As I watch my colleagues fighting their way across the finish line of the spring semester, I feel like my year is just now getting started. Perhaps that's because it's been almost a year since I defended my dissertation prospectus, became ABD, and began researching and writing my dissertation. I also had a fellowship this year that released me from my teaching duties, and so I never felt particularly moored to the rhythm of the academic calendar. If the Jewish new year coincides with the commencement of the academic year in the fall, and the Gregorian calendar resets in January, then it just feels right to celebrate some kind of New Year in the spring. May has become my Dissertation New Year, a time to be inspired by the accomplishments of the last twelve months and an opportunity to make resolutions for the next phase.
I am starting two major projects in the coming weeks. The first is an oral history project at the YM-YWHA of Washington Heights-Inwood. I will interview staff and members who have been affiliated with the agency since the 1960s or 1970s. These oral histories will provide additional perspectives on the events that took place at the Y and in Washington Heights during these tumultuous decades. My travel and time in New York will be supported by a generous grant from the American Academy for Jewish Research.
The second project is a bit out of left field, but I'm very excited about it. I will be conducting a corpus analysis to identify when the term "ghetto" was adopted by African Americans to describe segregated urban neighborhoods in the United States. I will write about this in more detail in the coming weeks, because corpus analysis is not a methodology commonly used by American historians. It's part of an increasingly popular field called the digital humanities, and I've recently had the opportunity to learn about and practice methods for using digital tools in scholarly research and dissemination.
I feel rejuvenated by these new undertakings. Each is its own education and brings with it a new set of logistics. It's crazy but fun, and somehow I'm still managing to write my dissertation in fits and starts. Stay tuned for more.