Why I’m Glad I Worked on an Edited Collection

When I was a graduate student, I wrote a master’s on cannibalism during the Starving Time of 1609-10, which became my first article. That article resulted in an invitation to edit a collection on cannibalism, which I agreed to do during a time when most early career academics were being advised to prioritize books and articles over work in edited collections (and often to avoid them entirely).

My perspective today is that I’m extremely thankful to have edited this collection, but that in the field of early American history (and I know this assessment varies from subfield to subfield), articles and monographs still seem to do better work than the edited collection in building a junior scholar’s portfolio. The other caveat I’d add is that editors need to approach their collections strategically. From the perspective of an early career academic in the UK, that strategy meant tying the collection to an attempt to win funding, using the edited collection as a way to bridge my first and second book projects, and making sure the work helped me get to know scholars whose work I respected and wanted to learn more about. Here’s how I tried to do that. Continue reading

Star Wars, Food Diplomacy, and Second Book Projects

leia-hopeOver the winter break I was back in Austin, catching up with grad school friends and reveling in a week’s worth of breakfast tacos. Part of this week included a trip to the Alamo Drafthouse to see Rogue One, because we all know work/life balance is important. For the uninitiated, the Drafthouse is a magical movie theater where you can view new movies while eating and drinking. They’re famous for their all-day Lord of the Rings marathon, complete with second breakfast and elevenses. So I was pretty excited to see what themed food and beverages the theater managed to create using inspiration from the Star Wars cannon. Remember how I said work/life balance is important? Well it is, but sometimes I have trouble switching off.[1] Continue reading

Deadline approaching for Cannibalism in the Early Modern Atlantic

L0005638 Theodo de Bry, Newe Welt und amerikanische Historien ...Do you like cannibalism? As a topic, obviously, not a personal preference. Of course you do! If research travels will take you to England this summer (or if you reside in the UK or nearby), please consider submitting a proposal for a conference I’m organizing at the University of Southampton this June. Continue reading

Guest Post: Dramaturging The Tower: A Historian’s Cannibalistic Adventures in Theater

Today’s guest post come from Maya Rook, a writer and artist living in Brooklyn, New York. She is pursuing her PhD in American Cultural History at Drew University. Collaborating on The Tower has inspired her to write her dissertation about the Donner Party. If she were to eat a piece of human flesh, it would likely be from the belly or rear—braised until the meat is tender and then broiled so the skin reaches crispy perfection. Check out her food blog and personal website.

TOWER_POSTCARD_FRONT-1 (2)Just over a year ago, I was at a celebration with friends and overheard someone talking about the Donner Party. My interest was piqued, as it isn’t everyday you hear people casually chatting about this group of California emigrants who resorted to cannibalism during the winter of 1846-47. I’d always been fascinated by the topic and was soon deep in a conversation with Adam Scott Mazer about his plans to write a play called The Tower based on the history and mythology of the Donner Party. Strangely enough, I’d recently wanted to get involved in theater but didn’t know how, so the timing seemed quite auspicious. When Adam discovered I was a PhD student in American Cultural History we decided to work together on the project and I was brought on board as the dramaturg. Continue reading

Digging Out My Cannibal Girl Hat

Jane

A reconstruction of the skull of a 14-year-old girl that researchers have named “Jane.”

I have some initial thoughts on new reports of cannibalism at Jamestown, so I’ve cross-posted them from my personal blog.

So, funny story. When I first submitted my article on cannibalism and the Starving Time at Jamestown to the William and Mary Quarterly, the piece strongly argued against any occurrence of cannibalism. When I got my readers’ reports back, Editor Chris Grasso pointed out that I didn’t really have the evidence to convincingly make that claim. He said that he’d accept the article only if I agreed to temper the argument—which was really fine with me because the main point of the essay was to ask why the stories of cannibalism mattered, not to argue for or against the existence of cannibalism in colonial Virginia. Continue reading