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Academic Things: Recent Articles

April 24, 2009

Here are the hits from my latest round of reading academic articles not exactly related to my dissertation. In no particular order and with no pickiness about citation format.

Hazel V. Carby, “Lost (and Found?) in Translation,” Small Axe 28 (March 2009): 27-40.
A brief memoir of growing up West Indian-Welsh in post-war Britain by a leading figure in Africana Studies. I came for the academic back story–I’m always a sucker for these–but stayed for Carby’s interesting reflections on presenting the story of her parents’ interracial marriage to an American audience: “In the United States, audiences seem to expect, if not demand, that I deliver a full-fledged romance with all the trimmings, a tale of a love that triumphed against tremendous odds, starring a couple that resemble a youthful Sidney Poitier and a starry-eyed Veronica Lake.” I know exactly what she’s talking about.

Jeremy Kuzmarov, “Modernizing Repression: Police Training, Political Violence and Nation-Building in the ‘American Century,'” Diplomatic History (April 2009): 191-221.
This is brilliant. Kuzmarov synthesizes a wide range of sources to examine police training programs as an imperial process tied up with anticommunism, modernization and social control across the twentieth century and into the era of the Iraq War. The attention to ties between domestic and foreign practice is especially welcome. More than anything else, this essay reminded me of Bernard Cohn’s Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge with a dose of revisionist diplomatic history (in the vein of W.A. Williams), unflinchingly revealing the ugly realities and deep roots of American empire.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Revisionism in Soviet History,” History and Theory 46 (December 2007): 77-91.
No big surprises here, but a tidy reconstruction of the study of the Soviet Union in the American academy with some useful reminders.

Jeremy Suri, “The Rise and Fall of an International Counterculture, 1960-1975,” AHR (February 2009): 45-68.
The scope of this article is bewildering, jumping from domestic scenes to dramas of the diplomatic elite to weave a global tale of the 1960s. I admire the ambition, of course, but I am not sure that I buy this telling of the world-wide 1960s. It strikes me as one of those narratives that works well as a macro explanation, but if you stop to apply it to any single micro instance, it falls apart. I prefer to leave that kind of work to the sociologists.

Sara Evans, “Sons, Daughters, and Patriarchy: Gender and the 1968 Generation,” AHR (April 2009): 331-347.
Like Suri’s piece in the AHR forum on 1968, this is a broad view of the role of women and contestations of gender roles in the uprest of 1968 in the US, Mexico, Germany, and France, loosely tied together. A provocative proposal.

David S. Churchill, “Transnationalism and Homophile Political Culture in the Postwar Decades,” GLQ 15:1 (2009): 31-66.
This article is near the top of the batch, bland title notwithstanding. Churchill examines how American homophiles looked abroad to form alliances, find precedents, discover differences, and assert their rights. I was most interested in the examination of the workings of homophile Orientalism (Churchill never uses this term) toward the end of the article: “Far from being isolated groups, homophiles were part of a cosmopolitan system of exchange that expanded the concerns and interests of gay men and lesbians beyond a few local nightspots and the odd homophile event. The existence of non-Western homosexual others afforded homophiles in Europe and North America a scientific authority for the claim that homosexuality was not merely the product of the West, of civilization, but something that existed across the globe among all peoples. Homophile anthropology thus provided proof of a universal homosexuality that was nonetheless contingent on the temporally and spatially located, not to mention racialized, other. These others, caught in historical time, were evidence of the naturalness of homosexuality and thus legitimated claims of Westerners to legal protection and consideration. As such, the lesbians and gay men in Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, and Sydney
argued that they were entitled to legal standing and all the privileges of modern civil and human rights, while continuing to distinguish and separate themselves from their supposedly more primitive brethren.”

Stephen Schuker, “The 1919 Peace Settlement: A Subaltern View,” Reviews in American History (December 2008): 575-585.
Exemplary material for how not to write book review. Here’s the first sentence of Schuker’s evaluation of Erez Manela’s The Wilsonian Moment: “As every schoolboy knows, or used to know before the rise of multiculturalism, in the early twentieth century Europe and North America dominated the world.” It’s downhill from there, as Schuker quotes The Bell Curve‘s Charles A. Murray on Western achievement, bemoans political correctness and post-modernism, and only occasionally engages in proper criticism of Manela’s text, a work that certainly does need some taming. I don’t get why the editors of Reviews didn’t find someone more suitable for the task.

Briefly Noted
Alex Goodall, “Diverging Paths: Nazism, the National Civic Federation and American Anticommunism,” Journal of Contemporary History 44:1 (2009): 49-69.
Scott Lucas and Kaeten Mistry, “Illusions of Coherence: George F. Kennan, US Strategy and Political Warfare in the Early Cold War, 1946-1950,” Diplomatic History (January 2009): 39-66.
Marius Turda, “The Nation as Object: Race, Blood, and Biopolitics in Interwar Romania,” Slavic Review (Fall 2007): 413-440.

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