Why Contribute?

Like Jonathan, I too begin this post with a question: Why contribute to the CHESS blog?

As members of a vibrant academic community here at Yale, it’s not as if there’s any shortage of opportunities to express our thoughts. We write papers for seminars, pose questions in workshops, lecture students in classes, and present papers at conferences. Why take the time to contribute to a blog? Why this blog?

Here, I share with you the three main reasons I plan on being an active member of the CHESS online community.

1. Learn how to be a scholar of the 21st century.

Be it an opinion piece in the New York Times or radio story for This American Life, scholarship is increasingly assuming a multitude of forms, beyond the standard journal article or monograph. This type of knowledge production demands that scholars cast aside many tried-and-true habits – particularly the tendency to sit with our thoughts for weeks, months, even years on end. Blog posts should be timely. Wait too long and the moment passes. As someone who hopes to share my research findings in both traditional and non-traditional outlets, I look forward to contributing to this blog. The CHESS online community will be an opportunity to gain experience in a low-stakes, low-pressure environment.

2. Communicate with people who speak another language.

So much of graduate training is devoted to learning the language of our discipline. To be sure, disciplinary language has its place. Mutually agreed-upon terms serve as shorthand for otherwise dense, abstract, or intricate concepts. This common language allows us to quickly establish foundation and focus the bulk of our effort on advancing knowledge. But specialized language can also be isolating. Scholars who explore similar social phenomena often fail to communicate with one another because they speak different disciplinary languages. Academic language can also erect a barrier between academic and non-academic communities. As scholars, our reflections on current and historical events are valuable, but are often found opaque by those outside of the academy. Writing for the CHESS blog will teach me how to overcome such language barriers without sacrificing nuanced thinking.

3. Because workshops only last an hour and a half.

The CHESS online community is an extension of the CHESS workshop. How many times have you found yourself at the end of a workshop queue, unable to ask that burning question because of time constraints? In addition to longer reflection or opinion pieces pertaining to historical inquiry, we also encourage submissions that build upon the workshops themselves. Feel free to submit any of your follow-up thoughts or unasked questions.

I look forward to meeting everyone at the first CHESS workshop this Friday!


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