Historian of the Left

Resistance to Digital Humanities, Rightly Understood

A debate over the politics of digital humanities has broken out in the pages of the Los Angeles Review of Books. The first salvo came on May 1 from Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette, and David Golumbia in their co-written article “Neoliberal Tools (and Archives).” The authors charged the emergent field of digital humanities scholarship with complacency and complicity with the privatization of the university. Obsessed with technological wizardry, DH scholars Read More

Historians of the World, Adapt?

Professors Jo Guldi and David Armitage threw down the scholarly gauntlet six months ago when they published their bold appeal to rescue History from the “bonfire of the humanities.” The History Manifesto claims that the discipline’s descent into public irrelevance has resulted from current historical scholarship’s lack of long-term thinking. Citing statistics that show a precipitous decline (then slow rise) in the average time span of History dissertations over the 20th Read More

Occupy Hong Kong?

For the past couple of days, tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens have taken to the streets to protest recent decisions by the central Chinese government to limit voting reforms in the city and to allow only communist-vetted candidates stand for the city’s upcoming municipal elections. Several dozen protestors have suffered injuries in clashes with the city’s police, who wield the all-too-familiar implements of “non-lethal” crowd control: tear gas, Read More

Not a Coup: A Revolution

Yesterday the Ukrainian Parliament voted to oust President Viktor F. Yanukovych, and shortly afterward the people of Kiev stormed the presidential palace, forcing Yanukovych to flee the capital. He refuses to step down and rejects the Parliament’s decision to hold new elections at the end of May, despite the fact that it is acting within its constitutional rights. Denouncing the Kiev uprising as a “coup” that is (somehow) reminiscent of Read More

New Beginning: Sketch for a Conceptual History

The new year inevitably brings with it a spate of new year’s resolutions. While the timing of these life decisions — vowing to exercise more, to spend less money, to find a partner or new job, etc. — is somewhat arbitrary and their results often short-lived, the symbolic importance of the new year and its seemingly infinite possibilities is undeniable. Baby New Year is a common personification of this collective Read More

Dr. Pangloss on Science and the Humanities

Steven Pinker’s latest article in The New Republic seems designed to enrage the very audience that it wants to assuage: “neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians.” In seeking to convince these hardy defenders of the humanities that modern science is not in fact the enemy, Dr. Pangloss, er, Pinker paints a rosy picture of our best of all possible worlds in which scientific advancements, like those of the 18th-century Enlightenment, Read More

Article Fever: On Scholarly Reading

The archive, Jacques Derrida tells us in his 1995 book Archive Fever, “is not only the stockroom and the conservatory for archivable contents of the past which would exist in any case, and just the same, without the archive. [. . .] No, the technical structure of the archiving archive also determines [both] the structure of the archivable contents even as it comes into existence and its relationship to the Read More