Two stills of the IDMF crew in production on our second trip to the Gulf Coast!
Two stills of the IDMF crew in production on our second trip to the Gulf Coast!
This summer I am remotely assisting Professor Reckson with a book she is writing about ecstatic experience and performance in American literary realism. In the fall she will be doing research at the Library of Congress in D.C., and until then I’m helping her come up with resources and materials, primary and secondary, that might assist her research and writing about the Ghost Dance, a Native American spiritual practice and performance, most famously documented by American ethnographer, James Mooney, in his 1896 monograph, The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890.
In a sense, I’ve become more familiar with the Ghost Dance these past few weeks. I’ve culled all kinds of texts about the Ghost Dance from the NYPL; I’ve searched Haverford’s Tripod entering things like– ‘ghost dance technology’, ‘ghost dance realist ideology’, ‘ghost dance representation’ – and have yielding some fascinating articles by contemporary scholars discussing the logics and limits of late nineteenth century technologies and ethnographic methodologies deployed in the documentation of this circa 1900 Native American practice; I’ve listened to Mooney’s 1894 recordings of Ghost Dance songs; so yes, I’ve familiarized myself with the material. And yet, despite my efforts to know a little more, I have a gaining awareness of what I can’t know and of what can’t be known. This waning sense of familiarity with academic insights and cultural artifacts is coupled by a gaining sense of wonder at that which teases at the boundaries, at that which exceeds discursive conceptualization. I find these seemingly contradictory senses native to the topic.
While my research began broadly, more recently, I’ve been culling sources that engage more specifically the ways religious ecstatic experiences intersect with realist representation strategies. Notably for Lindsay this street goes both ways. On the one hand, I’m becoming more familiar with the way late nineteenth century realist representation strategies understood, and perhaps, misunderstood Native American practices. Moreover, I’m learning more about how ‘the real’ is an interpretation of reality, is a claim about a contested reality that often, if done well, veils and mutes that contestation. On the other hand, I’m learning about how Native Americans pushed and push back against the seeming determinism and authority of Western representation strategies both photographic and literary. How authors like Gerald Vizenor push back – how his work, Dead Voices, could be thought of as, in the words of scholar Arnold Krupat, “blurring, far more than is inevitable, the generic line between the autobiography or personal essay and the novel, a line drawn on the Western epistemological distinction between “truth” and “fiction””.
I’m looking forward to reading more literary reenactments of the Ghost Dance, thinking more about how texts describing the Ghost Dance can be considered reenactments of the Ghost Dance itself, and I’m especially looking forward to thinking more about this critical intersection, this two way representational street of dynamic agency as a site where narratives of ‘reality’ contest boundaries and garner sympathies in ways both confounding and inciting.
This summer, thanks to the HCAH’s great support, I am interning at a women’s film organization in New York City.
NYWIFT, short for New York Women in Film&Television, is a chapter of many WIFT organizations all around the world. As nonprofits, these organizations advocate for equality and aim to increase women’s exposure and power in film.
I am a woman and a true cinephile but until starting my internship, I was pretty much unaware of the gender inequality in the industry. To give you some concrete facts on the issue, I’ve allowed myself to use the New York Film Academy’s helpful info-graphics. (If interested, here’s the link to many more of them!)
One of the graphs shows that women purchased half of the movie tickets of the top 500 films between 2007 and 2012 but only a meager 31% of the speaking roles in the films were held by females. This came as a real surprise to me. Believe me, I watch A LOT of movies but never even noticed, or stopped to think, there might be fewer women than men.
Unfortunately, the bad news continues behind the scenes. There is a sad 5:1 ration of male versus female employees working in film. If you further break that down and look at the involvement of women in the top 250 films in 2012, the percentage of female directors was at only 9%, female writers were at 15%, women producers at 17% and finally female cinematographers at just 2%!
While the statistics are shocking it is important to bear in mind that its not all bad. “There are a number of female filmmakers, characters, and emerging talent challenging the status quo” the New York Film Academy writes in regard to the statistics. And they are right! Most of us are likely to have been inspired by strong female characters on screen. And, additionally, we might also have another female Oscar director nominee next year. It seems like Ava Duvernay, Angelina Jolie and Sarah Gavron all have promising directorial projects coming up. (You heard it here first.) A nomination would in any case be fantastic since the Academy Award for directing has so far only seen 4 female nominations and only one female win. (Kathryn Bigelow in 2012 for the Hurt Locker.)
All in all, there is still a long way to go and I am happy to be using my summer working for an organization that supports women in all areas of the film industry. By honoring women through awards, providing training and workshops, organizing networking events, screenings and discussions, or by giving out grants and fellowships, I think NYWIFT is definitely helping the advancement of women in the industry.
In my next post I’ll let you know what I’ve personally been working on in my weeks so far and how I almost ran over Jessica Alba with a moving cart. Stay tuned and enjoy your summer!
Thanks to the help and support of the Hurford Humanities Center at Haverford, I spent two weeks this past month in Stanford, California, at the Hoover Memorial Library Archives at the Hoover Institute studying American diplomatic history in North Africa in World War II. This is a quick description of some of my thoughts so far this summer, with hopefully a few more on the way.
Doing archival research is a curious thing in the age of iPhones and iPads. It was most likely also odd back when you actually read the material in the heavily air-conditioned, strictly organized room designated for ‘reading,’ but the experience of two weeks of snapping pictures and skimming a few thousand pages of diplomatic notes, letters and memoranda leaves a bitter-sweet taste in your mouth.
Coming up against National Security classification issues and 200 boxes of personal correspondences that mostly resembled what I was made to write to gift-givers when I was 13, it is surprisingly satisfying finding something like ‘The Manifesto of the Algerian People,’ which seems like the pinnacle of so much in comparison to all the ‘thanks’ and ‘congratulations’ cards. Unlike picking up a pre-vetted secondary source, the process of archival research requires patience but in the monotony of figuring out handwritten cards recalling some conversation between high school buddies, the excitement from finding something worthwhile or truly interesting is magnified. It’s a fishing metaphor waiting to happen.
For two weeks in the middle of June, I read a lot of those ‘thanks’ typed on official State Department letterhead by Robert Daniel Murphy, a diplomat and semi-spy, who spent three years from 1940 to 1943 as Franklin Roosevelt’s special representative to French North Africa. Charged with testing the waters among the Vichy-sympathizing Frenchmen who governed Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia to garner support for an Allied invasion, Murphy played a key role in the creation of the Murphy-Weygand agreement in 1941 which opened up the North African economy for American exports and imports, thus opening up the ports of Tunis, Tangiers, and Algiers for US influence.
The story of Robert Murphy and North Africa in World War II can be cut into many different shapes, but a really interesting perspective emerges from his papers: the American presence in North Africa, while being strategically important for the War against Germany, reflected a longer interest in the European colonies.
Oil (whether peanut, olive or petroleum) lubricated the gears of the US State Department and White House to build a presence in North Africa, but larger, long-term fears of Cold War bipolar worlds and the orientalist rhetoric of crushing tides of the darker nations washing over the White World kept the United States interested in the French departments and protectorates on the Southern shore of the Mediterranean.
While I have gathered many documents, images and overall primary sources for what will become my Thesis next year, the bulk of this summer, and really of my time at Haverford, remains ahead.
The IDMF is back from our second trip to Louisiana, which may have been even hotter than the first. Our hard drives are full of images of industry and conversations with locals. We’re excited to be back in the ITC, safe from fire ants and hard at work.
Hello friends! My name is James Truitt, and this summer I’m working with professor of history Darin Hayton through the Hurford Center’s Student Research Assistantship program. My work centers around translating a 14th century Latin text on astrometeorology, Firmin de Beauval’s Handbook of Changes in the Weather (available, conveniently enough, through Google Books).
What’s astrometeorology, you ask? Well, people have been looking at the sky for a long time to figure out future weather conditions—after all, who wants to get caught in a thunderstorm unprepared? What might come as a surprise is the parts of the sky they’ve paid attention to—astrometeorology used the stars (well, mostly the planets) to predict future weather. The practice goes back to the Ancient Greeks, and was situated in the wider field of astrological knowledge, the complexities of which I’ve been familiarizing myself with in order to make sense of the text.
This brings us to my role in the project—translator. I have a long-standing fascination with translation, and Firmin’s Handbook gives me an excellent opportunity to explore all sorts of questions and issues about the act of rendering a text into another language. In particular, most of the translation I’ve done previously has been of literary texts, so working with something as technical as Firmin is giving me a good deal of new things to consider.
That’s all for now, but you can expect another post from me before the summer’s out. Until then!
This summer I am interning at the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, “a private, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to providing every Pennsylvanian with access to the humanities.”
Despite the neat modifier featured above, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council is a bit of a tricky organization to define. It’s essentially a regranting agency i.e. granting funds from organizations like the Pew Center to independent arts initiatives, but also heads various out-of-school-time and workforce development programming such as the Teen Reading Lounge, a book club geared towards older youth and featured in libraries across Pennsylvania. So PHC is not a government agency and it’s not a library, but it can be difficult to explain what makes us different. And the presence of “humanities” in the title, a word loaded with earnest platitudes and general hem-hawing, does not make the elevator-pitch any easier. But the great thing about working at a humanities organization with humanities-educated staff is that the ambiguity of this situation is not lost on us—identity and self-definition are issues we grapple with in staff meetings, phone conferences, and collateral pieces. Right now, it’s like we’re part nonprofit titan and part precocious teen just trying to figure stuff out. Like a Gorgon, but it’s wearing a cardigan…and maybe some Buddy Holly glasses.
Back to the point: the PHC is in a period of all-around transition—cool, collaborative, civic engagement transition. We’re funding fewer things, but the ones that we are, are rooted in community development with long-term and far-reaching agendas. Most recently, PHC is funding the West Scranton park revitalization efforts of the Scranton Neighborhood Pocket Park Collaborative, a collective formed from six area non-profits and led by the Scranton Area Foundation. Just last week I was up in the Electric City itself with the PHC crew, awarding a $50,000 check to the Collective and attending a roundtable on the role of the humanities in civic engagement. Side note: I got to order the oversized check and it is a more complicated process than one might think.
The Pocket Park Collaborative has been serving as a great model for another project coming down the pike—the Chester Cultural Corridor (C3 for short), which intends to reopen the shuttered Deshong Park as a meeting center and Cultural Corridor in Chester, a city that has long been saddled with high unemployment and crime rates.
Where Rachel the Intern comes into all of this is in that most magical realm of Internland: Communications and Development. PHC is composed of a small staff and there is room for me to help out in all departments, but I am officially under the instruction of the Director of Communications, Sherry Hicks. On a typical day, I have tasks ranging from composing and editing press releases to helping organize donor and community outreach events to conducting research for grant initiatives such as Veterans Arts and the aforementioned TRL programs. The English major in me is pretty thrilled by all this because I have the opportunity to hone my writing and rhetoric skills while gaining professional experience in the nonprofit sector.
Well, that’s all for now!
A Day in the Life of a Comic Book Editor:
The things I do mostly correspond to what I have always done at school, except that there are a lot more pictures. I read books, think about them, and make changes. Any time a book is made here, it is put together in what would be a publisher’s version of a rough draft, and I read it. There are usually lots of problems on a first read-through: badly-placed speech bubbles, typographic errors, bad punctuation, mistakes in the coloring (one time I found a main character who was in the background of a picture, whose hair had turned from blond to black!).
After I read it, I pass it to the “Éditeur en chef” who does her own read through, saying which of my changes should be integrated into the next draft, and which ones she doesn’t agree with. After that, the book gets sent to the head graphic artist, who does a third read-through, focusing on the images and the appearance of the lettering, and noting mistakes there.
THEN it gets sent with all the changes to be made to the graphic interns, who go through the many changes and DO them. Then it gets passed back to me to make sure that everyone’s changes were properly put in place. The graphic interns and I usually play a few rounds of hot-potato at this stage of things.
After everyone is (almost) entirely sure that there are no more changes to be made, the book gets sent to the printer, who is “in China” (I never get any more information than that; every time anyone communicates to the printer they talk “to China”). They send us a final cut to read through once again before we give the go-ahead to do an actual print job.
I find myself reading hundreds of pages every single day–much more volume than I have ever read before in any given period of time. Because not only am I reading the French version, but the US office (Humanoids Inc.) has also been taking advantage of the the first anglophone intern in a few years and using me to read the English translations of many French titles. And then, there’s my personal reading, which has been a mix of Victor Hugo and the Humanoïdes Associés classics. I’m currently halfway through the Jodorowsky-Moebius masterpiece L’Incal.
One other responsibility that I will mention briefly (there are still many others) is probably my least favorite thing I have to do here on a regular basis. It is me and me alone who receives all of the project proposals we receive for publication. I have to read them, look at them, and decide whether or not they’re good enough to send on to the head editor and the literary director. It sounds like a fun and interesting job, but that’s until you realize that it also involves responding to these artists–countless sincere and talented artists–and in the VAST majority of cases tell them that we can’t publish their book. I have received perhaps 100 projects, and so far I have passed on one. Most of these are the creations of many years of work by professionals. Many of them even went to school to create these pieces of art (France has colleges just for comic book writers!).
This brings me to the new things I was given to do today, the first of which was the task of destroying a large pile of books. These are books that belong to the company and of which there are new editions that have replaced the old, but the old books are beautiful. It is not enough simply to throw them away; no, I had to stand outside next to the trash can and individually rip apart 50 or so books, to ensure that they couldn’t ever be resold. I’m not sure why they gave this task to the editing intern (read: the token book-lover) when there are marketing and law interns right downstairs, unless it was to hammer home my rude awakening to the harsh realities of the publishing world. Ripping a book apart is almost like what I imagine slaughtering an animal to be. In order to keep my conscience subdued I had to avoid opening the book and looking at the words–the same way I’m sure anyone working an abattoir has to avoid the eyes of the animals he processes.
On a more joyful note, I was was also given the job today of delivering books at the residence of the legendary Alejandro Jodorowsky a science fiction revolutionary and a household name at the Humanoïdes. He lives in a big and beautiful apartment next to a big and beautiful train station, and I was really hoping that he would be home. He wasn’t in, but his wife is very nice. And I got to see his desk–it’s just as cluttered as mine.
This internship is co-sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. Professor David Sedley is the faculty advisor.
By now more than a few of my professors have told me that ultimately I myself will be an academic; such a future is evidently inevitable. In order best to embrace my destiny, I’m spending the summer working as a Summer Research Assistant for Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Jamel Velji, who specializes in Islamic apocalyptic. As such, I’m pretending to be a professor, getting a behind-the-scenes look at what takes up Prof. Velji’s time outside of the 6 hours a week spent teaching classes. So, what do professors do outside of the classroom?
1. They read.
Above we see the cover to a recent major publication in the field of Islamic Studies, Messianic Beliefs & Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The ‘Abbasid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century by Hayrettin Yucesoy. This is just one of many texts I’ve read (or, more accurately, skimmed) in order to determine if it would be appropriate reading for a 300-level seminar that professor Velji will be teaching next semester called Mahdis and their Movements. The Encyclopaedia of Islam defines “al-Mahdi” (which in English is “the rightly guided one”) as “the restorer of religion and justice who, according to a widely held Muslim belief, will rule before the end of the world”; the course centers on a number of historical personages who have claimed or applied the title of Mahdi.
The course will have six case studies: the ‘Abbasid movement (Iraq and surrounding area, mid-8th century CE), the Fatimid movement (Egypt, early 10th-century), the Almohad movement (Morocco and Spain, early 12th century), Ibn al-Arabi (not himself a Mahdi claimant, but a prominent Sufi writer who used a lot of messianic imagery, 12th-13th centuries), the Mahdi of Sudan (late 19th century), and the Ahmadiyya movement (late 19th century-present). My responsibility has been to compile bibliographies for the case studies - a task that entails reading many, many sources on each one in order to determine which texts are appropriate for our purposes. Ultimately, I’m ending up with about 3-4 pages of single-spaced bibliography on each movement. All of this reading has been my primary effort from the start of my internship in early June until I finish in the next few days.
2. They write.
I can’t provide a picture for this, or really any details, but I do know that Professor Velji is working on a manuscript about Fatimid apocalyptic. I know this because he’s been promising me a chapter for quite a while now – a chapter that he has been working on for more than a year. I should see it soon, but for now all I know is that Prof. Velji suspects that I’ll find it entirely incomprehensible. After I’ve read his chapter and discussed it with him I’ll hopefully have a better sense of what goes into an academic book.
3. They design.
The next big project for Mahdis and their Movements (once the bibliographies are done) is one of syllabus construction, for which I’m extremely excited. As Professor Velji has explained to me, designing a syllabus is not simply throwing a bunch of books and articles together. Rather, a syllabus has a teleology (a fancy word meaning that it leads to an end goal): every text should build on the ones before it in a way that the course will ultimately lead to a conclusion of some sort. To try to explain this better, here’s an image:
Here we have an interesting artifact: a postage stamp from the contemporary Republic of Sudan depicting the Mahdi. It provides fertile ground for interpretation, giving a window into the Mahdi’s legacy in the Sudan of today. It’s probably worth including in the syllabus. But you wouldn’t just want it by itself; instead, you include materials with which to contextualize and compare it: a journal article on the role of the Ansar (the Mahdi’s followers) in contemporary Sudanese politics, a book on the communal treasury during the Mahdist period, a coin with messianic text and imagery from the Abbasid caliphate, etc. While each student will reach his or her own conclusions about the materials presented in class, professors design syllabi to guide their students in a certain direction.
4. They research.
A sort of side project that I have going at the moment is assisting Prof. Velji in collecting images of the end of the world. Above is one such image, a diagram of the Day of Judgment found in a manuscript copy of Ibn al-Arabi’s Futuhat al-Makiyya (Meccan Revelations). I wish I knew Arabic so I could see what people (or animals, angels, jinn, etc.) are in each circle, but instead I simply have to take translators’ work at face value. (While knowing Arabic would be extremely helpful in this internship, there are surprisingly many works available in English.)
I must admit I’m not entirely certain what the ultimate purpose of this image repository is (I think I asked Prof. Velji but I don’t remember his answer); despite the above image being from Ibn al-Arabi’s hand, it’s not directly related to the Mahdis and their Movements course. Nonetheless I have no doubts that it will in some way prove integral to Prof. Velji’s research as well as to that of other academics who access it.
5. They tweak.
The last project I have going right now stems from another one of Prof. Velji’s courses, called The End of the World as We Know It. To quote the description on the course guide, this class, which Prof. Velji has taught a number of times before (though I have yet to take it), “will explore the genre of apocalypse, looking for common themes that characterize this form of literature. Our primary source readings will be drawn from the Bible and non-canonical documents from the early Jewish and Christian traditions. We will use an analytical perspective to explore the social functions of apocalyptic, and ask why this form has been so persistent and influential.”
Even though the model is successful, Prof. Velji wants to tweak it with a new question: what is apocalyptic? I can provide the standard definition: an “apocalypse” (a word which comes from the Greek αποκαλυψις apokalypsis, meaning “uncovering”) is, according to the book The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature by Professor John J. Collins of Yale Divinity School, “a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” This definition was made for texts like the Hebrew Bible Book of Daniel, Revelation in the New Testament, and a number of apocryphal texts such as I Enoch, IV Ezra, and the Apocalypse of Peter. The word “apocalypse” has, however, come to connote meanings better denoted by the term “eschatological”, itself from the Greek εσχατον+λογος eschaton+logos, or “study of the end”.
This idea of apocalypse as eschatology is what brings us to the above image from the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead as seen in the Papyrus of Hunefer, in which the dead person’s heart is weighed against an ostrich feather that represents truth. Ancient Egyptian ideas of death and the afterlife, as well as those of time, history, order, divinity, and other notions central to the ways in which the end of the world is conceived, differ starkly from those found in Abrahamic traditions. Can Egyptian perceptions of what we might call the eschaton qualify under a definition of “apocalypse” tailor-made for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? To facilitate the addition of such a question to the course is the reason I’m putting together a bibliography on Egyptian (possibly-)apocalyptic.
6. They learn.
Obviously you wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I’m learning a ton from this research assistantship. But what seemed to come almost out of nowhere for me is the fact that this experience is just as educational for Prof. Velji. Of course he’s an expert in his field, but given the level of specialization in today’s academic environment, the field in question is Fatimid and Isma’ili (a branch of Shi’a Islam, of which the Fatimids were part) apocalypticism. Most of the other case studies we’re looking at are practically new to him or have escaped his memory after years spent not studying them; for instance, there’s a classic text on the ‘Abbasid movement - Black Banners from the East by Moshe Sharon – that he remembers loving in graduate school but hasn’t looked at since.
More important in this topic, though, is the way that professors use classes as educational opportunities for themselves. As Prof. Velji has explained to me, a class – particularly a high-level research seminar like Mahdis and their Movements – serves for a professor in the humanities in the same manner as a laboratory serves for scientists. Remember the syllabus teleologies I mentioned earlier? That’s like a professor’s hypothesis – his or her interpretation of the material at hand. As the class progresses, professors use in-class discussions to test their conceptions, garner new ideas, and reconsider their interpretations – probably the primary reason why syllabi can sometimes change midway through a course. When the semester is over, professors take what they learned back to their offices, and more often than not the class will have a profound impact on the professor’s research and writing.
As I mentioned in the beginning, there’s one central aspect of a professor’s work that I won’t be able to experience in this assistantship – teaching. By the time the fall semester rolls around and this course is taught, I’ll go back to being a student. I won’t be taking Mahdis and their Movements, but for every course I do take, I’ll come in with at least an idea of what went on behind the scenes in creating that course, and I’ll have a heightened awareness of what’s going through the professor’s mind and what he or she is getting out of the class. I can’t give a full judgment on this point until I have the opportunity to experience teaching, but I’m really enjoying this research assistantship to the point where it seems that my apparent destiny is a welcome one.
That’s all for now. Part of the deal is that I have to blog at least twice before the summer is over, so to those of you with judgment poor enough actually to read all the way through this long-winded ramble, I apologize in advance for the next one.
- Jeremy Steinberg ’16
After countless summers of babysitting and getting sunburned at the beach, I am finally trying to be a “real person.” This summer, I have a full-time internship at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, funded by the Hurford Center’s Philadelphia Partners program. I am an education intern, which perfectly combines my history major and education minor and fuels my desire to teach history on the high school level. The Society aims to bring primary sources into the classroom and helps teachers integrate primary sources into the history curriculum by providing programs and resources. As an education intern, some of my tasks include editing and updating the lesson plans on the website, observing student programs, analyzing student surveys, and creating my own lesson plans using primary sources found at HSP.
I have been working on a lesson plan about the Vietnam War. HSP houses the papers of Joseph Sill Clark, a Democratic politician from Philadelphia who served both as mayor of Philadelphia and a US Senator. Part of his vast collection are several boxes of items pertaining to the Vietnam war, including personal notes, correspondence with other senators, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and speeches. While perusing these resources, I found a very interesting article about Haverford.
The article states: “Communist North Vietnam’s official radio reported Monday that a committee of students at a Pennsylvania college was collecting money to help the Vietcong, which it called the South Vietnam National Liberation Front. The Hanoi radio said students at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, had formed a ‘May 2 Committee’ to collect funds for medical supplies for the Vietcong. The committee also was reported planning a demonstration in New York on May 2 opposing ‘United States imperialist intervention’ in South Vietnam.”
For those of you who are rusty on Vietnam War history, the Viet Cong were the ones that the U.S. was fighting against during the war. Haverford students have never shied from controversy!
Being able to do research at such an extensive and important archive is an amazing opportunity. I never get over the thrill of touching a piece of history. The other day, I was holding letters from William Penn in my hands. Who decided to trust me with that? I am excited to see what new things I will learn throughout the summer and hope that I do not ruin any priceless documents.