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AfricanusCrowther

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AfricanusCrowther last won the day on October 25 2016

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About AfricanusCrowther

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  • Application Season
    2016 Fall
  • Program
    History - PHD

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  1. AfricanusCrowther

    Fall 2019 Applicants

    Get ready to enjoy this feeling again with grant and job applications!
  2. AfricanusCrowther

    Fall 2019 Applicants

    I think it makes sense to list courses if you’re applying as an Africanist, unless you have some other kind of African Studies certificate. They’ll want to make sure that you know the lingo for this very exacting and particular field, given that many history department offer little Africanist coursework. I did this on my applications, in part because I felt insecure about not having experience on the continent.
  3. AfricanusCrowther

    Sources in Writing Sample

    They'll be looking to see if you know how to talk about historiography. One of the tricks of the trade is that you don't actually have to read all of the literature you're citing (although of course it's desirable) as long as you know generally where it fits on a grid of scholarship about the topic. Recent review articles on the subject should lay this out neatly (I wonder if Marjoleine Kars' 2016 AHR article lays out the lay of the land nicely?). If you can include a footnote that says "For scholarship that views slave rebellions through the prism of A, see: B, C, D, and E; X and Y, by contrast, have recently urged historians to consider Z," then you've done a lot to show that you understand how historical scholarship in general works.
  4. AfricanusCrowther

    Fall 2019 Applicants

    As has been mentioned, it varies a lot, although a good one (i.e. interesting and showing a strong understanding of the conventions of academic history writing) can matter a great deal in some circles. A couple years ago, my advisor didn’t want to take an otherwise well-qualified student with a great SoP because his writing sample was “boring.” Conversely, I was accepted to a program where nobody read my writing sample.
  5. AfricanusCrowther

    Fall 2019 Applicants

    Counterpoint: if you put all your eggs in one basket, it will be extremely painful if your working relationship goes south. This can happen even if your advisor gives you a great first impression when you visit programs. I would advise incoming students to find multiple mentors and advisors where possible, and to ask experienced graduate students how they forged these relationships. My department is (or claims to be) trying to encourage a multiple mentor system now after seeing a number of promising students leave in part due to advisor malfeasance.
  6. AfricanusCrowther

    Emailing Graduate Students

    I think this is acceptable, and actually good practice for graduate school, where you sometimes have to email academics you don’t know (potential outside committee members, big names you want to meet at a conference, journal editors). You want to be polite (perhaps even acknowledging the awkwardness of the situation), but treat them like a future colleague. I would also make sure to email a graduate student in your sub-field, who will generally be able to give the most helpful answers to any question, and explain why you reached out to them in particular. If I were on the receiving end of this, I would be happy to answer. I think you can ask about anything germane to the program, but I would not voice any concerns about it (especially not about individuals you might want to work with). Not only is this premature, but also better saved for conversations on a campus visit. I would also try to make sure your question is relatively straightforward and best answered by a graduate student.
  7. AfricanusCrowther

    Fall 2019 Applicants

    Not if the citation is logical and appropriate.
  8. AfricanusCrowther

    The Borders of "Acceptable" Historical Method and Perspective

    I have colleagues whose primary method is historical linguistics, and they get tired of explaining to fellow historians how they do what they do and why it should be considered history. A large part of their work involves explaining and defending their methodology to non-specialists. But such is the price of getting to do the work you want.
  9. AfricanusCrowther

    Language Examination in History PhD Program

    Make sure to ask graduate students at the programs you'll eventually visit about the lived reality of the language requirement. Sometimes language requirements are more fluid than what the graduate handbook suggests.
  10. AfricanusCrowther

    Funded MAs

  11. AfricanusCrowther

    Chances of Entry?

    I think BU has always been strong in African history. They certainly have some heavyweights and I remember coming across BU graduates in some tenure track positions in that field. The USNWR rankings are useless because they cannot account for two important factors: placement within subfield (the USNWR subfield rankings are even worse) and placement by advisor (when Ira Berlin was active, the University of Maryland was a good place to do 19th century US). If the professor who works in your field told you that the top 20 was a good metric for program strength, maybe that happens to be the case in his or her subfield. But this is a distraction from your actual question, for which the answer is, your chance of acceptance depends almost entirely on the strength of your written materials and your ability to excite potential advisors who want to reproduce themselves through you.
  12. AfricanusCrowther

    Fall 2019 Applicants

    Writing samples are also very annoying to adapt if you are working from a BA thesis, another hard-earned lesson. It’s good practice for turning research papers into conference presentations, but of course the stakes here are much higher.
  13. AfricanusCrowther

    Fall 2019 Applicants

    Also bear in mind that some programs ask for different formats for the SoP from the standard two-pager. It can be hard to adapt your SOP to those formats -- which I found out the hard way when I was rejected from all of those schools.
  14. AfricanusCrowther

    Is getting a PhD worth it?

    The "struggle" of graduate school is not always a noble, dignified one. It can be humiliating, morally debilitating, infuriatingly arbitrary, and intellectually limiting, especially (precisely?) because academic work is so much more personal than most other forms of labor. I encourage you to read this classic essay by Tim Burke. As they say, your mileage may vary, and I certainly have friends who love it and are having a blast, but trust me that you cannot anticipate the ways your sense of self-worth can be destroyed in graduate school, for no good reason and by people you assumed you could trust. You need to prepare to make some provision for your mental health, beyond just dealing with the stress of being busy.
  15. AfricanusCrowther

    Is getting a PhD worth it?

    I wouldn't start a PhD program without first finding a good therapist.
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