Friday, January 29, 2010

As promised...Daniel Thurs' guest post Part II

What is Good Scholarship?
Part II

Here I’d like to contribute something of my own, perhaps idiosyncratic, thinking about the nature of good scholarship (and I want to take special pains to emphasize that from here on out, everything you may take issue with is purely me). Chief among my scholarly touchstones is the notion of humility. I don’t mean a kind of obsequiousness that consistently favors engagement and fears criticism. Many scholars-in-training already tend to defer, understandably, to the intellectual giants of their fields. In those cases, I’d suggest a slightly more skeptical course. On the other hand, to move the metaphor back to land, those people whose words and behaviors provide the grist for scholarly mills are sometimes treated with a sort of disregard. In my own work, I’ve encountered too many historical actors—not the great intellects, but otherwise ordinary folks—who were as smart or smarter than I was, and knew more about what was going on around them to boot, to be comfortable with such a view. In approaching sources, I did bring an important set of tools, concepts, and questions they did not have, but our relationship worked best when I treated them as partners rather than resources to be exploited and when I kept open the ever-present possibility of being surprised by what they had to say.

One reason why I tend to value humility so highly, and possibly one reason why the question of what makes for good scholarship is so hard to answer in the abstract, is that scholarly endeavor takes place in a certain institutional context. Modern academia, whatever its substantial contribution to the world, is not a system that typically values or rewards being humble. Aside from the intellectual adventure and fulfillment it provides, the work of getting a Ph.D., of getting a job, of getting noticed often requires a kind of studied arrogance toward other scholars (who often have to be wrong in some measure for you to be right), toward sources (who sometimes become one-dimensional and conveniently easy to deconstruct), and toward the general public (which is occasionally either little more than the waiting and empty receptacle for scholarly knowledge or the passive “other” subject to scholarly analysis). Present-day expertise, rooted in and cultivated through the institutions of academia, is an important part of the world and can effect considerable change for the better. It also has a less fortunate side that can elevate experts over everyone else, in turn justifying their expertise. For me, at least, truly good scholarship is about keeping away from such currents.

I suspect, beyond the demands of particular disciplines and the institutions of academia, there’s one additional challenge to determining the nature of good scholarship, and that’s the magic word “scholarship.” As much as I’d like to believe it, to justify all those student loans I took out, I don’t think anyone requires a Ph.D. to either produce or appreciate good scholarship. That’s true whether you earned a BA five years ago or never went to college at all. The twin values of engagement and critical attitude are present in ordinary interactions at their best wherever they occur. What is required is a community of people dedicated to grappling with the world honestly and effectively. And that is what that Draper Program provides.

Perhaps that’s the ultimate meaning of humility for me—no one can do it alone. In that spirit, I should say that, while I’ve made passing reference to the collective Draperian wisdom, I have specific people to thank for the ideas above. So, humble thanks to Amber, Georgia, Larissa, Louis, Maia, Nina, Rebecca, Robert, and Robin.

And finally, I want to impart to you all, the most humble, most important, and most profound secret of good scholarship. In one word: scallops!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What is Good Scholarship? A guest blog entry by Daniel Thurs, Professor of Science Studies

We'll be posting Professor Thurs' excellent essay on scholarship in two parts. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow...

Part I

What is good scholarship? That was a question a student recently posed to me. After a lot of thought and a few halting stabs at an answer, I decided my best option was to pass the scholarly buck. So, I re-posed the question to the staff and faculty here at Draper to get their views on the matter. What follows is my attempt to channel the program’s collective wisdom.

One of the first responses I found was that the nature of good scholarship depended on the particular fields involved. Some disciplines value testing established models, others look for the identification of causal relationships, and still others aim at tracing out complex and often messy webs of meaning. Certain areas avoid jargon and others encourage testing the limits of conventional language. In some cases, you can refer to yourself in the first person. In others, that’s a high crime. This makes the faculty, staff, and students at Draper and NYU more broadly, with all their varied backgrounds, valuable sources of insight into different scholarly traditions. In other words, you should feel free to pass your own scholarly bucks.

Still, there was consensus on some general elements of good scholarship that transcended particular disciplines. Perhaps the most important was engagement. There’s no immediately simple way to characterize the nature of engagement, though the common image is one of reaching out. It’s the close and careful reading of sources on their own terms, according to the rules and logics they set up, while doggedly and persistently seeking out the many possible meanings and facets that any given piece of material may contain or enable. It’s also stepping into the larger academic world, grounding conclusions in the work of other scholars, being aware of their views, and addressing the problems they raise with (in part, at least) the tools they provide. And it’s making your efforts matter, ideally to those both inside and outside of academia, which relies on the ability to successfully communicate your ideas, perhaps with a dash of enthusiasm.

The second element of good scholarship that came through clearly was the need for a critical approach, on three different levels. First, while you want to read your sources carefully, you can’t always accept every claim they make. It’s important to subject them to analysis of some kind. Neither should you always nod in your conversations with other scholars. Their work, even by the most well-known, should similarly be open to question. This isn’t to suggest you claim that X or Y is irredeemably wrong at every opportunity—that probably comes from a lack of engagement—but their ideas may not fit the particular case you’re working with or you may need to adapt or extend them. Lastly, you want to subject yourself and your claims to a critical eye. Are there reasons, beyond evidence and argument, that I think something is true? What are the limits, as well as the strengths, of my perspective? What are the implications of the conclusions I draw? What are the stakes of the questions I raise?

Given what’s been said, I think it’s fair to see engagement and criticism as the two poles of the scholarly globe, which raises another question. How do you navigate between them? Luckily, Draperian wisdom can still provide some guidance. To find your way, you’ll need a sense of balance between an openness to the world and a suspicion of its honesty, between faith in the reality of knowledge and skepticism that anything can be truly known, between construction and deconstruction. At the same time, you’ll want to rely on your ability to be creative. That doesn’t always mean coming up with a dramatically new argument or composing a revolutionary piece of literature. Most enduring knowledge builds by increments on what’s come before and the majority of scholarship—even some of the best—is more methodical than grandiose. There is creativity in finding (and recognizing) a new and valuable source of information, in saying things in subtly new ways that open up novel routes of thought and research, and in combining existing ideas in unexpected constellations.

Call For Papers: Material Culture Conference at U Mich

Call For Papers:

Thinking About 'Things' (TAT):
Interdisciplinary Futures in Material Culture
An Interdisciplinary, International Material Culture Conference for
Graduate Students

May 10-12, 2010
University of Michigan (Ann
Arbor, Michigan, U.S.)

Thinking about 'Things': Interdisciplinary Futures in Material Culture
TAT 2010 is a three-day international and interdisciplinary graduate
student conference designed to explore material culture and the ways
in which we create it, interact with it, use it, discard it, and study

Papers dealing with notions of preservation, broadly interpreted, are
sought from graduate students working across a diverse spectrum of
disciplines and interdisciplines.

Accepted papers will be arranged in panels according to the following
rubric of theme areas:
1. Preservation in nature -preservation and decay with little or no
human intervention (e.g. relics, ruins, remains)
2. Human practices of material culture preservation (e.g. food
storage, taxidermy, archiving, museums, "green" culture and resource
3. Preserving the intangible (e.g. memories, identity, social status)
through the material.
4. Aesthetics, ethics, prescriptions, politics and theory of
preservation, conservation, and restoration of material culture.
5. Meaningful objects and the museum - issues of preservation specific
to the context of museums and museum-like institutions.
6. TATart - Nontraditional submissions are invited in audio, visual,
textual, and virtual formats.

Deadline for submission of abstracts is February 20, 2010. For more
information or to submit your 250-word abstract, visit

We welcome submissions from students at all stages of graduate study.

Kelly Kirby
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Anthropology
Program in Museum Studies
Co-organizer, Thinking About 'Things' conference
May 10-12, 2010 ~

Sarah Conrad Gothie
Doctoral Student
Program in American Culture & Museum Studies
Co-organizer, Thinking About 'Things' conference
May 10-12, 2010 ~

Visit the website at

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reminder! Anamesa Spring Kick-off Meeting Tomorrow (Thursday)

Kick-off meeting for Anamesa, a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary anthology of graduate student work

Thursday, January 28 at 8:30 pm
Bobst Library, group study room LL1-20 on the lower level

More info on our blog, here.

DSO Colloquium Call for Papers

From DSO...

Dear Draperites,

We are looking for papers, projects and presentations for this spring's DSO Colloquium on 'The Frame.'

All aspects and interpretations of the topic are welcome. Your paper could address such things as:
  • in visual art: how the frame signals the limits of the art object, what happens when it is ignored or violated, how it functions as a (de?)politicized boundary
  • in literature: the frame narrative, the critical or historical frame for a work, non-literary textual frames such as newspapers, magazines
  • in cinema: the physical frame as unit of composition, how this physical frame negotiates intentionality - what is included/ excluded, the possibility of a frame-less cinema
  • in history: the frame of reference, the perspective or context, the impact of historiographical practice on the accessibility or invisibility of such frames
  • in archive/museum studies: the archive as frame for the primary text, tensions between physical and intellectual frames for archival holdings, the curatorial frame, its neutrality, transparency or mediating effect
  • in law/politics: the frame as set-up, conspiracy, the frame imposed against one's will
This colloquium is limited to Draper students and provides an excellent opportunity to speak about a project you are working on and get input and ideas from your fellow students. Presentations will be 15-20 minutes long and do not have to be based on a completed project. Often a paper that is still in progress will yield a more fruitful discussion. That said, completed projects are very welcome as well.

For those interested in helping out with the selection committee, organizing the colloquium, or moderating please email Christine at

The DSO Colloquium on The Frame is scheduled for Friday 26 March at 6:30.

Proposals (200 words) are due by 28 February to
Please feel free to contact Christine with any questions.

Bettina Aptheker talk: Queering the History of the American Left, 2/4

Department of Social & Cultural Analysis - New York University

Spring 2009 SCA SPEAKER SERIES Presents:


Professor of Feminist Studies - UCLA
Spring 2010 Visiting Scholar, Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, NYU

Queering the History of the American Left: Who "Counts" as Radical?
February 4th, 5:00 - 7:00 PM
20 Cooper Square, 4th Fl

This presentation is based on a project in progress to bring together the queer and the radical left into a historical dialogue, with particular attention to those in and around the Communist Party between the 1940s and the 1980s. In part this is a continuation of an autobiographical journey and, in part, it is about bringing these histories into a unified, if contested and conflicted space, with attention to an intersectional analysis of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Bettina Aptheker is Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a visiting professor at NYU's Department of Social and Cultural Analysis in Spring 2010. Her most recent book is a memoir, Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech and Became A Feminist Rebel (Seal Press, 2006).

Lecture on Israel and Turkey - Feb. 2nd.

The Taub Center for Israel Studies at New York University

Invites you to a lecture by:

*Prof. Efraim Inbar*
Political Studies Department & BESA Center for Strategic Studies
Bar-Ilan University

*Israel and Turkey: The End of a Strategic Alliance?*

Efraim Inbar is a professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and the director of its Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies. His area of specialization is Middle Eastern strategic issues with a special interest in the politics and strategy of Israeli national security. Prof. Inbar’s lecture will analyze the domestic and international factors that influenced Israeli-Turkish relations in the post-Cold War era. Subsequently, he will also assess the impact of the bilateral relations on the balance of power in the Middle East.

Tuesday, February 2

King Juan Carlos Center – Screening Room
53 Washington Square South
New York City, NY

This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited
Please RSVP to: or call (212) 998-8981

New York City Latin American History Workshop

New York City Latin American History Workshop

Friday, Jan 29, Jocelyn Olcott (Duke), "Cold War Conflicts and Cheap Cabaret: Sexual Politics at the 1975 United Nations International Women's Year Conference"

The sessions are from 11 am to 1 pm. They meet at New York University in the Juan Carlos
Center, Room 607, 53 Washington Square South. The paper under discussion is circulated
to the NYCLAHW mailing list one week in advance of the session.

To join the NYCLAHW mailing list or to request the paper, contact Julia del Palacio at

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teach-In on Relief in Haiti Tonight (1/26)

This Tuesday, 1/26, at 5:30 PM at the Kimmel Center (60 Washington Square South)
in room 914, the Institute for Public Knowledge is hosting a teach-in for NYU
students, faculty, and the general public to provide context to the challenges
of helping Haiti in the aftermath of this month's devastating earthquake.

Presenters will include Greg Beckett, University of Chicago; J. Michael Dash,
French, NYU; Leslie King, Partners in Health; William O'Neill, Social Science
Research Council and the United Nations; and Michael Ralph, Social and Cultural
Analysis, NYU. Craig Calhoun, Director of the IPK, will provide opening
remarks. Detailed bios are available below.

This event is sponsored by the Humanitarian Action Initiative at the IPK, and it
is open to all.

Tuesday, 1/26; 5:30PM
NYU Kimmel Center
60 Washington Square South
Room 914

For more information, and to RSVP:

For more background on the tragedy in Haiti, the Social Science Research Council
has put together a series of essays entitled "Haiti: Now and Next"

Please forward this announcement to your colleagues and friends:

-About the Presenters-

Greg Beckett, University of Chicago

Greg Beckett is Collegiate Assistant Professor and Harper Fellow in the Social
Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. He studies environmental, urban,
and political crises in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He received his Ph.D. from the
Anthropology Department at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, "The End
of Haiti: History Under Conditions of Impossibility," explores the cultural,
historical, and political meanings of crisis in contemporary Haiti. Beckett is
currently working on a book manuscript based on his dissertation and on a series
of articles exploring local responses to the US
occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), the discourse on state failure and the use of
international peacekeeping missions as a mode of emergency powers, and
humanitarian crises and disaster response.

Craig Calhoun, SSRC, NYU, and IPK
Craig Calhoun serves as Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU
and President of the Social Science Research Council. He is also University
Professor of Social Science at NYU.

After receiving his doctorate from Oxford University, Calhoun taught at the
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill from 1977 to 1996. He was Dean of
the Graduate School and the founding Director of the University Center for
International Studies. He has also taught at the Beijing Foreign Studies
University, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, and the
Universities of Asmara, Khartoum, Oslo, and Oxford.

Calhoun's own empirical research has ranged from Britain and France to China and
three different African countries. His study of the Tiananmen Square
protests of 1989 resulted in the prize-winning book, Neither Gods Nor Emperors:
Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China (California, 1994). Among his
other works are Nationalism (Minnesota, 1997), Critical Social Theory: Culture,
History, and the Challenge of Difference (Blackwell, 1995), and several edited
collections including Habermas and the Public Sphere (MIT, 1992), Hannah Arendt
and the Meaning of Politics (Minnesota, 1997), Understanding September 11 (New
Press, 2002), and Lessons of Empire (New Press, 2005). He was also editor in
chief of the Oxford Dictionary of the Social Sciences. In more than ninety
articles, he has also addressed the impact of technological change; the
organization of community life; the relationship among tort law, risk, and
business organizations; the anthropological study of education, kinship, and
religion; and problems in contemporary globalization. Calhoun's work has been
translated into more than a dozen languages.

J. Michael Dash, NYU
J. Michael Dash, born in Trinidad, has worked extensively on Haitian literature
and French Caribbean writers, especially Edouard Glissant, whose works, The
Ripening (1985), Caribbean Discourse (1989) and Monsieur Toussaint (2005) he has
translated into English. After 21 years at the University of the West Indies,
Jamaica where he was Professor of Francophone Literature and Chair of Modern
Languages, he is now Professor of French at New York University after having
been Director of the Africana Studies Program. His publications include
Literature and Ideology in Haiti (1981), Haiti and the United States (1988),
Edouard Glissant (1995), The Other America: Caribbean Literature in a New World
Context (1998). His most recent books are, Libeté: A Haiti Anthology (1999) with
Charles Arthur and Culture and Customs of Haiti (2001). He has represented
CARICOM and the Caribbean Conference of Churches on official missions to Haiti.

Lesley King, Partners in Health
Lesley King worked at JP Morgan for 15 years and retired as a Managing Director
in Fixed Income Sales management in order to focus on non-profit work. She
served as Interim Executive Director of Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT where
she was also co-head of the Rwanda Council. Lesley is on the Board of Directors
for Partners In Health and is a Regional Representative for PIH where for the
past few years she has led a "community of concern" to open and support the PIH
Rukira Health Center in southwest Rwanda.

William O'Neill, Social Science Research Council
William O'Neill is a lawyer specializing in humanitarian, human rights and
refugee law. He was Senior Advisor on Human Rights in the UN Mission in Kosovo,
Chief of the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda and led the Legal
Department of the UN/OAS Mission in Haiti. He has worked on judicial, police
and prison reform in Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Timor Leste,
Nepal and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He investigated mass killings in Afghanistan for
the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He also conducted an assessment of the
human rights situation in Darfur and trained the UN's human rights monitors
stationed there.

At the request of the UN's Executive Committee on Peace and Security, he chaired
a Task Force on Developing Rule of Law Strategies in Peace Operations. He has
created and delivered courses on human rights, rule of law and peacekeeping for
several peacekeeping training centers whose participants have included senior
military, police and humanitarian officials from dozens
of countries.

He has published widely on rule of law, human rights and peacekeeping,
including, "Kosovo: An Unfinished Peace" and "Protecting Two Million Displaced:
The Successes and Shortcomings of the African Union in Darfur." In the spring
of 2008, O'Neill was visiting professor of law and international relations at
the Scuola Sant'Anna in Pisa, Italy. He is currently the
Director of the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum located in New York City.

Michael Ralph, NYU
Michael Ralph earned his Ph.D. in the Department of Anthropology at the
University of Chicago and taught briefly in the Cornell University Department of
Anthropology before joining the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at
New York University. Michael is a historical anthropologist who works on crime,
citizenship, and sovereignty in Senegal and the Atlantic world,
more broadly. Michael is now completing a book manuscript based on several
years of archival research and ethnographic fieldwork in Dakar entitled, "The
Forensics of Capital: Debt, Sacrifice, and Democracy in Senegal." Michael is a
member of the Editorial Boards of Sport in Society and Transforming
Anthropology, the Souls Editorial Working Group and the Social Text Editorial

Monday, January 25, 2010

Call for Papers: NYU conference on Literature and the Mass-Produced Image

The New York University Graduate English Organization's Conference on
*Literature and the Mass-Produced Image*

Friday, April 2, 2010
Deadline for Abstracts: February 1, 2010

New York University's English Department will host a graduate student conference exploring the fate of literature in the age of the reproducible image. The nineteenth-century emergence of photography, a medium which Walter Benjamin referred to as “the first truly revolutionary means of reproduction,” coupled with the subsequent development of the motion picture, irrevocably shook not only the art world, but also the literary. This conference aims to uncover the affinities, negotiations, and interrelations between literary texts and visual media like photography, cinema, and the more recent medium of digital imaging and video. Investigating these issues from the perspectives of both literary and visual culture, this one-day event aims to bring together new work being produced by graduate students studying literature, cinema studies, visual culture, the history of media, and social historiography.

We will be focusing on a number of related questions including (but not limited to): How has the development of visual media affected literary aesthetics? In what sense has the vocabulary of film and photography been appropriated from and by literary culture? How do motion and pacing – elements inherent to cinema – reveal themselves in creating and staging action, plot, and character development in literary narrative?

Other possible topics include:
  • Photographic representation in literary texts
  • Literature as motion: imagery and the mind’s eye, storytelling and motion
  • Cinema, literature, fragmentation and non-linear chronology
  • Descriptions of photographs within literary works
  • The ‘urban’ and its centrality to cross-media works
  • Modernist critique/appropriation of visual culture
  • Art, the avant-garde, and experimental motion/stop-motion
  • The function of written text in a visual medium
  • Depictions of movies and movie-going in literary narrative
  • Film vs. Literature: ‘high art’ in the era of mass culture

Please send abstracts (400 words) to by *FEBRUARY 1, 2010*. Abstracts should include your name, contact information, paper title, and a short bio with your institution & department affiliation and year in graduate school. Please specify any audio-visual requirements. Panel proposals are also welcome for panels comprised of 3-4 participants; in your proposals, please include panel title and brief description (limit 500 words) as well as a list of papers with corresponding abstracts and speaker information.

Visit our conference website at .

NYU Archives and Public History Program Brown Bag Lunch

Friday February 5, 12:00-2:00pm
King Juan Carlos Center, room 607

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Centennial
Draper students invited

The Archives and Public History Brown Bag Lunch Series commences this semester on Friday, February 5. This session will feature a discussion of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Centennial celebration, which will occur in March of 2011. Leading members of the Remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Coalition, Sheryl Woodruff and Ruth Sergel, will discuss their goals for the centennial, and invite NYU students and faculty to brainstorm ideas and get involved in the planning process. This centennial is particularly significant for the NYU community as it occurred in what is now NYU's Brown Building of Science, next to the Silver Center.

Remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Coalition was founded to commemorate the massive 1911 industrial disaster that killed 146 workers and inspired a movement for labor rights and social justice. Sheryl Woodruff is the Senior Director of Operations at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Ruth Sergel is a researcher and adjunct faculty member at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).

Please bring a brown bag lunch. Complimentary drinks and desserts will be provided.

Please RSVP to Kate Dundon by Tuesday, February 2.