Drop your subscriptions to Elsevier journals. Crooked Timber digs into the scandal around the publisher’s astroturf “journals” of corporate-funded medical findings.
I wonder whether it’s worth bringing up his name again.
Ward Churchill is a disgrace. It’s something of a shame that his firing became a cause célèbre, because this is a man who would probably deny to others, if he could, the academic freedom he so loudly demands for himself. Still, freedoms are not meant to be granted only to the well-behaved. A jury is convinced that Churchill was fired for exercising a First Amendment right.
The jury awarded him — shrewdly, I thought — one dollar in damages.
Now, as Gary Kamiya reports at Salon.com, another judge will decide whether Churchill is entitled to further recompense from the university that dismissed him. Whatever the outcome, I agree with Kamiya’s assessment of the damage that Churchill has done to American Indian studies:
To put it mildly, Churchill was not an ideal poster child for the cause of academic freedom. If right-wing critics of the university had set out to create a perfect caricature of a tenured radical who sacrifices scholarship for advocacy, they couldn’t have come up with a better one than Churchill. … The ultimate lesson of the Churchill case is that no cause, however just, benefits from being taken up by a propagandist. Scholarship must be sacrosanct. Rules of evidence must be followed. You can’t assert things that you want to believe are true, no matter how morally right or practically beneficial those assertions may be, and then distort or make up evidence to support them.
My dissertation is based on the diaries of Lukas Vischer, a Swiss traveler in the United States, 1823-1828. His travels ranged from Canada to the Mississippi Valley, and his notes on American Indians are of particular interest.
Vischer’s documents (at the Staatsarchiv Basel-Stadt, Basel, Switzerland, and in private hands) provide a valuable transatlantic perspective on the “early republic” around the sesquicentennial year, 1826, as well as insight into migration and the meaning of “Amerika” for German-speaking Europeans at this time. Vischer is noted for his subsequent career as an artifact collector in Mexico. His experience of “American antiquities” in the U.S. points toward his later activities in Mexico.
I’m also reading Spanish colonial documents ca. 1813, concerning the province of West Florida, to explore relations between the Creek Nation and Spain during the War of 1812. This is for a conference paper concerning the Burnt Corn battle of July 1813, to be presented in May 2009.
Finally, I’m interested in the history of Brewton, Alabama, and the lower Conecuh valley, and intend to eventually publish something about it. I’ve spent some time with the McMillan family papers in Brewton and the Pace Library archive at the University of West Florida, Pensacola.
I should probably explain that “American antiquities” refers to American Indian artifacts. The relatively vague term accommodates the belief, commonly held in the 1820s, that what we now call the Mississippian civilization must have been established by wandering Eurasians, possibly the lost tribes of Israel.
In other news this week, it finally dawned on me that transcribing all the Lukas Vischer papers, which I photographed in Basel, would take me a total of 42 weeks at 40 hours a week. Clearly I need to change my approach.