PhD candidate in American History Jana Remy is writing her dissertation on the history of medical practices in the 19th century. As the creator of the Making History Podcast: The Blog, however, she completely leaves behind traditional approaches to history to pursue the quickly evolving field of digital scholarship. MHP hosts both blog postings from History professors and graduate students and podcasts with renowned historians. Remy describes MHP as a “new media experiment” aimed at an audience of History graduate students in their dissertation phase.
The blog genre itself allows more creativity than traditional historical work because “blogging is a low risk way of experimenting with new ideas outside of published media,” says Remy. In one of her own postings, Remy writes about the dissertation process and the delicate balancing act of keeping her personal experiences as a medical patient from informing her historical interpretations. She observes, “as I write my dissertation I aim to blur some of the traditional boundaries of the historical genre–adding literary elements and experimenting with the traditional textual form. Though at this point it seems too far outside of the sphere of the dissertation to inject my personal experiences anywhere except in the Intro.” With MHP however, Remy has found an outlet to pursue history from a non-traditional literary and personal vantage point. This is what “keeps our work exciting,” says Remy.
Two years into the blog, Remy has no plans to stop even after she passes the dissertation phase herself. The podcasts available on the site continue to garner attention for the sheer caliber of historians being interviewed. In 2008, Remy interviewed Pulitzer Prize winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich the same week she was announced as new president of the American Historical Association. Currently you can listen to podcasts with Patricia Limerick, a leading historian of the American west; and John Demos, Emeritus Professor of History at Yale, among others.
UCI’s own Assistant Professor of History Laura J. Mitchell is also a regular contributor to the blog, a wonderful fit considering that Mitchell herself is on the forefront of the digital scholarship movement. Just this year she published an entire book exclusively online. Belongings: Property, Family and Identity in Colonial South Africa, An Exploration of Frontiers 1725 – c. 1830 is based on a decade of research and describes the contours of conflict among Dutch East India Company officials, settlers, indigenous Khoisan, and Indian-Ocean slaves; intricately detailing the ways in which settlers themselves-rather than Company policy or an imperial army-brought a distant frontier first into a colonial orbit, then gradually under colonial control. Over at the Making History Podcast you can view Mitchell’s latest posting which gives her take on the Southern African Historical Society’s biennial meeting and that organization’s own evolution in digital scholarship.
For more on how the School of Humanities is utilizing the latest technology check out the full podcast of Humanities & Technology: the Past Ten Years, the Next Ten Years over at the HumaniTech website.
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