How, if at all, is published pseudohistory publicly addressed by scholars and academia?

How, if at all, is published pseudohistory publicly addressed by scholars and academia?

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To start of I would like to make it clear that I am not a historian or academian of any kind. I'm only interested in history as a hobby.

I was just browsing to buy an audiobook in area of Ancient Middle Eastern History. Hopefully, something that would cover Sumer, Egypt, Akkadia, Babylon, etc. Once I came across revisionist material and material based solely on Bible as evidence I realized that this search would be much harder than what I might be capable.

So my primary question is, “How, if at all, is published revisionist history publicly addressed by scholars and academia?”.

I am trying to understand, if popular books sold to an average reader are based on unvetted and speculative sources how are they to find genuine information to learn from.

The usual general attitude of professional historians to revisionist history is ignoring it. Except some publications specially written to refute it.

Your last sentence with the question is not completely clear, but I interpret it as: "How can a non-specialist tell "revisionist history" from "mainstream history". Usually, by the author's reputation, affiliation, and publisher. For example, a book by a professor of Classics, published by Cambridge (Chicago, Princeton) University press, is unlikely to be revisionist history. One can also search for reviews of the book, and make a judgement.

Remark. History based on the Bible, as a main source, is usually not qualified as "revisionist", because there was time when the Bible was considered the ultimate source of all knowledge:-) Even in modern times such history books exist, and usually they do not qualify as "revisionist". But this type of book is easy to detect once you browse it.

Remark 2. I don't want to imply that all "revisionist" historians are wrong. But before reading their books it is strongly advisable to make yourself familiar with "mainstream" history. There are also distinctions between pseudo-history and revisionist history.

Check its sources

Outside formally reviewed documents, there is no official quality control to ensure historical accuracy.

Individual books may inspire a debunking if a historian is sufficiently peeved about it.

This is more the exception than the rule: there is no point in going around and dissecting every book for its historical/scientific/etc. correctness.

A quick test to identify the more reliable works is to check its bibliography. If it's lacking, you should not take its contents at face value.

It usually depends on how well the revionist history is backed up by evidence and how this evidence is interpreted, but this is by no means the only factor. Any historical work which wants to be taken seriously by scholars must back up arguments with evidence and not obviously distort or deny facts (e.g. claiming that the earth is only 6,000 years old). Scholars often just ignore anything that doesn't meet these requirements (this is what is often termed 'pseudohistory').

Much revisionist history results from newly available evidence (e.g. documents released by governments after a certain time period) and new finds (e.g.archeological), while other revisionist history is a re-interpretation of evidence previously available. There are also many cases where historians have a different viewpoint, often because the evidence is inconclusive, and will seek to counter the arguments presented by another scholar. This is often done initially through peer reviews and articles in journals.

Scholars also check how evidence which may run counter to the revised history has been dealt with - was this evidence acknowledged (and if so, how) or was it simply ignored? The importance of bibliographies has already been noted by Kargathia. I would add that one should also pay attention to how extensive the bibliography is. If only two or three sources were cited, were they written by people with qualifications in their fields of study? Do they all support the same theories or interpretations, or do they present contrasting views? The extensive use of footnotes is also something to look out for (but they are rarely found outside the academic world). When writing a PhD thesis, students are expected to use footnotes to cite sources (among other things) - this makes it much easier to check specific evidence.

One should also look at the evidence itself and consider if the person recording events had an agenda. Was he aiming to entertain as well as inform his audience (in which case expect at least some exaggeration)? Did he have a sponsor (in which case unpleasant facts about the sponsor will probably be left out)? Even the objectivity of the 'Father of Scientific History' Thucydides has been questioned. A document may have been written at the time an event happened but that does in itself necessarily make it reliable evidence. For example, 12th century chroniclers give a generally unfavourable impression of William II but, given that they were all monks and that William II's relations with the church were very poor (they didn't approve of his lifestyle either), is it any surprise that he got a lot of bad press? In recognition of this, modern historians have reviewed some of the previously held views on this king and come up with other interpretations.

Archaeological finds, on the other hand, present a different set of problems. There have been some notable forgeries (the most famous perhaps being Piltdown man) and the significance of archaeological finds are often hard to gauge without supporting evidence or context.

Be aware also that, while there are many great documentaries on TV and YouTube, there is also a lot of rubbish - everything from sensationalism and exaggeration (to garner more viewers) to outright fabrication. It can be hard to tell sometimes what's reliable and what isn't, but if you read widely you'll begin to gain the knowledge and insight which will enable you to judge for yourself.

Question: How, if at all, is published revisionist history publicly addressed by scholars and academia?

The truth is nearly all history is revisionist -- because every historian has learnt their history from someone else and added his/her own view, with the exception of first-hand (direct) experience.

On 'publicly addressed', historians look at book reviews like everyone else (usually in journals, not popular press, if it's for specialist books).

One has to be careful walking into the debate about whether any scholarly work is Politically Correct revisionism because it is often abused. It often speaks more of the accuser than the historian whose work is being subjected to criticism. Book reviews from fellow historians are particularly useful in such cases. I don't think most everyone in History SE would qualify as a historian, but witness how often such claims are made (in comments).

Longer Explanation:

This is one of those seemingly simple, yet elusive, questions. Allow me to start with two simple definitions:

  • What is History? - Past events, processes, etc. For example, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire

  • What is Historiography? - What historians write, about past events, about history. For example, Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

We do not know what happened in the past, until we learn of it from someone else. This someone is usually a historian. How does the historian know history, say, of the Roman Empire? If we think of Gibbon's Roman Empire, his historiography would have to be based on the work of others because he was not there. Obviously the The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is revising history when it differs from the then prevailing historiography. It would be pointless otherwise.

So, isn't Gibbon revising history by adding his own perspective if it is based on new discoveries (or even new interpretations) of archaeology, historiography, linguistics, etc.?

For an average reader (meaning unfamiliar to the topic), with the additional issue of unvetted and speculative sources, the idea of learning history from popular books is not recommended, i.e. should not buy popular books to learn history.

Having said this, there are many popular books that are written by respected historians, archaeologist, etc. But you would have to know this author is in fact a respected historian (or archaeologist).

A historian named Deborah Lipstadt published some books "outing" David Irving as a Holocaust denier in his work. She then successfully defended herself in court when Irving sued her in London for "defamation."

Well, the historical process, by nature, is always under constant revision; that is to say, the interpretation and understanding of prior events and their impact on past societies, as well as the present-day, has always been, is (and I believe), will continue to be, the subject of revision.

The problem with so-called, "Revisionist History", has been and is still largely associated with the historiography and historical pedagogy of the past 25 plus years-(primarily at the college and graduate levels). It has been the rise and onslaught of Political Correctness that has debased and trivialized the practice of historical research and education-(and, rather cynically, hides underneath the veneer of Multiculturalism).

There has been, since the early 1990's, a deep politicization, indeed, a radicalization of how history is written, but also, how it is expressed and taught in colleges and universities. The Politically Correct history that has plagued contemporary American historical education and publishing is essentially rooted in the wild social philosophy of Post-Modernism and its Dogmatic relativism which began in the 1960's with its Pioneer, Michele Foucault. In other words, "the rules have changed" whereby so-called traditional historical education would focus on U.S. History, Western Civilization and the secondary or parenthetical study of non-Western civilizations and cultures. However, since the early 1990's-(or perhaps earlier, i.e., "The Closing of the American Mind"), it has become the reverse or the same model still exists, though is now the subject of rabid hysterical critiquing and near vilification. In the Politically Correct age, Western civilization, in particular, has, in a way, become a type of pinata whereby its most vocal of vocal critics symbolically "smash it to pieces" as a way of catalyzing a new historical narrative… (meet the new Iconoclasts).

This iconoclastic approach towards historical understanding and teaching is less concerned with historical veracity and more preoccupied with the promotion of a radically activist agenda. The politics of revisionism is the weapon of choice for the Politically Correct Activists and the sad truth is that they have been winning since the early 1990's and even into the present-day.

Revisiting and revising history is nothing new, nor should history ever remain exempt from re-visitation and revisionism. With the fantastic advancements in technology, fields, such as Archaeology, Genetic Anthropology and History itself, can examine the past with greater accuracy and refinement that is truly unprecedented. The aid and assistance of technology-(though far from perfect) has provided and equipped our age with a more objective interpretation of the past. However, the pioneering and fantastic success of technology cannot necessarily prevent the determination and perseverance of agenda seeking activists who have and will continue to undermine the historical process through their own process of radical revisionism and activist historical education.

Politically Correct revisionists are a major presence and they will continue to present a serious challenge to historical education and discoursing.

Cultural studies

Cultural studies is a field of theoretically, politically, and empirically engaged cultural analysis that concentrates upon the political dynamics of contemporary culture, its historical foundations, defining traits, conflicts, and contingencies. Cultural studies researchers generally investigate how cultural practices relate to wider systems of power associated with or operating through social phenomena, such as ideology, class structures, national formations, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and generation. Cultural studies views cultures not as fixed, bounded, stable, and discrete entities, but rather as constantly interacting and changing sets of practices and processes. [1] The field of cultural studies encompasses a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives and practices. Although distinct from the discipline of cultural anthropology and the interdisciplinary field of ethnic studies, cultural studies draws upon and has contributed to each of these fields. [2]

Cultural studies was initially developed by British Marxist academics in the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and has been subsequently taken up and transformed by scholars from many different disciplines around the world. Cultural studies is avowedly and even radically interdisciplinary and can sometimes be seen as antidisciplinary. A key concern for cultural studies practitioners is the examination of the forces within and through which socially organized people conduct and participate in the construction of their everyday lives. [3]

Cultural studies combines a variety of politically engaged critical approaches drawn including semiotics, Marxism, feminist theory, ethnography, critical race theory, post-structuralism, postcolonialism, social theory, political theory, history, philosophy, literary theory, media theory, film/video studies, communication studies, political economy, translation studies, museum studies and art history/criticism to study cultural phenomena in various societies and historical periods. Cultural studies seeks to understand how meaning is generated, disseminated, contested, bound up with systems of power and control, and produced from the social, political and economic spheres within a particular social formation or conjuncture. Important theories of cultural hegemony and agency have both influenced and been developed by the cultural studies movement, as have many recent major communication theories and agendas, such as those that attempt to explain and analyze the cultural forces related and processes of globalization.

During the rise of neo-liberalism in Britain and the US, cultural studies both became a global movement, and attracted the attention of many conservative opponents both within and beyond universities for a variety of reasons. Some left-wing critics associated particularly with Marxist forms of political economy also attacked cultural studies for allegedly overstating the importance of cultural phenomena. While cultural studies continues to have its detractors, the field has become a kind of a worldwide movement of students and practitioners with a raft of scholarly associations and programs, annual international conferences and publications. [4] [5] Distinct approaches to cultural studies have emerged in different national and regional contexts.

No backing from the ivory tower. Plenty of grit.

Photo: Frank Wojciechowski

It’s a bitterly cold January night in Harlem, but inside the Hue-Man Bookstore & Café on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Jeff Perry ’68 is just getting warmed up. He’s been talking to a rapt audience for almost an hour about one of his greatest passions — the radical writer, educator, and orator Hubert Harrison.

Perry recently published the first volume of a two-volume biography of this forgotten giant, one he hopes will restore Harrison to the lofty place he deserves in early 20th-century African-American history, which tends to get framed as a struggle between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. “This will force people to include Harrison,” says Perry. “It will change the way people look at African-American history.”

Odds are, you haven’t heard of Harrison, who stood unflinchingly to the left of DuBois, putting his greatest hopes not in the “Talented Tenth” of black Americans but in members of the working classes and rejecting DuBois’ call for African-Americans to forget their “special grievances” for the good of the country during World War I. Even in Harlem, where Harrison’s public lectures on a mind-boggling range of subjects — from Shakespeare and evolution to Dickens, imperialism, socialism, and race — routinely drew hundreds, even thousands, almost no one remembers him. Today, 82 years after his death, the man whom historian Joel Rogers called the “foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” lies in a shared, unmarked grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Harrison’s granddaughter Ilva, who has come to hear Perry speak, tells the Hue-Man audience that until Perry came along, her family knew very little about its illustrious ancestor. But, she says, turning to Perry, “Every time I hear you talk, I learn something new about my grandfather.”

Those are sweet words to Perry, who, after stumbling on Harrison 27 years ago while working on a Ph.D. in American history at Columbia, has devoted just about every spare moment to promoting him and his work — an enormous labor of love. He has unearthed many of the 700 or so pieces that Harrison published, and edited A Hubert Harrison Reader (a great starting point for anyone interested in Harrison’s work). Since the November publication of his new biography, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883–1918, by Columbia University Press, Perry has been speaking at libraries, bookstores, and universities, on the radio, and even on C-SPAN, spreading the word to audiences big and small. People are listening: The Harlem Tenants Council has been working with Charles Barron, a member of the New York City Council, to honor Harrison properly, with a grave marker and a city council resolution.

What makes Perry’s labors especially impressive is that he, like his subject, did all of his scholarly work in his spare time. Perry recently retired after 33 years of working for the post office, a career he chose out of a conviction that any positive change in our society would start with working people. When he left the Postal Service last fall, he was treasurer of Local 300 of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.

As a result, the meticulous digging that went into the book — the first volume has 116 pages of footnotes — was done on a hellish schedule. Perry would catch a predawn train into Manhattan from his home in northern New Jersey. He’d come home about 4 p.m., heat up whatever dish his wife, Becky Hom, had prepared for him and their daughter, Perri Hom, and shuttle Perri to soccer games and other after-school activities. In the early evening, his domestic duties done, Perry would sit down at his desk and work late into the night. He used his own money to pay for research trips: to Harrison’s native island of St. Croix to Denmark, which once owned St. Croix and to England, among other places.

Perry proudly identifies himself as an “independent scholar,” a rather nebulous term that can signify different things, even to the people who describe themselves as such. Usually, though, it refers to someone who holds an advanced degree and pursues scholarly work — but does it outside the academy. Books by these writers rarely are bestsellers (few scholarly books are), but some have drawn rave reviews in journals and general-interest magazines.

John Dippel ’68, who has published three history books, calls himself an “independent scholar” because it seems both accurate and more dignified than some of the other options. “I once had an interviewer call me an ‘amateur historian.’ I think in our society ‘amateur’ has a negative ring to it, whereas ‘independent scholar’ has a higher ring,” muses Dippel, whose three books raise intriguing psychological questions about major historical events, as the subtitle of Bound Upon a Wheel of Fire (Basic Books) suggests: Why So Many German Jews Made the Tragic Decision to Remain in Nazi Germany. “The ‘independent’ part is very important, while the label ‘scholar’ speaks to what we try to do, which is to emulate the methods and approaches that people in academia take,” Dippel says. “But I don’t think there’s any real distinction. It’s not like it’s going to be second-rate because it doesn’t come out of a university department somewhere.”

Independent scholars can be forgiven if they sound a little defensive. In some ways, they are like kids with their noses pressed to the window of the candy store. It’s not just the absence of a regular paycheck or the additional hurdles in finding an agent and publisher that can make theirs a tough existence. It’s also the lack of an identity that means something to the outside world. “It’s very hard to put yourself out there,” says Shelley Frisch *81, who is a freelance translator of German into English. “Who exactly are you? How do you fit in, as far as the logistics of grant applications?”

It’s hard to operate outside the university system, since that’s where scholars are expected to ply their trade. Dippel worked 20 years for an academic marketing firm, a job that took him to many college campuses. What he saw did not make him miss academia. When he’s asked what he does, he tends to point to the deeper pleasures that come from remaining an enthusiastic student. “What I try to convey is that there are broad questions out there that really fascinate me, that I’m willing to devote four or five years of my life to really understand,” he says. “There’s both a luxury in having that but also a lot of downside in that there’s no money that comes with it. There’s no real status or institutional connection that might make you a more recognizable commodity to people.” (However, Dippel has received professional recognition, with positive mentions in publications such as The American Historical Review, Library Journal, and the Times Literary Supplement.) The author says he is “comfortable” missing out on the benefits of a university appointment: “I think you have to be fairly content with yourself as you are, without any labels or recognition.”

James Ward ’77, who earned a doctorate in Italian from Berkeley in 1992, notes that independent scholars lack the most basic perks of a university appointment: no tenure, no salary, no title, no fellowships. Ward is about to publish an article about subversive political messages he believes Michelangelo hid in his work in the Medici funeral chapel, and in several months will submit a book to academic presses about that and other subversive messages hidden in art. He soon will begin translating Benedetto Varchi’s Storia Fiorentina, a classic of Renaissance historical writing, which never has been translated into English. “You have to find your own rewards,” he says. “But there’s something to be said for doing it out of love of the work itself. That’s something that often gets lost in the scramble for tenure and grants.”

One practical challenge is getting access to libraries. Dippel and Perry both use Columbia’s library, but a library card can be prohibitively expensive. Gloria Erlich *77, who has published books on Hawthorne and Edith Wharton, likes to put it this way to uncooperative librarians: “Our books are in your library!”

That doesn’t always do the trick. So Erlich has worked to give independent scholars a more solid identity. She was instrumental in founding the Princeton Research Forum, a group of some 75 independent scholars who meet once a month to exchange ideas and critique members’ works in progress. There are similar groups in academic centers like Boston, New Haven, and Berkeley, as well as a national organization, the National Coalition of Independent Scholars, which has about 200 members and publishes a quarterly newsletter, The Independent Scholar. Members of the Princeton Research Forum receive a membership card, which confers on them something approximating the official status likely to satisfy bureaucrats.

Erlich used to make regular presentations on independent scholarship at academic conferences, and she usually would start with a little joke: “Before I make this sound too good,” she’d say, “let me tell you that I write on a matrimonial fellowship.” Not that she’s ashamed of it: Who in her right mind would expect to support herself through scholarship? Erlich knew she’d gotten her message across the day a woman stood up at one of her talks and announced proudly, “I used to think I was an unemployed Ph.D. Now I know I’m an independent scholar!”

There always have been independent scholars for people of a certain aristocratic class and intellectual bent, it was not at all unusual to pursue their scholarly interests far from any college quad. Darwin, surely, was an independent scholar, laboring away in his greenhouses at Down House. So were Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Johnson, and so, too, was Princeton’s own Edmund Wilson ’16.

Wilson, in fact, occupies a special place in the annals of independent scholarship. He seems to have been, if not the first, certainly one of the first, to use the term, which he applied to the classical scholar Paul Elmer More in an essay on the occasion of More’s death in 1937. More, a former editor of The Nation, today is a somewhat forgotten figure, but in the 1920s and ’30s, he was a friend and colleague to many top classical and religious scholars. When More died, T.S. Eliot wrote an appreciation of him in PAW that is notable for being at least as dry as it was appreciative.

More lived in Princeton and maintained a symbiotic relationship with the University, lecturing occasionally on Greek philosophy and the history of Christianity, advising students, and moving in the same social circles as many faculty members. Indeed, it was in the company of Dean Christian Gauss that Wilson paid the visit to More on which he based that 1937 essay, “Mr. More and the Mithraic Bull” (included in Wilson’s book The Triple Thinkers). “He was himself not really typical of the American academic world,” wrote Wilson. “He was an independent scholar, who had denounced in the most vigorous language the lack of sincerity and the incompetence of the colleges.” The identity of an independent scholar seems to have been formalized in the late 1970s and early ’80s, as a practical response to the fact that universities were producing far more Ph.D.s than the job market could absorb. “I think it came about because the university system was turning out people who had certain expectations, certain training, that the times frustrated,” says Erlich. “I don’t think Paul Elmer More was frustrated. I think he had the best of both worlds.”

Some independent scholars note that academia is not kind to generalists. Freed from the demands of a university, the scholar is free to pursue whatever is of interest at the moment, and to move on when interest wanes. Variety is one of the great pleasures Frisch takes from her work as a freelance translator. Among the books she has translated are a history of Zionism a cultural history of eunuchs and castrati and biographies of Nietzsche, Einstein, and Kafka, the last of which won her the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Prize. Each of these books required considerable background research, which means that Frisch has had the pleasure of exploring new fields. This year she has three books coming out: German entertainer Hape Kerkeling’s diary of his walk along Spain’s Camino de Santiago, which has sold 3 million copies in Germany The Girls of Room 28, about a group of girls who lived together in the Theresienstadt concentration camp and a biography of Julius Fromm, a Jewish manufacturer of condoms in Berlin, whose business was seized and “Aryanized” by Hermann Göring, who gave the company to his godmother as a gift. Most academics don’t range that far in a lifetime.

Before turning to translation full time, Frisch spent 20 years teaching at colleges, including Columbia and Haverford. While she doesn’t miss the politics of the academic world, she does miss the camaraderie — or she did, until she joined the Princeton Research Forum and the PEN American Center. “I welcomed any umbrella organization that would have me — sort of the opposite of Groucho Marx,” she laughs. She recently was chosen to sit on the PEN Center’s jury for its annual translation prize and had the thrill of announcing the winners at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center. “Just being able literally to stand up for my profession in such a public setting was really wonderful,” she says.

Still, despite the success she has enjoyed as an independent scholar — in addition to the freedom, she says, she still earns substantial lecture fees and is asked to submit articles for journals — Frisch finds her thoughts turning to teaching. “Sort of crablike, I move sideways toward the academy,” she allows.

Harrison, the subject of Jeff Perry’s life’s work, surely would have appreciated the labors of these independent scholars and recognized the obstacles they face. A lifelong autodidact, he worked almost entirely outside the academy, acknowledging its existence only in order to chastise those academics he regarded as pompous frauds. Indeed, one of the most moving passages in Perry’s biography of Harrison is his description of the lengths to which working people were willing to go in order to learn about fairly abstruse subjects. In Harrison’s day, New York City bustled with night schools, lyceums, and parlor discussion groups. It was nothing for Harrison to give 10 or even 20 lectures in a single week, and he never seemed to lack for an audience of independent scholars.

So why isn’t Harrison better known today? Partly it’s due to his rejection of Christianity, which meant turning his back on the most powerful institution in the black community. He also was an independent thinker who did not hesitate to criticize the people who might have championed him and his work after his sudden death, from a ruptured appendix, in 1927 at the age of 44. (Referring to Booker T. Washington’s willingness to tolerate abuse, Harrison said that some black leaders “have a wishbone where their backbone ought to be.”)

For Perry, Harrison’s lack of notoriety today could be an opportunity: It means there is a wealth of rich but little-known material to use in the second volume of his biography. Perry plans to spend the rest of his life finishing that and working on a biography of his own mentor, the late independent scholar Theodore Allen, whose work argues that race — whiteness and blackness — was “invented” as a means of social control. “Ted Allen’s work utterly threatens 95 percent of the historians in this country because he challenges their work,” says Perry.

Prepared for the day that the second volume of the Harrison biography is done, Perry’s basement contains a large archive of various collected papers touching upon matters of race and class. He has some 400 file boxes stacked to the ceiling — literally — that include papers dealing with his own life of activism, the singer Alberta Hunter, and communism. Perhaps most intriguingly, he has 10 boxes of papers from the Weathermen, from the time the 1970s radical group went underground. He got them from an old friend and onetime Harvard student who was national secretary of Students for a Democratic Society.

It’s all enough to keep Perry busy for years. And, like any self-respecting independent scholar, he really can’t imagine life any other way.

Merrell Noden ’78 is a frequent PAW contributor.

Joan Levinson, '54 grad student wife, Says:

2009-04-27 09:18:16

Very informative article and make me proud to know you and your colleagues in print.

Judith Winner Says:

2009-04-28 11:15:51

There are those of us, who for one reason or another have had problems with getting an "advanced" degree. I only have a BFA (from Ohio State) and while I would love the opportunity to get a higher degree, it's just not in the cards. So, I do what I can, when I can. There's something to be said for being open to an inter-disciplinary approach. I may not have a background in biotechnology, but when research is published there that confirms some of my own findings, I make sure to add it to my bibliography.

Tiffany Wayne Says:

2009-04-28 17:21:29

Great article! I'm glad to see this coverage of the outstanding work done by independent scholars and look forward to reading Perry's work on Harrison.

Fred Lamptey Says:

2012-06-04 10:31:01

Great article. First time reading anything about Hubert Harrison. It's a shame how some of our renowned ancestors had been completely drowned in the ashes of the past. I see I have some work to do.

Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu

As privatized platforms like look to monetize scholarly writing even further, researchers, scientists and academics across the globe must now consider alternatives to proprietary companies that aim to profit from our writing and offer little transparency as to how our work will be used in the future.

In other words: It is time to delete your account.

Screenshot of the delete function on

At first glance, looks like a win-win situation. The platform allows users to create a profile, upload their work, tag certain interests and then to tap into large networks of people with like research interests among the almost 47 million users from around the globe. But looks--and names--aren't always what they seem.

It Is Not A "Real" .edu

First and foremost? That web address is more than a little deceptive. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Associate Executive Director and Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association (MLA) remarked on her blog, "the first thing to note is that, despite its misleading top level domain (which was registered by a subsidiary prior to the 2001 restrictions), is not an educationally-affiliated organization, but a dot-com, which has raised millions in multiple rounds of venture capital funding." Historian Seth Denbo probably said it best when, almost a year and a half ago, he warned scholars that they were providing free data to a for-profit company rather than participating in an open-source, non-profit often associated with .edu domains.

When scholars use academia dot edu are they aware that they are providing their data to a for-profit venture capital backed company?

— Seth Denbo (@seth_denbo) October 19, 2015

Paying For Status

Last year at this time, the site received a hefty amount of criticism due to its emailed queries to scholars asking if they might want to pay a "small fee" in exchange for getting papers "recommended" on the site. In other words, they were offering to signal boost publications in exchange for money. This was met with quite a bit of backlash from users and some especially bad PR, which essentially seemed to kill the initiative. However, the site remained committed to figuring out how to get more money from users by introducing the "premium feature" in late December.

This feature allows users to get special data analytics about who is reading their papers, including the "role" (i.e. the rank) of the person looking at their work. Emails even go out to users letting know the percentile (a top 4% scholar!) of the person downloading their work. Are we supposed to somehow value that a full professor looked at our work over, say, an adjunct? The new feature is academic class politics to a new level--and it only promotes the further stratification of the academy.

Screenshot of the new premium feature from which allows you to see the status of the . [+] person looking at your work.

Open Access, Non-Profit Alternatives

What, then, are the alternatives for people who want to freely distribute their work? It turns out there are a number of choices for people both connected to a university and outside of them.

Institutional Repositories: Many universities and colleges in fact have their own institutional repositories for research. At the University of Iowa, we have Iowa Research Online, which grants space to undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and many other researchers to house their work. There is in fact a consortium of repositories from the Big Ten schools called the Big Ten Academic Alliance that then begin to connect networks of scholars in a searchable database--although it is admittedly a much smaller network than exists at

Zenodo: Another repository for research data is called Zenodo. It is funded by the OpenAIRE Consortium (an open access network) and CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The site is a non-profit and integrates easily with your GitHub account. It allows users 50 GB of storage for each dataset, though you can contact them and lobby for more.

(Please note that after the original publication of this article, digital humanist Ethan Gruber launched his migration tool to allow people to migrate documents from to Zenodo: tool [here] and blog post on the technique [here].)

@Uwartenberg @SarahEBond I do not use academia. I only upload to @zenodo_org now, because it is truly free and open

— Ethan Gruber (@ewg118) January 20, 2017

Humanities Commons: Humanities Commons is a non-profit network open to all scholars to post their work and access the scholarship of others. As they say on their site, it " is a project of the office of scholarly communication at the Modern Language Association [MLA]. Its development was generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation ." They work with the institutional repositories to help preserve scholarship online and keep it both protected and free.

[email protected] @UILibraries @academia We welcome you—and all humanists—to also share your work via nonprofit

— Humanities Commons (@humcommons) January 20, 2017

Many of the open access platforms that do not seek to monetize scholarship are in fact funded by government foundations like the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in addition to those privately funded by the non-profit Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Humanities foundations are thus even more imperative to scholars who wish to share their work freely without fear of having their scholarship used for profit. It is also one reason that last week, the news that the NEH and NEA may be cut due to budget restrictions caused so much worry. Humanities scholars rely on these entities not only to fund our work, but often also to preserve open access to it in the future. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I too have benefited greatly from funding from both the NEH and the Andrew W. Mellon foundation in my own research.

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How, if at all, is published pseudohistory publicly addressed by scholars and academia? - History no longer supports Internet Explorer.

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B.A. Koine Greek. B.A. Bible/Theology
M.Div.T.S. (Systematic Theology)
Th.M. (Historical Theology)
Ph.D. (History of Ideas - in progress)
Supervisors: Jon Robertson и Paul Metzger

We are all haunted by histories. They shape our presuppositions and ballast our judgments. In ter. more We are all haunted by histories. They shape our presuppositions and ballast our judgments. In terms of science and religion this means most of us walk about haunted by rumors of a long war. However, there is no such thing as the “history of the conflict of science and Christianity,” and this is a book about it. In the last half of the twentieth century a sea change in the history of science and religion occurred, revealing not only that the perception of protracted warfare between religion and science was a curious set of mythologies that had been combined together into a sort of supermyth in need of debunking. It was also seen that this collective mythology arose in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by historians involved in many sides of the debates over Darwin’s discoveries, and from there latched onto the public imagination at large. Flat Earths and Fake Footnotes takes the reader on a journey showing how these myths were constructed, collected together, and eventually debunked. Join us for a story of flat earths and fake footnotes, to uncover the strange tale of how the conflict of science and Christianity was written into history.

"Flat Earths and Fake Footnotes offers a comprehensive and compelling demolition of the tired myth of an enduring conflict between science and religion. Peterson not only exposes the historical bankruptcy of this familiar story, but also shows how it became a foundational narrative for Western modernity and why it persists. Beautifully written
and impeccably researched, this book deserves a wide readership."

-Peter Harrison, Former Andreas-Idreos Chair of Science and Religion, Oxford University, Current Australian Laureate Fellow and Author of The Territories of Science and Religion

"Peterson shows himself a gifted storyteller as well as scholar, combining true accounts of famous events (which prove no less interesting than the legends that have grown up around them and in some cases have replaced them) with the story of how those events were overlaid and refashioned into the myth so many treat as common
knowledge today: the untrue history of the war between religion and science. In an era full of so much untruth, Peterson's book is a breath of fresh air."

--James F. McGrath Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature, Butler University and Author of Science Fiction Theology.

"This work on the historiography of science and Christianity is
must-reading for high schoolers and college students, along with their parents and professors, and will, if heeded, change the way future generations will see the world. It

It is not easy to debunk a history that never happened, but Peterson has done precisely that, and achieved it admirably. The history of science is littered with stellar figures of immense importance, erudite thinking, and deeply Christian convictions. A new generation of Christians needs to be reacquainted with these scientific saints and Peterson's
work is a sure guide to this task."

--Myk Habets, Senior Lecturer in Theology, Laidlaw College, New Zealand. Author of Theology in Transposition: A Constructive Appraisal of T.F. Torrance

"Peterson is seeking to wake us from our dogmatic slumbers. Historians of
science, scholars of religion, and theologians often plough separate furrows, paying little attention to each other's work. But in Flat Earths and Fake Footnotes, Peterson has brought them all into conversation, condensing a truly vast amount of scholarship. He has shown, moreover, that scholars ignore each other at their own peril. Despite over
a hundred years of scholarship debunking the so-called 'conflict thesis,' the idea thatscience and religion are at war, perceptions of conflict persist. The only way forward from our scholarly impasse is to combine these fields of scholarship to paint a more comprehensive picture of what is going on. Impeccably researched and thoroughly readable, Peterson offers the reader a tour de force of the best research in the history
of science, religion, and theology."

--James C. Ungureanu, honorary research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland and in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Author of Science, Religion, and the Protestant Tradition: Retracing the Origins of Conflict

"Those who set the historiographical terms of debate frame the narrative involving the alleged conflict of Christian faith and science. Derrick Peterson's learned interdisciplinary study tracing the formation and deconstruction of the erroneous though ever-popular warfare thesis carefully sets the stage for future constructive work recounting
the complex developments of scientific history involving Christianity. Flat
Earths and Fake Footnotes provides the kind of critical analysis and creative catalyst so greatly needed today if we are to build nuanced understanding and trust between the scientific and faith communities for the sake of human flourishing."

--Paul Louis Metzger, Multnomah University & Seminary, Author of The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: The Sacred
and the Secular Through the Theology of Karl Barth

"Why won't this stubborn pseudohistory die? To the rescue comes Peterson, a historian extraordinaire with many stories to tell. Exuding a palpable glee, he quests to debunk the grand pseudohistorical myths of conflict. His book about books leads the reader in an adventure across centuries. Hacking through the webs of false references and out-right fabrications, the payoff is a glimpse of what really happened.
The truth is far more hopeful than the fiction. Rather than inevitable conflict, the true arc of science and religion might be dialogue, maybe even friendship. May this book
get the wide readership it deserves."

--S. Joshua Swamidass, M.D., Ph.D., Author of The Genealogical Adam and Eve

"Peterson offers us more than simply another genealogy debunking the warfare thesis. Rather, Flat Earths and Fake Footnotes offers us a deeply learned and absorbing meta-genealogy: a story of why and how the historiography that manufactured the myth of faith/science
conflict came to be superseded by the alternative and debunking historiography that we find today. The result is among the clearest and most bracing articulations I've read on the complex historical interplay between religion and science. Peterson's narrative
corrects our retellings of that interplay in the past. But more than that, Flat Earths challenges us to make explicit our present interests in such retellings and encourages us to imagine what sort of future for science and religion we are projecting with our historiographies. A remarkable first book by a formidable young scholar."

--Sameer Yadav, Author of The Problem of Perception and the Experience of God: Toward a Theological Empiricism

"In this remarkable volume, Peterson collates and contributes to a quiet revolution in the world of scholarship that is just now being disseminated to the masses. In your hands lies not just a book but the intersection of more scholarly threads than I thought possible in a single volume. Like a relentless detective, Peterson removes the dramatic
curtain that has been put over our collective consciousness for so very long, and what remains is a tale of mere mortals, behaving very much as they do today. None will leave without enduring the slow dissipation of myths that we didn't know we believed.
The cosmos that remains is, of course, so much more interesting and grand. This should serve as the definitive nail in the coffin of the warfare thesis for a generation to come. Even more than that, and especially delightful, it is a model of intellectual curiosity--of what scholarship ought to be."

--Joseph Minich The Davenant Institute

"Peterson's detailed and well-researched description and argument ought to dispel any notion that the earliest 'scientists' were hindered by religion in their pursuit of understanding the natural world. A must read."

--Mike L. Gurney, Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics, Multnomah University

"Peterson's book is another nail in the coffin of the Warfare Thesis and takes a different tack and gives an interesting and illuminatingly different perspective than the standard fair. Highly recommended."

-Michael Roberts. Retired Anglican priest and Historian of geology and Genesis. Author of Evangelicals and Science

"As a *very* hopeful agnostic, I have a keen interest on the relationship between science and faith. This book is probably the most delightful exploration of this history that I have ever read. In an erudite yet entertaining manner, Peterson explores this history in a way that undoubtedly makes the case that the enmity between science and religion, although undoubtedly present, has been rather exaggerated. Peterson acts as an ideal ambassador between these two disciplines. . Using the obligated--yet fully felt--remark, I must say: Highly recommended."

--Oné R. Pagán, PhD, Professor of Biology, West Chester University.
Author of 'The First Brain', 'Strange Survivors', and 'Drunk Flies and Stoned Dolphins'.

DH in Korea: The Digital Humanities Lab at the Academy of Korean Studies

In a previous post I briefly presented some of the richest and most commonly used online resources for Korean Studies. There I suggested that despite the plethora of premodern textual material that is freely available online, it remained to be seen what kind of digital humanities work scholars of Korea would be able to produce. Many factors contribute to this lukewarm reception on the peninsula itself, but chief among them is the sentiment among scholars that the barrier to entry is too high. The time investment required to learn how to generate meaningful research using computer-assisted analysis is too great in the publish-or-perish world of Korean academia. This is a reality that many of us in the West understand all too well. However, a younger group of scholars more at ease with digital interfaces and forward-thinking established faculty with graduate student assistants, are producing notable DH projects and making incremental progress towards establishing an ecosystem that encourages the consumption of historical facts and digitized archival data by scholars, students, and the general public. In this post I will introduce the Digital Humanities Laboratory initiative at the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) as a case study of the use of the wiki platform to create and publish premodern content.

The initiative is comprised of seven groups that are responsible for different aspects of the DH Lab’s overarching goal which is to “encourage the innovative reproduction of human knowledge in creative ways in the digital environment.” Based on the concept of the wiki platform, each group has its own wiki site with linked and nested pages that provide more information about a project or a piece of cultural heritage. These are linked, most with English titles, at the top of the bare bones landing page. Of these, the “Jangseogak Wiki” is worth noting because the results of some of the annual academic workshops and training programs held at the Changsŏgak Archives are published here as collaborative wiki content.

For instance, the 2016 Hanmun workshop’s translations from literary Chinese to English of selected documents from the Chosŏn (also transliterated as Joseon) Dynasty are available as English language wiki pages along with the original text, images of the original documents, and references for further research. This type of translation work, although extremely beneficial to scholars and fields of study as a whole, is very often eschewed by scholars because they are time consuming and because the evaluative systems for tenure in academia do not value translation as worthy scholarly output. Publishing translations generated collaboratively in training workshops as wiki content, though it does not adequately address all the issues mentioned above, may be a model that other fields of study might want to iterate on to address this issue.

Another interesting cluster in the AKS DH Lab is the “Encyves.” This is a neologism that blends the concepts of the encyclopedia and the archives together. As opposed to traditional encyclopedias, the contents of the Encyves are structured as nodes of a network, where each entry is linked to related entries through relationship tags displayed as a network visualization graph (an example is the featured image at the top of this post) and table at the bottom of the page. These visualizations help users see macro-level patterns in the historical documents more readily than text and encourage exploration of the Encyves‘s other entries. Further multi-media offerings like video content, 3D animations, and VR of sites and objects add to the discovery of the subject of an entry in various formats. A VR pavilion of historical buildings, objects, and past museum exhibitions gives users from all over the world access to an immersive experience of being on site. As well as the augmented reality capabilities of being able to click on icons in the simulation.

VR simulation of the Hoeam-sa temple site in Yangju, Kyŏnggi province, South Korea. Users can move through the site by clicking on labeled guide circles on the screen.

Some of these entries have been grouped into general themes, such as “monk stupa stele inscriptions” that lists all actors, places, objects, and texts that are related to monk stupa stele inscription entries in the Encyves. These types of groupings point to the wealth of content on this site and provide an alternative structure to the alphabetical listing that traditional encyclopedias would employ to organize knowledge. This, however, obviates the ways in which the DH Lab privileges specific types of cultural history and relationships.

It is truly to the DH Lab team’s credit that they have been able to organize and present such a staggering amount of premodern material in a digital format. Self-identified as a work in progress, there are several areas that could still benefit from further development. Beyond the numerous broken links and empty wiki pages, the Encyves do a poor job of combining the archive with encyclopedia. For example, it is surprising that the entry for the Mogŭnjip 牧隱集, a collection of poems written by the late Koryŏ scholar Yi Saek, does not include or directly link to the freely available text. Another aspect of the Encyves project that should be reconsidered is the presentation of digital media, such as 3D imaging and VR, as appropriate parts of an archive. Though these models are based on photography and 3D imaging software, they are nevertheless recreations of an object or place hundreds of years later than the date presented in an Encyves entry. The current format offers engagement with objects and places as holistically as possible, but this is often times at odds with the incomplete actuality of the thing or site itself. This is an important issue for cultural heritage preservation, archaeology, and art history that I will address in a subsequent post about digital images and remote research.

On a practical note, this portal is a great tool for students who are interested in learning about Korean History. The DH Lab even has an entire department that features English language wikis on Korean Studies topics called Korea 100. For those who are teaching in an online format this coming semester, these wikis are accessible and helpful assignments especially since they touch upon some underrepresented topics and can contribute to diversifying your syllabi.

Ultimately this initiative, though insufficient in many ways, models many of the ideals digital humanities projects aspire to: collaboration, dynamic and multi-faceted use, iterability. It also offers an alternative to the current incommensurability between an academic publishing system that still has yet to figure out an acceptable way to deal with born-digital or digital-reliant humanistic scholarship. The AKS DH Lab provides a prototype for other fields to build upon and showcases the potential of the wiki platform in the digital dissemination and creation of scholarly and public-facing historical content.

How, if at all, is published pseudohistory publicly addressed by scholars and academia? - History

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Objection #1: If we allow trans authors to change their names, what next? Can anyone revise any history they want?

Quotes from editors and the ACM community:

  • “Changing history is a fool’s errand. This feels like a scene from 1984.”
  • “What is published is published. It’s public record. A name change isn’t a correction to research that is published it’s a personal decision that need only be reflected in the present. I am against name changes on published work.”
  • “I’m wary of a trusted archive implementing a policy to change archived data. One of my concerns as a computing professional In watching the cultural shift to everything being digital is the ease with which information can be silently filtered/changed/suppressed. Implementation of this policy would seem to normalize archives changing archived records and encourage the development of tools needed for an Orwellian Ministry of Truth. Can we trust an archive that modifies its artifacts?”
  • “I don’t see any good reason to change the policy. A paper is identified by the names of the primary authors at the time the paper was written, this is part of the permanent record and is the underlying mechanism that allows academia to function. Even when someone marries or changes gender, this does not allow them to rewrite history.”

Responding to Objection #1:

T his is a form of the “slippery slope” fallacy. It raises the question: why should trans authors get to change their names, but other people can’t make changes to previously published scholarship? Won’t allowing name changes undermine the sanctity of previously published scholarship?

There are two clear ways to refute this:

  1. An author’s name is not a scholarly contribution. The name of the author is an essential part of a work of science, but it is not the science itself, which is reported on within the body of a published work. The name published with a work tells us who is speaking but not what is said. This is an important reason to allow a trans person to update their name on the work: so that readers may more clearly know who has authored it.
  2. An author is the sole authority over their identity. The publishing world currently does not require external verification of an author’s identity. When any author submits a work for publication, there is no background check performed, and the author is not asked to furnish legal ID attesting that they are in fact the person they say they are. We rightly assume that it is within the authority of any scholar to assert their identity at the time of publication without additional cumbersome infrastructures. Similarly, we don’t spell check the contents of every bibliography in every published paper. We trust authors to correctly cite their colleagues and sources, even though peoples names are frequently misspelled in reference lists. Scholarship operates on a system of discretion: we allow authors a degree of autonomy and discretion over these things, because it would be untenable to police academics to this degree. Thus, when my name is misspelled in a publication, I may request that the error be corrected. Similarly, it is the business of the trans person and only the trans person whether or not their name is correct in any given instance. They are the only stakeholder whose opinion matters in this situation, and the sole authority to which a publisher should defer when deciding how to handle that person’s scholarship.

More broadly, the notion of a sacrosanct historical record fails to understand the myriad of ways in which this record is a construct, constituted by our ongoing collective negotiations around what is and isn’t a meaningful contribution to the project of scholarship. The historical record, of necessity, is a curated archive. It cannot possibly contain everything that we might imagine including: drafts, working copies, notes, discarded notions, failed studies, and abandoned and incompetent scholarship. As a community we agree that certain information merits preservation and other information doesn’t. Scholars of archives recognize that the task of maintaining the information we’ve chosen to preserve is a dynamic and ongoing one, involving continuous transformation across different platforms and standards. Everytime a publisher introduces a new schema for organizing, tagging, and cataloging their publications, the historical record changes to accommodate the new perspective. The so-called “historical record” is a living thing that we collectively tend-to, and nurture, to advance the project of knowledge production and preservation. Insisting on the sanctity of some sort of static idealized “historical record” misunderstands the very nature of such a record. It’s the equivalent of saying that because a paper was initially published on paper, it would violate the historical record to digitize that paper and put it online.

UL Lafayette will be closed Friday, June 18, in observance of Juneteenth.

Narges Firouzshahi is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

She was among six finalists for the award. Each will be recognized at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, during a Spring 2021 Commencement ceremony for the Graduate School at the Cajundome.

The ceremony is among nine ceremonies that will be held over two days beginning Friday, May 14. In addition to the Graduate School, ceremonies will be held for the University’s eight academic colleges at the Cajundome and Cajundome Convention Center.

Graduate programs nominate one student as their Outstanding Master’s Graduate. Criteria include leadership, scholarship, service and research.

The dean of UL Lafayette’s Graduate School leads a panel that selects the top candidates. An Alumni Association committee interviews the finalists and chooses an overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

Firouzshahi is this year’s overall honoree. In addition, she represents the Department of Communicative Disorders as an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist. She is pursuing a master’s degree in speech language pathology and has a 4.0 GPA. The Department of Communicative Disorders is in the College of Liberal Arts.

Firouzshahi is an accomplished researcher with varied expertise and interest in many subjects, including teenagers who stutter, autism spectrum disorders, cognitive neuroscience and central auditory processing.

She co-authored an article published in the Journal of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech, an international, peer-reviewed academic journal.

The article, “Iranian Persian: A Guide to Speech and Culture for the International Clinician,” focuses on the integration of Iranian Persian language and culture in clinical practicum approaches.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in audiology from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in 2017. Following graduation at UL Lafayette, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. and work as an independent researcher.

Here’s a look at the remaining Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award finalists.

Bárbara Almeida is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist from the School of Geosciences in the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences. She is pursuing a master’s degree in geology. Her GPA is 4.0.

As part of one key research study, she analyzed samples of fossilized wood more than 5 million years old that were collected from far northeastern Siberia. Findings showed that elevated CO2 levels millions of years ago caused substantial warming in the Arctic, resulting in a more moderate climate than today.

Almeida presented that research virtually during last year’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the largest yearly gathering of geoscientists in the world.

She is a member of many local and national geoscience organizations, including the University’s student chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. She served as the chapter’s vice president and social chair.

Almeida earned a bachelor’s degree in geology and natural resources from the Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal, in 2018.

After graduation from UL Lafayette, she plans to work in academia or industry in Europe as a geochemistry analyst.

Elizabeth C. Heintz is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist from the School of Kinesiology in the College of Education. She is pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology with a concentration in exercise and sport science. Heintz has a 4.0 GPA.

Heintz has collaborated with researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the Louisiana Bird Observatory.

Her work with Pennington researchers examined a chemical compound named BAM15 for its potential for treating obesity researchers believe that the compound could also be effective in treating diabetes, fatty liver disease and some types of cancer.

In 2019, Heintz presented research about avian malaria at the American Ornithological Society Conference in Anchorage, Alaska.

She has authored or coauthored articles in academic journals that examine racial bias in National Football League officiating, concussions among professional football players, and the effect of coaches’ gender on men’s and women’s weightlifting performance.

As part of another study, Heinz researched the historical inclusion of Native American women in sports.

She will pursue a Ph.D. in physiology, then work as a biomedical researcher to study treatments and cures for chronic diseases.

Ian Naquin is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist from the School of Architecture and Design in the College of the Arts. He is pursuing a master’s degree in architecture and has a 4.0 GPA.

Naquin has received numerous awards for design excellence from the school. He earned a “Faculty Award” for his master’s project, “Reminiscence Through Architecture.” The project addressed mental health and well-being for elderly populations through connections with nature.

Naquin contributed to a Louisiana State Board of Architectural Examiners project that explored partnerships between communities and universities.

As a graduate assistant in the University’s Office of Sustainability, he is a member of a team that works on designs for potential campus projects.

Naquin helped the University’s Office of Facilities Management design a bioswale that was installed near Hebrard Boulevard. He has contributed to proposals for a range of other potential projects, including campus gateways, a community garden and an outdoor classroom.

Naquin earned a bachelor’s degree in architectural studies from UL Lafayette in 2019. He plans to work as an architect, and envisions starting a firm.

Margaret Storms is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist from the Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Liberal Arts. She is pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice. Storms has a 4.0 GPA.

She is the research supervisor for the department’s SPRUCE Lab, where students research criminology and criminal justice processes. Her duties include mentoring students in research methods such as data collection and coding, manuscript writing, and data analysis.

A primary focus of her research is traditional and social media attention on national missing persons cases. Storms co-authored an article on the topic titled “The New Milk Carton Campaign: An Analysis of Social Media Engagement with Missing Persons’ Cases.” The article was published in Social Forces, a peer-reviewed academic journal about social sciences.

She has presented research at national and regional conferences, including the American Criminal Justice Association and Southern Criminal Justice Association conferences, and the University’s Graduate Research Symposium.

Storms earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from UL Lafayette in 2018.

She plans to work in crime data analysis, law, or restorative justice programming.

Nina Zamanialavijeh is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist from the School of Geosciences in the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences. She is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental science. She has a 4.0 GPA.

Zamanialavijeh has conducted extensive research in areas such as terrestrial mega-landslides and rock magnetism. In August, she traveled to Utah, where she collected rock samples as part of research for her master’s thesis.

She is a member of the Geological Society of America, which awarded her a graduate student research grant.

Zamanialavijeh has also conducted remote sensing research at the University’s Regional Application Center. Satellite and remote sensing imagery gathered at the center is shared with governmental agencies, the military and the public for emergency response, coastal restoration, transportation, industry and farming.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Hormozgan in Bandar Abbas, Iran, in 2011. Following graduation from UL Lafayette, she is considering several doctoral programs in the earth and energy sciences.

Photo caption: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Spring 2021 Outstanding Master’s Graduates are, from left: Overall Outstanding Master's Graduate Narges Firouzshahi, Department of Communicative Disorders Elizabeth C. Heintz, School of Kinesiology Ian Naquin, School of Architecture and Design Margaret Storms, Department of Criminal Justice Bárbara Almeida, School of Geosciences and Nina Zamanialavijeh, School of Geosciences. (Photo credit: Rachel Rafati / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Narges Firouzshahi as an editor for proceedings at the 2019 International Symposium on Monolingual and Bilingual Speech. While Narges Firouzshahi assisted with formatting for the proceedings in her capacity as a graduate assistant, she did not name herself as an editor.)

The dream of thriving in academia is still a nightmare for many Black professors

By D. Watkins
Published June 12, 2021 1:00PM (EDT)

Author Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks on stage during the 137th Commencement at Morehouse College on May 16, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)


"Do the arms get any longer on this jacket?" I said. "I'm into this whole tweed, suede-on-the-elbows look. It's real Doctor Watkins-like — even though I'm not a doctor."

The lady at thrift store erupted in laughter. "You need a seamstress, buddy."

I grabbed the available jackets, gladly paid the clerk about $20 for all three, and smiled my way out of the store. I was beyond happy — I was going to start my first university teaching job, as an English and creative writer professor. Being Black and in academia has always been tricky, if not impossible. It's like publishing and Hollywood in that respect — yet another industry that does not allow many Black people to play. I have three degrees, all from schools located in a city that is 64% Black, and can still count the number of Black professors I've had on one hand.

Over the last month, the outrageous treatment of Nikole Hannah-Jones by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has dominated headlines after UNC buckled to conservative political pressure to deny the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of The 1619 Project for the New York Times the tenure that traditionally accompanies her appointment as Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. Hannah-Jones, who graduated from Chapel Hill in 2003, was scheduled to start her position this year, and retained lawyers to handle her challenge to the university over its decision to offer her a five-year contract position instead.

"I had no desire to bring turmoil or a political firestorm to the university that I love," she said in a statement. "But I am obligated to fight back against a wave of anti-democratic suppression that seeks to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, silence Black voices and chill free speech."

The job I was shopping to outfit myself for wasn't a tenured chair position like Hannah-Jones', or even an assistant professor job. My role was adjunct faculty, which explains the thrift store. But I was still beyond proud to be teaching at a university. I hadn't applied for this gig an MFA classmate and Toni Morrison expert who became my mentor worked at this HBCU already, and she slid my CV to the department chair, who gave me an interview and then the job. The pay was $1,700 per class, per semester. And no, the year was not 1972 it was actually 2014. I was assigned to teach two classes with about 30 students in each, and semesters run about 15 weeks, which means I made about $226 a week — before taxes.

But the low pay didn't bother me much. I was used to being poor at the time and relying on anywhere from three to 50 odd jobs to survive — building websites for artists, shooting videos, taking pictures, substitute teaching, anything to pay the bills while I wrote. The university gig would look prestigious on my frail, almost empty resume, I thought, and be a first step toward getting a real adult job — if they actually hired me full-time, which I knew they would do. I figured I could get to know the staff, build a reputation with the student body, work extra-hard at introducing students to cool, relatable literature infused with hip hop lyrics, revamp the English department, make a name for myself around campus, and become a staple — a guy they would be crazy not to hire. That was my plan.

A short, preppie-looking dude approached me on my first day as I ran off copies of my syllabus.

"I'm guessing the new guy, right?" he said.

I turned around and extended my long arm in its too-short blazer sleeve for a hand shake.

"My name is D, Watkins," I said to my new colleague. "I'll be here this semester. Nice to meet you."

"So, what are you teaching?" he asked.

"English 101 and 102," I replied, working the copier.

Dude let out a loud and disturbing chuckle.

"Oh my goodness," he laughed. "Those students are always horrible — terrible! They want nothing out of life. You will have a bad day every day you see them. I have been on staff here for years, and it's always the same. Do you know what you are getting into? Nothing but bad days."

I turned around and looked him in the eye.

"Working with young students isn't a bad day," I said. "It's a job, a blessing. A bad day in my world is a gun in your mouth."

He paused. "I was just saying…"

"Don't say anything," I said. "There's no need for you to address me." I gathered my papers and stormed off toward my adjunct office.

I wasn't mad enough to slam the door, but I was upset­­. An idea bounced around in my head: How can a guy who is not Black hold up space teaching at a historically Black university and have the confidence to tell a young Black professor that the Black students who attend this Black school are terrible? And then I was hurt, too, by how this clownish guy spoke about his work like this job was something he settled for, when I knew so many hard-working Black academics, myself included, who would kill for a full-time job with benefits at an HBCU.

My adjunct office became the spot — the hub for my plans, the place where I would go on to cut, sketch and configure my strategy for school domination. Normally, adjuncts don't get offices however, the department was so small at this school the building had a whole floor of empty offices. Mine had a huge window overlooking the city. Inside was a good strong wooden desk, probably dating back to the Civil Rights era a cozy chair that I pulled in from next door, and Wi-Fi –– all I really needed to publish my first essays and eventually complete my first book, with the cocktail of both giving me the status I would need to snatch up a full-time position. When I'd see that preppy professor in the hallway I'd walk right pass him, because he was wrong­­ about my students — they were amazing and I was really getting through to them.

During my first semester I felt things were going well, but I also noticed something kind of strange as I made my rounds on campus. I first explained it to one of my best friends from graduate school, Therman, who also had dreams of being a professor.

"You gonna have that job at your university ready for me after I get this degree, right?" Therman asked me on one of my off days as we posted up at a campus bar, him clicking away on his laptop while nursing a vodka. "I'm gonna finish with a 3.9 bro — I'm killin' this program."

I looked at Therman, who is as Black as me and from my neighborhood, and said, "You know what, I probably won't."

"Because even though the school is an HBCU, most of the people in my department with tenure are white," I told him. "I might not even have a full-time job for myself."

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are institutions established before Lyndon B. Johnson's Civil Rights Act of 1964. Prior to the Act, Black students were not allowed to attend many white institutions, and even in those institutions that admitted Black students, their numbers were very limited. HBCUs were a place where Black students could dream, learn and graduate with the skills needed to obtain gainful employment. These institutions evolved into hubs of Black beauty, Black art and Black culture. These schools were also places where Black scholars could grow, research and teach. And now there I was, 100 years after this particular HBCU had been created, as a Black guy with my Black friend, trying to explain to him and to myself that we may never get hired at one of our HBCUs because white men at the time had flooded the department.

"Damn, bro? For real?" Therman said.

"Maybe they don't value Black English professors or something," I laughed. "Maybe they want English teachers to look like they are from England."

"Well, if anybody can flip them and make them value us, it's you, Watkins, so have my job ready," he replied, taking a slow sip of his drink. "I'll be finished in two semesters."

I kept a list in my office of things I the things I would need to do to make them value me enough to offer me a full-time position, aside from teaching and mandatory campus meetings and events: Publish a book, publish articles, and document all of the community work I was quickly becoming known for. I did all of those things during my first year at as an adjunct. I published over a dozen stories, secured two book deals, did a bunch of media around my stories, and headlined about 50 well-promoted events dealing with police brutality, systemic racism and the plight of many Black people living in the so-called post-racial America. I won multiple Best of Baltimore Awards and was named to the Baltimore Business Journal's 40 under 40 list. I was on a roll.

I was so proud of my accomplishments I didn't realize how sick my mentality was.

The white professors I worked with went to grad school, published in some obscure academic journals, and then received jobs at Black schools as full-time professors. My road to full employment depended on me not just being good, but being a superstar. Most of the Black professors I know today fit into that category, too. Our white counterparts can live private scholarly lives­­­. But Google Black professors and watch how many hits you get on a name: Our faces are plastered across the internet due to the number of public and community events we host and perform for, an unspoken requirement that allows the respective colleges we work for to justify our presence.

Many of the white professors at that HBCU — who I actually did build pretty good relationships with — constantly reminded me that I was a star and told me that I would be a shoo-in for a job as soon as a position opened up. I even had a meeting with the provost who was so impressed by my writing and reputation, telling me, "You are what this school needs."

I didn't let my head get big from the praise or see it as a cue to slack on my work. I published more articles, did more events, coordinated more student activities, all in preparation for my big moment, my shot at the tenure track, a chance to have the stability needed to become the writer I always wanted to be. And then it all worked out — or so I thought. I had an email from the university president. I imagined this was going to be it: He was going to promote me to a full-time tenure-track position, ask me to run the department, make my books required reading, cite my articles in campus literature, allow me to visit all of the high schools in the region to promote the university and up our enrollment, convince them this was the place where learning, connecting and celebrating Blackness was essential. It was my moment, I knew it.

But it wasn't. The email said he had been hearing a lot of great things about me, so he looked me up, and he read an essay I published (here at Salon) called "Screw the National Anthem," about the racist history of our national anthem and why I've never stood for it. (My original title was "F*** the National Anthem," but I wasn't allowed to use that word in the headline — to this day, I've never actually said the word "screw.") The president told me in this email that he was impressed by my writing, but if I wanted to continue my adjunct career at the university, I would need to tone my rhetoric all the way down.

I laughed so hard I snorted. The fact that he called a $226-a-week, no benefits, no guaranteed future, not even a parking spot gig "a career" was hilarious.

I didn't tone down my rhetoric. I don't regret publishing that essay about how toxic and racist the anthem is, two years before Kaepernick began kneeling at games. And my time at that university came to an end after that semester. I knew there was nothing there for me. The provost who saw me as the future sent her own email a few months later — not about a job, but about an unpaid parking ticket, which struck me as a task way below her pay grade. The next semester, I was offered a position at the University of Baltimore, the institution where I had earned my MFA, as a lecturer. That gig came with benefits and more pay, but neither tenure track nor parking spot. I love UB, the place where I fell in love with education as an adult. And I'm extremely proud of what I accomplished at both schools during my six-year teaching career. But would be lying if I acted like Hannah-Jones' story isn't scary to me. If a writer as accomplished as her can be denied tenure, then what can I expect?

I don't know much about Hannah-Jones' personal journey through academia­­­­ — the number of Black professors she has had, her own hunger to teach. But I've read her amazing work, and I imagine that teaching journalism must be very important to her. Journalists with her status — winner of three National Magazine awards, a Peabody award, two Polk awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur "Genius" Grant — are offered the best positions at the best schools. I guarantee other institutions are making her offers in case UNC doesn't fix its error. Which is also unfair the 1619 Project was groundbreaking and she deserves to excel because of her work, not in spite of a controversy.

One beautiful thing to emerge out of this mess, however, is the solidarity shown by other journalists and academics is support of Hannah-Jones. More than 200 top scholars, filmmakers and public figures, including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Rye, Ava DuVernay, Imani Perry and Roxane Gay, signed a statement of solidarity challenging the university's decision to deny Hannah-Jones tenure, published in The Root. UNC's chemistry department revealed that Lisa Jones, an associate professor at the University of Maryland's School of Pharmacy, canceled her plans to continue her career at Chapel Hill, based on the institution's treatment of Hannah-Jones.

"Hearing of the delay of Nikole Hannah-Jones' tenure decision led me to reconsider whether the environment at the University of North Carolina would be conducive to the achievement of my academic aspirations, which include promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion," Lisa Jones said in a statement. "While I have never met Ms. Hannah-Jones, as a faculty member of color, I stand in solidarity with her and could not in good conscience accept a position at UNC."

She might not be the last. William Sturkey, a Black tenured professor of history at UNC, says he thinks "probably 90 percent of Black and non-white faculty right now, they are probably looking at their other options," calling that number "a conservative estimate."

Universities should pay attention to this moment. They need us. More Black professors might start deciding they have better career options outside of institutions that don't value us.

D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir." His latest book, "We Speak For Ourselves: A Word From Forgotten Black America," is out now.

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