Blogs > Cliopatria > Cliopatria's Hall of Fame

Sep 30, 2006 4:08 am


Cliopatria's Hall of Fame



We are inaugurating Cliopatria's Hall of Fame in order to recognize and honor the excellent blogs of particular historians in particular moments. You'll find it listed among Cliopatria's Appendages in our lefthand sidebar, between Cliopatria's Bookshelf and History Blogroll. Our first two honorees are Invisible Adjunct and Mode for Caleb. I invited two of our colleagues, who seemed especially well qualified, to express our appreciation to the Invisible One and to our former colleague, Caleb McDaniel.

Invisible Adjunct (February 2003 - August 2004)

Despite its name, the Invisible Adjunct's weblog was not defined by its attention to the problem of adjuncts in higher education. Or more properly, its interest in the plight of adjuncts was not reducible to a list of specific and narrow grievances suffered by the Invisible Adjunct herself.

The Invisible Adjunct held up a mirror to higher education and asked whether it liked what it saw. She drew in readers who had thought their own alienation from and disappointment with academia was only a private and personal feeling. In her postings and in the discussions that followed, they discovered that they were not alone. Whether they were currently suffering the trials of adjunct employment, had left academia as ABDs, or were struggling to make sense of life as a tenured professor, many readers found that they shared common dissatisfactions with academic life.

However, Invisible Adjunct's site was not for whiners, or axe-grinders with primordial grudges against the professoriate. She also pushed readers to consider what was valuable and precious about higher education. She consistently elevated the tone and substance of the conversation as a writer and as a host. The Invisible Adjunct's site brought together many readers and many issues under a single roof, in a shared dialogue. When the site ended, many of those conversations fractured and became far more divisive.

Maybe that was inevitable. Certainly no one faulted the Invisible Adjunct for shutting down her site, as she had promised, once she decided to give up on the quest for a regular tenure-track position. I think that one of the signs of academia's underlying problems is that someone like the Invisible Adjunct wasn't able to find a regular position, and that in some small but crucial way, academia has suffered for it. Because I like to think that had she found the position she was seeking, and kept her site going, that perhaps some of the most frustrating contemporary debates about academic politicization and similar issues might have been less divisive, less captive to the larger fractures in the body politic. One host, and one writer, really can make all the difference, and for an important time, the Invisible Adjunct did.

-- Timothy Burke

Mode for Caleb (July 2004 - August 2006)

I discovered Mode for Caleb, Caleb McDaniel's brilliant blog about history, academia, religion, politics, culture, and jazz, in September or October 2004, right around the time I was launching my own blog on a few of those subjects. Every post Caleb wrote made me realize that I'd have to work a lot harder than I'd planned. What Mode for Caleb showed me was that this new medium we're improvising need not be flimsy or disposable. Like the jazz music Caleb loves, blogging and history blogging in particular can be deep and rewarding and complex. With all due respect to the instapundits and daily link harvesters (we need them too) Caleb showed how well the history blog works in the long form. Call it"smartblogging"--or don't, that's pretty awful--week after week, Caleb delivered sustained intellectual solos, extended virtuoso riffs on teaching and writing, American and transnational history, nuclear weapons and the abolitionist mind.

Each of his posts claimed to be"improvised," but if that's true, he's an even more terrifying genius than I think he is. They all struck me as meticulously crafted, and worthy of serious thought and time. They're worth rereading, too: do yourself a favor and spend some time with his series on transnational history, or his case for nuclear abolitionism, or his essay on the origins and meanings of Memorial Day. It doesn't matter that these posts were written by some graduate student somewhere you'd never heard of. If anything, that makes it cooler. Those posts represent a powerful mind at work, and you got to see it in action (or else you get to now), in your browser or RSS reader, for free. If the story of Invisible Adjunct, our other inaugural Hall of Famer, exposed a failure--not a personal failure, by any means, but a collective failure of the academic profession–Mode for Caleb represents a glowing success. It's Caleb's success--he's got his PhD now, a tenure-track job, and a new baby on the way. We envy his students and wish him well. But it's a success for the medium of academic blogging, too.

-- Rob MacDougall

If IA were here, I'm pretty sure that she would respond by saying something like:"I'd like to thank the Academy ..." and I would smile at her references. Already, my day would be better. But this is simply to say,"The Academy would like to thank you, Invisible Adjunct and Caleb McDaniel."

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Caleb McDaniel - 9/30/2006

Ralph, is this a ploy to get me to come out from hiding and admit that I still hang around Cliopatria? Ok, I admit it. You got me.

Ploy or not, I'm very flattered by this honor. I wonder if I can get Rob to write some grant proposals for me, since he makes me sound a lot smarter than I am.


Mark Grimsley - 9/30/2006

The idea of a Cliopatria hall of fame is genius, and the first two inductees are not just worthy in their own right, the explanations for their inclusion are eloquent. Well done!

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