As always, citation implies neither approval nor disapproval.
A specialist in early medieval archaeology spells out one big problem with the modern fixation on fitting ancient people into boxes and assigning them distinctive labels:
Before I start, though, I want to address the obvious criticism of the topic, which is that modern scholars work a lot on identities, but did past people care as much? Certainly it can be argued that early medieval people did not say very much about identities, and nor do modern people, outside academia. But they did not say very much about a lot of things that modern scholars obsess over, such as gender, ethnicity, social age, or sometimes even aristocracy or nobility. The only social categories that they wrote much about were ones with precise legal importance, status that had implications for property and legal rights.
It is almost certainly the case that the inhabitants of sixth-century northern Gaul did not think of themselves in terms of many – perhaps most – of the categories that I have discussed here, although some of those aspects of their identity were remarked upon and thought of as important. Nevertheless, even if entirely modern in its framing, I think that, if theorised in sophisticated fashion, the concept of identities and their interplay provides a valuable means of analysing past societies and, on that basis, thinking about the present.
– The thinly pseudonymous Historian on the Edge https://edgyhistorian.blogspot.co.at/2016/06/thinking-about-identity-in-early.html
I’m writing about this now because these vulnerabilities illustrate two very important truisms about encryption and the current debate about adding back doors to security products:
1) Cryptography is harder than it looks.
2) Complexity is the worst enemy of security.
These aren’t new truisms. I wrote about the first in 1997 and the second in 1999. I’ve talked about them both in Secrets and Lies (2000) and Practical Cryptography (2003). They’ve been proven true again and again, as security vulnerabilities are discovered in cryptographic system after cryptographic system. They’re both still true today.
– Bruce Schneier, “Cryptography is Harder than it Looks,” https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/03/cryptography_is.html
The re-enactment world in general, but the Roman one in particular, is very prone to breakaways. I have heard recently of a group of only six breaking in half as egos clash.
– Chris Haines, “History of the Guard,” http://erminestreetguard.co.uk/History%20of%20the%20Guard.htm
Although military history fills the television screens, YouTube channels, and bookstore history aisles in Canada just as in other countries, its presence at universities is very modest indeed. Until October 2015 I did not know of anyone who studies any aspect of warfare before the nineteenth century who teaches history at a Canadian university to fund his research. At least a hundred faculty are paid to teach history before the nineteenth century at a Canadian university , but very few chose to publish on the military aspects. This week I thought I would list the determined scholars who insist on working on this topic at an advanced level at Canadian universities.
Alex Usher of the Higher Education Strategy Associates recently posted a summary of some surveys of students at Canadian universities. He and his colleagues found that students at most Canadian universities answered questions about their university the same way. Usher often suggests that he wants universities to become more diverse, but in this post he mentions with a hint of disdain another view, that universities exist to provide a uniform social service. That strikes me as a very good description of the role which I would like Canadian universities to play. Moreover, while I think his heart is in the right place, I can see a few disadvantages of greater “differentiation” which Alex Usher has not spelled out.
An Open Letter to the University of Saskatchewan by several students
In the project briefs the university expresses an aspiration to improve the quality and quantity of humanities research. It intends to do this by removing some programs, and merging others. Research is a valuable goal, but to suggest that the problem with specific humanities programs within Arts and Science is that they are insufficiently productive is to miss the point. The University of Saskatchewan is not just a research institution. It is a university for the residents of Saskatchewan and for its students, and should take some time to consider their needs. The study of the humanities is a creditable pursuit and central to the idea of the university, it should be clear that the University of Saskatchewan has some obligation to provide a space, perhaps small but at least well defined, for the pursuit of that study. It is our belief that the proposals enumerated in the recent project briefs fulfill only half of this obligation. The space for the humanities presented in the briefs is certainly small, but it is also poorly defined.