This Is Just the Warm Up: Grad Student Bloggers Line Up at the Start

This has been a difficult year. In addition to lives taken prematurely by COVID and police violence, lost jobs and wages, schools going intentionally or disingenuously online, and the mental health toll of myriad other small cuts, many historians are struggling to conduct research with archives and libraries closed. For graduate students at the beginning of their theses or dissertations, this has been especially confounding. So it is with the utmost gratitude and respect that we announce we have four exciting entrants in our Fourth Annual UHA/The Metropole Graduate Student Blogging Contest. Each was asked to write on this year’s theme, which is “Stretch.”

Write about a moment in urban history when the inflexible was asked to bend. We want to read about how metropolitan citizens have stayed physically fit, the lengths to which urban leaders have gone to tackle a difficult problem, or how a historian’s research challenge required an innovative approach. We are interested in stretches at every scale, from home workouts to global efforts to transcend borders. Bring to life the resistance that your subjects (or you) stretched against, even if the result was not triumphant flexibility.

As it happens, this theme was itself a bit of a stretch. Initially we planned to ask for posts on the topic of “pandemonium,” but by May it became clear that this was just too on the nose. So we had to be flexible ourselves.

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be featuring posts about stretching transit systems to accommodate senior citizens, stretching to hear silences in the archives to better understand recent protests, citizens stretching to make colorblind arguments for segregation, and unlikely partners stretching to alleviate police-citizen violence. No one took us up on the offer to write about physical fitness, so we’ll wrestle all the sports puns and metaphors we can into our intros and social media posts.

Our judging lineup does include a substitution. Joining returning referees Tom Sugrue and Richard Harris is Marisol LeBrón! In addition to sharing scholarly expertise in social inequality, policing, violence, and protest with students at UT-Austin and in numerous publications, Prof. LeBrón has been writing blog posts for outlets like the NACLA Blog for over a decade. We thank our judges for sharing their collective blogging wisdom and also extend our gratitude to our team of assistant editors. Last but certainly not least, this contest would not exist without the research, writing, and revision done by the graduate students in the midst of a stressful summer.

Check back next week, when it’s ready, set, go time.

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