Historians Against the War

Sign the Statement

HAW Conference

Speakers Bureau

Press Releases and Statements

Virtual Movement Archive


Teaching Resources

GI Resistance

Civil Liberties and Academic Freedom


Join our Listserv

Download HAW images


About us / Contact us

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who Is Really Winning "The War on Terror?"

Ian S. Lustick has the answer:

”al Qaeda’s most important accomplishment was not to hijack our planes, but to hijack our political system. For a multitude of politicians, interest groups, professional associations, corporations, media organizations, universities, local and state governments and federal agency officials, the War on Terror is now a major profit center, a funding bonanza, and a set of slogans and sound bites to be inserted into budget, project, grant and contract proposals. For the country as a whole, however, it has become a maelstrom of waste and worry that distracts us from more serious problems.”

Hat tip Keith Halderman.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

McCain as "neoconservatism squared"

Over at Antiwar.com, Doug Bandow has a perceptive piece on John McCain's long-time affinity for war as a first resort:

Anyone willing to go to war with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Serbia is prepared to fight anyone. Most people lean toward peace and believe that only dangerous necessity can justify loosing the dogs of war. Not McCain, who appears to be in permanent "yes" mode. If that famous 3 a.m. phone call came into the McCain White House, he likely would yell "bomb them" into the receiver, then wait until the morning to ask who we had attacked.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

HAW member article on John Yoo and torture...

Jennifer Van Bergen, a member of the HAW Steering Committee, has published an article on John Yoo and the issue of torture at http://thepeoplesvoice.org. It contains links to other literature and documents related to the issue:


War and Its Discontents: Khoury Understands Iraq

War And Its Discontents: Understanding Iraq And The U.S. Empire

At the second plenary session of the conference, Dina Rizk Khoury delivered a passionate and inspiring presentation on Iraq. She detailed her extensive research and oral histories collected in refugee communities among the two million women, men and children who are living in exile. Khoury framed her remarks in the context of thirty years of war. She used Iraqi voices to tell the story of how tribalism and sectarianism were fabricated over the last two decades. Her interviews revealed that lost memories surfaced and were invented as the disintegration of the Baathist movement and the Iraqi State after the Gulf War, associated with bombing and destruction in the 1990’s sewed the seeds of social and economic fragmentation. Following the invasion and occupation, traditional pre-modern social networks used by Saddam to hold onto power emerged. They were enabled and aided by Paul Bremer’s imposition of neo-liberalism associated with massive unemployment. Most importantly, Khoury concluded that on-going occupation was likely to intensify efforts by local warlords and paramilitary forces to secure and expand power. Her conclusion was that the pathway to end the war was in the hands of Iraqis and that immediate removal of foreign military forces was necessary but not sufficient. Khoury stressed the need for consideration of international action and reparations by those who bombed Iraq throughout the 1990’s, invaded, occupied and destroyed after 2003. She called for monitoring of sanctions and economic warfare against Syria and Iran, which threaten to expand the conflict and will be especially burdensome for Iraqi refugees, already living precarious and fragile lives.

David R. Applebaum
HAW Conference Committee


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Nation's Spring Student Writing Contest

Charles Bittner, a friend of HAW, asks us to spread the word about The Nation's Spring 2008 Student Writing Contest. According to Bittner,

We're looking for original, thoughtful student voices to answer this question:

What have you learned from a personal experience that the next president should know before setting the agenda for the country?

Essays should not exceed 800 words and should be an original, unpublished work that demonstrates fresh, clear thinking and superior quality of expression and craftsmanship. We'll select five finalists and two winners--one from college, one from high school. Each winner will be awarded a $1,000 cash prize and a Nation subscription. The winning essays will be published and/or excerpted in the magazine and featured at TheNation.com. The five finalists will be awarded $200 each and subscriptions, and their entries will be published online.

Entries (only one per student) will be accepted through May 31, 2008. A winner will be announced by September 4. Please send entries to studentprize@thenation.com.

For more information, go here

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Clinton: "Obliterate Them."

Foreign policy recklessness has thoroughly infiltrated the leadership of both parties in this election. In an interview on Good Morning America, Hillary Clinton said the following when asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nukes:

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Clinton said. "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Zora Neale Hurston on Empire and Blowback

"I do not mean to single out England as something strange and different in the world. We, too, have our marines in China. We, too, consider machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideals of a country of their own....We also wrote that song about keeping a whole hemisphere under your wing. Now the Nipponese are singing our song all over Asia. They are full of stuff and need a good working out. The only hold-back to the thing is that they have copied our medicine chest. They are stocked up with the same steel pills and cannon plasters that Doctor Occident prescribes."

Zora Neale Hurston (1942), Hurston, Folklore, Memoirs, and Other Writings (New York: The Library of America, 1995), 791-92.

Labels: ,

Mark Twain's flag for the American colony in the Philippines...

Mark Twain was one of the most prominent opponents of the Philippine-American War and an outspoken anti-imperialist - an aspect of his biography that is probably as rarely mentioned in high school English classes as his critical views on religion.

After the 1898 war with Spain, the U.S. acquired various territories directly, including Cuba and Puerto Rico. Spain was unwilling to cede the Philippines, however, which had not been occupied by U.S. forces until after the armistice. Even then, U.S. forces only occupied Manila and its environs. Spain gave in to the offer of $20 million, however, and the islands became an American colony along with the Caribbean areas as a result of the Treaty of Paris. Cuba was denied independence until 1946. Unwilling to be subjugated by new masters, the Philippines declared independence. The Philippine-American War which followed lasted from 1899 to July 1902, but sporadic guerrilla warfare and rebellions for several more years, a phase called the "Philippine Insurrection." 4,000 American servicemen and at least five times as many Filipinos died in that conflict – far, far more than the several hundred Americans who died in the Spanish-American War. This war has almost totally disappeared from American historical memory, but reminders can still be seen, for example on the Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Mark Twain initially supported both wars. He was living in Europe at the time and was more familiar with Boer War being fought by Britain and the Boxer rebellion being fought between China and a colonial coalition (including the United States). He believed the U.S. was, unlike the European powers in their colonies, fighting to liberate colonies from Spain. The rhetoric supported his opinion. McKinley had called annexation of foreign land "criminal aggression" and congress had passed resolution promising Cuban independence after the war.

In June of 1898 Mark Twain wrote in a letter: "I have never enjoyed a war – even in written history – as I am enjoying this one…It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's. And I think this is the first time it has been done."

But his support for the war turned to opposition after reading the Treaty of Paris which ended the U.S. war with Spain. U.S. control of new colonies, the payment of $20 million, and the treaty's specific protection for Spanish landholders in Cuba were all factors which turned him against U.S. policy. He returned to the U.S. in October, 1900. Embarking in Europe, he told a reporter, using words much like those of anti-war activists today, that the war was, "a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extraction immensely greater."

His opinion got a lot of press in the context of the 1900 presidential campaign which revolved to some degree around the issue of imperialism. He advocated putting a miniature U.S. constitution in the Pacific, but "we have gone there to conquer, not to redeem." "And so I am an anti-imperialist." He soon joined the Anti-Imperialist League, which had been formed in 1898. With that organization, he went on to support the Russian Revolution (1905) and opposed Belgian control of Congo. He wrote and spoke on its behalf, but was not involved in the day to day work of the league, even after becoming the organization's vice president in 1901. He died in 1910.

His 1901 essay To the Person Sitting in Darkness was not an anti-American polemic, but a broad critique of western colonial imperialism. In it, he satirizes the colonial powers' claims to be bringing "civilization" to the "dark" corners of the globe. This and his other writings clearly show his disgust with American colonial-imperial policy and with atrocities committed during the insurrection. He mocked the American general Leonard Wood (who has a base named after him in Missouri) and praised the Filipino leader Aguinaldo.

It was in this sarcastic essay that he wrote, "And as for the flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily arranged. We can have a special one - our States do it: we can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones".

He had a clearer idea of the conflict than anti-imperialists of today do. He could openly and freely support Aguinaldo, while today's "progressives" are caught between a blundering, deadly and counter productive American foreign policy which they oppose on the one hand, and, in the Middle East, often an unsavory band of murderous criminals, terrorists, and ethnic nationalists which they cannot support on the other.

Mark Twain's anti-imperialist writings, including To the Person Sitting in Darkness, have been collected in Zwick, Jim (Ed.): Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire. Anti-Imperialist Writings On the Philippine-American War. Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, 1992. The information for the above commentary is from Zwick's introduction and Udo Sautter: Geschichte der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika.

(This article is reposted from the ProgBlog.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Atlanta Closing Plenary - Follow-Up

Here are the notes from the Closing Plenary--sorry so late!
These contain some follow-up suggestions that are FANTASTIC, so I hope this adds to the discussion.

Note: There were approximately 30 at the Closing Plenary. We broke into 4 groups at the Closing Plenary on Sunday. Each group discussed for 20 minutes, approximately, their reactions to the conference, ideas for future conferences, and where they thought HAW should next be putting its energies. Here are the lists they came up with. Where there was overlap, I tried to indicate the popularity without redundancy.

Group 1:

Conference suggestions: Great conference! Some suggestions:
--Advertise the list of workshops the first night, to the LARGEST crowd, & invite folks back
--Too many talks at once (this was a frequent comment)
--Raise the fee (in order to be able to do more)
--Subcategories may help (i.e. use sub-fields within History to organize the talks so that people don't miss talks they will most likely be interested in)
--Non-white representation lacking; need for better organizing on this score
--Some feeling that having the conference closer to or in the hotel would have been good

HAW suggestions:
--Textbook reviews (by committee)
--Economists: more are needed
--Media Education Section/Committee--we need one to develop things like YouTube videos, audiorecordings of lectures, making use of web/tech that will make us more accessible
--Teacher training and introduction to the field: make sure that teachers of history get this training in peace studies on the *ground level*, as they are preparing to teach
--Protecting academic freedom/tenure fights
--Regional conferences: we should have some
--Encouraging professors on campuses to hold speak-outs, organize & help organize students in political actions & groups--this has not been done enough by the professoriate

Group 2:
--Mixing of academic & non-academic speakers at the plenaries would have been good (Klein/Fletcher were both non-academic, for instance; perhaps pair an academic with a non-academic each time)
--Collaboration with other groups: having HAW sessions at other professional conferences
--Inviting speaker from the "right" in order to expand the dialogue (acknowledging that some may oppose the war for other reasons, as some conservative think-tankers do)
--Follow-up on conference by talking to others: everyone should be encouraged to take the ideas and tools from the conference back to their institutions and "spread the word," expand/continue the discussion

Group 3:
--Longer-term vision for HAW's anti-war/imperialist education is important; we should develop a long-term plan for expanding this area of our work, into high schools for instance
--Electronic/media development (similar to Group 1's suggestion above): use YouTube, FaceBook, audio, wikipedia, whatever else is out there to
--contextualize the war in Iraq: get out more historical analysis grounded in understanding of the region that makes people realize that 9/11 did NOT come "out of the blue," that there IS a history of US imperialist involvement in the region--counter the journalistic approaches that have been emphasizing the "uniqueness" of the war
--discuss/expand materials (media) available for teaching & outreach/education efforts
--Networking with schools, organizations:
-increase awareness of HAW's existence
-partner to develop material (e.g. a Mark Twain pamphlet, curricula that are *accessible* and *usable* by teachers in HS and other settings--accessibility should be emphasized, instead of raw informational content--more work on actual lesson plans, for instance, and less summarizing of notes, etc.)
--encourage members to become advisors on campus to campus groups, political and other
--develop materials for workshops: e.g. the "1968" session ideas, and the cards and talking-points, and timelines, developed for Ian's and his grad students' session; put these on-line

Group 4:

Organizational Identity:
--Name: Historians vs THE War? Historians against War? revisit for accuracy/PR reasons
--particular critical perspective as historians? or we just happen to be historians who are activists against the war? (this was a suggestion for a discussion, but it was also recognized by everyone that we intend the FIRST, so it turned into a somewhat more rhetorical point: how are we living up to this intention?)

--tapping more into youth, 6-12 teachers
--building bridges between schools/colleges
--larger numbers--people of color--development of membership is necessary; there are many historians who oppose the Iraq war who are not members of HAW: why?
--wikipedia.org entry--expand?

Educational Outreach:
--teach-in kit (develop one that is always available for long-term use)
--YouTube videos, cartoons, mini-documentaries
--Committee should be formed to respond quickly/immediately to new events with editorials that are sent to major newspapers and outlets, press releases, etc.

Group 5:

--Collaboration with HS teachers (this was a general comment by almost all groups)
--lesson plans: see above, Group 3
--larger context materials: see above
--organize workshops/groups with different titles, to help HS teachers (there are sometimes funding/organizational laws for public school teachers that prevent them from getting funding or support to attend a conference that offers a political slant; we could help them out by making the title more neutral-sounding)

--Student activism: help with organizing (a general comment)
--At end of conferences, have a DEMO/RALLY/MARCH Event, to get everyone actually into the streets, and let the city in which we're meeting know that we're here! (Atlanta was unaware, for the most part, that we were holding a conference there!)

Public Activism & Exposure:
--clear goals: develop Talking Points (who we are, what we do, etc.) so that members can represent HAW in public more easily
--Forum: basic points of war, primer info on Iraq war; we should make developing a basic primer a priority, and distribute it with suggestions for holding forums/outreach gatherings on campuses & beyond; teach-in materials, essentially
--Help starting caucuses, discussion groups regionally/locally


--Help with caucuses would be good; archivists are interested in starting a list for becoming a support/subsidiary HAW "branch" of specialists; this type of "branching" could be a useful organizing strategy for sub-fields of History
--Organized materials for teaching curriculum; it's not that there aren't some materials on-line (although there could be more) on the website, but that our collection isn't organized for use; we should do that; use the Rethinking Schools model, for instance
--Develop our membership! International effort welcome, but also within US
--Is our definition of membership artificially confining? (non-"historians," "friends of historians," etc. might be mentioned in our statement a little more prominently--this was brought up by a non-historian who is a very strong supporter of the organization, helper with the conference, etc., but who doesn't feel comfortable (yet) joining the group as a member or claiming to be a member; wording such as "led by historians" or a redefinition of "historian" to make it more all-encompassing ("everyone is a historian... ") might help
--Platform hearings: Democrats--contact them, try to give input from HAW, make sure it comes up when the platform hearings commence


Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Classical Liberal Antiwar Tradition: William Graham Sumner

Few Americans know about the classical liberal/libertarian antiwar tradition in the United States. This tradition probably reached its highpoint during the Spanish-American War and the subsequent insurgency in the Philippines. Classical liberals in the leadership of the Anti-Imperialist League included Moorfield Storey (who was also the first president the NAACP), Edward Atkinson (a wealthy fire insurance executive), and Grover Cleveland.

One of the vice presidents of the League was William Graham Sumner, perhaps the best-known classical liberal defender of free trade and the gold standard. In 1899, Sumner condemned the U.S. decision to go to war with Spain in unforgiving terms in his essay, “The Conquest of the United States by Spain.” In that essay, he offered a prediction on the course of events for the twentieth century:

The great foe of democracy now and in the near future is plutocracy. Every year that passes brings out this antagonism more distinctly. It is to be the social war of the twentieth century. In that war militarism, expansion and imperialism will all favor plutocracy. In the first place, war and expansion will favor jobbery, both in the dependencies and at home. In the second place, they will take away the attention of the people from what the plutocrats are doing. In the third place, they will cause large expenditures of the people’s money, the return for which will not go into the treasury, but into the hands of a few schemers. In the fourth place, they will call for a large public debt and taxes, and these things especially tend to make men unequal, because any social burdens bear more heavily on the weak than on the strong, and so make the weak weaker and the strong stronger. Therefore expansion and imperialism are a grand onslaught on democracy.

David T. Beito

Friday, April 18, 2008

Audios of Scheuer, Zinn, and Cockburn

Here are audios of Scott Horton’s interviews of Michael Scheuer and Patrick Coburn. Scheuer is the former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Scheuer is the author of Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq.

According to Scheuer, the continued presence of the United States has only encouraged the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and sectarian violence. Cockburn is a foreign correspondence in Iraq for the Independent. In his interview with Horton, he discusses the past, present, and future prospects of the Sadrist Movement.

Scott Horton’s daily interview show is one of the best sources for HAW members who want to stay informed on Middle East developments. It can be streamed on KAOS Radio in Austin, Texas from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. central, Monday-Friday.

Few equal Horton in the depth and breadth of his knowledge about the changing facts on the ground. He is also a skilled interviewer.

Other recent interviews in his audio archive are with Howard Zinn and former Senator
Mike Gravel.

David T. Beito

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Second Haw Conference

The Second Haw Conference: "War and its Discontents: Understanding Iraq and the U.S. Empire" took place at Georgia State University, in Atlanta, Georgia from April 11-13, 2008. (For photos and video of the program see www.historiansagainstwar.org/hawconf. The site also contains a complete list of the
program, speakers, and subjects of the talks. The list of sessions includes links to papers by a number of the panelists, who made them available for posting.

The event began Friday night with two excellent presentations, the first by Bill Fletcher Jr. and the second by Naomi Klein. Bill Fletcher is the executive editor of the Black Commentator, co-founder of the Black Radical Congress and the Center for Labor Renewal, and a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies. Naomi
Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and international bestseller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Between three and four hundred people attended the program and listened attentively and enthusiastically to the presentations then asked good questions during the question and answer session that followed.

A high-spirited plenary on Saturday morning provided a welcome to the Atlanta area. Talks by Diane Mathiowetz of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition and John Zientowski of the local Veterans for Peace chapter were augmented with appearances by folk singer Witt Wisebram and poet Alice Lovelace, whose powerful spoken word performance closed the session.

On Saturday there were three panel sessions, each of which had between five and six panels and multiple presenters. The sessions, together with another set of panel sessions on Sunday morning, were notable for the diversity of participants. Forty-six different colleges and universities were represented among the panelists,
who also included a number of non-academic activists. Several graduate students gave talks that were very well received. The sessions were also notable for the extent to which panelists and audience were mutually engaged, with an atmosphere of sharing and cooperation.

Saturday's program ended with a plenary, which began by very moving tributes to Alan
Dawley delivered by HAW steering committee members David Applebaum and Beth McKillen. Following that, Magnus Bernhardsson introducted Zachary Lockman of New York University, who spoke on "The United States in the Middle East: Continuities and Discontinuities," and Dina Rizk Khoury, of George Washington University, who spoke on "The Cost of War in Iraq: Sects, Tribes, and Refugees." Their highly informative and interesting presentations also generated questions and comments.

Sunday there were four morning panels and a concluding plenary that discussed "What Can and Should Historians be Doing to End the War?"

In a word, the conference was great. In a few more words, it was engaging, stimulating, educational, and productive. I, for one, came away from it having learned a lot, feeling more energized, and glad that HAW exists to educate, stimulate, and organize historians and activists.

Margaret Power
Associate Professor
Department of Humanities
Illinois Institute of Technology
3301 S. Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60616


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Roundtable: “Teaching about Empire and War in World History Survey Courses”

Notes from another HAW conference panel:

David Applebaum (Rowan University) began the discussion at this roundtable with his explanation of how he teaches the world survey through the lens of 4 empires (Spanish, British, Dutch, United States) with one book for each empire. He is looking for a good book to use on the US empire. He begins European voices and ends with global voices. The 3 books he uses are:
1. Spanish: Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World.
2. British: Robinson Crusoe (Norton critical edition that includes good framing of the novel).
3. Dutch: Pramoedya Ananta Toer, This Earth of Mankind.
He looks for primary sources that show transformation and agency.

Carrie Hoefferle (Wingate University) brought a handout that shows how she conducts a critical analysis of primary sources. She approaches the survey with the idea that was is not inevitable.

Michael Kimaid (Firelands College of Bowling Green State University) emphasized that he teaches agency, and activism. He uses a quote from Thomas Jefferson that history enables us to understand the designs of men to get students to take history out from behind the glass and use it. He wants students to think for themselves, that this becomes empowering. He develops 4 themes in the survey:
1. Acceleration of technological developments.
2. National identities.
3. Articulation of democracy theory.
4. Economic liberalization.
He examines these 4 themes through the lens of empire and war, and trade and sovereignty. He stresses that capitalism demands empire, that it commodifies everything. He students leave pretty freaked out.

Christine Skwiot (Georgia State University) like to use James Gump, The Dust Rose Like Smoke that compares Zulu and Sioux wars. An old way of looking at the world was the US vs. the World, us vs. them. Now the emphasis is on a transnational view of the US, but there is a danger of placing the US at the center. It is important to recognize that the US is only one empire of many, and is not unique. All empires present themselves as exceptional, as civilizing forces. A comparative perspective is important to highlight these aspects. She also examines issues of indigeneity, thinking about the Zulu as Indigenous inhabitants of Africa.

Dennise M. Turner (Georgia State University) brings a perspective of the racial inequality in the French colonial empire into her teaching of the world survey. How do we introduce class, race, and gender into a global context? She uses Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth (use the new edition with the introduction by Homi Bhabha) to examine reciprocal relations between empire and the colonized, and Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism to examine African unity in fighting for independence. Revolution is necessary by workers and peasants. She emphasizes that students can affect changes, can challenge the system. We need to decolonize our own minds and societies. What does this mean? Part of this is connecting Fanon and Césaire to Iraq, and to see how this is a continuation of western imperialism.

Carrie Whitney (Georgia State University) uses empire as a theme to tie world history together. She uses Linday Colley’s Captives to show how the British empire was fragile, not powerful. There is no natural divide between Christians and Muslims, but rather than share similar interests and often work together. Robert Marks’ Origins of the Modern World examines US involvement in the Middle East. This is not ancient, but part of imperial interests linked to oil. Imperial projects are still going strong. Empires have complex and versatile natures, and we need to recognize its many forms.

We then had a wide-ranging discussion of pedagogy and how to engage issues of empire. Michael talked about how technology can be either liberating or an agent of oppression. He also talked about reading maps as a text, as tools of resistance. We think of maps as objective, but they are subjective and reflect values. Often places of resistance (pirates, maroons) take place off maps. David raised questions of how to nurture agency, and what we can do outside the classroom to foster this. Mara Dodge talked about how she introduces students to perspectives that they rarely hear, but that they need to find their own voices and ideas. We also talked about films like Black Robe and La Otra Conquista as media that examines the history of colonization. We made a distinction between education and training, that the importance of education is thinking for ourselves. We need to let the students think, rather than telling them what to think. J.M. Blout’s The Colonizer’s Model of the World looks at a world-wide crisis in feudal society. He sees a great divergence in the late 18th century. We also need to look at the relationship between gender, religion, and patriarchy, and how these are historically and socially constructed concepts. If patriarchy has a beginning, it also has an end. Theodore William Allen’s Invention of the White Race is an important treatment. A summary of it is on the Cultural Logic website at eserver.org/clogic.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Roundtable: “Beyond David Horowitz: Perspectives on Academic Freedom in the 21st Century”

More random notes from conference:

David Beito (University of Alabama): comes from different perspective than most here: from libertarian perspective. If one good thing comes out of this war it is an increased discussion across divides, and we’ll need that to stop another war. Issue of speech codes and Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights: mostly concern of conservatives, chilling academic freedom and discussions. Discomfort, because we need to work with people we don’t like and don’t agree with. Horowitz tries to divide these issues, and we will be more successful if we can link them.

Matthew Bokovoy (University of Nebraska Press): How scholarly publishing has been affected by issues of academic freedom. Problem of system of soft reviews can open up an author and publisher to pressure. A good press will have a broader array of ideological perspectives. Importance of keeping that open and balanced in order to avoid images of ideological distortion. Limited markets and profit motive can limit publication horizons, even tho it may review well. Political pressures from donors, etc. 3 layers designed to keep a clean process: peer review, internal review, and ? Several recent high-profile cases of tenure review cases, and example of Ward Churchill–detractors more easily made case against him because he published at a small publisher (City Lights Press) that perhaps was not careful enough with peer review process.

Deirdre McDonald (University of Texas-Pan American): role of libraries in academic freedom debates. Libraries are the biggest allies in these fights. Issues of control and access come up daily in our work. Major ethical question is protection of privacy: that you can look at material without fear of exposure, that people can look at material privately. Librarians face same internal pressure as rest of university: budget cuts, tenure. But since 9/11 new external concerns: government laws (esp. USA Patriot Act), and changes in faculty attitudes. USA Patriot Act is particularly bad because it violates library ethics of privacy. Due to gag order, we don’t know if this happens or how common it is. Informal surveys say 5-10% of libraries have been searched. Librarians look for ways that they can inform public about this with things like signs that say that the FBI has not been here this week, watch for the removal of this sign. Also issues of outright censorship. Oct 2002 told to remove Gov’t printing office geological survey CD-ROM. This only happens when an issue of misprint, but in this case it was destroyed. In another case of 5 publications was able to keep it. EPA libraries closing (defunded), saying that information will be online–but it is not, and no librarians to help find information. Closures, censorship, and Patriot Act are most important concerns. Another issue is how business models change how librarians are run. Libraries are anti-business, anti-capitalist. Can’t make profit, we give things away. We don’t follow a business model. But if everything has to turn profit, we cannot do that. With business model comes idea of student as consumer. Leads to drop in demand: pay for grade, rather than work harder. Problem of electronic information going through IT who do not have same security concerns, and are willing to give any info to gov’t. So, now can only assure that if you look at a print book and do not check it out your privacy can be secured. With technological changes with social networking sites, students are no longer concerned about giving info away.

Larry Gerber (Auburn University): historian against war, but here as spokesperson for AAUP. How do we protect academic freedom? Main idea of tenure is to protect academic freedom. More than 1 million instructional faculty in US, but only 1/3 are tenured or tenure-track. We need to prevent erosion and to build protection back. Faculty governance is important to maintain freedom. Threats come from 2 places: external (McCarthy, etc.). Importance that faculty should be in control of their affairs because of their expertise on the subject. Faculty can violate the rights of other faculty, but it is better for us to be in control. 2: corporatization of university, often from administrators and board of governors. So, faculty control is key academic freedom.

Discussion: Horowitz presents universities as leftwing, but tend to be deeply conservative parts of establishment. Focus on cultural issues, but little attention to structural concerns. David: pragmatic liberalism. Term limits for administrators, so that faculty keep focus on academic freedom. Most willing to cave in on academic freedom is from administrators who are most distant from education. Related to explosive growth of administrative positions.

Ellen Schrecker (Yeshiva University, Chair): These are not easy issues. Where do we take these concerns? We have a lot of education to do, because our fellow academics often don’t understand what is going on (as in the libraries). Those of you who don’t belong to AAUP should join. For all of its problems and issues, it is the main organization dedicated to academic freedom. So, go to http://www.aaup.org and join!


Roundtable: “Teaching about U.S. Intervention in a Time of War: Lessons from Latin American History

Here are some random notes from the Roundtable: "Teaching about U.S. Intervention in a Time of War: Lessons from Latin American History" from the Historians Against the War National Conference, "War And Its Discontents: Understanding Iraq And The U.S. Empire."

Margaret Power (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chair): danger of simplistic parallels btwn LA & ME–of transposing from one diverse region to another, but still need to draw connections. Importance of introducing concept of solidarity.

Anore Horton (Guilford College): Framed LA survey as teaching what liberalism is, and how the history & ideology of liberalism helps interpret US intervention in LA–not just military, but also economic links. Student resistance to economic concepts & political theory, but it helps link histories of independence struggles. Liberalism has political and economic aspects. Eg: link individualism and freedom. Trace history of liberalism and resistance to it, leading to neo-liberalism. Resistance at beginning of semester, but transformed by the end. More complex understanding of roles of US.

Ian Lekus (Tufts University): How queer teaching has evolved. History of study abroad in Costa Rica as place to understand role of US in world. Thinking about how experiences shape policies. Interests are not self-evident, but shaped and formed for specific purposes. Need to meet students where they are, not where we want them to be. Link study abroad to broader political critiques, and to show how Latin American becomes, as Greg Grandin says, empire’s workshop.

Enrique Ochoa (California State University, Los Angeles): Playing off of Grandin, the classroom is also a workshop of empire. Mostly Latino students. Nicaraguan father, keen awareness of imperialism. Latin America imperial concept, comes out of Napoleon in 1850s trying to control Mexico. Issues of erasure and homogenization. Pressing boundaries of what Latin America means. Create ideas of rethinking and remembering histories. Make macro & micro connections in classroom. How are connections made? What Juan Gonzales calls harvest of empire. Cultural influences and imports. Classroom as space of colonization, reinforces models. Try to break down and through this. Challenge the spaces in which we operate so as not to reproduce what we critique.

Ginger Williams (Winthrop University): Personal story of driving to work on September 11, 2001 thinking about calling Juan Allende, Salvador Allende’s nephew to say thinking about the anniversary of the coup there. Hard year–felt stifled. As war dragged on, administrative statements made talking about torture in class easier. Brought in torture survivors from Latin America to class who experienced same things that were happening in Abu Ghraib in news. Opened up spaces to talk about these issues. Makes talking about these issues easier, and we know we were doing these things in LA long before it became news in ME. Becomes involved in service learning as great way to expose students to these issues, esp. since lost license to take study abroad trips to Cuba.

Following these initial presentations a lively discussion followed on issues of pedagogy and empowerment. You really had to be there.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Has there been a change in human acceptance of human brutality over time? - a debate at H-WORLD and the issue of historian activism...

Over at H-WORLD, an online forum for teachers of world history, there is an interesting discussion going on about the general acceptance of brutality in history and whether it has decreased. Some are arguing that things have indeed gotten better. Others are pointing out that progress has not been made, that improvements have cut both ways and that liberal democracies, the societies in which brutality is allegedly lowest, have a poor record. I would perhaps emphasize that liberal democracies have perhaps developed to the point where they do not like to see the brutality they inflict. We don't approve of torture (or bombings, or slavery, etc.) when we see it. We have developed weapons and institutions, however, which allow us to avoid that visual encounter and deal with these issues mainly in the abstract - a context in which we can have a great variety of opinions about different forms of brutality.

I bring this issue up here because the discussion is beginning to have normative overtones and has had from the get-go implications for teaching. Here are practicing historians dealing with brutality in history and asking themselves how it should be presented and taught. Issues which have come implicitly or explicitly include such questions as Do we confront our students with it? and Do we teach progress? I have the sense that lurking just below the surface is an issue that I hope to address - from my own "pen" or by recruiting fellow historians with more experience in it than I have: the issue of "history as science" vs. "history and activism":

- How far do we allow the old trope about history teaching us "lessons" to actually lead us to teach those lessons? Do we then include those lessons in what we explicitly teach? Are those lessons part of the classroom lesson?

- What does it mean for a practicing scientist (I am schooled in the German tradition, where history is a science: Geschichtswissenschaft or Geisteswissenschaft) to take a normative stand about the use of the knowledge she produces or teaches?

- Does she do so "on the side" or also in the classroom? (I heard an interview with a professor of journalism in Texas about teaching about race and class in the classroom in which he stated that he considered it one of his best strategies as a teacher to make the students feel miserable by destabilizing their idealized notions about who they are.)

- Is what we teach empowering? If so, is it part of our job to encourage a particular use of that power?

- An issue of less likely importance, but of potential theoretical interest: What if we, in a certainly less dramatic or deadly way, but like Oppenheimer, were to discover that the knowledge we produce is dangerous? Do we forge on? Do we publish it and then apologize? Would it be against our ethos to ignore or hide it?

These issues confront us daily. Sometimes, the state senses that something is afoot and tries to pass legislation limiting the teaching of history to the teaching of "facts" or packages of pre-canned narratives. Not only does that make history boring, but it calls our whole enterprise - as historians, as activists, or both? - into question.

We have among our membership people who have worn both hats for a long time, in some cases decades, the hat of the activist and that of the historian. I would encourage them to bring their perspectives on these issues to the Hawblog.