The AGLSP Blog
Folks tempted by the theme of this year’s AGLSP conference in Portland will also likely enjoy reading about the Rare Book School, featured in a recent NY Times article by Jennifer Schuessler. Even more fun is the school’s website, where dozens of articles and books on the history of books, bookmaking, design, and related topics are shared in course descriptions and reading lists for the school’s many courses. Don’t forget to register for Portland….
That’s what one graduate student said about the MLS program at Rice University in this short video by a recent graduate. Many Rice graduate students talk about their reasons for loving the program, and glimpse some passionate professors as well. Interviews begin at 1:40.
Conferences are a great way to begin anyone’s publication record. The second annual Midwestern Graduate Liberal Studies Conference was hosted this year at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Students from several IU campuses, such as IU Northwest, as well as Kent State and Northern Kentucky University, presented on various topics that related to this year’s theme: “Taking it to the Streets: Scholarship and the Public Audience.”
The conference began last year, when the topic was “Communities and Beyond.” This year, the conference continued with its focus on community, and in particular, with the public. According to Michael Kaufman, the director of the Master of Liberal Studies program at IPFW, “One important goal shared by graduate liberal studies programs is that of helping students to comprehend knowledge from various academic fields and translate it for dissemination to a wider public audience. This conference focuses on ways in which our own scholarship, no matter how specialized or technical, can be reframed in order to speak directly to public concerns.”
The panels in this conference carried this same intent, with some focusing on “Platforms for Influencing the Public,” “Connecting with an Audience,” and “Arguments for the Future,” just to name a few. The keynote address entitled “Connecting the Academy with Industry and National Security,” given by Dr. Lawrence A. Kuznar of IPFW, focused on his own experiences as an anthropologist working with diverse groups from engineers to the military. The presentation provided keen insight on interdisciplinary study by describing the various modes of thought undertaken by the different disciplines. In his prime example, he discussed his role as a member of academia working with both industry and the military in an effort to quantifiably study rates of terrorism.
The presenters brought exceptionally interesting works of interdisciplinary study to the table as well. David Deaubrey, of IU Southeast, presented “The Big Opus,” where he combined the evolutionary biology and ethnobotany with a love for art and creativity. Instead of presenting only scientific facts David combined those facts with an artistic trail of his personal experiences, including a photographic food diary, a time-lapse video of his weight loss, and paintings based on full-body MRI scans. Another presentation, “Connect the World, Change the World,” by Joel Barrett of IU South Bend, focused somewhat on health through the role of community gardens as a method of sustainability. Joel’s primary focus was on building the sustainable community through networking; specifically through social media platforms such as Facebook. Green Drinks, a world-wide movement that has a local group in South Bend, was established utilizing social media and that is how Joel continues to operate this group he founded.
Although only in its second year, the Midwestern Graduate Liberal Studies Conference is continuing strong. It will be hosted by IU Kokomo next year, with the topic yet to be decided. [Report by Brandi David.]
In one of the briefest of TED talks, Nalini Nadkarni looks for dynamic elements in rather static things: trees. And by teaching natural history and sustainability in a prison, she sees movement in a group of people whose lives cry for change. If we seek movement and hope, we can find clues and traces in the most difficult of circumstances, and we can learn to nurture it, she suggests, in “Life Science in Prison.”
In the national news, the passing of civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth recalls not just a long and vital history of struggle and triumph but also, on a smaller, more personal level, for many AGLSP folks, the excellent annual meeting held in Memphis a few years ago where many of our panels, keynote talks, and excursions focused on this history. We might remember from that program, for example, the witness offered us by Rev. Billy Kyles, who was with Dr. Martin Luther King during the last hour of his life, or the storming of the stage during a Nat King Cole concert that historian Michael T. Bertrand described for us as part of his talk on the roles music played in the unfolding of cultural change. Hey, thanks again to The University of Memphis University College for hosting that conference for all of us in AGLSP.
At the annual meeting in Saratoga Springs, we will be celebrating the accomplishments of the winners of this year’s AGLSP writing awards:
Eriika Etshokin, Hamline University, for “Insights From Outside the Bathtub”
Toni Bunton, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, for “A Tree Grows in Prison”
Congratulations to these two writers and to the faculty and students of their home programs which helped foster their fine work.
The New York Times obituary for historian and public intellectual Tony Judt, who died recently, hints that his writing has much to offer GLS programs. Praising Mr. Judt for his “ability to see the present in the past” and for “free-ranging inquiry across disciplines,” the article points out a longer passage from a 2005 interview in which he recalls Raymond Aron, a French professor with a “capacity to move unselfconsciously between disciplines for the purpose of understanding things.” Judt suggests that our very thought may be hobbled if we are unable to follow that example:
A historian also has to be an anthropologist, also has to be a philosopher, also has to be a moralist, also has to understand the economics of the period he is writing about. Though they are often arbitrary, disciplinary boundaries certainly exist. Nevertheless, the historian has to learn to transcend them in order to write intelligently. (Jan./Feb. 2006, Historically Speaking)
The New York Review of Books offers a series of Judt’s articles and blog postings for those who would like to read more. For example, in a recent blog entry Judt talked about the way our choice of social role–a profession or a particular public role in society–also weighs upon our written words and influences their nature and quality:
The “professionalization” of academic writing—and the self-conscious grasping of humanists for the security of “theory” and “methodology”—favors obscurantism. This has encouraged the rise of a counterfeit currency of glib “popular” articulacy: in the discipline of history this is exemplified by the ascent of the “television don,” whose appeal lies precisely in his claim to attract a mass audience in an age when fellow scholars have lost interest in communication. But whereas an earlier generation of popular scholarship distilled authorial authority into plain text, today’s “accessible” writers protrude uncomfortably into the audience’s consciousness. It is the performer, rather than the subject, to whom the audience’s attention is drawn. (“Words,” 7/17/10, NYR Blog)
Columnist David Brooks contrasts the fabled stability of certain large organizations with a surprisingly adaptable one, the United States Army:
They say that intellectual history travels slowly, and by hearse. The old generation has to die off before a new set of convictions can rise and replace entrenched ways of thinking. People also say that a large organization is like an aircraft carrier. You can move the rudder, but it still takes a long time to turn it around.
The Army, Brooks says, has substantially changed its mind and its practices in a few short years, in part because it has found a way to link action and reflection, experience and inquiry:
The process was led by these dual-consciousness people — those who could be practitioners one month and then academic observers of themselves the next. They were neither blinkered by Army mind-set, like some of the back-slapping old guard, nor so removed from it that their ideas were never tested by reality, like pure academic theoreticians.
Read more of “Leading With Two Minds” in the May 7, 2010 New York Times.