Category Archives: American Studies

December 18, 2013, 10:53 am

Blogging Across the Water: A Response to David Hirsh About the ASA Resolution

harvey-milk-us-postage-stampDear David,

Thank you for your civil and knowledgeable open letter of December 17, and the links you have shared. I hope you like the stamp I chose for my response: Harvey is one of my heroes, both for his belief that democracy can come to all of us and for his belief in moral persuasion.

You are right: I am new to the global debates over the BDS boycott, having been engaged in reading and conversation for only a year. And yet people have to make decisions at political moments, and for a variety of reasons I was faced with one this fall when I chose to come out against the ASA boycott resolution and then came to believe I needed to re-think and change my position. Part of what makes it difficult to engage this debate is that the two sides tend to use the same rhetorical strategies: the extremists yell and name call, the more moderate voices suggest that you don’t know what you are…

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January 20, 2013, 6:02 pm

If Tenured Radical Were Oprah: What I Would Have Asked Lance

Cheaters never prosper. Photo credit.

Now it can be said: I have been a long-term Lance Armstrong skeptic, for one simple reason. Any woman who has gone through menopause, and does not do hormone replacement therapy (HRT), will tell you that the physical changes are dramatic, even for someone who trains seriously. The changes are equally dramatic should you initiate HRT after deciding you don’t wish to live with loss of physical strength and stamina: you puff up like a lovely little balloon, your skin becomes elastic, your energy returns, and your muscle mass increases dramatically.

So I was quite sure that Lance, who had lost a significant portion of his capacity to make testosterone after having a testicle removed, and who returned at a relatively advanced age to dominate an endurance sport, was juicing. I…

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September 3, 2012, 10:51 am

Don’t Mourn, Organize!

These are the legendary last words of Joe Hill — except that they weren’t his last words. According to Peter Carlson’s Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood (New York: W.W. Norton: 1983) this catchy phrase was rewritten from a telegram sent to Haywood in 1915 as Hill awaited execution on trumped up charges in a Utah jail. What Joe really wrote was:

“Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”

But Joe Hill had many more last words. They included a subsequent telegram to Haywood which read:

“Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

Utah is a beautiful state, with some beautiful people in it, but here we are almost a century later and I have got to agree. I don’t want to be found dead in Utah either. If you’ve got to bury me, bury me in a Blue state…

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February 26, 2012, 1:33 pm

Sunday Book Review: Hey Daddy, What Was It Like To Be A Lesbian Feminist in the 1970s?

Jeanne Córdova, When We Were Outlaws:  a Memoir of Love and Revolution (Midway, FL: Spinsters, Inc., 2011), 256 pp. $14.95 paper. Citations refer to locations on the ebook version.

“I have always been fascinated by how a noisy swelling called a social movement arrives on the doorsteps of an individual’s life and how she responds to it,” longtime activist, writer and organizer Jeanne Córdova writes in the forward to her memoir When We Were Outlaws. “Most ignore the calling of the unfathomable energies of our times.  For the rest of us — how does one recognize a social movement when it comes calling at your door?” (115)

Today, being legible as queer or trans does not necessarily require a political community or a movement. Large numbers of GLBT folks seem quite eager to be politically indistinguishable from the heteronormative mainstream, preferring to participate in activism …

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November 15, 2011, 3:47 pm

Rejoining the Parts: A Conversation with Jane Lazarre About Race, Fiction, American History and Her New Novel, Inheritance

Jane Lazarre is a writer of fiction, memoir and poetry who has published many books, beginning with her memoir, The Mother Knot (1976; reissued in 1997 by Duke University Press) and most recently, Inheritance, A Novel (Hamilton Stone Editions, 2011). She has taught writing and literature at New York’s City College and at Yale University; and for many years directed and taught in the undergraduate writing program at Eugene Lang College at the New School.

Tenured Radical: The title of the book — Inheritance — asks the reader to think about what is passed down, generation to generation.  But in the first chapter we are confronted with Sam’s frustration and anger that, as a young woman with a white and a black parent, she knows so little of her family history. We come to understand that our historical “inheritance” not only can’t be taken for granted and but also sometimes requires a…

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May 7, 2011, 1:26 pm

American Studies Declares A Victory Over All Other Fields: Amy Farrell Hits The Big Time

So when folks tuned in to Stephen Colbert on May 4 to get his take on the Bin Laden thing, they also got American Studies celebrity Amy Farrell!  Apparently this is her second time on Colbert discussing the history of obesity.  Farrell’s second shot at the big time was triggered by the publication of her new book, Fat Shame:  Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture.  See both appearances on the Dickinson College website.
How did your favorite Radical become alert to this, since ze has not time to watch TV until the third week in May, and can’t stay up that late under the best conditions?  Facebook, of course.  A really good blog reporter always checks the main feed for news about the people who are “friends” — you know those folks.  They are the people to whom you feel friend-LY — who you don’t really know, and/or who you wish you did know. 
Photo courtesy of Amy Farrell

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October 27, 2010, 1:15 pm

And Now For Something Completely Different: History Department Hosts Skull Session

According to a Salt Lake, Utah, television station, yesterday a package was received by the History Department at the Brigham Young University Campus in Provo.  Upon opening it, an unlucky employee found two skulls packed in bubble wrap.  Sent via USPS Priority Mail, and addressed to “historical department,” there was “no explanation why two skulls were being mailed to the university.”  The police were called, and the skulls have been shipped to the office of the state archaeologist for forensic analysis.  As KSL reports on its website,

The leading theory now is that the skulls are likely those of Native Americans and someone may have decided that possessing the skulls was a bad idea, especially with the recent artifact possession indictments in southeastern Utah. Investigators believe that by sending them to a university, the person thought someone on campus would know what to do with…

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August 3, 2010, 2:01 pm

The Seductions Of Sedan Delivery; Or, Writing Your Own Academic Job Description

It’s difficult to think about it while we still have three to four precious weeks of summer left. But on behalf of all the people who will begin full time teaching in the fall, I ask you to conjure — for a second — a week in mid-semester. Feel the pain as you stay up half the night to grade your papers! Experience the fear as you go into class half prepared! Recall being fatally short of sleep as you sit, dazed, through yet another search committee meeting, having driven yourself unsparingly through 100 applicant files the day before! Conjure the self-righteousness and hypocrisy, as you lecture yet another student that s/he could get hir work in on time if only s/he would get organized!

Yeah, baby. The problem is, there is almost no one I know in academia who has a job description that would give them a reasonable sense of where a professor’s job begins and ends. Couple this …

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November 27, 2009, 10:08 am

We’re Here, Because We’re Here, Because We’re Here, Because We’re Here! Or, Why Disciplines Rule The University Roost

If you are the chair of an interdisciplinary program and see any meetings with deans or provosts in the immediate future, make sure you read University of Pennsylvania sociologist Jerry A. Jacobs’ Interdisciplinary Hype in the Chronicle of Higher Education (11/22/09). It will prepare you for every tired old argument you will have to answer about why your intellectual commitments are not worth supporting. Arguing that there is major pressure for breaking the boundaries of academic discipline (oh, would that this were the case!), particularly driven by federal money aimed at supporting interdisciplinary research in the sciences, Jacobs expresses his view that “efforts to reorganize academe based on interdisciplinary principles would have disastrous consequences in the short term—and would end up reproducing our disciplinary or departmental structure in the long term.”

There’s nothing I…

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June 29, 2009, 4:14 pm

How Will We Write The History Of The Man In The Mirror; Or, Who Was Michael Jackson (To You)?

Last Thursday night, my iPhone — which only works intermittently in the hills of Litchfield County, CT, and only then if you stand in the exact right spot in the house — buzzed to indicate a text message. I looked down. “Michael Jackson died :(” read the message, sent by a colleague and a good friend (the Radical’s agents are everywhere.)

Wow, I thought: and only three days after Judy Garland.

It is good there is no internet where I was, otherwise I would have spent the rest of the evening on my computer looking for the very few details that were (and still are) available. I also missed most of the relentless tributes, as there is no television in this little retreat either. Friday morning I did decide that I needed a New York Times, so I went to the grocery store out in Northford, CT, where I have shopped since about 1986. The woman at the check-out station was weeping, tears…

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