Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
At Is That Legal? Eric Muller reports that the threat of legal action has forced Michelle Malkin to retract her false allegations against Peter Irons of the University of California, San Diego, and Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga in her book, In Defense of Internment, about Japanese-American experience in World War II. She has yet to retract charges against others. See also: Dave Neiwart at Orcinus.
At Stop Smiling, there's an excerpt from an interview with Christopher Hitchens that fully appears in the current Vanity Fair. Thanks to Bobby Farouk, who posts at Horizon and has launched his own blog at mrbfk. Meanwhile, this review by Hitchens irritated several Cliopatriarchs. Caleb McDaniel said as much in"John Brown and Nonviolence," but it generated a discussion well worth reading through at Mode for Caleb. It's odd, somehow, isn't it, that Hitchens denigrates the nonviolent abolitionists to lift up antebellum America's premier terrorist as an adjunct to his defense of our"war on terror." That was to have been the war we were fighting, wasn't it? But, suddenly, one of the terrorists we funded turns up again and it is no longer clear what war we are fighting at all.
Cliopatria's friend, John Emerson at Idiocentrism, has a post up with recommendations about book buying on the internet. They're also discussing it at Adam Kotsko's The Weblog. Like John, I'm inclined to recommend abebooks.com and bookfinder.com. But you may have other suggestions. There are alternatives to book buying and borrowing.
If you understood the collective behavior of political scientists, sociologists, and historians, and you confronted them with the matter of the British Association of University Teachers' boycott and the universities of Haifa and Bar Ilan and blacklisting of their faculty members, wouldn't you predict that the political scientists would support the AAUP's protest of the boycott, that the sociologists wouldn't be able to agree on a position, and that the historians will not take up the issue for discussion until after the AUT votes on a reconsideration of the matter? Well, that's what has happened.
Thanks to Caleb, we've been reminded that it's History Week at Slate. Here is the line-up of events, so far. I haven't gotten through everything yet, but I thought the discussion between Diane Ravitch and Jon Wiener was a little stale. (Sorry, Jon, but I did.) On the other hand, David Greenberg's two part essay,"That Barnes & Noble Dream," was quite well done.
The six anthropologists who've launched a new blog, Savage Minds, Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, and David Epstein at Inside Higher Ed are all writing about the non-renewal of Yale anthropologist David Graeber's contract. There's also an on-line petition in support of Graeber. I wouldn't think that it will make any difference. Although his scholarship has apparently been outstanding, Yale chews up and spits out assistant professors with some regularity and it is not obliged to give a reason for doing so. I suspect it might have overlooked Graeber's anarchism; I suspect it did not ignore his support of graduate students organizing for union recognition.
Finally my colleague, Jon Dresner, calls my attention to the fact that 130 members of the faculty and staff at Michigan's Calvin College signed a petition protesting the policies of the Bush administration in the face of GWB's giving the commencement address on Saturday. Student protesters even have their own on-line discussion group,"Our Commencement is Not Your Platform." I know enough faculty members at Calvin College to be able to name some of the people who signed that petition without even seeing it; and if the White House had asked me I could have told them"Don't mess with those Calvinists." They're not just your run-of-the-mill, watered-down Presbyterians, like Bill Frist and Condi Rice. They take their Christianity pretty seriously up there.
Feagin starts with boilerplate, stating that Bush’s book demonstrates how “wealthy white elites that still control U.S. society” have “succeeded in brainwashing the majority of ordinary whites into accepting a worldview that even contradicts the latter’s self-interests.” He then segues into self–promotion. “Bush’s analysis of student views is in the tradition of classical social science studies that have described racial and class views of ordinary Americans, such as Gunnar Myrdal’s pathbreaking analysis of racial ideology, AN AMERICAN DILEMMA (1944), and Joe Feagin’s pioneering analysis of antipoor views, SUBORDINATING THE POOR (1975).” (p.ix). Now unless Feagin means “classical” to denote either a) Greco-Roman antiquity or b) pre-relativistic physics, neither of which seems to fit, I can only assume he really means “classic.” Feagin’s extraordinary blast on his own horn in describing his book as a “classic” is as misplaced as it is arrogant—the book Feagin mentions is not even his own best-known work, let alone a locus classicus. He then compounds his statement with chutzpah in equating his own work in importance and influence to that of Myrdal (At least Feagin diverges from his predecessor, Oliver Cromwell Cox, who criticized Myrdal from a Marxist viewpoint precisely for not taking class sufficiently into account!). I confess that I have never read Feagin’s works. Mindful of Mark Twain’s definition of a “classic” book as one that everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read, Feagin’s introduction and his description of his book as a “classic” makes me think, in my case at least, that he is half right.
For one example, in my “History of the Future” course, I had students look at the history of tropes like “the flying car” or “the total elimination of disease”. In those cases, I often had very specific works in mind that I could direct them to–for the flying car, “Metropolis” and “The Jetsons”, to cite to examples. Nevertheless, the students often managed to pleasantly surprise me by turning up all sorts of information that was unexpected, describing the diffusion or transmission of the trope in question in more detail than I would have thought possible, or showing that it was a much messier or more intricate image than I suspected.
For “The Image of Africa” class, I think most of the tropes I’ve thought of so far for inclusion on a suggested list of possible assignments worry me a little as I think their deeper histories are going to be harder to track. I’ve got some good guesses about most of them, but fewer highly specific texts to direct the students towards, as I think some of these images began their cultural life very early in European history, have more diffuse origins rooted in specific colonial encounters (some of them not originating in Africa, but applied to Africa at a later date), and so on.
One of the things I’m hoping to do in the course is put Said’s Orientalism in critical perspective from the outset, to shove it off its canonical perch a bit and put it in intellectual jeopardy, partially by demonstrating that “colonial discourse” was constructed less instrumentally, with more of a correspondence to actual dialogues and fractured understandings between Europeans and non-Europeans, than Said’s study and the many other works that use Orientalism as a methodological blueprint commonly assume or assert.
That places a pretty complicated burden on the students doing research, however. One reason that so many academic studies of “colonial discourse” and the images found within it tend to stay mired in imperial or metropolitan texts and contexts is that the methodological challenges involved in stretching beyond those contexts, out into colonial societies themselves, are entirely different. Kipling comes readily to hand if you’re in London or New York, but the correspondence of local colonial officials or missionaries are harder to find and process. So I know that the students are going to be pulled one way by some of the arguments made within the course itself, and another way by the practicalities of the research assignment.
With that in mind, I’m crafting a tentative list of tropes that I will hand out as “pre-approved” topics of study. In a very few cases, there’s a very focused, topically dedicated secondary literature available to help them, as in the case of images involving cannibalism or the image of Europeans being perceived as “gods” by non-Europeans. In other cases, the scholarship is sparse.
I’m interested in any additions that might be made to this list, and also any ideas you have about originary or primary sources that would help locate the image in time and space. These are all tropes that have appeared in some form in 20th Century representations of Africa, but some of them originated somewhere else–the image of the chief who offers his daughter to an unsuspecting European visitor, for example, I strongly suspect is rooted in encounters between Oceanic/Pacific societies and European travellers, and followed an arc from being fairly straightforward descriptions of encounter to being eroticized fantasies to being largely comedic, mostly the latter by the time this image pops up in representations of Africa. A lot of these are highly mobile to all sorts of colonial encounters, drifting easily from representations of Africa to other contexts.
Here’s my current draft list:
1) Hidden city/lost civilization deep in the jungle. Often civilization of whites or non-Africans.
2) Missionary/explorer in a cannibal cooking pot; general tropes of cannibalism.
3) Mysterious ritual that turns out to have been marriage to chief’s daughter
4) Superstitious bearer/guide
5) Evil witchdoctor
6) White man “gone native”/Tarzan figure
7) Kurtz-style descent into madness
8) Sexual Africans/repressed whites (especially missionaries)
9) Gold/treasure obsessed white explorer
10) Modern technology/material culture vs. “clueless” Africans (lots of subtropes–”this is my boomstick” images of powerful weapons; mirrors; beads and trinkets; scientific knowhow such as the ability to predict an eclipse
11) Avuncular but clueless chief who is easily manipulated by white visitors
12) Wise, spiritual elder or “witchdoctor”
13) Africa as the abode of unspoiled, primal nature/wildlife
14) African warrior with generic iconography (spear, long shield, tall and thin)
15) Noble, kindly, elderly medical missionary ministering to Africans far from European settlements
16) Iconography of famine and starvation
[crossposted at Easily Distracted]
Major Research Breakthrough: Left Described For First Time Ever
In a recent interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education, L.A. tabloid editor David Horowitz explained that he terminated his graduate studies at Berkeley in the early sixties because"[e]verything had been mined" and there was"nothing to research that was interesting anymore."
History almost proved him right. Since that fateful spring of '62, it is indeed true that no one has come up with a single worthwhile thought, theory, movement or domain of study.
Or rather, to be fair, no one had come up with anything new until Horowitz himself single-handedly ended the intellectual drought with his release of the Discover The Network (DTN) web site in February 2005. As he judiciously noted a few days ago in a congratulatory blog entry,"[t]he appearance of the site ... is the first time anyone has ever attempted to describe the left."
The whole notion of"the left" has since become such common coin that it is hard to remember how political theory functioned before Horowitz's groundbreaking description. We can perhaps forgive the likes of Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and Hamilton for blindly groping their way through this territory without any conception of"the left." But the pre-Horowitzian lacuna seems much more gaping when we survey the past century and a half. Just imagine how greatly theories of conservatism or fascism could have been enriched by an attempt to actually describe the left!
Ironically, it is not the conservatives, but rather those leftists avant la lettre –socialists, anarchists, Islamofascists and other liberals from Marx and Engels to Lukács, Gramsci, Orwell, Althusser, Žižek and Ebert– who could have benefited the most by beating Horowitz to his momentous discovery. (And to think that they accuse their enemies of false consciousness!) Should we – can we – forgive Jürgen Habermas or Pierre Bourdieu for wasting their time with petty critiques, instead of undertaking the serious labor of piercing the benign facade of"perky Katie Couric" or Patriot Act detractor Phil Donahue? For the first time, as Horowitz notes, we are finally able to have"a discussion about the nature of the left and its role in American political life."
More than just a brilliant intellectual, Horowitz belongs in the pantheon of"initiators of discourse," to use the term that Foucault memorably applies to Marx and Freud. While there can be no doubt that both the theory and the practice of politics will be fundamentally reoriented by Horowitz's pioneering discovery, it is too early to say what the results will be. We can, however, be sure that DTN will soon join PC, USA and AT&T as an acronym we can scarcely live without. It is surely time for the academics who so dismally failed Horowitz to finally heed his clarion call ("Give it a look if you haven't already and let a friend or a radio talk show host know about it if you haven't"), and to grant him the intellectual legitimacy he so desperately craves.
This is a major news flash, I know, but Victor Davis Hanson has written something dumb. The fun part is that he wrote something dumb in response (or in"response," since he doesn't really bother to respond) to a question I asked him:
In a March answer to a reader, you wrote on your website that"race studies,” queer studies, gender studies, etc." have become"the establishment" on university campuses, resulting in the destruction of the"old liberal arts curriculum." A New York Times story on April 24, 2005 reports on the most common and least common majors on contemporary campuses. At the University of California at San Diego, for example, 3,368 students are majoring in biology; 1,787 are majoring in economics; and a whopping 23 are majoring in critical gender studies.Hanson's response is yet another regurgitation of the same-old same-old, and go ahead and place your bets on whether or not he mentions Ward Churchill. (Ward Churchill now singlehandedly comprises fifty percent of all known American academics.)
Isn't it possible that you've overstated the significance of"studies" programs? I apologize for challenging your declensionist worldview with actual facts.
Backing up the claim that race/class/gender/sexuality"studies" have taken over the academy, Hanson now writes:
All these 'studies' programs have no popular appeal to students at all, who rarely major in them, or take more than one (required) course. But their influence is nevertheless enormous and hardly to be measured simply by official majors.So the new"establishment" on American university campuses is a set of programs that students don't find appealing or useful at all. Supermarket X has no loyal customers, and is therefore the leader in the supermarket industry.
First, most campuses now have some sort of requirement in the General Education curriculum for an ethnic or gender studies class; and these courses, unlike most others, thus reach most of the student body .
Note also that"studies" programs"have no popular appeal to students at all," but somehow are full of snarky grad students and politically correct professors. And where do grad students and professors come from? Not from the undergraduate population, apparently. Maybe universities are raising these professor types in some sort of kooky left-wing test tubes.
Finally, I love that"studies" programs have taken over the academy and destroyed the traditional curriculum because many universities now require students to take"one (required) course" in those programs. At UCLA, where we're on the quarter system, an undergraduate needs 160 credits -- at four credits per class -- to graduate. That means 40 classes for a B.A. At Pitzer College, where I was an undergrad, we needed 32 semester-long classes to graduate. So one required class in a race/class/gender/sexuality topic would comprise either 1/40th or 1/32nd of an undergraduate education -- and heaven forbid that a student spend 1/40th an education thinking about women, African Americans, or homosexuality. They should stick to, you know, normal topics.
Second, the class/race/gender fixation insidiously transcends these titled courses proper; thus former Revolutionary war classes might now be in fact studies of the 'other' during colonial times; a class nominally on some of Shakespeare's plays turns out to be deconstructing gender, or a history of Latin America often becomes a melodrama about European pathology and culpability.Well, sure. What's all this discussion of European culpability doing in Latin American history courses? If we have any readers in the Fresno area, someone might want to ask Victor Davis Hanson why people in Latin America speak Spanish and Portugese, which are widely believed (by leftist academics) to be European languages. How on earth would one design a class on Latin America without referencing the presence of European colonizers? Why is the inclusion of this presence a radical choice?
And finally, Hanson writes:
Fourth, the politically-correct emphasis on race/class/gender studies puts enormous pressure on untenured faculty to publish in these areas and upon graduate students to steer their research in this direction — and to serve obsequiously those faculty who, they sense, have gravitated in these directions and thus will have greater clout when it comes time to parcel out fellowships, teaching assignments, and recommendations for jobs. Perusal of the Modern Language Association's, American Historical Association's, or American Philological Association's lists of PhD dissertation titles or annual convention talks bears out this over-concentration...I have suggested before that the AHA's list of dissertations in progress proves that Hanson and others like him are mostly full of hot air, and I'll say it again: Go look for yourself. Yes, you will find titles that focus on race/class/gender/sexuality themes. Yes, some will sound silly. Most will not. Some of those that sound silly will actually contain good scholarship; some of those that sound smart and"traditional" will actually contain poor scholarship.
Were the world anywhere near as simple as Victor Davis Hanson makes it out to be, we would all be drawn in crayon.
Among the 4500 persons who have signed the petition are: Robert Abzug, Eric Alterman, Joyce Appleby, Stanley Aronowitz, Omer Bartov, Gail Bederman, David Beito, Robert Bellah, Peter Berkowitz, David Bernstein, Michael Berube, Burton J. Bledstein, Harold Bloom, Miriam Elizabeth Burstein, Ian Buruma, David L. Carlton, Oscar Chamberlain, Juan Cole, James R. Davila, David Brion Davis, Morris Dickstein, Sherman Dorn, Jonathan Dresner, Ellen Carol DuBois, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Henry Farrell, John Lewis Gaddis, Herbert Gans, Norm Geras, Todd Gitlin, Nathan Glazer, Steven Horwitz, KC Johnson, Tony Judt, Ira Katznelson, Michael Kazin, Margaret L. King, Harvey Klehr, Mark A. R. Kleiman, Jacob T. Levy, Deborah Lipstadt, Ralph E. Luker, Charles Maier, Elaine Tyler May, Joanne Meyerowitz, Richard Rorty, Roy Rosenzweig, Vicki Ruiz, Hugo Schwyzer, Christine Stansell, Michael Walzer, Jon Wiener, Leon Wieseltier, and Alan Wolfe.
The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has issued a statement condemning the AUT boycott/blacklist. The American Political Science Association (APSA) has done the same, explicitly endorsing the AAUP statement. Jon Wiener and I have asked the executive committees of the AHA and the OAH to support the AAUP's position. In Sunday's Washington Post, is one of the first pieces covering this issue in the American press. See also: Juan Cole at Informed Comment, Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, David Velleman at Left2Right, Hugo Schwyzer, and Sharon Howard and KC Johnson at Cliopatria.
How can it be that 300 African boys between the ages of four and seven simply disappeared in London between July and September 2001? And Scotland Yard and the British media are only now taking notice. The BBC's story suggests that thousands may disappear annually and that these children may be caught up in the slave trade. It is simply inconceivable that this story would have gone unnoticed had the children been of European descent.
I am told that the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has issued a statement condemning the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) boycott of the universities of Haifa and Bar Ilam and blacklisting of their faculty members. Among the 3800 persons who have signed Jeff Weintraub's on-line petition in support of the American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) condemnation of the boycott are: Robert Abzug, Joyce Appleby, Stanley Aronowitz, Omer Bartov, Gail Bederman, David Beito, Robert Bellah, Peter Berkowitz, David Bernstein, Michael Berube, Harold Bloom, Miriam Elizabeth Burstein, Ian Buruma, Oscar Chamberlain, Juan Cole, David Brion Davis, Morris Dickstein, Sherman Dorn, Jonathan Dresner, Ellen Carol DuBois, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Henry Farrell, John Lewis Gaddis, Herbert Gans, Norm Geras, Todd Gitlin, Nathan Glazer, Steven Horwitz, KC Johnson, Tony Judt, Ira Katznelson, Michael Kazin, Margaret L. King, Harvey Klehr, Mark A. R. Kleiman, Jacob T. Levy, Deborah Lipstadt, Ralph E. Luker, Charles Maier, Elaine Tyler May, Joanne Meyerowitz, Richard Rorty, Roy Rosenzweig, Vicki Ruiz, Hugo Schwyzer, Christine Stansell, Michael Walzer, Jon Wiener, Leon Wieseltier, and Alan Wolfe. Jon Wiener and I have asked the executive committees of the AHA and the OAH to support the AAUP's position. In Sunday's Washington Post, you can expect to find the first major coverage of this issue in the American press.
Gitmo: Speaking of toilets, by now we all know that Newsweek has retracted its story about prisoner interrogators at Gitmo flushing a Koran down the toilet. As Tim Burke suggests, the reactions in the media and on the net are tiresomely predictable. But even this sad story had its lighter moments. Juan Cole says that a colleague heard one student report that prison guards at Gitmo had flushed a Korean down the toilet. More seriously, he writes,"As a professional historian, I would say we still do not have enough to be sure that the Koran desecration incident took place. We have enough to consider it plausible. Anyway, the important thing politically is that some Muslims have found it plausible, and their outrage cannot be effectively dealt with by simple denial." The fact is that there were prior published reports of the desecration of the Koran and they did not lead to riot and death. The fact is that the administration had prior access to the story and did not object to its publication. The fact is that no one can prove that Newsweek's story is false. What is disturbing is that the administration is now, not only giving government contracts to columnists and journalists to report favorable stories, but it is demanding retractions of stories that it doesn't approve of – after having cleared the story on national security grounds.
Yalta: At Crescat Sententia, the University of Chicago's Amy Lamboley challenges the claims of StephenBainbridge that the United States could have prevented the Soviet Union from dominating eastern Europe at the end of World War II. In my humble opinion, Professor Bainbridge should stick with corporate law. Lamboley thinks like a historian and you can put her"What If?" right there beside Alan Allport's"More War Bunk" and Greg Robinson's George W. Bush, Historian?"
The relationship between the interpretation of the constitution and the values of society is a difficult one. One reason is that values change as knowledge changes. When knowledge and values both change, then constitutional interpretation necessarily changes.
Consider the 14th amendment. It was pushed upon the nation by quasi-revolutionary means by people who viewed the races as essentially equal and who considered it the duty of the national government to support this.
After Reconstruction, most of the country preferred greater deference to states rights (for both racist and non-racist reasons), and the interpretation of the 14th amendment narrowed to eliminate most Congressional “meddling” in the states’ handling of race.. By the 1890s, Darwinism gave what appeared to be support for racism, and racial inequality became scientific fact. That is the part of the context of Plessy v. Ferguson.
During and after world War II changes in the scientific view of race, the respect won by the actions of African Americans in politics and war, and the terrible object lesson of the Holocaust shifted educated and public opinion in the direction of accepting the idea that the races were truly equal.
Court interpretation of the 14th amendment changed with this, moving toward the original intent of the people who wrote the amendment (though not necessarily the desires of those who reluctantly ratified it).
One writer in the mid to late 1950s, I have sadly lost the citation and name, argued that the Brown decision would have been better if the Court had ruled bluntly that ghettoization of a people is contrary to the 14th amendment. He assumed the narrower reliance on sociology and the harm done to children was the price paid for unanimity. But even that reliance provides a direct glimpse at how changes in scientific knowledge (sociology was well respected then) affect interpretation of the constitution. Behind that was the broader realization, in part scientific, in part social, that the previous assumptions of racial inequality and racial difference was wrong.
The shift to a more scientific standard has affected the court in other areas, including homosexuality. At one point nearly everyone simply viewed it as evil. A majority is still uncomfortable. But when it comes to the rights of groups, the courts and many citizens accept, albeit grudgingly, that you cannot ghettoize a people just because the majority does not like them. You have to show cause, and if you can't, then the assumption is that the members of that group should be treated equally.
Thus, for more and more justices, discrimination against a group must have an “objective” basis. The state mush show harm done. Against that standard,"people don’t like it," or"the Bible tells us no," seems pretty weak, even to many conservative jurists.
Now a scientific standard--which is what this is, more or less--is no guarantee against problems. The racism of 1900 was “scientific.” The current blending of cutting edge biology and product development may present the Courts and the nation new moral dilemmas made all the more confusing by the wrapping of greed in the language of white coated “science.”
However, one of the disturbing things about the various Defense of Marriage amendments is that they declare categorically that whatever we learn about homosexuality should have no bearing on how we treat it, at least in the case of marriage. The effect will be to make the government “education proof” on this issue.
I've been considering a question without much success at finding an answer: What do I tell the students in my discussion sections? I graded their midterms and first papers, but will not be here to grade their second papers and final exams. I'll also miss the last discussion, which will be covered by other TAs. I'll have to say something about my coming absence. They'll also probably notice the sudden appearance of a wedding ring in the week before I leave.
I'm not inclined to discuss personal business or contemporary politics in the classroom, and so have been thinking I'll just announce that I won't be here for the end of the quarter, thank you and goodnight. Others here have argued that I should -- even must -- tell them why I'm leaving and where I'm going. I can think of arguments for and against, but I'll just ask this as a question, or as several questions: Should I tell? Should I tell, and try to use the news to generate a classroom discussion? Is there a reasonable way to drag a history lesson out of my news? (My research interests relate to the development of an American empire in the late nineteenth century, so it seems like some very careful and limited analogies might be made.)
One concern worth mentioning: In previous quarters, I have had active and engaged sections, and have also had students who were in ROTC or considering careers in the foreign service or the CIA, bless their innocent hearts. This quarter, the universe is punishing me for unidentified prior transgressions, and I have one section that could serve as a perfect metaphor for sailing through the doldrums. They just...don't...care. About anything. Ever. (I'm told that this is normal for the spring quarter.)
Does the composition and chemistry of a class change the answer to the questions? If they're disengaged, do I not bother? Or do I just sigh and step out there?
And, to repeat the question, is there a discussion about history available in the decision to tell them that I'm headed for Iraq?
What is interesting is that Jason Kuznicki has called, apparently facetiously, for a return to a pre-LOVING v. VIRGINIA situation, where states are free to rule against interracial marriages as well. This prompts me to ponder how the current debates over same-sex marriage reflect the efforts of the state throughout American History to use marriage laws to draw racial lines and define national citizenship. The most visible way in which state and federal authorities used marriage laws to exclude people of African and Asian ancestry, of course, is through laws forbidding racial intermarriage between whites and nonwhites. (It is worth remembering that these laws did not only exist in the South, and they were not only directed against Black equality. In his writings during the 1920s, Franklin Roosevelt justified the exclusion of Japanese immigrants and the discriminatory laws that prevented aliens from naturalizing or owning property on the grounds that these laws protected “racial purity” against intermarriage).
Miscegenation laws did not, in any case, represent by any means the sum total of such methods. Let me briefly discuss several others:
First, the Southern states refused to recognize slave marriages during the antebellum period. This had moral implications, in denying the humanity of enslaved African Americans and fixing their status as the property of the slaveowner, including the Black women victimized by the rape and sexual exploitation of white masters. Even more, the absence of legal bonds between slaves meant that the master’s property interest was unlimited--partners could be sold off and couples divided at his whim and profit. The division of families was a major subject of abolitionist propaganda. In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, the most influential antislavery novel ever published, the slave Eliza risks her life to escape to Canada in order to be reunited with her lover. In fact, many of the slaves who escaped the plantations through the Underground Railroad, were attempting family reunification, and one of the freedoms Canada offered the refugees was equal marriage rights. After the abolition of slavery, thousands of Black couples immediately solemnized their marriages, while countless others wandered the South and elsewhere, trying to find the families from whom they had been cut off.
Another example of the use of marriage laws to exclude nonwhites is Federal policies towards Chinese immigrants. After large-scale immigration from China began in the 1840s, whites in California and the Pacific states objected to the presence of the Asians as degenerated and a threat to white society, both by their alleged willingness to work for lower wages and through the menace of racial mixing. The vast majority of Chinese immigrants were single male laborers. Given this skewed sex ratio, morality leagues and anti-Asian committees argued that the Chinese were barbaric and opposed normal family life. Yet, when Chinese men thought of finding wives, and sex ratios became more balanced, these same committees charged that those Chinese women who immigrated were prostitutes. In 1875, Congress passed the Page Act, which banned prostitutes from entering the United States, and obliged Asian immigrant women—especially unmarried women-- to prove that they were not prostitutes, a difficult and degrading enough procedure to end most Chinese female immigration.
Seven years later, in 1882, Congress banned immigration by all Chinese laborers. Henceforth only small numbers of Chinese from protected categories—teachers, students, ministers and merchants—could legally enter the US. Those immigrants who had entered before exclusion was enacted were permitted to remain if they secured an identification card, were forbidden to bring their wives. Since according to federal law no Asian could become a naturalized US citizen, they were fixed as eternal foreigners, without equal rights. These acts froze Chinese communities as all-male, leading to a homosocial world of what Historian Nayan Shah has called queer domesticity, in which men formed their closest living and working relationships with other men. It also impeded the birth of American citizens of Chinese ancestry, who could enjoy full citizenship rights under the Constitution. Other Asian immigrants (other than Japanese), likewise banned from naturalization, remained in isolated bachelor communities.
Yet even American citizens of Asian ancestry faced legal obstacles to reproduction, in the form of the Cable Act. Out of fear that foreign men would control American women whose creatures they were, legally speaking, in 1906 Congress enacted a law that stripped American citizen women of their citizenship if they married male aliens. It was assumed that they henceforth were citizens by marriage of their husband’s countries. Following a campaign led by congresswoman Ruth Bryan Owen, daughter of statesman William Jennings Bryan, who had married an Englishmen lost her citizenship and been forced to go through naturalization proceedings to regain citizenship, the law was amended in 1921 to strip women of their American citizenship only if they married male aliens “ineligible to citizenship.” The law remained on the books until the 1930s, and limited community size and citizen political power by discouraging marriage between native-born Americans of Asian ancestry and Asian aliens. Yet, in spite of women being considered attachments of their husbands, Asian women, even those who married White men, remained excluded from entering the United States, let alone from citizenship.
Ironically, even after immigration laws ceased to exclude minorities, marriage became the prime factor in the ways the state viewed immigration, and in how the federal government drew national boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable immigrants. In 1952, Congress passed the McCarran-Walter Act, which granted immigration and naturalization rights to Asians, although it was not until 1965 that the discriminatory system of national quotas that favored Western Europeans was finally abolished. Both these laws gave priority in immigration to “family reunification, “ meaning those wishing to bring husbands or wives (or parents or children) had first shot at immigration visa slots. The law thus created a hierarchy of family relationships based on a heterosexual nuclear couple, rather than the extended families or informal kin units that have made up traditional family units. Ironically, the immigration Laws passed in part because of the popularity of these Family Reunification provisions. Though officially the laws opened up immigration on an equal basis to the entire world, they were in fact designed to maintain existing racial patterns and reconfirm white hegemony, since Euro-Americans were the largest fraction of US residents, and it was assumed that they would have most of the families that would benefit from such a law. Thanks to chain migration by Latin American and Asian families, however, non-European immigrants became the largest fraction coming in through such provisions.
At Historiblogography, Sameer puts us in touch with the conversation that begins with Robert Fisk,"Let Us Rebel Against Poisonous Academics and Their Preposterous Claptrap of Exclusion," Independent, 14 May, and continues with Sharon Howard,"Academics and Their Big Words," Early Modern Notes, 14 May. (Don't miss the discussion at Early Modern Notes or Margaret Soltan's comments at University Diaries.) Sameer reminds us of Judith Butler's prize-winning entry in the 1998 Bad Writing Contest. Can good writing absorb and vindicate specialized jargon?
Richard T. De George,"Purely Academic: Even Professors Misinterpret This Freedom," Washington Post, 15 May. Like David Beito, KC Johnson, and me, the University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas argues that threats to academic freedom come from both outside and inside the academic community. Thanks to Juan Non-Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy for the heads up. By the way, Sherman Dorn notes that he was about to sign up with his institution's WordPress blog site, before reading its user agreement that"we couldn't publish anything that was sexist, racist or otherwise ‘offensive.'" Obviously, most of us aren't going to be intentionally offensive, but putting decisions about what is and what is not offensive in someone else's hands is offensive. Sherman is at a public institution and, if I'm not mistaken, the legal case against such a user agreement in a public institution is quite clear. FIRE need only call Sherman's institution and read it the riot act.
We have been having entirely too much fun with this test. The results are not yet in from some of the outlying provinces, but Jon Dresner rightly suggests that the Cliopatriarchs are almost certain to be divided between the"revisionist historians" and the"theory sluts." Still, I worry about how many sluts there must be in a perfectly baked College of Cliopatriarchs. And, if that weren't scandal enough, some of my colleagues have been plotting an academic murder mystery in the college library. Eb at No Great Matter claims real life expertise. I suppose we'll have to put someone in charge of the Holy Office for the Interpretation of Behavioral and Cognitive Dissonance.
Finally, look what my man, Mr. Sun!, found: Cool French Comics. It is an amazing site. There's a timeline, tracing French fantasy since 1428 C.E. and a huge trove of French comic literature reproduced on-line.
As the Government of the United States...is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.Commenting on this passage from the Treaty, Allen observed that:
This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate's history. There is no record of debate or dissent. The text of the treaty was printed in full in the Philadelphia Gazette and in two New York papers, but there were no screams of outrage, as one might expect today.I disagreed with much of Allen's article. Underlying our founding documents is a long history of wisdom about human nature and human communities that led the founders to insist on a mixed system of checks and balances. Among other things, that wisdom traces back through a Calvinist sense of governance and human obligation to a biblical sensibility about human nature. Having said that, it still seems to me that the unanimous adoption of this language by the United States Senate in 1797 is remarkable and important to recall. It seems unthinkable that it might be adopted without objection in today's Senate.
But over at Spinning Clio, Marc did what historians do. He looked at the historical context in which the Treaty was adopted and found a little more complicated picture. He summarizes his findings in"Christianity as a ‘Founding Religion' Disavowed: What DID the 1796 Treaty Say (and when did it say it)?" Marc's findings are interesting. First, although Article 11 clearly was a part of official published versions of the Treaty of Tripoli, he sees some reason to doubt whether it was a part of the Treaty as it was submitted to the Senate in 1797. Secondly, even if it were a part of the Treaty as adopted by the Senate and signed by President Adams, he sees it as a placating assurance to north African rulers in order to achieve practical results in the release of American captives and the resumption of trade in the Mediterranean.
One of Marc's interesting findings is that the surviving Arabic version of the Treaty of Tripoli does not include the language cited above in the official versions of the Treaty as published in English. Rather, in the surviving Arabic version of the Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11 is"actually a letter, mostly gibberish, from the bey of Algiers to the ruler of Tripoli." It is otherwise described as"a letter, crude and flamboyant and withal quite unimportant, from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli."* What Marc doesn't see, I think, is that, if the language of the published English version of the Treaty's Article 11 doesn't appear in the only surviving Arabic copy of the Treaty, that undermines his claim that the language is there only to assuage the Muslim rulers of north Africa. It appears to me that there's need for additional research on the subject.
* In fairness to Marc, neither of these characterizations of Article 11 in the surviving Arabic version of the Treaty of Tripoli is his own. The prejudicial language is from old secondary sources.
Janny Scott and David Leonhardt,"Class in America: Shadowy Lines That Still Divide," NY Times, 15 May. Historians of America often talk about race/class/gender, but it usually resolves itself into race and gender. Scott and Leonhardt look at class.
John Thiebault, in comments at Easily Distracted, thinks that I've failed to mention that the new and improved Tim Burke -- er -- the new and improved Easily Distracted is up and running. Well, I had mentioned it, but in too obscure a note. In case, you haven't yet heard, Tim Burke's new and improved Easily Distracted is up and running, with comments enabled.
Sharon Howard,"Academics and Their Big Words," Early Modern Notes, 14 May. Key sentences:"... it's not the language/vocabulary that's the problem, it's a matter of lack of writing skills. And it's quite true that poor writing + heavy theory (tends to) = extreme violence to language." Sharon also adds to the cornucopia of history-links at the Dictionary of Received Ideas.
It is that time of year. Students are getting their grades. The honorable F seems to be disappearing, but what if you get one? You can appeal to the professor, in which case you must be prepared to get a hard ass answer. Or, if you get three of them, you can issue a press release.
The Discovery Channel is doing a"Greatest Americans" show that invites viewers to call-in their votes. The list of 100 nominees is heavy on the side of contemporary show business; light on historical significance. The list is ludicrous. (Don't argue with me about this. Would Dr. Phil, Ellen DeGeneres, Rush Limbaugh, Richard Nixon, and Martha Stewart make your list of the 100 Greatest Americans?) You can join the laughter, the scorn, and the discussions at Professor Bainbridge, Big Tent, Horizon and Political Animal.
Everyone will have links to these articles today. So why shouldn't I?
The New York Times giveth...
- David Greenberg did a guest blogging stint over at Daniel Drezner's place and discovered that blogging -- particularly history blogging -- is not for the faint of heart. Even citing our own KC Johnson (this post) didn't help.
- The University of Texas at Austin has converted an undergraduate library to a computer access and study space. Like a really big Starbucks, but the baristi (baristas? baristae? baristim?) actually know something useful. The books will be relocated within the UT-A library system. No, it's not a tragedy. Neither is it a triumph.
I’m going to leave aside all those trivial arguments about equality and respecting the patriotism of women. This is just another sign that a lot of conservatives in this country don’t really believe women deserve equal respect, much less equal rights. Let’s cut to the idiocy here. The administration’s foreign policy doesn’t have a chance in hell if the role of women in the military is scaled back. The U.S. may not have the manpower to succeed as it is.
Of course, all of this could be just theater for the religious right. Make some stern pronouncements. Screw over the careers of a few women to show you mean business (see the second Post article). Then rest assured that the military leadership will revert to the status quo by changing a few classification definitions.
Wow, I’m glad we’re spreading freedom, equality, and respect for women to the Middle East.