Here at Performing Humanity, we’re thrilled to have a chance to kick off the new year in collaboration with History Carnival. Over the past month you have nominated some of the most exciting history blogs and articles of December 2013; and we were fascinated to locate trends regarding the human body, its interiority, and what we learn when those interiors are publicly exposed. Some historians were intrigued by the reverse: what do exteriors teach us about humans and their interiors? Furthermore, what relationships do individual bodies have to the systems they build, participate in, control, and are controlled by?
George Campbell Gosling examined the relationships among internal medicine, nutrition, and human compassion during wartime in Japan, telling the story of Cicely Williams and her roles in the Changi Gaol and with the World Health Organization.
Concerned the adornment of the surfaces of human bodies, Mark Patton posted at English Historical Fiction Authors about a cache of 16th-17th century jewels lost during the Great Fire and unearthed in London in 1912. His reflection suggested that such ornaments reveal a great deal more about their owners’ interior sympathies and alliances than one might expect.
Recent work at Women’s History Network continues the trend of focusing on female bodies; in this case, the blog tracks stories from female refugees during WWI and considers the challenges they faced in owning their bodies, having social agency, and claiming space within their families while confronting international conflict.
A Visitor’s Guide to Victorian England highlighted the inside/outside realities of prison, focusing on the role Holloway Prison played for men and women accused of crimes.
With a similar interest, Nancy Bilyeau of English Historical Fiction Authors, considered the Westminster Gate-House Prison and the famous poets and adventurers it once housed.
The Smithsonian’s blog Past Imperfect took us back to the 1980s to consider the emergence of the AIDS epidemic and how a variety of ad campaigns for safe sex dealt with issues of race and sexual orientation. Similar considerations were occurring at Nursing Clio, where Rachel Epp Buller explored the history of the epidemic and how, as a result of changes in social behavior and medical treatment, safe-sex and health advertising campaigns have been able to shift their message from the community and towards individuals.
Ken Owen, at The Junto Blog, discussed how opening American history to acknowledge slavery, contact narratives, and cross-national interactions both helps us to educate our students responsibly about our complex human past, but also poses challenges to survey courses facing time constraints.
While The Junto was concerned with how opening history effects current communities, The History Vault featured an interview with Adrian Teal — the questions du jour emphasized the personal nature of historical studies and research methods.
Across multiple blogs and Twitter, the past, present, and future of the academic profession came under debate, with particular attention to the crisis surrounding contingent and adjunct faculty. In response to news emerging from UC Riverside about its timeline for notifying interview candidates, Rebecca Schuman of Pan Kisses Kafka called a search committee to task for assuming that past approaches to the MLA attendance hold true for scholars emerging into an evolving and increasingly strained market. Claire Potter, of Tenured Radical, responded by drawing attention to the ways social media has changed past approaches to conflict, conflict resolution, and discourse surrounding in-field tension. Chiming in as well, Post Academic in NYC asserted that such debates at times lose sight of the treatment of contingent faculty and graduate students — “unconscionable” treatment that might lead us to question academia’s position qua profession.
Finally, the passing of Nelson Mandela prompted The National Archives’ Rediscovering Black History to repost Tina L. Ligon and Michael Arzate’s post celebrating the leader’s last birthday. Here, the writers performed a photo and narrative retrospective of the fight Mandela led for human rights. Not afraid to tackle the difficult questions of posturing, positioning, and historical revision surrounding Mandela and Apartheid, Jamie Miller asked at The Imperial and Global Forum why our knowledge of the system remains incomplete and what responsibilities we have to fill the lacunae.
Thanks to the talented bloggers whose work we’ve featured, to those who provided nominations, to History Carnival for its collaboration, and to all of our readers for their support!