On Being Cool

When people are trying to figure out how to be cool, they of course turn naturally to historians.

But, seriously, folks. It is surely the acme of academic vanity for someone to think their so-called “ideas” are worth “stealing.” But at the same time, many scholars inevitably worry about having their work scooped or preempted by someone else’s publication — for obvious reasons of competition, recognition, and general scarcity in the professional realm.

I am trying to open up the process of project design, research, and writing as I start out on something new. It’s a bit of a scary prospect because, like many of us, I dread others seeing my work until it is in a pretty polished shape, and this will basically be the opposite of that. I want to put as many of my sources, notes, and drafts here as possible, in the interest of sharing and getting feedback but also for the benefit of thinking out loud. The unsexy and unstinting work of scholarship — actually finding sources, absorbing them, extracting what’s useful, and organizing it — is arguably more valuable than the intellectual or creative work that goes into interpretation. And I plan to put that stuff out here, so other people can benefit from it if they are interested in the same problems and questions that I am.

I would just ask: if you do find these resources useful, or end up drawing on the ideas expressed in things I write here, please cite or otherwise acknowledge them in some way or another. I don’t care if you get “there” before I do, but I’d like to think there is an implicit compact among scholars and between writers and readers that a reasonable degree of attribution would be considered if something does indeed turn out to be useful.

In any case, thanks for reading this non-manifesto and giving it some thought.