston Globe this morning about our reacquaintance with the value of privacy:

"You remember privacy, right? We were quite fond of it until the Internet came along. Then we started handing our personal data to anybody who promised us free e-mail service."   Bray highlights apps like Wickr, SnapChat and Telegram, where ostensibly, the content of your conversations is deleted and erased.  Like a real time conversation, it is ephemeral.  

Fun Home Follow-Up

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A few posts back, I wrote about teaching Alison Bechdel's Fun Home for the first time.  I thought I'd follow up with a few reflections on how that went.





I love students' honesty.  Jabari commented as soon as we opened up the conversation that while he had originally had no intention of reading the book ("I was just going to read a summary",) he got engrossed and actually read it.  There were lots of nodding heads.  Aside from the whole, "I have no shame about telling you that I consider the syllabus purely as a set of vague recommendations," I considered it a win.  Fun Home had them hooked.

And then there's the motley band of students.  Of course, the debate began immediately with whether or not the dad had committed suicide. One student had spent eight years working in a funeral home and was adamant that a professional in the business would never choose a death as "messy" as getting run over by a truck.  "He never would have done that.…

Dialogue with Racial Violence - Really?

So, turns out that three first year students from the Ole Miss chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity were probably responsible for defacing the statue of James Meredith on the Ole Miss campus last weekend.  The chapter's been indefinitely suspended, but not before it voted to expel the students allegedly responsible for tying a noose around the neck of the statue and enrobing it in a flag emblazoned with the Confederate Battle flag.  Their parents must be so proud.

Performing Violence: The Case of the James Meredith Statue

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Imagine being the journalist assigned to call an eighty-one year old man to tell him that the statue of his image, erected close to the site where the governor of his state physically barred his access to college 52 years ago, had been draped in a vintage confederate Georgia state flag, had a noose wrapped around its neck -- in other words, had been symbolically lynched?  James Meredith received calls from journalists this week, after the memorial to integration at the University of Mississippi, Ole Miss, was vandalized on Sunday.

Let's traumatize him again, shall we?  

Meredith's response to the news of what was almost certainly a hate crime on the Oxford, Mississippi campus?  He told Shay Harris of WMCT that the crime confirmed what he already knew, " that Mississippi has a moral character breakdown."

As an historian who thinks a lot about the legacies of painful histories, I was concerned that the media might track down Meredith for his reaction.  To me, the story di…

On Memory and Methodology

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Academic historians tend to have a favorite question for me.  I was recently asked it and I didn't know how to respond. I wish I could say that it is irrelevant to my interests and concerns. However, it actually does matter quite a bit, though it matters differently for me, I think, than it does in the way the askers intend.

 The question is always a very polite and well-intentioned attempt to ask me if I missed the memo that tells historians that memories are untrustworthy as sources of historical information.  "You do know that you aren't supposed to trust memories to be descriptive of actual events, right? Right? OK.  As long as you know."  



"Memory is a poet, not an historian."


Historians tend to criticize the use of remembrance as a source for interpreting the past.  It is OK to discuss people's remembrances and recollections of the past only as long as one does not suggest that those recollections relate in any meaningful way to what actually happen…

Teaching Fun Home as Public History

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I assignedAlison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomicfor the first time in Public History and my students are reading it now. It is an amazing graphic novel that just got turned into a musical.


I assigned it because I wanted to teach something about identity as it relates to the social frameworks of memory and to connect it to the ways in which we localize memories through landscapes, objects and images. I also wanted to do something on family history. 





So, what do I want students to get out of this reading experience?  What questions do I hope they ask and explore as they read the text and examine the graphics?  How do I encourage them to think beyond the coming of age/coming out/coming to terms with a gay dad stories to think about the structure of the text and the relationships between memory and identity?  The things that made the book so fascinating to me actually focused around Bechdel's literary relationship with her father --- she experienced the relationship through …