Monthly Archive for December, 2009

January Events

Here’s a look at what’s coming up on the LCRM Events calendar in January:

For more details on these events, please visit our events calendar or the event’s website.

If you have an event you would like to see posted on the calendar, please send us an e-mail.

The SOHP on WUNC

The Southern Oral History Program’s Seth Kotch discussed the SOHP, the long civil rights movement, and more on our Triangle-area NPR affiliate yesterday. Listen here.

A New Site for Civil Rights Scholarship

Amicus is a new platform for web-based scholarship (aka online journal) on civil rights and civil liberties. It’s an offshoot of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and seeks to provide reaction to legislation and judicial decisions, pieces on current events, and a forum for dialog on civil rights scholarship.

The site is just getting off the ground, but it’s a well-presented online space, and will provide an interesting measure of whether or not legal scholars, who will presumably form the bulk of their contributors and readers, will dive into the online environment and participate in the kind of debate they hope to foster.

Lawyers are perhaps more comfortable arguing in public than are historians. Historians, at least, are used to letting their debates trickle out over months and years, largely because if you want someone to listen to you, you have to publish your side of the story in a peer-reviewed journal or book (“monograph”) printed by a leading press. That process takes time. Not to mention the speed bumps presented by professional standards: the belief in critical dialog, rather than flaming, and the need to acknowledge that conflicting perspectives are the meat of historical scholarship.

Historians, too, are trained to believe that part of the seriousness of what we do springs from long and careful deliberation over complex questions. Anyone following President Obama’s process of deliberation over sending tens of thousands of troops to war, and watching the press and the President’s critics squirm during his progress like kindergartners in need of a bathroom break, knows that in general, long and careful deliberation over complex questions is out of fashion. Less true in academia than elsewhere, but more true in academia today than ten years ago.

So we’re in a bit of a bind. Becoming a historian requires rejecting the kind of knee-jerk, from-the-gut reactions that are required by the newish modes of thought and technologies that we increasingly believe we are required to master in order to make money and be successful. A young historian without a website and a clever blog is at a disadvantage on the job market at a time when no one can afford the slightest disadvantage.

The application process itself, it should be noted, demands the kind of condensing most newly-minted Ph.D.s spent years weaning themselves from … the equivalent of tweeting your dissertation. And the job itself, should you be lucky enough to receive one, requires skills you possess only if you are born with them. As Louis Menand writes in his terrifying The Marketplace of Ideas (portions reprinted here),

“at the end of a long, expensive, and highly single-minded process of credentialization, [humanities professors] are asked to perform tasks for which they have had no training whatsoever: to teach their fields to non-specialists, to connect what they teach to issues that students are likely to confront in the world outside the university, to be interdisciplinary, to write for a general audience, to justify their work to people outside their discipline and outside the academy. If we want professors to be better at these things, then we ought to train them differently.”

Menand ends, though, with a cautionary note: academics need to rethink how they do things, but “they need to ignore the world’s demand that they reproduce its self-image.”

Upcoming Conference: 50 Years after the Sit-Ins

This coming January, scholars will reflect on “the role of protest in social movements and law reform.” The conference features a very sold line-up of panels and panelists, including Risa Goluboff, author of The Lost Promise of Civil Rights, and keynotes by Julian Bond and Charles Sherrod. Take a look and register here. (h/t Mary Dudziak)

Civil Rights Newsflash

An upcoming GAO report on civil rights during the Bush years yields some unsurprising results: the Civil Rights Division of Bush’s Justice Department was heavily politicized. Here’s the story from the New York Times.

December Events Round Up

Here’s a look at what’s coming up on the LCRM Events calendar in December:

For more details on these events, please visit our events calendar or the event’s website.

If you have an event you would like to see posted on the calendar, please send us an e-mail.