My mom has a bit of a problem with experts. If you asked her, my mom would tell you that the problem with experts is that they don’t have to justify their opinions on the basis that they have implicitly earned that trust, and, in the reverse, other people who are not experts have not. She argues that people who are not experts should be trusted to form and express opinions on a subject, and moreover that experts should be challenged to support their opinions better. I can’t say that I fully disagree. And yet when it comes to the concept of an expert and, by extension, expertise, I’m torn. On the one hand, experts should not have a monopoly on informed opinions. On the other, expertise is not just knowing the facts, but about understanding the context, methods, and unarticulated information surrounding those facts that contribute to interpreting them. This push and pull between formal expertise and informal knowledge is something I’m constantly struggling with as a junior academic.Read More
After I reacquainted myself with my sewing machine, learned a bit more fundamental sewing skills, and finally understood how to work from a pattern, I spent about a year filling in my wardrobe with everything I’d been missing. I’m still in process with some things, including some everyday shirts, but once the process of making my own clothes got kind of mundane, I started making clothes for other people. And after making the same dress for the third time, I learned what I already knew about myself – I don’t like repetitive activities. So, armed with pretty good sewing skills at this point, a new project started to tug at me. A medieval outfit.Read More
I maybe finished a full draft of my dissertation this week?Read More
Check out this video I did with the Study of Antiquity and the Middle Ages YouTube channel. We start with my views on the Ornament of the World documentary and then get into the larger topic of diversity in Norman Sicily.
I’ve talked before about the biggest problem I see in my field – that we don’t know what History is and so we don’t know how to teach it. I’ve been thinking recently about how this also hurts the image of History as a field – it just doesn’t seem welcoming, useful, or enjoyable to most people. The first thing most people say to me when I tell them I’m a historian is either Oh I hated history in school, there were too many facts to memorize! or I love history, I’m great at remembering stuff! Isn’t it a huge problem that the popular conception of this field – memorizing facts – actually has nothing to do with it? Read More