Oh — in case you didn’t get it the first time, we like to blame other people for the slave trade. Tuesday, Aug 20 2013 

One of the dangers of being in academe is that one ends up saying the same thing multiple ways.  I really really don’t want to do that.  So, I’m wondering how to avoid academic narcissism and really get at the issue of historic debt, as well as the way education and the historic narrative conspire to obscure it.



Let’s talk about race . . . or not. Tuesday, Aug 13 2013 

Edgar C and I disagree about a fundamental issue; whether mustaches (unattached to a beard of some sort, of course) are aesthetically pleasing or not.  He votes yes, I vote very much no.  There is one issue he and I do agree on.  White Americans, by and large, suck at talking about race.

Feel free to click the clicky.  Also, I fully expect that if this does for some reason garner any comments, half of them will be TL;DR.


Nelson versus Bussa Wednesday, Nov 16 2011 

Alright.  It occurs to me that in my previous post I forgot to include a link to the Bussa statue.  This might therefore be as good a place as any to outline the differences between official history and public memory as reflected in monuments and aesthetics in Barbados.  I do this by exploring two major concepts inspired by Greenblatt’s resonance and wonder: visibility, and accessibility.


Whither Horatio Alger? Monday, Aug 23 2010 

You’ve probably gathered by now that a lot of my interest lies in the performance of status Issac Royall and John Brown were gave.  What kind of men were they?  What kind of men did they want to be perceived as?  As an anthropologist ([ahem] in training) those are questions I’m obligated to get to the bottom of.  The trouble is is that the answers are not exactly clear.  They probably weren’t even clear to Royall and Brown.


“Slaves” versus “Enslaved Africans” Saturday, Jul 3 2010 

In The Partly Cloudy Patriot Sarah Vowell describes a tour she took of Salem, MA.  Walking past one farm’s slave quarters she notes that her tour guide, a teenager with an upward canting voice that “puts every sentence into the interrogative,” gestures to them calling them “where the enslaved Africans lived.”

Vowell is taken aback.  Thinking it’s an overly PC term she asks why they’re not just termed “slaves.”  The tour guide responds “we’re trying to point out that it’s not all they were.  Vowell opines that she “gets it” but is critical of the neologism.  After all, when one is a slave, the point is that “that’s all you are.”  Moreover changes in terminology such as “enslaved Africans” can have the unfortunate consequence of downplaying the sheer horror of the situation in favor of the comfort of modern sensibilities.

I mention Vowell’s account because, when touring the Royall house, the docent referred to “enslaved Africans” rather than slaves.  It was the first time I’d heard it in person and I began wondering is this a New England slavery thing?  Or perhaps it’s unique to the farm? There was only one way to find out.