The Changing Faces of Nationalism

As a historian who sometimes teaches about Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, I have to give Trump credit for one thing: His constant upending of the broad political consensus that emerged after World War II and the Cold War means that basic historical terms are constantly making it into the news and national discourse as quasi new problems, new questions. As upsetting as these times are, as abhorrent as Trump is, it is hard to deny the value of Ron Elving’s reaction to the president’s recent statement about being a nationalist: “We are about to have a national conversation about the word nationalist.” And Elving wants to offer nuances to the term’s meanings in past and present—well, as much as anyone can in some 1,100 words. See the whole article at NPR.

Ruining the Army

Update, July 7: The A.P. appears to have got the story in the first paragraph below wrong. There is still a real problem, but of a different kind, which appears to be about the country’s confused imigration system: “No, President Trump Is Not Purging The Military Of Immigrants”.

“US Army quietly discharging immigrant recruits” . . . Corrupting the army like this is bad for the immigrants affected, their fellow soldiers, all U.S. citizens and residents, not to mention our military readiness and national security. It’s also unconscionable.

This is just one of the ways the current administration is misusing and spoiling the army in the homeland itself. There is also this: “The U.S. Military Is Preparing to Hold 32,000 Immigrants in Detention Centers”.

The army—and the country—can do better (and did). In 2016, for example: “Immigrant to citizen: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Army work on naturalization”.

Image source: U.S. Army

Organiz­ing and Commu­ni­cat­ing Historical Knowledge: Some Personal Observations

In light of the recent Learning by the Book conference, it makes sense to reblog this piece, which I first posted on History of Knowledge on February 3, 2017, when we were just getting started with that blog and were working out what we thought the thing was. The question was not as self-evident as regular bloggers might think, certainly not at a research institution rooted in Germany’s powerful academic traditions.

In my initial academic encounters with Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of the things that impressed me was the availability of handbooks as well as specialized encyclopedias such as Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. The textbook series Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte was a new experience for me.1 Each volume offered a concise, chronologically organized survey (with key terms in the margins for rapid orientation), followed by a substantial historiographical discussion and bibliography. At the time, I did not appreciate the massive effort behind such compilation and systematization efforts. I just found these tools were quite practical for orienting myself in a given historical subject. Why didn’t we have such useful tools in the United States? Continue reading “Organiz­ing and Commu­ni­cat­ing Historical Knowledge: Some Personal Observations”

Lost in Translation: The Stanford Prison Experiment

Sometimes disseminating the results of experiments, demonstrations, or other research can yield widely accepted knowledge built on questionable foundations through a kind of distorted translation. This seems to have happened with the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. Two people who heard a recent talk by Alexander Haslam tweeted about Haslam’s key findings. Read the thread by Jay Van Bavel and then the one he links to by David Amodio. They talk through the lens of their field, and they help break old stereotypes about human nature. I can’t help but think, however, that there is a broader story about knowledge production and circulation here.

Photo by Eric E. Castro.

Blogging before Conferencing

We tried something new in connection with a conference called Learning by the Book. The conveners asked participants to submit a blog post to History of Knowledge in lieu of precirculated papers. One of the conveners, my colleague Kerstin von der Krone, did most of the coordinating work, prescreening posts for length, permissions issues, and content. Then I edited them, trying to ensure they spoke to a multidisciplinary audience, not just specialists in their authors’ respective fields. Continue reading “Blogging before Conferencing”