scholar, editor, teacher
author, artist, activist
I’ve lived a full and interesting life, and I’ve never been able to resist chasing an idea to see where it leads me. I've been called "incorrigibly interdisciplinary" as I've followed my interests from history to historiography, to literary theory, to feminist theory, to sociology and cultural anthropology,, and finally to medicine. I've been broadly homed in area studies: American Studies, African American Studies, Cultural Studies, and now Primary Care Medicine. Topics I've written on in depth include the history and literature of the US war in Vietnam, the literature of trauma, PTSD, afrofuturism, and HIV treatment.
Editing has always been as much of a passion as scholarship. Over the last 40 years I've edited academic papers, poetry, academic journals, novels, grants, and presentations. My interest in editing is only matched by my passion for teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level.
Since 2012, I’ve contributed my qualitative expertise to scientific research projects on topics including HIV treatment, homicide-suicides, palliative care, gender disparities in medicine, smoking cessation, and a variety of topics in primary and preventive care medicine. I’m privileged to work in the Substance Use research group led by Prof. Dr. med. Reto Auer, and to coach his graduate students in writing.
Curriculum design and teaching take up much of my time, and I’m homed in the Research Support Services department of the Medical Library of the University of Bern. Since most ESL writers in the sciences have not had the opportunity to get the same training in rhetoric, composition, and scientific writing as native English speakers (especially those trained in the US), I’ve developed a series of scientific writing workshops that train writers in essential skills, from proper English paragraphing, to outlining, to drafting the narrative and objective sections of scientific papers. My training as a literary theorist was surprisingly useful in devising this teaching method, which has now been institutionalized in the medical, dental, and pharmacy curriculum at the University of Bern, and extended to students at the Swiss Tropical Health Institute and students of the Switzerland-wide public health program, SSPH+.
Past and present pursuits
Years in the profession38
h-index / i10-index16 / 22
1981University of California at Santa Cruz
B.A. in American Studies
An interdisciplinary liberal arts degree with a focus on American history, literature, sociology, and ethnic studies.
Ph.D. in American Studies
An interdisciplinary graduate degree (historiography, literary theory, sociology, clinical psychology, critical race theory, feminist theory) with a focus on the cultural effects of psychological trauma.
2011 - CurrentUniversity of Bern (ISPM, BIHAM, Medical Library)
Scientific editor and qualitative researcher
I began as the scientific editor at the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM), then split my time between ISPM and the Institute of Primary Care (BIHAM) because I was offered the opportunity to participate in research. I eventually left ISPM to work as a curriculum designer at the Medical Library, and still also work at BIHAM. As a substantive editor and a researcher, I often participate as a co-author.
2006 - CurrentKali Tal Consulting
Substantive editor, consultant, writing coach
Academic editing, mainly in the humanities and social sciences until 2011, then shifting primarily to medicine and international human rights law. I edit for a select group of clients who appreciate substantive critique and coaching to improve their writing in English. Since 2015, I have offered intensive scientific writing workshops on-site and via Zoom in Europe and abroad, in countries ranging from Italy to Turkey to South Africa to Japan.
1996-2006The University of Arizona
Professor of Humanities
I was hired as a founding faculty member of a now-defunct liberal arts college of the University of Arizona, where I designed and taught Cultural Studies courses and created new programs, including a highly successful collaboration between arts students and working artists in the community (Community Mentors in the Arts). When the college closed in 2003, I taught on the main campus for several years, before relocated to Germany.
1989-1996Vietnam Generation, Inc & Burning Cities Press
Editor, publisher, CEO
In 1998 I founded an academic journal called Vietnam Generation, which became the journal of record in the field of 1960s studies until its demise in 1996. The journal was published by a nonprofit corporation (Vietnam Generation, Inc.) which I ran during that time. In 1989, I ran the first of three successful yearly international conferences (Sixties Generations), and also founded a poetry and fiction press (Burning Cities), which mainly published work related to the 1960s and the Vietnam war. In 1993, I created the Sixties Generation website, one of the first content-heavy websites on the new public internet. The Vietnam Generation, Inc. archives have all been digitized and are housed at in the special collection of LaSalle University.
1989-1993United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Oral history archivist, media and educational consultant
Initially hired to work as an oral history archivist, I soon moved over to the Museum's Learning Center, where I developed educational materials and designed databases—in particular a database of the thousands of Nazi concentration camps, most of which were rarely noted in histories.
- Literary Theory
- Critical theory
- Public Health
- American Studies
- African American Studies
- Cultural Studies
- Gender Studies
- Trauma studies
- Grounded theory
- Field Research
- Close reading
- Qualitative coding
- Discourse theory
- Marxist theory
- Delphi method
- Critical theory
- Participatory action research
- Citizen science
- Post WW2 US history and culture
- Psychological trauma
- HIV treatment in Africa
- Palliative care
- Colorectal cancer screening
- Smoking cessation
- African American literature
- Gender mainstreaming
- Vietnam war
- Substantive editing
- Grant writing
- Information design for the web
- Scientific writing
- Graphic design
- Qualitative software
the original afrofuturism logo
I was introduced to the concept of Afrofuturism by Alondra Nelson and Art McGee in the early 1990s. I joined the newly founded Afrofuturism listserv moderated by Dr. Nelson and became part of the lively community of scholars, activists and artists who have given the field its shape. Along with occasionally moderating the listserv, I built the original Afrofuturism web site with contributions from many in the community
In 1996 WIRED Magazine published my brief but oft-cited essay, ““Life Behind the Screen: African-American Theory and Computer-Mediated Communication.” The original version, The Unbearable Whiteness of Being: African American Critical Theory and Cyberculture, was longer, but WIRED insisted on truncating it.
Other writing on Afrofuturism:
- “From Panther to Monster: Black Popular Culture Representations of Resistance from the Black Power Movement of the 1960s to the Boyz in the Hood,” in Elaine Richards & Ronald Jackson, Innovations in African-American Rhetoric, (University of Illinois Press, 2002).
- “That Just Kills Me: Black Militant Near Futurist Fiction,” Social Text (Summer 2002).
- A Review of Lisa Nakamura’s Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet, 2002.
- “Room Full of Mirrors: Race, Tourism, and Cyberspace,” Artbyte (May/June 2000).
- Duppies in the Machine: White Cyberculture Critics Read Race,” American Studies Association Annual Conference, Detroit, MI, October, 2000.“
- Captive Audience: Telecoms in the Prisons,” WIRED Magazine, (October, 1997)
I was an early scholar in the emerging field of Trauma Studies in the mid- to late-1980s. I was working on a PhD at Yale,, where I was introduced to Elizabeth Wilson and Cathy Caruth, among others. While Yale’s trauma studies scholars worked within a psychoanalytic tradition, I was repelled by the basic principles of psychoanalysis and instead turned to African American critical theory, theory from the Black postcolonial world, semiotics, and newer neurological clinical psychological approaches to PTSD, all of which I used to create a frame for what I called “the literatures of trauma.”
The result of my studies and many interviews with Holocaust survivors, combat veterans, and rape and incest survivors was Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma (1995, Cambridge University Press). Worlds was not widely reviewed, but it has been consistently cited by scholars for more than a generation now.
My other writings on trauma literature include:
- “Violence in Nonfiction Prose,” Violence in America: An Encyclopedia, ed. Ronald Gottesman (New York: Charles Scribners & Sons) 1999
- “War, Poetry, & Ethics,” War, Literature & the Arts, Fall/Winter 1998.
“The Physician as Witness: A Response,” Literature & Medicine (Fall 1996) 15:2.
“When History Talks Back: Inviting Vietnam Veterans into the Classroom,” The Vietnam War, ed. Marc Jason Gilbert (Stamford, CT: Greenwood Press) 1991.
“The Self-Reflexive War: War Looking at Film Looking at War,” Jump/Cut 36 (Spring 1991).
“On the Cover of the Rolling Stone: Toward a Theory of Cultural Therapy,” Viet Nam Generation 1:1 (Winter 1989).
“The Mind at War: Images of Women in Vietnam Novels by Combat Veterans,” Contemporary Literature (Fall 1989).
Caruth’s work is cited about an order of magnitude more often than mine, which isn’t surprising. But I’m more interested in who is citing me than in how many citations I receive. One of my main complaints about psychoanalytic trauma studies is how Eurocentric and racist much of the scholarship is (and I include Caruth’s work in this category). When I compare the reach of my own work to, for example Caruth’s, I feel comfortable that Worlds is reaching the people it was intended to reach. White mainstream scholars with a European focus rarely reach for Worlds, but it resonates for many scholars who are not white and not European, and who focus on the trauma narratives of oppressed peoples and members of marginalized communities.
There is little pleasure to be found in trauma studies, but it can be deeply rewarding when I feel my work has helped people uncover their own truths or interpret the stories of others whose voices are not usually centered in the West. This is why I am glad to see Worlds has been useful not just for scholars of the Holocaust, Vietam War, and sexual abuse/rape, but for scholars studying trauma narratives from war in Bosnia, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Okinawa, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan; trauma narratives of disability, sexual subjugation, AIDS, Latin American testimonio; trauma narratives by African Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Indigenous Americans, Hispanic and Latina Americans, LGBTQ+, Australian Aboriginals, Asian Australians; postcolonial trauma narratives from Japan, Taiwan, the Raj, the Caribbean, Algeria, Eastern Africa, Malawi, Francophone Africa, South Africa, Zimbabwe; slavery narratives; prison narratives from the Russian Gulags, narratives by imprisoned women; trauma literature from oppressive regimes in Argentina, the Philippines; and for scholars of many other places and peoples.
Want to get in touch?
I enjoy hearing from colleagues, readers, students, and folks I’ve lost touch with over the years. Also feel free to contact me if you’re interested in having me speak at an event.