This is the personal blog of an academic historian.
Like most academics, I like to pontificate, and doing so in the classroom and in my research is not enough to fully satisfy the urge, so I started a blog to pontificate some more. After all, blogs are ideally designed for pontificating.
So, if reading an academic pontificate annoys or offends you, you may want to avert your eyes immediately and not come back. This is fine by me! I enjoy putting my thoughts into order via the written word, and finding an audience is secondary, so I’m okay with it if no one reads this blog.Assuming someone does read it, though, I have some hopes about what this blog might accomplish. If you take a moment, right now, to contemplate whatever subjects you know best—your job or hobby or whatever you happen to know a lot about—I’m sure you can come up with a list of things most people don’t understand about it. I’ve got a list like that, too, and so one of the things I’d like to do with this blog is to put out into the world some of the things I know about that I think are important, which (I gather) many people don’t fully understand or frequently misunderstand. In my own little way, I want to contribute my bit to the vast soup of knowledge about how the world works, by reporting my own experiences.
More specifically, and more politically, these days there are aspects of what I do for a living that are so misunderstood in mainstream American media as to actually put my livelihood—and my purpose in life—in jeopardy. Obviously this concerns me very much indeed, so I want to do my small part to combat those specific misconceptions about what I do.
Another reason I started this blog is that I get a lot of questions from students that aren’t really about the subject matter of my courses, but more about how to be a student, what the academy is all about, what history is about, and so on. I wanted to answer some of those questions here, partly because there is never enough time in class or in office hours to address these issues, and also so that I may reach more people than just the 100-150 students I get each semester. Blog posts that answer these kinds of questions will all be tagged “FAQ” and thus can be isolated by clicking on that tag in the sidebar. If you (as a student, a parent, or just a reader of history) have a question you’d like me to address here, send it to me by email or put it in a comment.
Finally, I started this blog because I’d like a place to be able to share some of the really fun and interesting pieces of information that I come across in my research and teaching that don’t belong in a scholarly article or book. This is a place to put those tidbits, where I hope they will be enjoyed by others. Such tidbits will be tagged with “HistoryIsFun,” so you can isolate those posts if you want.
I hope it is obvious that whatever I write here is only my opinion, and is not any kind of official position of my institution or anyone else.
Further, while I hope to pontificate passionately on a number of issues, it should always be kept in mind that I am only an early-career scholar (beginning my 5th year of a tenure-track teaching job as of the fall of 2012), and my experience of academia, teaching, and the world is limited not only my relative inexperience, but by my perspective as an American specialist on Russian history. My perspective is based on U.S. Institutions and practices. I know no more than the next person about subjects other than Russian history (though I’m fairly reliable also on knitting, managing migraines, and how to waste time on the internet). And even in Russian history there are many, many vast subjects I haven’t really gotten around to yet. What I say here is what I know as of the time of writing, and nothing more.
Like any other piece of writing, this blog shouldn’t be given more authority than it deserves to inform, persuade, or offend.
Comments are open and I hope that those who read will let me know what they think.
But because uninformed, and/or downright nasty comments are not worth the energy taken to type them, let alone the energy taken for others to read them, such things will be deleted as soon as I see them as a matter of course, along with spam, so that thoughtful readers may venture into the comments section without having to gird their loins for mental assault.
Also, I’m notoriously long-winded, as you may have noticed (thanks for reading this far!). Consider yourself forewarned on that front.
This is why I don’t tweet. Update: Okay, now I tweet. Mostly I just retweet, actually. Follow @kpanyc