5 Things: A Graduate Student’s Summer “Break” To-Dos

I’ve reached the end of my two-week schoolwork break. I’ve gotten a chance to catch up with friends and family, and spent five days in San Francisco. I’ve almost finished my (incomprehensible mumbling of an embarrassingly high number) re-read of the Harry Potter series. It’s been lovely.

Though I’m not doing anything this summer in the way of teaching or grading, I’ve got plenty on my plate, a lot of it put on the “to do later” list during the school year (/the last several school years…). So, without further ado, five things you can do (and I’ll be doing) as a graduate student during summer “break”:

  1. Organize your note-taking and documents storage systems. In my first year of graduate school, the history and theory class I was taking spent two full sessions (that’s six hours) going over the various note-taking, document storage, and productivity tools that make all the information you’re processing easier to access throughout grad school and in professional life. Possibly the most helpful six hours of class time ever. I use Evernote for note-taking and -keeping and Google Drive for document storage. Use whatever platform(s) works best for you. My goal this summer is to settle on a citation manager and figure out how to use it.
  2. Brush up on that language(s) you need for your research. Reviewing grammar and vocab is great, but it’s the summer, so mix it up and keep it fun! In addition to academic texts and primary documents, read news, listen to music, and watch TV shows and films.
  3. Prepare for the coming year. Check out your institution’s graduate student handbook and see where you’re at in meeting the requirements. What do you need to do in the next year to keep you on track, whether you’re still in coursework, preparing for exams, setting out on research trips, or completing dissertation grants? What can you do this summer to make the school year (or at least part of it) a little more bearable?
  4. Update (or create) your five-year plan. Closely related to #3 above, thinking long term helps you stay on track (coursework, exams, grants and fellowships, publication submissions, etc) and keeps all those pesky deadlines (holy grants, Batman) from sneaking up on you. As you progress through your program, it’ll also help you think about life post-grad school and you can begin shaping that sooner rather than later.
  5. Relax. Brain breaks and academic disconnects are necessary for recharging, remembering why you’re doing this, starting the school year refreshed, and getting ready to tackle the next challenge. My plan is to do about four to six hours (let’s be real, four or less is what will most likely actually happen) of concentrated work per day, Monday through Friday, with weekends and a few vacations completely off.

Any other suggestions?

Week 2 Roll Call

The quarter got into its full swing this week. I had a full load of reading and writing. As I noted in the first post of the quarter, my reading load is really quite a bit lighter this quarter. This will give me the opportunity to provide a greater diversity of posts. Last week, I wrote that I would use this extra space and time to talk about pedagogy, my research, and other things. These kinds of things will be forthcoming, and some will be incorporated into my weekly roll calls.

Without further ado, readings from Week 2:

Middle East in the Twentieth Century

This week’s readings focused on the two World Wars, the interwar period, and the establishment of the mandatory administrations in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine. I’ll provide a post on the Mandate in the Middle East for more information about this period this week.

Scholarship of the Modern Middle East, Post-Colonial

Longrigg, Stephen Hemsley. Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate. London: Oxford University Press, 1958.

We’re doing something a bit unique at the beginning of the quarter where each student picks a different book to read each week (not sure if this will continue beyond these first two weeks). The authors of these books were, in some way, involved in European occupation of the Middle East from the late 19th century to the interwar period. An interesting variety were presented last week, from a British Zionist to Lord Cromer, and the book I selected by Longrigg.

Though Longrigg’s first relationship with the Middle East was through his service in Iraq during the First World War and then as a British mandatory official there, and later worked for the Iraq Petroleum Company, he wrote this book as a 15-year retrospective on the French mandate in Syria and Lebanon, examining the legacy of the mandate generally. His purpose is manifold: he wants to counter the notion that the British had any acquisitive interests in the region during the period (this was, apparently, a great issue based on the vehemence with which he denies it throughout the work); he wants to show the possibilities and problems of mandatory administration; and he wants to support the notion of the mandate at a time where historical perspective has perhaps painted it with a rather bad brush. These purposes are weaved throughout the work and are part of the overarching thesis that, in spite of the many and positive contributions of the French to the mandatory and post-mandatory state (most of which have been overlooked by detractors of the mandate and of people in the region), the project was ultimately a failure due to the implementation of an administration that refused to acknowledge and adapt to local political and societal circumstances.

Works such as Longrigg’s provide the historian with first-hand accounts of the intentions, beliefs, and worldviews of those involved in the Mandatory system implemented in the Middle East in the aftermath of World War I in the former Ottoman Empire.

French Revolution, 1789-1815

Week 2 offered a continuation of the discussion on the social, ideological, political, and economic realities of France in the years immediately preceding the Revolution in 1789. To drive this point home, the class was assigned several primary documents that revealed the various currents of thought proliferating at the time, and we watched the 1988 film, Dangerous Liaisons, based on the novel Les liaisons dangereuses, written by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos in 1782.

Week 1 Roll Call

Week 1 turned out to be quite light on the reading. See below for the readings I did get to look at, my thoughts on/overview of them, and future posting possibilities.

Middle East in the Twentieth Century

There are three assigned texts for this class: William Cleveland’s A History of the Modern Middle East, James Gelvin’s The Modern Middle East: A History, and Charles D. Smith’s Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. My plan is to provide a summary of the readings and class lectures. Week 1 focused on the Middle East in the 19th century, with Turkey, the Arab Middle East, and parts of North Africa under Ottoman rule, and Iran under Qajar rule. We discussed the development of notions of modernity over the course of the 19th century in Europe and the Middle East, showing the ways in which the same modernization projects happening in Europe were occurring in the Ottoman Empire and Qajar Iran concurrently. We also looked at the lead up to World War I, which we’ll be discussing more fully Week 2.

I’m also going to (*fingers crossed*) use this space to keep you (and myself) up-to-date on my readings for the final assignment I’m undertaking for this class. I’ve decided to conduct a historiography* of sorts, using the opportunity of a class assignment to begin to situate myself in the literature I will be using for my dissertation project, as well as for my Middle East research paper next quarter (our program requires two two-quarter research series – this year I’ve been in the U.S. Research seminar; next year I’ll take the Middle East). So, I’ll be looking at memoirs, the vast majority written by women, from the Mandate period (1920-1945) in Syria and Lebanon. I’m excited to get this project going and have two on my list so far: Anbara Salam’s Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist and Wadad Makdisi Cortas’ A World I Loved. More to come on this.

Scholarship of the Modern Middle East, Post-Colonial

No assignments for Week 1. Stay tuned next week for my summary of Stephen Hemsley Longrigg’s Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate.

The French Revolution, 1789-1815

Week 1 in this class provided an introduction to some of the social conflicts present in pre-revolutionary France. Along these lines, the assigned readings focused on providing a general historical background supported by a variety of primary sources from Laura Mason and Tracey Rizzo’s The French Revolution: A Document Collection, as well as some online sources.

Though this is the class that I’m a grader for, and not one that I’m taking, I’m going to include the readings for it in my weekly roll call. I think this class will provide good fodder for a discussion of pedagogy and pedagogical techniques related to readings, course content, and class structure.


*Historiography: the study of the study of history; or, how historians have examined a particular event, period, or person, with a particular focus on how that has changed over time, methods that have been employed in historical analysis, and the theoretical framework that has been used in that study


If you’re on the quarter system, how was your first week? If not, how’s the mid-semester point? Anyone on spring break?

Week 5 Roll Call

Hi all. Here are the readings from last week, week 5. All caught up!

Historical Scholarship of the Modern Middle East, Late Ottoman Empire
Topic: The Ottoman Empire and world capitalism

Emrence, Cem. “Three Waves of Late Ottoman Historiography, 1950-2007.” Middle East Studies Association Bulletin 41, no. 2 (Winter 2007): 137-151.

Summary: This study examines three waves in the historiography of the late Ottoman Empire. These waves are modernization approaches (1950s-1970s), macro models (1970s-1980s), and post-structural agendas (1990s-2007). The future of late Ottoman historiography lies is addressing two unanswered questions: that Ottoman studies has thus far been dominated by, first, mono-causal approaches (meaning that historians are still looking for a single cause for Ottoman social transformation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and, second, by “propensity accounts” (these emphasize the active and purposeful role of the Ottoman state and local elite in social formation).

Kasaba, Reşat. The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy: The Nineteenth Century. Albany: SUNY Press, 1988.

Summary: Kasaba challenges the traditional nineteenth century paradigm that looks at military decline and societal improvement during that period as disparate processes. The author brings these concurrent processes in relation to each other and demonstrates that they were intertwined, simultaneous aspects of broader process related to the integration of the Ottoman Empire into the capitalist world economy.

Pamuk, Şevket. “Institutional Change and the Longevity of the Ottoman Empire.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 35, no. 2 (2004): 225-247.

Summary: Pamuk suggests that though the central bureaucracy of the Ottoman Empire was inherently pragmatic and flexible, as shown by its successful expansion and ability to survive into the modern period when others like it were not, its innovation was limited to those institutions that maintained the traditional order and Ottoman power. The result was that changes enacted by the state didn’t allow for its entrance into capitalist economic development or other new forms of economic organization. The inability of the empire to do this led to its disintegration.

Historical Studies of Women and Gender
Topic: History of manhood and masculinity

Beattie, Peter. “Beyond Machismos: Recent Examinations of Masculinities in Latin America.” Men and Masculinities 4 (2002): 303-308.

Summary: In this article, Beattie examines anthropological and literary studies of Latin American conceptions of masculinity and machismo. In his analysis of these studies, the author concludes that these works reveal how masculinity and machismo are “complex and malleable concepts that invite contestation and reinterpretation by individuals, groups, and scholars,” (303) charting new grounds in discussions of gender identity.

Basso, Matthew. Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity and Race on Montana’s World War II Home Front. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Summary: This works examines the home front World War II experience of copper miners in three mining towns in Montana. Through the author’s analysis of their actions, he posits that these coppermen actively challenged the sacrificial masculinity propagated by the federal government and instead clung to their white working class masculinity evidenced by their refusal to work with females and men of color. This (white) working man’s masculinity played a role in the formation of conservative post-war masculinities.

Ditz, Toby. “The New Men’s History and the Peculiar Absence of Gendered Power: Some Remedies from Early American Gender History.” Gender & History 16, no. 1 (April 2004): 1-35.

Summary: In this article, Ditz points out some of the problems male and masculinity studies have confronted since its inception in the 1990s – namely, that many studies of masculinity do not address the nature of gendered power that inherently creates male-ness in contrast to and in dominance over female-ness. She proposes five potentially problematic aspects of masculinity studies and then provides a historiographical overview of early American history showing the ways in which these problems can be avoided.

Sinha, Mrinalini. “Giving Masculinity a History: Some Contributions from the Historiography of Colonial India.” Gender & History 11, no. 3 (1999): 445-460.

Summary: Through a historiographical examination of colonial Indian historiography on gender, Sinha posits that this historiography offers a useful and necessary contribution to the study of masculinity. This is the case because historical studies of gender and masculinity during the colonial period put power at the center of its analyses, thus necessitating a reconsideration of bodily difference, making visible the relational construction of masculinity and the anxieties inherent to that construction, as well as its construction in relation to its ideological and material context.

Week 4 Roll Call

Week 4 here. Week 5 upcoming. Next week is week 6…where has the time gone?!?!

Historical Scholarship of the Modern Middle East, Late Ottoman Empire
Topic: Nineteenth century reform

Fahmy, Khalid. “The Era of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha, 1805-1848.” In M. W. Daly, ed., The Cambridge History of Egypt: Modern Egypt, from 1517 to the End of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998: 139-179.
Summary: This article examines the ascent, rule, and legacy of the reign of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha in Ottoman Egypt. Based on his legacy, the author concludes by suggesting that Muhammad ‘Ali can be considered the father of modern Egypt.

Ma’oz, Moshe. Ottoman Reform in Syria and Palestine. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.
Summary: This work focuses on the application and effect of the Tanzimat reforms between 1840 and 1861 in the Ottoman Arab provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Sidon, Syria, and Palestine.

Historical Studies of Women and Gender
Topic: Foucault and the history of sexuality

Bem, Sandra Lipsitz. “Dismantling Gender Polarization and Compulsory Heterosexuality: Should We Turn the Volume Down or Up?” The Journal of Sex Research 32, no. 4 (1995): 329-334.
Summary: In this article, Bem reverses her previous thinking on reversing the dichotomization of gender and the primacy of heterosexuality by suggesting that what is instead needed is an explosion and proliferation of categories of sex/gender/desire so that the binaries that currently dominate Western culture can be dismantled and replaced with a spectrum of sex/gender/desire possibilities.

Coffin, Judith G. “Beauvoir, Kinsey, and Mid-Century Sex.” French Politics, Culture & Society 28, no. 2 (Summer 2010): 18-37.
Summary: The author argues that a re-contextualization of the pairing of the works of Simone deBeauvoir and Alfred Kinsey by their scholarly contemporaries in the late 1940s and early 1950s reveals the tensions inherent to questions of sexuality and sexual politics during that period.

Foucault, Michel. History of Sexuality: An Introduction, vol. 1. New York: Vintage Press, 1990: 1-50.
Summary: In this section of his groundbreaking work, Foucault tackles the “repression hypothesis,” the acceptance of sexual repression in the modern era in the Western world as a fact that stems from this hypothesis, and the notion that such repression stems from the development of a capitalist world economy in which sex outside of its reproductive capacity serves no purpose and is thus repressed. In this section, he suggests, instead, that discourse(s) on sexuality(ies) proliferated and became normalized throughout the nineteenth century, allowing for the possibility of a multiplicity of (“acceptable” and “perverse”) sexualities.

Henry, Todd A. “Between Surveillance and Liberation: The Lives of Cross-Dressed Male Sex Workers in Early Postwar Japan.” In Susan Stryker and Aren Aizura, eds., The Transgender Studies Reader, vol. 2. London: Routledge, 2013: 399-413.
Summary: In this article, Henry examines popular and personal perceptions of crossed-dressed male sex workers in post-World War II U.S.-occupied Japan. He suggests that such an analysis reveals the ways in which identities were created in their local context and in response to local pressures and exigencies. It also provides a helpful case study for an examination of developments since the 1990s in an increasingly globalized transgender studies.

Morantz-Sanchez, Regina. “Feminist Theory and Historical Practice: Rereading Elizabeth Blackwell.” History and Theory 31, no. 4 (Dec 1992): 51-69.
Summary: In this article, Morantz-Sancez re-examines the works of Elizabeth Blackwell, an American mid-nineteenth-century female physician, through the lens of social constructivist theories of science. Through such an analysis, it becomes evident that not only did Blackwell criticize the increasingly masculine domain of objective science, but that her works foreshadow the discourse of twentieth-century female philosophers and thinkers on science.

Morantz, Regina Markell. “The Scientist as Sex Crusader: Alfred C. Kinsey and American Culture.” American Quarterly 29, no. 5 (Winter 1977): 563-589.
Summary: In this article, the author examines the significance of the study of human sexuality undertaken by Alfred Kinsey in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Morantz suggests that, even though Kinsey himself was not a revolutionary, his work was and continues to be innovative for its treatment of human sexuality and the larger cultural meaning and implications it engenders.

How’s the mid-quarter/early semester/early February going for everyone else?