I’ve been reading Jonathan Zimmerman’s and Emily Robertson’s The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools over the past few weeks. In the course of reading I unexpectedly ran across a concept related to ignorance studies but, heretofore, unmentioned in those works and, yet, important to them. Continue reading
That year Drinan (1920-2007) earned a spot on President Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies list.” Along with his liberal politics, his Catholic background garnered the attention of William F. Buckley, who called Drinan “the greatest threat to orderly thought since Eleanor Roosevelt left this vale of tears.” Continue reading
I’m nearly finished with a full, word-for-word read of Agnotology: The Making & Unmaking of Ignorance. An essay therein that feels most germane to our current political situation is Peter Galison‘s “Removing Knowledge: The Logic of Modern Censorship” (pp. 37-54). The essay focuses on the government’s classification of information since 1945. But Galison’s concerns and themes should trouble those of us living under a presidential administration focused on secrecy and leaks. Continue reading
For the past several years, as my anti-intellectualism project simmered in the background of other work, I had been convinced that the Robert Proctor-Londa Schiebinger Agnotology volume, published in 2008, was the beginning of something new and different within the study of anti-intellectualism, broadly defined.
Even though the volume’s editors do not refer to Hofstadter’s 1963 tome, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, my sense was that Agnotology indirectly added to that historiographic tradition. Because of my view of the Proctor-Schiebinger volume, I saw two other works as derivative: Erick Conway and Naomi Oreskes’ Merchants of Doubt (2010), and the edited collection, Miseducation: A History of Ignorance-Making in America and Abroad (edited by A.J. Angulo, 2016). In my recent post, wherein I cover some of the new terminology in the Agnotology volume, I conveyed aspects of Proctor’s seemingly novel framework. Again, I saw all of this as something exciting within the arena of Hofstadter’s work, as an important subset. But it isn’t, really. And even though agnotology is an exciting area of study, it’s also not novel. Continue reading
As a prefatory remark—in order to be abundantly clear—what follows is not about the ignorance OF history. While some of the points below cross over and apply in certain ways to knowledge deficits in history, the focus here is on talking about moments and formations of ignorance in history. The operative question is this: How do we conceive of, and talk about, moments of perceived ‘ignorance’ in history?
In many of my conversation circles, confessions of ignorance constitute a moral failing. Continue reading
In early March of this year, the AHA’s Sadie Bergen reached out to members of the S-USIH blog community for help understanding the history of history blogs. Bergen was working on an article for Perspectives. The original prompt focused on the work that goes into producing a collaborative blog, contributions from graduate students and early career historians, and “how blog writing fits into the work of being a historian today.” I don’t know how many of us replied to Bergen’s inquiry, but I did. In retrospect, my answers only helped with part of the prompt—which probably explains why only a brief quote from me made it into Bergen’s final piece (do read it!). That said, and to be fair with myself, Bergen’s more specific follow-up questions caused me to think more about the history of this blog and S-USIH generally. With Bergen’s permission, I’ve reproduced those questions and my answers below. Caveat: These are my answers alone. Other long-time S-USIH members will most certainly provide other perspectives. – TL
Bergen: What led you to start the USIH blog? What was the experience like getting it off the ground? For instance, how did you recruit contributors? [Also,] where were you in your career when you began the blog and how did you fit your work for it into your other professional responsibilities?
[Today’s post comes Coline Ferrant, a student in the Dual PhD in Sociology between Northwestern University & Sciences Po (Center for Studies in Social Change). Ferrant is also an Associate Fellow with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (Food and Social Sciences). This post outlines ambiguities in Lewis Henry Morgan’s Ancient Society, particularly its handling of the ideal and the material. Ferrant relays that Ancient Society traces a grand human evolution from the material to the ideal by developing a materialist analytical framework. Morgan’s work purports to theorize about all humanity by generalizing practical findings about particular human groups. Its lofty intellectual endeavor includes emotional considerations about the endangered Iroquois’s concrete existence. The author would like to thank Robert Launay for commenting and Maggie Monahan for copyediting. – TL]
Western thought has historically conceptualized human life through overlapping dichotomies: ideal and material, theory and practice, abstract and concrete, subject and object, intellect and emotions, mind and body, and the like (Wuthnow, 1987). In this post, I draw attention to the ambiguities surrounding these binary oppositions in one canonical source: Ancient Society, published in 1877 by American anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan (Morgan, 1985 ). I develop my argument using selected extracts from this source, and referring to its later scholarly reception. Continue reading
I want to thank everyone who has been following along, but with today’s entry I regret to report that I have to close the book club earlier than anticipated. What follows is an explanation coupled with some brief thoughts on chapters 11-12. Continue reading
In the interest of expediency—due to the fact that I’m covering five chapters (252 pages)—this installment will follow a mechanical format. I’ll be concentrating on facts and highlights instead of constructing a review narrative with lots of reflection. I hope to resume that format next week. Continue reading
Tonight I began a six-week session leading a Newberry Library seminar on Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. I’m pleased to report that the course is full. Twenty-two people voluntarily signed up to explore a 54-year-old work of intellectual history. And even the waitlist is eleven-deep. Yes, I’m bragging a bit. It’s because I’ve never had so much enthusiasm for one of my seminar offerings. It’s exciting.
But the excitement comes at a time when my relationship with the book has never been more complicated. Continue reading