Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Edge of the American West

About three weeks ago, our friends at East Anglia posted a brief introduction on The Edge of the American West,a fantastic blog written by historians, Eric Rauchway and Ari Kelman. I had first discovered them a few months back through Historiann's "History Geek Squad", and found myself often clicking through her blog into Rauchway and Kelman's portal. Lately I've been reading daily and felt an introduction here was long overdo.

The title, so I've read, stems from the fact that they, "teach history at a fine public university at the western edge of the American West." But I also wonder to what extent does the western edge of the American West exist as a cultural space?

Like East Anglia, I too enjoy the "on this day" posts. See the latest here.

Last week Eric posted, Batman vs Superman accompanied by this image.

Who's Batman and who is Superman? I won't tell, just click through the link and then read the review. Given my own interest in political uses of visual narrative and the recent racial tensions and wounds that have been opened during the Democratic primary, I think this image is definitely worth reconsidering.

The "dog whistle politics" have only just begun to play on many of the deep seated fears and racial (and gender and class) stereotypes. Most of this has been between Democrats thus far so it could get real nasty when the "vast right wing conspiracy" gets into the fray. Although, Carl Rove's January Op-ed provided a glimpse (playing pickup basketball) into what we can expect. Rush Limbaugh (20 million listeners) and Fox News (way too many viewers) don't even bother with the dog whistle.

Although I received a BA in history, I don't consider myself a historian. Although within the utterly undefinable discipline which is American Studies, I definitely fall more within the social studies side of the spectrum. So I "do" history.

However, what makes "The Edge" unique and interesting for non historians is the second thing their blog is about;

2. Applying history to current events. Both of us sometimes do this in certain publications. But this is a readier, less filtered outlet for such observations.

They recently "found" James Baldwin on the You Tubes and these short films on the still unreconstructed post-Katrina New Orleans are a "must see." Furthermore, if the political history of US populist and progressive movements has anything to teach us today then you'll certainly find Eric and Ari digging it up. See the link in our blogroll.