It’s hard to be a historian these days without constantly hearing about the supposed irrelevance of your work. After all, it must seem to many observers like we exist in our own academic echo chambers, engaging in ivory tower intellectualism that has little bearing on “real life.” And then, as a nation, we have a week… Read more →
History matters. Sober and sophisticated historical research can make a difference in the world. I am proud to live in a nation that now, per the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, recognizes the rights of gay and lesbian Americans to marry their chosen partners. And I am proud to be a member of the historical profession,… Read more →
Lately, it seems like everywhere I turn I see discussions about how poor people use their money, how they should use their money better, and how we can force their hands to change those spending habits. In an attempt to crack down on welfare use, Missouri Republican Rock Brattin recently proposed that we “get the… Read more →
by Audrey Smith
The possibility of having an “adventure in the archives” always seemed a bit far-fetched. My perceptions of academia, particularly as related to notions of adventurousness, were dominated by images of Indiana Jones holding a dirty artifact and marking the X on the map. When Professor Carolyn Lewis (the adviser to whatever academic adventures loomed on the horizon for me) suggested that the archives were a time-warping place of magic and discovery, I conjured visions of swashbuckling conflicts amongst dueling historians, perhaps a diverting romantic intrigue amongst the dusty stacks – anything less than that couldn’t be an adventure, and to call it so seemed simply and woefully inaccurate.
By Ginny Engholm
A recent Vicks Nyquil commercial has a typical scenario for an advertisement set in a workplace. A clearly sick man — coughing, runny nose, the whole works — opens what looks like an office door a crack, pops his head in, and delivers the one line of the commercial: “Dave, I’m sorry to interrupt. I gotta take a sick day tomorrow.” While this might seem like a very traditional depiction of masculinity, a guy at the office asking his male boss for a day off, the ad subverts this narrative by revealing an adorable toddler standing up in his crib. The tagline of the ad — “Dads don’t take sick days. Dads take Nyquil” — makes the ad’s argument clear. A real man is one who is so dedicated to his real job — fatherhood — that he continues to parent through his colds and flus. While the idea of moms’ total and complete dedication to their roles as mothers has of course been part of our cultural understanding of motherhood for, well, forever, the shift in the past decade or so of depicting fathers as equal-opportunity martyrs, devoted to the care of their children, strikes many modern viewers as something new.
If you haven’t already heard, the New York Times recently interviewed retired Princeton historian of the Civil War James McPherson for the newspaper’s “By the Book” feature. McPherson is a well-respected legend in the field, yet many historians were left scratching their collective heads over his responses to such questions as “Who are the best historians writing today?” and “What are the best books about African American history?” Suffice it to say, his answers seemed very white, very male, and well, very dated.
By Adam Turner
On September 24, as I enjoyed my second coffee of the morning and caught up on news, a photo caught my eye. In the image, women in colorful saris congratulated each other amidst massive computer monitors. The exuberance of the photo arrested me — as did the obvious techy setting, nerd that I am — but, sadly, what really drew my attention was the fact that these women seemed … out of place. And I wasn’t the only one drawn in by this image. The photo, snapped by AFP photographer Manjunath Kiran, quickly made the rounds on news outlets and social media.
By Lara Freidenfelds
The dentist peered in my child’s mouth, then turned to me. “Hey, Mom, you did a good job, no cavities!” I brought my kids for a check-up recently, and our wonderful pediatric dentist warmly complemented me. But why on earth did he call me that? And why did it irk me?
This semester, I taught an introductory-level course on historical methods. One of our tasks was to consider an array of historical materials. We read novels and memoirs; watched documentaries and Hollywood films; read speeches and government policies; looked at architectural plans and advertisements for suburban homes. We even watched an episode of Star Trek. Throughout this exploration, a theme we kept coming back to was how people of the past documented their daily lives. This prompted us to consider how historians of the future will examine our daily lives. What sources will they use? What sources are we leaving behind?
By Jacqueline Antonovich
Things have been pretty hectic lately for the folks who work and study in Lane Hall, the small, historic building at the far end of University of Michigan’s central campus. Over the past two months the building that houses the Women’s Studies Department and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) has been the target of anti-choice protesters. Lane Hall has been peppered with anti-choice leaflets, the main entry steps have been vandalized with chalk, and protesters have picketed the sidewalks in front of the building. Staff in Lane Hall have also been fielding phone calls from angry activists, alumni, and others. As Debra M. Schwartz, senior public relations representative for IRWG told me recently, “Some of us in Lane Hall and a few other university offices have been distracted from our routine work. But, in general, the protest has scarcely been noticed on campus. It feels like a tempest in a teapot.”