When Grading Graduate Student Papers, Kick Ass and Leave Comments

This is exactly what I liked seeing from professors on my papers:

So the graduate paper deserves extensive comments, like those of a peer-reviewed article. I just write about a single-spaced page outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the paper. Everything is fair game, from the format and prose-style to the substance of the argument. I’m looking for a strong, distinctive thesis backed up by some kind of convincing evidence. What I really want to see is a level of engagement that leads to some strong thinking: ideas that I would not have come up with myself. I don’t really hold back in outlining the weaknesses. It is not really being “nice” to do this. I might exaggerate a bit on the strengths just to provide some encouragement, but I am the professor who is going to kick your ass on the final paper. Yes, I am that guy.

Tenured Radical on Tenure Reform: Make It Public

I’m still a long ways away from worrying about tenure but I would love to see this sort of process when I get there.

Therefore, in my view, any real tenure reform has to address the problem of high-stakes evaluations that are done in private.  Secrecy actually permits institutional inequality to thrive, because no one ever “sees” it; alternatively, it allows a larger, skeptical public to believe that a negative tenure decision might be an outcome of prejudice when in fact it has resulted from an honest evaluation of the case.  Breaking confidentiality not only forces people to explain why they believe what they believe, it also creates a far more textured picture than probationary faculty currently have of why some people are tenured and some people are not.All of these things are bad for faculty morale over the long term, and they are bad for how a larger public views the tenure system.

  • Making all materials in a tenure case available to the candidate.
  • Allowing the candidate to respond to questions about hir scholarship that have arisen in the letters and in the departmental discussion.
  • Making minority and majority opinions on each case available in some kind of public document.
  • Allowing all departmental faculty who have voted in the case to identify themselves to the candidate and explain why they voted the way they did.

Breaking confidentiality would have a generative role in positive tenure cases too, since positive decisions are sometimes weighted down with the baggage of negative votes that have been successfully overcome.  These negative votes not infrequently arise from critiques that, although they were not sustained by the majority decision, should not be allowed to disappear either.  Candidates inevitably hear rumors about them, but are justified in not taking them seriously because they are conveyed (often inaccurately) by their “friends” and have been articulated by “enemies.” Flaws in scholarship that are not fatal at the level of the monograph might have serious ramifications down the road if they are not addressed, while originality and risk-taking that has been deliberately muted in pre-tenure scholarship so as not to offend could be usefully cultivated in the post-tenure years.

via Tenured Radical: To Reform Tenure, Consider Breaking Confidentiality: A Novel Approach.

I Got a (Kinda) New Blogging Gig

I’m taking a small step up as a blogger. I’ve been blogging as a guest blogger over at Religion Dispatches for a while now. I’ve been writing a weekly review of religion in the news and I’ve also done some other posts here and there. I usually post a portion of these peices here and a link to the full text at RD. Anyways, now the fine folks over at RD have asked me to come on as regular blogger and write a few blog posts a week.  So, that means I’ll be doing a lot more writing there and a lot less here-not that I’ve been doing much here lately. I won’t be posting everything I write over at RD on this blog. Instead, there’s a nifty new RSS feed from my RD blog on the right hand sidebar here.

I will still use this blog to write about academic stuff, my research, history, and other things but please read my blog at RD to find great stuff on religion, culture, and politics. I’m really excited to take this chance to  branch out and find ways to relate my academic training to news and opinions going on everyday. I’m a big fan of public scholarship and our role in the academy as public intellectuals. This a chance to begin learning how to write for a general audience as a young scholar.

If you read this blog in an RSS reader, please add the RD Blog RSS feed or the RSS feed for my RD blog. Its going to be some great content, I promise.


My Notes from the 2011 AHA and ASCH meetings

I’ve seen more snow at home in Atlanta than I did up in Boston. Weird. I spent a whirlwind two days up in Boston for the meetings of the American Historical Association and its smaller, more religious cousin, the American Society of Church History. There was plenty of religious history goodness to be had, but alas, I was on a time crunch. I flew in early Friday, stayed the night and flew back late Saturday. Here are my random thoughts, observations, and notes from the various panels I attended and things I found to occupy my time drawn from scattered marginalia in my conference book.

Friday afternoon’s panel on cosmopolitanism and the religious left at the turn of the 20th century was very good. John Pettegrew (Lehigh University) offered an interesting argument for Mark Twain as a religious liberal and for Twain’s belief in empathy as a force that bound humanity together. For Twain, argued Pettegrew, empathy was war’s opposite and it allowed for a universal humanity. Emily Mace’s paper (Princeton) analyzed some intriguing ritual festivals in the life of New York’s Ethical Culture School. These festivals organized around civic values of democracy and equality, as respondent Leigh Eric Schmidt pointed out, were anything but Durkheimian collective effervesance. Nonetheless, Mace’s point that we must not neglect ritual in the study of liberal religions is well founded. Finally, my favorite paper-if only because it was closest to my own research-was that of Ann Marie Kittelstrom (Sonoma State University). Kittlestrom traced the history of the National Federation of Religious Liberals in the wake of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religion. In the NFRL and its successors, Kittlestrom sees the beginning of a real cosmopolitan pluralism that appreciated differences while still holding onto shared universals. Leigh Eric Schmidt (Harvard University) responded to all three papers in turn but for me his big take away was the importance of sympathy-in contrast to Pettegrew’s empathy. Sympathy, according to Schmidt, was a rich moral/social sentiment for bridging differences and imaging a cosmopolitan sensibility in the 19th century among religious liberals. Sympathy could be found in the subjects of all three of the papers presented.

Friday night the American Society of Church History held a reception for graduate students at theCongregational Library on Beacon Hill. It is a beautiful library and it was a nice chance to talk to colleagues also along the graduate school path. Kudos to the ASCH for doing this! What was even better was that the ASCH arranged for a small group of graduate students to have lunch or dinner with some great historians on Friday and Saturday-for free! So, after the reception at the library a few of us went to dinner with the great historian of Mormonism Jan Shipps. We had a wonderful dinner and Jan was truly delightful to spend time with. She can tell some amazing stories. On Saturday lunch was arranged with Charles Lippy and dinner with Keith Francis. Again, kudos to the ASCH for setting up these meals. I wasn’t able to take part in any of them on Saturday but they were great opportunities and only available within a smaller society like the ASCH.

By the way, I do love the smaller and more intimate setting of the ASCH in the midst of the glitz and glamor of the AHA. It’s really the best of both worlds. Sort of like Mayberry and Manhattan at the same time.

Saturday morning, I got up and headed to a roundtable chaired by our very own Randall Stephens on “Bracketing Faith and Historical Practice.” The panel featured Randall Balmer, Margaret Bendroth from the Congregational Library, Jon Roberts, Grant Wacker, and Lauren Winner. I won’t say much in case Randall wants to post something later. The main question the panelists addressed was whether or not (or even if) historians should bracket their religious beliefs when practicing their craft. Balmer and Winner seemed confused that this was even a question. For them, it was impossible not to bracket one’s faith and so historians should be upfront about where they are coming from. Roberts disagreed and argued for “norms” that guide the practice of history and call for objective “historical natuarlism.” Grant Wacker offered what I thought was the best argument. Wacker pointed out that there is no hard and fast rule and that various political and social situations will guide a historians decisions about what to disclose and what to use in their interpretation of historical events and agents. Randall Stephens did a good job as chair in relating the various comments and furthering the conversation but I kept getting the sneaking feeling that Roberts and Balmer/Winner were just talking past one another and really arguing about the value of reflexive methodology and not the role of belief in history writing. It was a good conversation, however, and one that will hopefully continue.

After the roundtable I rushed over to the Westin, where the ASCH panels were meeting. It was my turn. I was part of a panel on Methodist Media. The panel began with a paper from Erika K. R. Hirsch (Boston University) who analyzed the role of worship in early Methodism. Hirsch argued that the personal experiences afforded in hymn singing and corporate prayer provided authentication of genuine piety. She tied this desire for authenticity to an early modern emphasis on empirism and verification by the senses. My take away from Hirsch was that we need to pay more attention to the role of practice in British and American Methodism. Elizabeth Georgian (University of Delaware) also emphasized the role of practice in Methodism in her paper on Methodist print culture in the early nineteenth century. Georgian argued that practice, not theology, was the source of debates between Methodists and Presbyterians in their respective periodicals. David Scott (Boston University) brought in a transnational element with his paper on Methodist educational missions in Asia during the nineteenth century. Scott argued that Methodist missions focused on education overseas because they were so focused on education already on the home front. Educational missions were a key part of Methodist identity at home and abroad. Finally, I kept the missionary theme going with my own paper on the Methodist Christian Advocate. I argued that the Christian Advocate allowed Methodist readers to map out the distant land of India, make contact with Indian Hindus (especially women), and travel to the mission field alongside missionaries. The full paper is available here. Russell Richey dispensed with the usual “5th paper” style response, as he put it, and instead posed some refining questions to each paper. Overall, I thought the panel went well but it’s always hard to tell when you’re the one up there.

After my panel I ate lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and headed to airport. A few final thoughts on the overall conference. As Tenured Radical has noted, it was weird going to a conference in a mall. There was also a ridiculous number of Starbucks shops within the bounds of the conference. I also struggled to find WiFi all weekend, but that could have been my own ineptitude. In the end, it was a fun trip that involved little sleep and a lot of running around in glass walled skywalks.

Methodists and India: Mapping, Contact, and Travel in the Christian Advocate, 1860-1890

As I posted last week, this weekend I presented a paper on the topic of Methodist Media to the American Society of Church History at this year’s American Historical Association meeting. Below is my paper from the panel.

Methodists and India: Mapping, Contact and Travel in the Christian Advocate, 1860-1890

Michael J. Altman, Emory University

What could bourgeois Methodist readers have known about India and how could missionary work abroad have brought them this knowledge?  Today, I will begin to answer these two questions through an analysis of The Christian Advocate in the late nineteenth century. The Christian Advocate, published in New York and the official weekly publication of the Methodist Episcopal Church, rose to a circulation of 63 to 70 thousand by 1879 and as one historian claims, “the paper became an icon of bourgeois America.”[i] The Advocate circulated among a growing middle class during the rise of the popular press in America and, therefore, the representations of India and Hinduism contained in its pages sparked the minds of a broad Evangelical readership.

I focus on three themes in the pages of the Advocate regarding India and Hinduism: mapping, contact, and travel.  First, missionary reports mapped out India as a geographic and spiritual field for missions work.  Second, women in America were especially recruited to join in the missionary effort and make spiritual and imaginary contact with Hindu women in India. Finally, in order to see the fruits of the Methodist mission work in India, writers sent letters and stories of conversions, conferences, and revivals that allowed American Methodists to travel to India and see the Holy Spirit at work.  In all three cases, imagination brought India into American homes through the pages of the Advocate.

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My “Hinduism: Colony, Metropole, and America” exam list

This is the fourth of my four exam list I’ve been posting over the past couple of weeks. This exam is technically a “dissertation specific” exam and so it is a combination of readings on Hinduism in America and India as well as some studies of how Hinduism has been represented in America and Britain. There’s also some post-colonial stuff mixed in too. As with the others, if you see something you want to discuss let me know.

Dissertation Exam List

Hinduism: Colony, Metropole, and America

Balagangadhara, S. N. 1994. The Heathen in His Blindness: Asia, the West, and the Dynamic of Religion. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

Bean, Susan S, and Peabody Essex Museum. 2001. Yankee India: American Commercial and Cultural Encounters with India in the Age of Sail, 1784-1860. Salem, MA: Peabody Essex Museum.

Cohn, Bernard S. 1987. An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Cohn, Bernard S. 1997. Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Davidson, Allan K. 1990. Evangelicals & Attitudes to India, 1786-1813: Missionary Publicity and Claudius Buchanan. S.l.: Sutton Courtenay Press.

Doniger, Wendy. 2009. “Hindus in America 1900-.” Pp. 636-653 in The Hindus: An Alternative History. New York: Penguin Press.

Fischer-Tine, Harald, and Michael Mann, eds. 2004. Colonialism as Civilizing Mission: Cultural Ideology in British India. London: Anthem Press.

Inden, Ronald B. 1990. Imagining India. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell.

Jackson, Carl T. 1994. Vedanta for the West: The Ramakrishna Movement in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kejariwal, O. P. 1988. The Asiatic Society of Bengal and the Discovery of India‘s Past, 1784-1838. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Kopf, David. 1969. British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance; the Dynamics of Modernization, 1773-1835. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kopf, David. 1979. The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind. Princeton, N.J: Princeton Univerity Press.

Marshall, P. J. 1970. The British Discovery of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press.

Mitter, Partha. 1977. Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Narayan, Kirin. 1993. “Refractions from the Field at Home: American Representations of Hindu Holy Men in the 19th and 20th Centuries.” Cultural Anthropology 8:476-509.

Narayanan, Vasudha. 2006. “Creating the South Indian “Hindu” Experience in the United States.” Pp. 231-248 in The Life of Hinduism, edited by John Stratton Hawley and Vasudha Narayanan. London: University of California Press.

Oddie, Geoffrey A. 2006. Imagined Hinduism: British Protestant Missionary Constructions of Hinduism, 1793-1900. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Oddie, Geoffrey A. 1995. Popular Religion, Elites, and Reform: Hook-Swinging and Its Prohibition in Colonial India, 1800-1894. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers & Distributors.

Pennington, Brian. 2005. Was Hinduism Invented?: Britons, Indians, and Colonial Construction Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.

Robertson, Bruce Carlisle. 1995. Raja Rammohan Ray: The Father of Modern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Singer, Milton B. 1980. “Passage to More than India: a Sketch of Changing European and American Images.” Pp. 11-38 in When a Great Tradition Modernizes: An Anthropological Approach to Civilization. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Singh, Maina Chawla. 2000. Gender, Religion, and the “heathen Lands”: American Missionary Women in South Asia, 1860s-1940s. New York: Garland Pub.

Stein, William Bysshe, ed. 1967. Two Brahman Sources of Emerson and Thoreau. Gainesville, Fla: Scholarsþ Facsimiles & Reprints.

Sugirtharajah, Sharada. 2003. Imagining Hinduism: A Postcolonial Perspective. London: Routledge.

Teltscher, Kate. 1995. India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India 1600-1800. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Urban, Hugh B. 2001. The Economics of Ecstasy: Tantra, Secrecy, and Power in Colonial Bengal. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Veer, Peter van der. 2001. Imperial Encounters: Religion and Modernity in India and Britain. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Waghorne, Joanne Punzo. 2004. Diaspora of the Gods: Modern Hindu Temples in an Urban Middle-Class World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Williams, Raymond Brady. 1988. Religions of Immigrants from India and Pakistan: New Threads in the an Tapestry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

My Outside Area Exam List: “Media Studies and Religion”

This is the third of four posts which include my various exam lists for my preliminary exams. This exam is in my “outside area” of Media studies. There’s some great theory on here as well as a lot of  stuff dealing with ethnography and representation. It is a little light on the religion side but that’s the point of the “outside” in the title, I guess. The anthropological emphasis of the exam really pushes it into a true “outside area” for a historian like me. As before, if you’re interested in conversation about something you see here, let me know.

Michael J. Altman

Outside Area Exam- Media Studies

I. Theory

Adorno, Theodor W, and M. Horkheimer. 1977. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as mass deception.” Pp. 350-383 in Mass Communication and Society, edited by James Curran, Michael Gurevitch, and Janet Woollacott. London: Edward Arnold.

Appadurai, Arjun. 1991. “Global Ethnoscapes: Notes and Queries for a Transnational Anthropology.” Pp. 191-210 in Recapturing Anthropology, edited by Richard G. Fox. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.

Baudrillard, Jean. 1980. “The Implosion of Meaning in the Media and the Implosion of the Social in the Masses.” Pp. 137-148 in The Myths of Information: Technology and Postindustrial Culture, edited by Kathleen Woodward. Madison: Coda Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1993. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature / Re Bourdieu ; Edited and Introduced by Randal Johnson. edited by Randal Johnson. New York: Columbia University Press.

Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language / an Fairclough. London: Longman.

Fowler, Roger. 1991. Language in the News: Discourse and Ideology in the Press. London: Routledge.

Goffman, Erving. 1981. Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Hall, Stuart. 1980. “Encoding / Decoding.” Pp. 128-138 in Culture, Media, Language, edited by Stuart Hall, Dorothy Hobson, Andrew Lowe, and Paul Willis. London: Hutchinson.

McQuail, Denis. 2010. McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory. Sixth Edition. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Spitulnik, Debra. 1993. “Anthropology and Mass Media.” Annual Review of Anthropology 293-315.

Spitulnik, Debra. 1999. “Media.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 9:148-151.

II. Discourse

Bakhtin, M. M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. edited by Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1972. The Archaeology of Knowledge ; and, The Discourse on Language. New York: Pantheon Books.

Richardson, John E. 2007. Analysing Newspapers: An Approach from Critical Discourse Analysis. Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wodak, Ruth. 1999. The Discursive Construction of National Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Woods, Nicola. 2006. Describing Discourse: A Practical Guide to Discourse Analysis. London: Hodder Arnold.

III. Representation

Karp, Ivan, and Steven Lavine, eds. 1991. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display / Ed by Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Lutz, Catherine, and Jane Lou Collins. 1993. Reading National Geographic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

MacCannell, Dean. 1992. Empty Meeting Grounds: The Tourist Papers. London: Routledge.

Pratt, Mary Louise. 2008. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Tomlinson, John. 1991. Cultural Imperialism: A Critical Introduction. London: Pinter Publishers.

IV. Religion

Hoover, Stewart M. 2006. Religion in the Media Age. London: Routledge.

Richardson, John E. 2004. (Mis)representing Islam: The Racism and Rhetoric of British Broadsheet Newspapers. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub.

Rothenbuhler, Eric W. 1998. Ritual Communication: From Everyday Conversation to Mediated Ceremony. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Rothenbuhler, Eric W, and Mihai Coman, eds. 2005. Media Anthropology. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage.

Silk, Mark. 1995. Unsecular Media: Making News of Religion in America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Walton, Jonathan L. 2009. Watch This!: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism. New York: New York University Press.

V. Ethnogprahy / Anthropology

Abu-Lughod, Lila. 2005. Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Couldry, Nick. 2007. Media Consumption and Public Engagement: Beyond the Presumption of Attention. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dornfeld, Barry. 1998. Producing Public Television, Producing Public Culture. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Hannerz, Ulf. 2004. Foreign News: Exploring the World of Foreign Correspondents. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kosnick, Kira. 2007. Migrant Media: Turkish Broadcasting and Multicultural Politics In Berlin. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Mankekar, Purnima. 1999. Screening Culture, Viewing Politics: An Ethnography of Television, Womanhood, and Nation in Postcolonial India. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press.

Peterson, Mark. 2003. Anthropology and Mass Communication : Media and Myth in the New Millenium. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Radway, Janice. 1974. “Interpretive Communities and Variable Literacies.” Daedalus 113:49-73.

Radway, Janice. 1988. “Reception Study: Ethnographyand the problem of disperesed audiences and nomadic subjects.” Cultural Studies 2:359-376.

Spitulnik, Debra. 1993. “Anthropology and Mass Media.” Annual Review of Anthropology 293-315.

Spitulnik, Debra. “Thick Context, Deep Epistemology: A Meditiation on Wide-Angle Lenses on Media, Knowledge Production, and the Concept of Culture.” in Theorising Media and Practice, edited by B. Brauchler and J. Postill. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Spitulnik, Debra. 1998. “Mediated Modernities: Encounters with the Electronic in Zambia.” Visual Anthropology Review 14:63-84.

Spitulnik, Debra. 2002. “Mobile Machines and Fluid Audiences: Rethinking Reception through Zambian Radio Culture.” in Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, edited by Faye Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Tacchi, Jo. 1998. “Radio Texture: Between Self and Others.” Pp. 25-45 in Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter, edited by Daniel Miller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

VI. Post-Print Media

Baron, Naomi S. 2008. Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Morley, David. 1980. The Nationwide Audience: Structure and Decoding. London: British Film Institute.

Tolson, Andrew. 2006. Media Talk: Spoken Discourse on TV and Radio. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

What theories and theorists guide your work?

The Religion in American History Blog has a discussion question on their Facebook page about theories that guide scholars work.  Kelly Baker asked, “How do you all approach American Religious History? What methods, theories or theorists guide your work?”

I posted an answer there but I thought I’d copy it here as well. What about you? What are your guiding lights for your work, religious studies or otherwise?

Here are the three strands I try to pull together in my approach to American religious history:

1) Emile  Durkheim: Those who know where I am and who I’m working with ought not be surprised here. The category of “the sacred,” for me, offers a chance to look at a whole host of things previously left unconsidered in American religious history. Burning Man, sports, and all the other usual examples are just the start. Recent work on Oprah points the way to more and more places we can reconsider “American Sacred History.”

2) Thomas A.Tweed’s Crossing and Dwelling:  I really like Tweed’s focus on positionality and his focus on the movement and motion of religions. I think it adds a dynamism to our study that has been lost in an under-theorized notion of culture and snapshot approach to religions.

3) Foucault, Said, and post-colonial theory generally:
In thinking about religions in American history I’m always wanting to find ways to rigorously account for power. In my current diss. research on representations of Hinduism in America I’m realizing more and more the ways “religion” as a category functioned in the deployment, maintenance and organization of power. I think religious historians are often wary of reducing religions down to “just power” without thinking about the ways religions function to channel power, resist power, and basically move it around and (dis?)organize it.

So, that’s my triparte answer. Wow, Kelly, really good question. I’ve never thought it through like this. Helpful.

Power, Authority, and the Academic Journal: Thoughts on UC vs. NPG

Why do we need academic journals?

In the midst of the ongoing dispute between the University of California system and the Nature Publishing Group over the rates of science journals, I’ve been wondering what exactly is the function of the academic journal?

I see two.  First, journals like those published by NPG function to distribute knowledge.   Second, journals act to authorize academic work.  The current spat between UC and NPG is beginning to reveal the ways these two functions are related and how they are also falling apart.  What is missing from the current discussion of the UC vs. NPG battle is an analysis of how power and authority move through the current journal publication structure, which at bottom, is a question about how journal publication functions .

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‘Punk’ Academics, ‘Jam’ Academics, and the ‘Culture Industry’

This morning a couple of weird thoughts began to criss-cross in my mind that linked ‘punk’ academics, jam bands, and Theodore Adorno.  In the end, I began to see the political edge of the digital humanities in opposing what Adorno and Horkheimer call the “culture industry.”

To start off, I was reading Adorno and Horkheimer’s “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as mass deception” essay and thinking about ways for humanist academics to fight the totalizing power of late capital and the culture industries in the age of new media.  Not too heavy, huh?

Then I noticed a great link on twitter about an archive of electroacoustic music being distributed via torrent.  I replied that etree.org is another great site that is distributing music via torrent for all sorts of bands in the ‘jam music’ scene, most notably Phish but also Dave Matthews, String Cheese Incident, etc.  All of these bands have a liberal taping policy that allows fans to tape their live performances and the distribute them non-commercially.  (Another example of this is the Live Music archive over at archive.org, also run by etree.org)

The combination of academia and music reminded me of once hearing about the Do-It-Yourself culture of ‘punk academics.’  Now, I don’t really know that much about punk academics-I did spend most of my teen years listening to punk bands like NOFX, the Descendents, and the Dead Kennedy’s-but thinking about them alongside the open access taping policy of bands like Phish prompts this question:

Don’t we need some ‘jam academics’?

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