Not All Humans Are Haters: A Response to Slate’s Rebecca Schuman

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Editor's Note: The author recently received his PhD in Comparative Literature.  Our bad for not updating his bio last time around. Last Wednesday I published a piece on this website about the disdain with which many left-leaning mainstream journalists increasingly treat academic work. Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman immediately responded to the piece in anger, first excoriating me for spelling her name wrong (the error was quickly corrected), and then claiming that I don't have the credentials to write about such topics because I am still only a graduate student. On Friday, she put up a post on her blog "inspired" by the exchange, "Grad Students: I'M TRYING TO HELP YOU, YOU IDIOTS," in … [Read more...]

Journalists vs. Academia: The Case of William Deresiewicz and Lawrence Buell’s The Dream of the Great American Novel

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Everybody seems to have a problem with academics these days.  We've known for a long time that the American right hates us for our intellectual elitism and armchair radicalism, but now the mainstream left-leaning media has also acquired a taste for the game.  A number of recent articles and op-eds in newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic have taken humanities professors to task for everything from their "tin-eared arrogance" (Ron Rosenbaum) to their "bat-shit analysis" (Rebecca Schuman), for being "too sociological" (editors of N+1) and for not paying enough attention to contemporary society (Nicholas Kristoff).  We are condemned for our tenured loafers … [Read more...]

The Process of Belief?: Evolution, Creationism, and “Truth”

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I didn’t watch the debate about evolution and creationism between science educator Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham this past Monday, but I have had a few general thoughts about this topic lately as this seems to have stirred up a necessary conversation about the nature of science. Science is not a belief system.  People mistakenly say that they believe in evolution but that is not an appropriate way to phrase it.  We think that evolution provides the best explanation for the data we currently have on the diversity of life. It is an intellectual process that should be based entirely on what we can observe or measure.  Of course, scientists are people too so they make mistakes in … [Read more...]

Incubating Scholarship and Smart Students: Teaching and Publishing at Community Colleges amidst the New Realities of Academia: Best of AHA 2014, Part 4

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For Part 1 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification - click here For Part 2 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves - click here For Part 3 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform - click here For coverage of other conferences like UHA 2010/2012, AHA 2012, and others -  click here. “It’s like explaining something to a bright ten year old,” Emily Tai, an Associate Professor of History at Queensborough Community College told the audience. Tai, speaking to fellow historians, and … [Read more...]

Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform: Best of AHA 2014, Part 3

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Over the past couple of decades, categorizations like “military history” have undergone numerous permutations. Georgia State’s John Southard ruminated on the state of the field for ToM in 2012 and ToM devotes an entire page to the subject. (There’s even something for the Civil War buffs. ToM has even posted some original research in the area of the military and postwar suburbanization.)  Historians like Roger Lotchin, Ann Markusen, Carol Lynn McKibben, and Andrew Myers have offered new insights into the ways military installations in the South and California have interacted politically, economically, and socially with local cities, towns, and suburbs in which they are located or abut. The … [Read more...]

Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves: Best of AHA 2014, Part 2

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In part II of ToM’s AHA 2014 coverage our correspondents begin with papers on the efforts of Latin American students, workers, and rebels of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970 to use non-violent activism as a means to gain greater rights and autonomy in the face of increasingly repressive regimes.  We end with talks on media bias, conservatism, Rupert Murdoch/Fox News and the NAACP. What does it mean if we have more voices and greater diversity with those appearing in the media, but more and more of the airwaves under the control of fewer and fewer individuals? Remember, we went to the AHA so you didn’t have too.  For Part I of AHA 2014 - Bed-Stuy, The Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus … [Read more...]

Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification: Best of AHA 2014, Part 1

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Going to conferences is one of the great mixed blessings of the academic life.  On one hand, it offers the chance to get away (to New York or LA, or sometimes even exotic destinations like Richmond, VA) and travel, like an Actually Important Person (AIP), sometimes with your department or university picking up the tab.  We get to reconnect with old friends and have more than the appropriate number of drinks--on the pretext, of course, of "getting a feel for the city" (or in Richmond's case, not). On the other hand, there is the actual conference itself--a dreary procession of monotonously recited presentations, ranging from the navel-gazingly esoteric to the merely boring.  And if it's … [Read more...]

13 of Our Favorite Posts from 2013

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2013 was Tropics of Meta's biggest year yet, as we welcomed numerous new contributors (hello LG, Brian, Mark, Jimmy et al) and continued our collaboration with South El Monte Arts Posse, most notably with the East of East community mapping project.  Some of our pieces traveled far and wide online, such as Clement Lime's spirited defense of Howard Zinn.  Ryan's Minutemen piece got tweeted by Mike Watt, who is now our bestie (not really).  In any case, let's take a look back at some of the most interesting writing from the fourth installment of a five-year plan that just can't fail.  (When have five-year plans ever gone wrong?) The Spanish Roots of the 99% Jeffrey Lawrence explores the … [Read more...]

In Praise of Introductions

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Some people will tell you to skip a book’s introduction so that you might form a first impression that is entirely your own — unpoisoned by the academic arsenic of criticism, the blinders of one person’s interpretation, or the dated fashions of scholarly thought. But our palimpsest brains never begin at a book’s beginning. If we approach an introduction tentatively and critically, there’s no reason we shouldn't be able to accept or reject its premises on their own merit, at least to the degree that we could do the same with the premises of the book itself. Bad introductions – such as, say, the ones you’ll find in certain Barnes & Noble editions of public domain books – can still provide … [Read more...]

Dog Days Classics: Why I Love Michael Holt, His Bowties, & the Whig Party

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As an undergraduate student in Professor Michael Holt’s “Coming of the Civil War” class at the University of Virginia, I felt rather lost for the first part of the semester. It was a large lecture class that made it intimidating to ask questions or make comments (not that I would have anyway). Moreover, Dr. Holt was the quintessential university professor – impeccably dressed in a sport coat and bowtie (this was UVa after all) with a shock of white hair – and he treated us as though we already had an intensive handle on the history of antebellum America. Which I definitely did not. The central texts for the course were Holt’s own book, The Political Crisis of the 1850s and Eric Foner’s Free … [Read more...]

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