The Great (?) Scrivener Experiment

Friends of mine know that I’m a lover of technology, especially when it has the potential to keep me better organized and make certain tasks easier. For example, I’ve become an avid user of digital solutions in archival research because they can make your work more meaningful and useful down the road. A friend’s recent request on Facebook for information about software to aid in an ongoing research/writing project got me thinking about my next project … and that led me (again) to Scrivener.

I flirted with Scrivener long ago, first after reading about it on ProfHacker and then after a friend mentioned using it for his dissertation. “Flirt” may be an overstatement — really, I glanced across the room and proceeded on without any sustained engagement. Last week, however, I decided to download the app and really give it a fair shake by running through its extensive tutorial. I’m very glad I took a shot at it.

Scrivener seems great because it can keep all of your research, outlines, drafts, notes, fragments, and whatever else you want, all bundled up in one place where you can easily access individual documents, use tags, search efficiently, and more. Basically, it’s a one-stop-shop for the early-stage work that goes into a book project and the drafting process. It certainly has its idiosyncrasies (e.g., you have to “compile” text and export it in order to finalize your documents for submission); but I’m interested and convinced enough that I’ve decided to start my next book project — tentatively titled Possession: Crafting Americanity in Congressional Discourse about Puerto Rico — using this app and see where it takes me.

At present, my toolkit will be centered on Scrivener. I also plan to keep using Sente for citation management, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for photographs, and will probably fall back on Microsoft Word or Apple Pages for final manuscript prep (although I’m entertaining Nisus Writer Pro and Mellel for that task).

If you have experience using Scrivener for a large project or even have a different workflow that you want to share, please feel free to comment below.

Book Status Update

I made it “official” to my friends on Facebook sometime last month, but I never posted about it here: my book is officially under contract at Temple University Press and should come out sometime in 2015!!! The book, currently titled Delinking: The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation, is over a decade in the making. It began as seminar paper, turned into a dissertation, and has been been the subject of some of my journal articles and book chapters since then.

This book almost didn’t happen. In fact, after doing The Young Lords: A Reader (NYU Press, 2010), I’d pretty much given up on turning my research into a full book monograph. Why? Well, I had a serious case of topic fatigue … and that was combined with a difficult time thinking about what angle I wanted to approach it from. I had grown bored with the radical democratic focus of the dissertation and my early journal articles (a theoretical focus I now repudiate); and the next frame I started thinking through (one focused on nationalism) ended abruptly when I encountered a new published article that did much of what I had been thinking about. It took a stern talking-to from my former adviser (something like, “Come on … just publish the damn thing”) and a reminder about decoloniality from some college debaters to kick me into gear. So here I am, now, finishing the edits and reflecting a bit about the process. Continue on for a brief summary of the book and what I’ll be blogging about next…. Continue reading

Lysistrata Sex Strikes in Ukraine? The Young Lords Did It, Too….

Popping up on my Facebook page today was this story about Ukrainian women launching a sex strike against Russian men. The article on The Atlantic recounts that the Ukrainian women are certainly not the first to do it:

Of course, the women of “Don’t Give It to a Russian” are hardly the first to have this idea. Just last month, a group of women in Tokyo threatened not to sleep with any man who voted for a gubernatorial candidate who was seen to have outdated views on gender. In 2003, a group called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace led a sex strike for an end to the Liberian civil war. And just a few years ago in Ukraine, the feminist group Femen called on the wives and girlfriends of the members of the prime minister’s cabinet to boycott sex in opposition to what they called the prime minister’s “caddish and humiliating attitude towards Ukrainian women.”

It is, in fact, a strategy as old as time. In the Greek comedy Lysistrata, the eponymous character rallies her fellow women to withhold sex from their husbands until they agree to end the Peloponnesian War. For what it’s worth, it worked for the women in the play.

I find it interesting that the article, in a U.S. American magazine, declines to make any connections to similar kinds of resistance within the U.S. Could it be that only folks outside our national borders could make such devious (non-)use of sex? Of course not! Although I’m sure there are many more examples of Lysistrata-style sexual strikes, the one with which I’m most familiar comes from the New York Young Lords.

In 1970, women in the Young Lords began meeting as part of a women’s caucus to discuss issues of racist-sexism (machismo) in society at large and within the structures of their organization. Facing pressure to stop the meetings — they were charged with “talking some of that crazy feminist bullshit” and with being “a bunch of white women” — they considered separating from the males in the organization and, according to one former Young Lord, “rejected that as being counterrevolutionary. We examined it; we talked about it; we critiqued it.” Also considered was the option of joining the Third World Women’s Alliance, a U.S.-women of color feminist organization challenging racism, imperialism, and sexism.

Rather than either disband the women’s caucus or split from the Young Lords, the women instead sought ways to resist. For example, women who were in intimate relationships with Young Lords men held a special meeting to discuss Aristophanes’ LysistrataIn that meeting, they decided that they would no longer have sexual relations with their male partners until the central committee and organization were reformed. Denise Oliver recalls, “We knew we couldn’t go on strike because that would mean all of the programs for the people would collapse. That would be counterrevolutionary—we were not going to not do our work. And we were certainly going to not have anything to do with them that we were related to at all. ‘Hello. The revolution stops right here at the bedside.’”

While the sexual strikes, which lasted several weeks, weren’t a total success on their own, they played a clear role in heightening tensions within the organization and generating some of the conditions for substantive change.  Lysistrata-style strikes aren’t just things that happen somewhere “out there”; they’ve taken place right here along with countless other forms of resistance to racist sexism in our colonial antiblack world. Such stories need to become more commonplace so that young people today have more inventional resources, what some of us rhetorical scholars call touchstones, to stylize modes of resistive engagement in our present(s) and future(s).

Do readers know of any other examples of Lysistrata-style strikes in the U.S.? Feel free to reply on Twitter or Facebook and/or leave them in the comments, here.

Coca-Cola Colonialism

I’m sure, by now, everyone is aware of the Coca-Cola “It’s Beautiful” Super Bowl ad and the batsh*t crazy, racist, xenophobic responses it has garnered. If you haven’t seen the commercial, here you go:

Being the kind of person I am with the friends I have, my Twitter and Facebook feeds have started to fill with the various news stories unmasking the hateful and vitriolic responses to the ad. And I’m glad people are doing that. We should be offended at people spouting hate on the internet and anywhere else. We should act on that feeling of offense and take stands against it in online … but also in our homes, classrooms, and other daily interactions.

From Vagabond Beaumont’s blog post “Occupying Wall Street 1492 – 2011.” Click image to be taken to the post.

But we should also be careful not to jump to Coca-Cola’s defense. Responding to racism, xenophobia, and other craziness is a good thing, but we should not respond in ways that force us into defending a massive corporation and it’s colonization and homogenization of “American” culture. I remain sickened by the the hateful rhetoric spewed by folks who think that “America” is/ought to be white, English-only, etc. … and I am also sickened by mythologizing of “America” and Americanity by corporations, and through media and US policy. I worry that a commercial like this, absent critical discourses questioning it, reinforces a problematic vision of inclusion that leaves untouched the modern/colonial assumptions upon which it is based.

Only by questioning and challenging those assumptions can we begin to eradicate those values, beliefs, epistemologies, and ontologies that authorize the racist vitriol in the first place.

Mid-(Academic)-Year Update

Clearly, I’m the world’s worst blogger. To even call myself a “blogger” is probably a misnomer because it would suggest *some* degree of regularity … which just doesn’t exist. I think part of the problem/difficulty for me is a reality of the tenure track, and another part has to do with the reality of my non-academic life.

Being on the tenure track, the last year of my life has been consumed by my book project (for which I should receive reader reports any day, now) … and it hasn’t helped that I also served as planner for the largest division in the National Communication Association. To those on the tenure-track who still find time to blog, micro-blog, or whatever in an active and productive way, my hat is off to you! I just don’t know how someone can find time to prepare classes, grade, teach, research, write, present, do service, etc. — not to mention have a life outside of work – and STILL manage to have a vibrant and productive online presence. I hope to start blogging a bit more on the topic of professionalization (especially as it relates to Latin@s and other peoples of color in the academy) once my book stuff gets nailed down; but until then, I’ll probably remain mostly silent.

Also in the last year, I’ve been busy helping to plan a wedding, long distance, with my (now) wife, Nicole Wanzer-Serrano. We tied the knot on December 28th in Dallas! :)

wedding-photo-1

 

Needless to say, between doing “the long distance thing” and doing the necessary things to keep a tenure-track job at a research intensive university, it can be hard to find the time to get up here and post things about research, teaching, and life. That said, I’m going to work real hard to make it up here at least once a month and post some thoughts on something — ANYTHING — to try to form a habit.

Happy Birthday, Angela Davis

I decided to dig through my archive a little bit to pull out a couple of pieces from the Young Lords’ newspaper, Palante, on Angela Davis. The Young Lords worked in coalition with the Black Panthers, Young Patriots, and other radicals — individuals and groups — committed to liberation across the Global South.

This first piece was published in the September 11, 1970 issue of Palante, which was shortly after Davis was initially charged with kidnapping and murder (charges, as everyone knows or should know, that were proven false after a lengthy trial and imprisonment):

palante_v2n11-Sept11-1970(click on the image to enlarge)

This second piece was published in the March 31-April 14 issue of Palante, shortly after Davis’s trial finally began:

palante_v4n07-April14-1972

(click on the image to enlarge)

Revisiting Writing: Delinking Rhetoric (Take One)

Last April, I gave a presentation at the Southern States Communication Association convention in San Antonio. I was part of a double-panel that had been arranged by Mary Stuckey on the topic of rhetorical circulation. The piece was a a labor of love and ended up making it into a special forum on circulation in Rhetoric and Public Affairs, edited by Mary. The published essay is entitled, “Delinking Rhetoric, Or Revisiting McGee’s Fragmentation Thesis Through Decoloniality” (click the title for a link to it).

As a writing process geek, I’m writing this post to draw attention to how much essays change from the initial shot across the bow (in this case, my conference presentation) and the final/published version. Anyone in academia knows this happens, right? Rarely does the piece that makes it into print look exactly like what you submit or initially write. Sometimes the changes are small — a sentence here, a citation there — but other times (most of the time!) they’re more substantial.

The problems I got myself into with the circulation piece were twofold. First, I had issues with voice. Despite being the thing I harp on my own students about, sometimes I have a hard time finding my own voice in an essay. In this piece, that was partially purposeful (the fragmented form being a bit of an illustration of the issue about which I was writing). But my  voice problems were also related to my fresh take on the topic — that is, I was too new to the argument, which was getting in the way of my own voice coming though clearly enough. This latter voice problem is common … and why folks should probably never submit essays to journals for review until they’ve had some time to sit and go through a proper, long-term revision.

The second problem I had was that the piece was just too damn long. I think Mary had asked us to prepare 8-page papers and mine was somewhere around 13. As a result, things just had to get cut. In this situation, unfortunately, that meant I had to cut some of my favorite parts in which I had situated my argument through an engagement of Jesús Colón, de Certeau, and Latin@ communication studies. Sometimes it’s hard to make calls like that, but they’re the calls you have to make.

Not wishing my brief engagement of Colón to simply go away, though, I wanted to share the original piece (with all of its flaws) here. Read it, don’t read it — it’s up to you. But if you’re starting out with scholarly writing, know that you’re not alone in your struggles to find voice and make the hard choices about what stays in and what gets left out of your essays.

The original essay is below the jump….

Continue reading

Feeling the Love

This is a short post on something that’s been on my mind the past few days — something I felt like I needed to get in print before the feeling left me. First a preface: the biggest surprise to my about my move to Iowa is how much I’d gotten used to and taken for granted the diversity of people in Texas. This isn’t to say that Iowa is homogenous. In fact, Iowa City is a lot more diverse (racially, class-wise, etc.) that I was expecting. Still, there’s a difference of degree that had a bigger impact on me that I had expected. It’s strange, for example, having students who had never met a non-white person prior to coming to college — students who grew up in entirely white towns. It’s also been strange being without my camaradas, with whom I’d grown close in my last year in Texas. Add to that new preps, the process of moving, the process of adjusting to a new institution, being so far away from mi amor … and it all adds up to a general intellectual funk. Not the good kind of funk, mind you; there was no George Clinton helping me get my groove on. Well … the funk is gone.

Last week (Thursday through Saturday), Iowa hosted an AMAZING symposium called The Latino Midwest. This intellectually stimulating conference was filled with some people I already knew and a bunch of people whom I’m excited to now know. All of the presentations were on Latin@s in the midwest (obviously, from the title), most were about Chican@s and Mexican Americans; so they weren’t necessarily presentations that spoke directly to my research interests. That said, they were all incredibly interesting, exciting talks.

Just as importantly for me, though, was the feel of the conference. It was a space full of mutual interest, mutual care, and love. From the loving suggestions of a long-time mentor, to the loving embrace of new friends, to the ethic of decolonial love exhibited by Junot Diaz – it was a transformative experience. It inspired me to call friends and co-conspirators; and it inspired me to get back to work. As soon as the morning panel on Saturday was complete, I locked myself in my office and hammered out more writing than I’ve done in months. I even managed to follow it up with a repeat performance on Sunday.

Why write all of this down? Two reasons. First, I don’t want to forget this feeling and this inspiration, and hope that committing it to the blogosphere will help. Second, I want to remind people how important our intellectual and affective communities of connection are. It’s easy to get lost in the daily grind of this or that (service, bureaucracy, classes your heart’s not in, etc.). But it’s important to remember those communities of folks that animate us. I’ve been dreading the coming National Communication Association convention for months; but now I can’t wait to see my friends, my intellectual family, my brothers and sisters who make me who I am and keep me moving with my work.

Abrazos. Pa’lante.

Teaching With/From/Against Textbooks?

Sitting down to prep for my class tomorrow afternoon, I realized something that I found intriguing: It’s been a long time since I last taught out of a textbook. In fact, I think the last time I did so was as a grad student … and I can think of no instance when I actually chose to teach from a textbook in a undergraduate class (with the exception of an anthology). In general, I find textbooks to be more of a pain than they’re worth. They tend to be very expensive (though that’s not always the case) and I feel like they limit my options in more ways than I’m generally comfortable.

So why did I choose one this semester? Partly out of desperation. Partly out of the desire to simplify things on the tenure clock. And partly because I know that my options (which in the case of this social movements class meant turning primarily to journal articles) wouldn’t really be appropriate for my audience … especially in the introductory weeks. Whether that was the right choice on my part, however, is neither here nor there. The choice has been made, the semester has started, and now I’ve got to deal with it.

As someone used to teaching out of journal articles, though — someone used to unpacking the thick academic prose and distilling the material for the students — I’m at a bit of a loss. The textbook (in this case, Stewart, Smith, and Denton’s Persuasion and Social Movements) is … well … pretty straight forward and already distilled. Perhaps I’m overestimating my students’ retention and comprehension abilities, but it seems to me that if one reads the textbook in an active manner (i.e., underlining, making margin notes, maybe even taking some notes) there wouldn’t be much need for clarification in class. If that’s the case (and perhaps my assumption is fundamentally flawed in the first place), what is a professor to do?

So this professor has decided to do a little crowd-sourcing:

  • When teaching with the aid of a textbook, how much do you repeat what’s in the text already? Rather than repeating it yourself, do you walk the students through doing the work of reframing/recalling the textbook?
  • Do you spend a good deal of time problematizing the textbook?
  • Do you make a habit of bringing in other scholarly sources/idea to supplement what’s in the textbook?
  • Do you tend to do more application or use touchstones/examples to animate the concepts?
  • Is your answer “yes”? :)

I’ve got a lot of ideas on how I might proceed, but I thought some of my much smarter friends might be willing to join in the discussion to help me and help each other. So what say you, smart friends and possible strangers — got any great ideas you want to share?

Ch-ch-ch-changes (and Other Goings On)

So if you don’t really know me and/or aren’t friends with me on Facebook, Twitter, and the like, then you may not already know that I’m making a big career change this summer. I’ve been at the University of North Texas for the last three years and have had a GREAT time. In fact, Denton, TX has been the first place that really felt like home to me since I left Washington state for grad school at Indiana over a decade ago. But with as many friends and great colleagues as I’ve met in TX, the time has come for me to move on; and as you might be able to tell from the new color scheme (or updated CV) I’m headed back to the midwest to start a new job in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa.

While it’s going to be hard to leave friends and loved ones behind in Texas, it’s an exciting time to be joining some good friends and new colleagues at Iowa. Not only do we have a great department overall and particularly in rhetoric (though I’m certainly biased on that front), interesting developments are also afoot in Latin@ studies and across the university. For example, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies will be hosting a symposium next year entitled The Latino Midwest, which will bring some amazing speakers to campus and serve as a catalyst for some critical conversations in a state with a fast-growing Latin@ population.

In preparation for my move, I’m trying to wrap up some projects in TX — a short article starting the project to delink rhetoric from modern/coloniality, my book proposal and sample chapters, etc. At some point, I should probably also pack up my stuff and (UGH!) get ready to move. With all of this stuff, I hope to start using my blog a little bit more to work/test out some ideas, vent some frustrations, transition myself to life outside of TX and the metroplex and back into the land of corn and soy, and once again provide some tips for professional development (e.g., stay tuned for a post on how I’ve come to accept my new Google overlords).

Anyway, I’ll move on up to Iowa sometime in July … hopefully just in time to escape the worst of the Texas summer. In the meantime, I hope everyone in Internetland has a great summer full of productive work, delightful relaxation, and the love of good friends and family.

~d.

PS, please note the change in my website address and bookmark this one if you’re so inclined.

Website and blog for Darrel Wanzer-Serrano, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa