mandatory brief

simply speaking, I am a historian keeping track of my own history. my quest is, as always, vigilance and refinement of my craft, and the painstaking pursuit of erudition. and I need a less popular, more focused space to do this in. this blog will frequently be very academic, mostly in the historical sense, and it will probably also be a kind of thought-draft workspace for more polished thoughts elsewhere. I remain unapologetic. often my initial reaction to issues, ideas and problems is an emotional one, and only with slow, rigorous reflection and self-scrutiny can I form my opinions and thoughts, albeit perpetually provisional ones. and I learn, develop myself and remember best through writing for myself, and that is what this blog is for.

that said, if you are keeping up, and have things to contribute, I would love nothing more than to engage with and learn from you and listen to your comments. I am periodically quite overwhelmed by how woefully little I know about anything, and if you’re moved to comment, you probably know much more about whatever I was pontificating about than I do.

I will not tolerate hate or intemperate idiocy. and occasionally, I might cross-post.


15 responses to “mandatory brief

  • robin

    “A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”

    –Walter Benjamin

    How’s THAT for a first comment, huh?

  • rAchel

    if I ever write a book on historical methods, that is SO going on my inscription page!

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    […] 3rd, 2007 robin is quite frequently my ideas man & gave me a beautiful one the other day. given that I spend an inordinate amount of time in […]

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    […] first off I’d like to point out that robin totally set an auspicious precedent, with the awesome walter benjamin quote – “The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been […]

  • Matt

    I just recently discovered your site, but am much impressed. I will be checking back often. I especially enjoyed the thoughtfulness of your recent post of historiography/history.

    My own blog is similar in some ways (“a kind of thought-draft workspace for more polished thoughts elsewhere,” as you say), but aside from history/teaching, I also blog about other things that I am interested in (e.g., sports, politics, pop culture).

  • Yohan

    Love your site! Keep up the interesting commentary 🙂

    I wonder if you would mind sharing (not to be too nosy) what kind of camera you use for your pictures. The brand/type of flash/any fancy settings. Your pictures always look so sharp and vivid!

  • Rachel

    @ Yohan: I used to use a Panasonic Lumix — these days I use the Canon D450 SLR, with the standard kit lens. One day I’ll splurge and buy myself a proper lens…then, watch out! The bookporn will be unbearably magnificent 🙂

  • Lauren

    Hi!!!!!! I love your site! Please, please, email me. I have a question and you might be just the person I need to talk to. Its about a very very old book I have. If you could please email me at
    Thank you so much and i too, will be checking in frequently.

  • spsukaton

    Hi! I just found your blog in a random search about Indonesian historiography. Don’t ask.

    While I’m going to sit and go through your archives very, very soon (I go on break in two weeks and will finally have plenty of time) I was wondering what your research interests are. I’m an undergrad planning to focus in postcolonial Southeast Asia (mostly Indonesia and the Philippines,) but I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of where to begin.

  • Rachel

    Hi spsukaton – I’m a PhD student specializing in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in the period straddling independence and decolonization – I guess you’d say that’s around 1920 to 1970 or so. I’d say very few people, when they start off, know exactly what their research interests are. A lot of people I know became the specialists they did, purely by accident. So don’t fret too much 🙂

  • Samuel Sukaton

    Whew! That’s a relief. Looking forward through chewing through your blog. I’ve been reading up on your other stuff (Cliopatria) since my last post – good stuff!

    Name’s Sam, btw =)

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  • Sara

    Hi Rachel,

    I hope you’re well! I happened into your blog while working on an article on underwater archaeology, and I have a favor to ask — would you feel comfortable sharing the photos of the Arab dhow you took on your tour? I haven’t had the chance to see them firsthand, and would love to publish them with my story.

    I’m also quite thrilled to have happened into your blog in the first place! You’ve certainly gained a reader in the process.


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