U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Open Topic Day

My energies have been expended in diverse areas this week. Between this and holiday parties (home and work), as well as long weather-hampered commutes, I’m feeling a bit uninspired. I thought about delivering some snarky commentary on this (also here), or some added “woe is me/us” commentary on this or this. A potential post has also simmered on this, for quite some time. But here I am, today, undecided.

So let’s do this: an open thread. What’s on YOUR mind? What are YOU reading over the upcoming holidays—USIH-related an otherwise? Do YOU have any thoughts on the blog? How about any lingering thoughts about the conference? What have been YOUR favorite topics discussed here? Is there anything YOU’d like to rehash or revisit?

The last time I offered an “open topic” day I think it crashed and burned. So if you want this to continue, let’s get the comment thread hopping! – TL

12 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Just out of curiosity, any books folks are interested in that come out next year? I know there are two on my radar: David Chappell’s “Waking from the Dream” about African American politics and culture after the Civil Rights era, and Peniel Joseph’s long awaited biography of Stokley Carmichael.

    As for reading over the break: that’s a good question. I’ve been agonizing for days over what should go on my reading list. But friends and colleagues of mine (fellow students and professors both) have also urged to me to take some sort of a break. So I’m going to try to mix some fiction in. For now, though, I also know I want to get plenty of history reading done. So my current list includes “In the Shadow of Du Bois” by Robert Gooding-Williams, “In Search of the Black Fantastic” by Richard Iton”, and hopefully finishing up Natalie Ring’s fantastic book “The Problem South.”

    So my reading list is going to be a combination of works on African American history, recent American history (from the 1960s to present) and some Southern history (my first love and the reason I got the wild idea of becoming a historian in the first place).

    • That forthcoming bio of Carmichael sounds fascinating.Looking forward to it.

      It never hurts to mix in some fiction (or even a few “great books”!). I was thinking about de Tocqueville—which I’ve only read in and not read all the way through.

      • Re Tocqueville: I read a few months ago Leo Damrosch’s Tocqueville’s Discovery of America. I had read (large pts of) Democracy in America (albeit mostly a long time ago, in college) but I didn’t know that much about the bk’s background or about Tocqueville and Beaumont’s trip itself. So I learned a fair amt. The Damrosch bk was quite enjoyable and v. well written.

        I also picked up a copy of the Arthur Goldhammer trans. of ‘Democracy’ (in the Library of America series), which, if I were going to re-read ‘Democracy’, is prob the trans. I’d pick. (If I had the requisite time/energy/inclination, I suppose I cd try reading the Fr. orig., though reading Fr. for me is not the same, in terms of ease, as reading English.)

    • I’m writing a review of Mark Solovey’s “Shaky Foundations” so I’ll be spending break revisiting it. I am also finishing up a dissertation chapter, doing some research at the Library of Congress in January, and continuing to read as much early China studies work as I can get my hands on.

      I too enjoy some fiction around the holidays. I’m finishing up some Jules Verne and then I plan on reading the new Paul Harding book “Enon”.

  2. I just read a really good article in the most recent edition of the AHR. It was “Whose Time is It? The Pluralization of Time and the Global Condition, 1870s–1940s” by Vanessa Ogle. She looks at differing reactions to attempts to standardize time in Beirut and Bombay around the turn of the century. She shows how standardization was alternately embraced and rejected in different contexts, could coexist with local and social time, and was — in spite of its links to globalization — easily appropriated into national and local projects. It resonated for me because of my interests in efforts to standardize and make uniform birth registration and birth certificates in the United States and how these efforts spread quite unevenly across different locales.

    • I wonder, Susan, how the article compares to Stephen Kern’s well-known work, *The Culture of Time and Space*? Have you read that book? By compare I mean, of course, in terms of themes since your article is transnational and Kern’s book is about Western civilization (Europe and the U.S.). The time frames are similar. – TL

  3. In the spirit of spitballing an idea for some ambitious young phd student.
    Has there been a intellectual history of the handicapped or about a famous or not so famous handicapped intellectual that could be spun into a larger narrative?
    That’s a pretty broad category that could have numerous subcategories: blind, deaf, paraplegic etc.
    I would think this could be a fairly rich untapped vein, maybe???

    • Paul: What a great question. I’m guessing there are probably some good pseudo-intellectual histories over in the historiography on education. And I’m sure there are some institutional histories, like of Gallaudet University that may be useful. – TL

    • Paul – A great idea. I don’t know the answer to your historiographical question, but one topic and/or resource for the broad project you limn might be sociological work on deviance, stigma, identity and identity politics; and related work on “minorities” and human rights. Goffman is the pioneer of much of this, especially his book Stigma, published in 1973.

      One of the first discussions of “identity politics” built on Goffman — Renee R. Anspach’s “From Stigma to Identity Politics: Political Activism Among the Physically Disabled and Former Mental Patients,” Social Science and Medicine 13A, 1979. More recent work in this line is considered in Brenda Major and Laurie T. O’Brien, “The Social Psychology of Stigma,” Annual Review of Psychology 56, 2005.

      Dawne Moon, in “Who Am I and Who Are We? Conflicting Narratives of Collective Selfhood in Stigmatized Groups,” American Journal of Sociology 117, 5 (March 2012), links actors’ varied understandings of their “collective selfhood” with different sorts of group “narratives,” providing a possible bridge to historians’ narrative.

      Mitch Berbrier, in “Making Minorities…,” Sociological Forum 17,4, Dec 2002, and other publications, details the process by which deviant categories may be turned into “minorities,” as originally defined by Louis Wirth, putting them on the path to assimilation, for better or worse.

      In the Goffmanian spirit, Edward Sagarin, Robert Winslow and others in the early ‘70s claimed that a wide variety of “deviant” categories could assert characterization or categorization as “minorities,” analogous to or on the model of African-Americans, or Jews.

  4. Thanks Tim and Bill for the useful suggestions. It inspired me to check a little further on this subject and I found a few interesting websites.
    I was checking out sites regarding Philosophies of Blindness and came up with mostly discussions of blindness as a descriptor for an inability to understand over and over again. This alone could provoke an interesting discussion on stigma via Goffman.

    I also found a book review on Martin Milligan a philosopher who was blind.

    One might also take this in a slightly different direction philosophically. I’m thinking of futurist Ray Kurzweil’s books that discuss among other subjects the fusing of human biology with technical innovation e.g. hearing aids, eye implants, heart mechanics, prosthetics, nano technologies etc. How do we think about humanity as we slowly merge with technology? Is there a historiography that maps how we perceive this change?

    • I neglected to mention Catherine Kudlick, “Disability History: Why We Need Another ‘Other,’” AHR June 2003.

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