ahorbinski: The five elements theory in the style of the periodic table of the elements.  (teach the controversy)
A group of friends and I revolutionized the humanities, as I learned today at lunch.
ahorbinski: hulk smash male privilege! (hulk smash male privilege)
A month ago I headed across the Bay to San Francisco for the second San Francisco WikiWomen's Edit-a-Thon. I met a lot of awesome people there and had some really good conversations about Wikipedia, information, and gender, among other things. I also, over the course of about three hours, transformed approximately a semester's worth of research into a five-paragraph article on a pioneering Japanese feminist historian. (Along the way, I discovered that the earlier article stub had plagiarized a sentence wholesale from the article listed in the references.)

I know a lot of academics are highly suspicious of Wikipedia, not always for what I would consider the right reasons. But, especially after hearing Jimmy Wales speak at the Wikimania opening reception last week in Washington, DC, I do think that it's important that academics not shut what we know up in our ivory towers - not just for the sake of the knowledge that we create and love, or even for ourselves, but for everyone else in the world who could benefit from that knowledge, too.

ahorbinski: A picture of Charles Darwin captioned "very gradual change" in the style of the Obama 'Hope' poster.  (Darwin is still the man.)
Sarah Monette, who holds a Ph.D. in English literature from UW-Madison, recently posted a review of Richard Godbeer's The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England that thoroughly dissects one of the most common pitfalls of historiography, in my opinion: namely, the failure of the historian to take the worldview of her subjects on its own terms--not to share that worldview, which is impossible and would defeat the scholarly endeavor, but simply to grant it basic respect:

Now, I am not saying that historians of seventeenth-century New England have to believe in divination or witchcraft or any other point of their subjects' cosmology. But I am saying that they have to approach that cosmology, and all those beliefs, with respect and without trying to explain them away for post-Enlightenment readers. Because in so doing, all the historian accomplishes is to put another layer of obscuration and confusion over his or her analytical lens. And implicitly encourages the belief that his or her pre-Enlightenment subjects were a bunch of gullible fools. Which they were not.

Dipesh Chakrabarty talks about the failure to grapple with religious experience and non-human agencies as a consequence of historiography's origins in modernity, which is certainly true as far as it goes, but this is also on a certain level a fundamental pitfall of the human condition--certainly Herodotus assumes the basic superiority of his worldview over his non-Greek subjects', though he rarely insists on it explicitly. Along with certain other common pitfalls, it's one to perennially be on guard against.


ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

May 2016

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