This spring and summer I am finishing two chapters on Pennsylvania, for my book on antebellum black politics, We Are Americans! They are both far along, and I am starting to plan the next chapter (on New England), where I’ve already researched and written a lot. Otherwise I’m deep into thinking about my new fall seminar, “Irregular Wars,” parsing several dozen books by practitioners and scholars examining insurgency and counter-insurgency from the American Revolution through today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be paired with a speaker series including people like Nick Turse, author of the major new book Kill Everything That Moves, on Vietnam, and Colonel Gian Gentile from West Point. Otherwise, I’m running, swimming and sunning a lot.
This summer finds me wearing many hats. For one, on July 1 I succeeded Doug Anthony as the new Chair of the History department. I look forward to working with my colleagues and all of our students over the next two years as we continue to meet the future with an understanding of the past. Another hat I have on this summer is co-editor and contributor to the forthcoming book, A Vanished Ideology: Essays on the Jewish Communist Movement in the Anglophone World in the Twentieth Century, which will be published by State University of New York Press in 2014. This book and the chapter I am writing for it represent a culmination of my ongoing research project on Yiddish-speaking Communists in the United States in the interwar years. Another book I am “co-editing” this summer is the F & M Faculty Handbook; as the chair of the Governance Task Force, I continue to work with my colleagues to update and revise the Handbook. The last hat I’ve been wearing this summer is my sun hat, as I’ve been lucky to spend some great family time in California and Hawaii the first part of the summer.
This summer finds me in Europe, based in Geneva, Switzerland, but with frequent trips to France, including Haute Savoie, the Cote d’Azur, and Paris. While I have been reading and writing German history and developing my new course on European Sexualities, I have been primarily occupied by the business of Faculty Council, which continues throughout the summer. In the meantime, I am dreaming of the life of my favorite animal, the sloth.
I spent the first five weeks of summer 2013 studying German and gathering research materials in Berlin. I’m working on a book that explores psychology and the emergence of specific conceptions of mind in early twentieth century Japan. But I want to understand this in the context of the broad material and ideological conditions of capitalist modernity, not only in Japan but in Germany and elsewhere (and so the need to study German). After a brief return to Lancaster, I travelled to Hong Kong for a three-week stay visiting family and friends and working on my Cantonese. I also managed to find some Japanese materials there on the current Abe administration for another research project. Now back in Lancaster again, I plan to spend the rest of the summer and the coming academic year working on the book project.
This summer, I've been busy at work doing lots of fun History Department and F&M related things. I've devoted part of my time to updating and digitizing material for History 360: The History Workshop. In the process, I've been learning a lot about "Blended Learning," "Flipped Classrooms," and all sorts of "Apps" for the iPad. It's been quite daunting for this 18th-and 19th-century historian to enter the twenty-first century world of technology, but hopefully the steep learning curve I've embarked upon will yield some excellent results in and out of the classroom. My revised First-Year Seminar, "Russian History through Biography and Autobiography," is also taking up a lot of really productive time these days: It's been fun to read a lot of biographies, memoirs and autobiographies and think about the differences between these genres and how authors of autobiographies and biographies rely on rhetorical devices to make arguments about their own lives and lives of others. My hope is that my students walk out of the class more careful readers and stronger writers and that at least some of them have their interests piqued enough to go on to study history, Russian and otherwise. I've also been really busy at work as a member of the most recent cohort of Assessment Fellows and, in the process, I've been learning a lot about how colleagues here and elsewhere have approached the process of assessing higher education. It's been a busy, busy summer! And when I'm not working, I've been camping and visiting local amusement parks with my family. We also took our kids to their very first Phillies game which, sadly, our home team lost. The kids had a great time, though, and I didn't mind leaving my seat in search of snacks and hunting down their favorite Philly (the Phanatic, of course!).
This summer I went to Monterrey, Mexico, where I conducted research on the history of midwifery and obstetrics. With the documents I found there, I have begun to write an article about infanticide in northern Mexico during the late nineteenth century. I plan to present my work at the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians in May 2014. In addition to doing research in Mexico, I spent almost two weeks in Costa Rica, where I collected materials relevant to a new class I will be teaching this fall, Environmental History of Latin America. I visited the Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, Costa Rica, a community that pioneered ecotourism. In the future, I hope to take students to study in northern Mexico and in Costa Rica.
Summer 2013 is disappearing too fast as most summers do. Involvement with students doesn’t disappear from my life; it just happens outside the classroom. There’s been time to advise two students from the University of Chichester who visited the college on an exchange program. The History department will sponsor a visit by our students to that university during 2014. While in Lancaster, the Brits took advantage of the college library and its internet resources to pursue research on their senior theses—one on Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy and the other on antebellum politics as reflected in the careers of Thaddeus Stevens and James Buchanan. Under the Hackman Summer Scholars program, history majors Rick Thoben '15 and Krissy Montville '14 archived the collection of the Lancaster Junior League. Its papers will now be available in the College Archives and should provide primary sources for investigation of Lancaster women’s engagement with their community. Finally, I’ve been advising American Studies major Dan Burke '14, who is trying to prove that the new donation of a Federal period mantel to the college’s Phillips Museum actually does have some connection to John Marshall. Dan’s been learning the difference between the testimony of oral tradition and verifiable facts. My own work on Lincoln Thought Globally nears the finish line. The completed manuscript now awaits a thumbs-up or -down from professional peers. Until judgment day, I have time to watch my garden grow and to attend family gatherings for weddings, 90th birthdays and other significant events.
This summer I’m revising several chapters of my manuscript on Egyptian literacy at the turn of the 20th century entitled Masters and Mistresses of the Pen. I have plowed through three chapters and am hoping to have the manuscript ready by the fall. I am also planning a new course on The Street and the Square: Public Spaces in the Modern Middle East, which will focus on how people in that part of world have expressed themselves publicly over the last century or so. Given the connection to on-going current events, I’ll be trying something new by allowing the students in the course to decide which historical dimension of recent events they want to explore as a group and individually: the role of religion, the public visibility of women or the part played by the legacy (and memory) of previous revolutions/uprising/social movements. This summer I’ve also spent some time in Florida, Virginia and Ohio visiting family and friends, countless zoos and the occasional library.