Hands Across the Web: Thanksgiving Shout-Outs

November 28, 2013, 11:46 am


After some posts Tenured Radical feels like the main course

Back in 2007, I handed out turkeys on Thanksgiving to the biggest dumb-a$$es in education I had encountered that year. Ah, but I was so much younger then; I’m older than that now. As I woke up this morning, I had this conversation with myself:

Tenured Radical: (slams a cup of coffee down on the bedside table) Yo, dude. Time for us to give out some of those good ol’ TR Thanksgiving Turkeys! You remember, that round-up of people who have made fools of themselves in some way? What better year than this one?

Claire Potter: (not yet fully awake) Are you sure? After everything that has happened in the past couple weeks, do we have to be vengeful? It’s been kind of unpleasant around here and I think we need to change the mood. I mean, we’ve ended up on some turkey lists ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a book to write, and would like to retire from some enemies lists. You should what has been coming through on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. There’s been some good stuff, sure, but I don’t show you the hate mail, the death threats or the nasty comments (starts to wake up and get pi$$ed off.) I mean, HERE’S ANOTHER FINE MESS YOU’VE GOTTEN ME INTO, OLIVER!

(Now we are glaring at each other, and we shout in unison:)

CP: White Moderate!

TR: Zionist!

(For these are a few of the things we have been called lately, even though we are puzzled about what is inherently wrong with being white and moderate, and we are quite sure we do not have the book-larnin’ or political background to be a Zionist. It seems we are thinking with our lizard brains now, a common problem IRL and in virtual reality. The silence is eventually broken, because, of course, we are the same person. Something has to change, and I break the ice.)

CP: OK! Enough.

TR: I’m sorry. I get a little excited sometimes, and this split personality thing is confusing. Can we just figure out something we agree on?

CP: It’s what I’ve been trying to do for a week and a half. What do you suggest?

TR: What about a post totally full of positive energy? Instead of giving out turkeys we could recognize people we like, admire and appreciate? So let’s choose a few people who deserve special thanks for their efforts to engage, teach and push difficult conversations forward.

CP: I think that’s a great idea, even though I have to take the time to write it and find all the links because you are a fictional character. See, I’m not as dumb as I look.

So here is the list of people we are giving thanks for in  2013:

  • Eric Grollman of the University of Richmond and Sonya Satinsky of the University of Kansas, who are the editors and chief bloggers at Conditionally Accepted: A Space for Scholars on the Margins of Academia. They are young academics who think it’s important to speak out and not shut up. I really admire that. Nobody describes their blog better than they do: “By creating this site, we hope to provide a space for academics who exists at the margins of academia. We will provide news, information, personal stories, and resources for scholars who are, at best, conditionally accepted in the academy.  Conditionally Accepted is an anti-racist, pro-feminist, pro-queer, anti-transphobic, anti-fatphobic, anti-ableist, anti-ageist, anti-classist, and anti-xenophobic web community.” It’s wicked smart, and addresses a lot of the hottest topics in academia. I’m adding it to the links in 2014.
  • Another thank you, and link addition, goes to Suey Park of Critical Spontaneity. Suey is a graduate student in Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University and an amazing, powerful writer interested in hard questions. I discovered her blog last week via Twitter and was happily distracted for over an hour while I combed through her posts (as an aside, the design is beautiful too.) Intersectionality is at the heart of Park’s critical practice, and I think she’s going to be one of the hot blogs of 2014. You can read an interview by Arturo R. García, where Park talks about her work, at Racialicious (September 11, 2013).
  • Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Chair of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, who we at Tenured Radical first met when he was finishing his dissertation in American Studies at the University of Texas. Well, we weren’t surprised when his book, The Googlization of Everything — And Why We Should Worry (University of California Press, 2011) pioneered early critiques of the Internet utopia.  Siva continues to be one of the kindest, sanest, smartest and funniest voices on and off the web. And he has a really cute puppy too.
  • Chiwetl Ejiofor, Lupita N’yongo, and the entire cast of actors who played enslaved African-Americans in 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013). As you are celebrating today, remember that by the time of the first Thanksgiving in 1621, slavery was well established in the Americas. The first African slave in an English colony had arrived in Virginia in 1619; the Puritans, having pushed those indigenous inhabitants of coastal Massachusetts who survived European diseases and guns into what was then the western frontier, would write slavery into their own laws by 1641. Thanksgiving was established  as a national holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, as African-American men, women and children were crossing into Union lines in increasing numbers to aid the war effort that would make their emancipation legal. You are going to see it all over academic Facebooks that 12 Years a Slave may be the best film about American slavery ever made, and I think it is. But what I would like to honor these actors for is the courage it took to inhabit these roles, which required them to feel a level of trauma and emotional conflict that I have rarely seen on the big screen and that took my understanding of the past to a new level. This movie was a bigger project for everyone involved than just a normal Hollywood money-maker, with crisp and nuanced attention to important historical questions about what it meant for blacks to survive, and whites to prosper, under a slave regime.
  • Historiann. Words do not describe. Jim Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, is a pillar of sanity and a great addition to the friends roster. Finally, while we are thanking friends whose counsel, righteousness and sanity are without peer? I am not naming you, but my Downtown Sister who called last week at exactly the right moment? You know who you are. I am paying for lunch, okay?
  • What is it with these cool, bloggy westerners? Jonathan Rees of Colorado State University-Pueblo, blogging at More or Less Bunk, has been kicking it lately on MOOCs (you have to love a man who illustrates a blog post with Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch.) But this is only the latest in a stream of Rees’s great pedagogical interventions. Rees’s Teaching History with YouTube (Perspectives on History, May 2008) anticipated what would become common sense only a few years later: that there are wonderful primary sources all over the Internet, and that they can transform our teaching.
  • A shout-out to one of the leading lights of the Left Coast: David Delgado Shorter, a brilliant Native American Studies and film scholar at UCLA, who has contributed smart, ethically engaged counterpoints and provocations on this blog about hot topics. It has been amazing to watch David develop his career, and I have come to rely on his counsel, friendship and interventions to push my own thinking forward on things we agree, and disagree, about.
  • And speaking of people I learn from and would kill to meet: Adeline Koh, Director of DH@Stockton, assistant professor of literature at Richard Stockton College, in New Jersey, and currently on a visiting fellowship at Duke. She is a contributor at the CHE‘s ProfHacker, the creator of the historical role playing game, Trading Races, and one of the best young activist minds working in digital humanities today.
  • Cathy Davidson, a scholar of the history of technology at Duke University, and appointed by President Obama to the National Humanities Council. You probably know her as the dean who gave iPods to Duke University first-years in 2003. She is also a great answer to the question: “What happens to little girls with ADD when they grow up?” They become path-breaking DH scholars, that’s what they do. Whether you care about digital humanities or not, her book, Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century (2011) should blow your mind.
  • Last but not least: to those commenters at Tenured Radical who know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. Part of what it means to be a blogger is to put up with a lot of $hit. It’s part of my job. Sometimes I learn from it, sometimes it helps me think about something I thought I understood from a new perspective. That for me, is what scholarship is about: when people keep talking, and really listen, things change. To those of you who listen, who respond and who prefer shades of grey to black and white: I salute you, and I hope you see that, over time, I am becoming more like you and this blog is better for it.

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