Monthly Archives: May 2012

William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis

            William Cronon’s, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West is neither a history of Chicago, nor a history of the West.  Rather, it is how the growth and change of each of those places happened as a consequence of their relationship with the other during the nineteenth century.  Cronon argues that though the ‘city’ and the ‘country’ are often viewed as occupying separate spheres, they “have a common history, so their stories are best told together” (xvi).  Much of Nature’s Metropolis is organized around the flow of commodities—grain, lumber, meat—into Chicago from the surrounding countryside, describing how that process changed both city and country.  The development of new technologies, particularly the railroad and the telegraph, resulted in new, larger western territories being settled, their landscapes transformed to allow for the production of staple crops and the raising of livestock.  As greater and greater amounts of raw materials began to be shipped into Chicago from the West, the city developed new technological and institutional innovations to deal with them.  Railroads and telegraphs played a large role in making Chicago the access point to the West for goods from the east coast, and the way to access eastern markets for Western farmers.  Further, the growth of western agriculture (and subsequent technological innovations like the grain elevator) resulted in the development of modern financial institutions in Chicago, such as the Board of Trade, grading systems, futures commodity trading, and others.  Ultimately, Cronon asserts that farmers, cowboys, and lumberjacks all played primary roles in the growth of Chicago, just as merchants, elevator operators, and traders were essential to the development of the Great West.

First Post at GradHacker

The likelihood that someone is coming to this page that isn’t already following me on Twitter is rather unlikely, but just in case…

My first post, “On Applying for a Fulbright” is up at Check it out.

Shame On You, Chronicle

Shame on you, Chronicle of Higher Education. Shame. I truly can’t believe you would post this anti-intellectual garbage from Naomi Schaefer Riley. By now, anyone looking at this blog has probably seen it already, but here’s the link to her blog post, titled “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.”

First of all, she phrases the title of her post as if the readers of the Chronicle have been aching for legitimate reasons to eliminate black studies. Obviously not the case, but whatever. She proceeds to spew anti-intellectual, racist garbage towards individual black studies graduate students. Real classy, Schaefer Riley. Real classy.

But even before she does that, doesn’t take her own advice: readings the dissertations. Her blog post should be titled “Are you looking for reasons to condescend to black academics? Read the titles of their dissertations and a couple sentences about them, and then judge them.” Schaefer Riley is incredulous that graduate students would even waste their time studying things like black women’s authoritative knowledge on childbirth, racism in the housing crisis of the 1970s, or black Republicans since the 1980s.

I won’t even go into how off base this is, because I shouldn’t have to. I just honestly can’t believe that the Chronicle of Higher Ed is giving space to this kind of thing. For shame.

Edit: Pressed send too quickly. Should have just said “Read this.