Duke Contingent Faculty Speak Out for Fair Wages in Open Letter

We have been asked by organizers from Duke University's union for contingent faculty to publish this open letter, which speaks to Provost Sally Kornbluth about their frustration with ongoing negotiations with the university administration. Many of us at Tropics of Meta have experience with the labor movement, including the efforts to gain union representation for graduate student employees and adjunct instructors at a number of universities.  We believe strongly that the crisis of both academic employment and quality higher education can only be solved by workers themselves having a strong voice.  Otherwise, college and university administrators will continue to take advantage of academic … [Read more...]

Four Years Later: What Can We Say about Democracy in Tunisia?

When major world events occur, observers and analysts are often quick to jump to speculative conclusions – aided by the ever-presentist media – about the meaning of the event and its long-term ramifications for international politics. So, in December 2010, when a Tunisian street vendor called Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated and sparked (sorry for the cheap pun) the so-called “Arab Spring,” quickly leading to the ouster of ossified autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya, there was an unsurprising glut of punditry offering what would ultimately amount to be a false prescience. While the shortsighted lauded the “birth” of democracy in the Arab world, more circumspect observers … [Read more...]

Beyond the Bakesale: PTAs, Education Reform, & the Best of UHA 2014, Part 1

Several times a year, the intrepid reporters of Tropics of Meta follow the academic conference beat, checking out panels on everything from the Illuminati to Asian American basketball leagues and sissy rap. At their best, conferences offer a window into the freshest and most innovative historical scholarship, and our reports on panels aim to give readers an early look at the groundbreaking articles and books of tomorrow.  This year's Urban History Association conference was the organization's eighth biennial meeting, and the world's hardest working urbanists braved the persistent drizzle of "always sunny" Philadelphia to attend panels and plenaries on the campus of the University of … [Read more...]

Reasons for the Left to Be Optimistic

Being a liberal/lefty/whatever in America has never been easy, and it has seldom involved optimism.  Ever since Werner Sombart wondered “Why is there no socialism in the United States?” the Left has often seen itself as a chronic loser in US history, and especially since the historic routing of the New Left in the 1960s and the right-wing counterrevolution of Reaganomics in the 1980s, progressives could be regularly counted on to outmatch Eeyore in a dolefulness contest. In recent years the triumphs of corporate power and the Christian Right have meant that most on the Left have focused on defending what they’d already achieved rather than imagining anything better—hence the slogan “Another … [Read more...]