Here goes 2022! Let’s see if the human race can do better this time around.
I use this space to gather my thoughts and organize my work. People always talk about their jobs in these things. I’m told that’s how you show you are a responsible member of the collective. Here it goes …
I’m in higher ed. I like to do a lot of the things people in higher ed like to do: teach, write, design courses, think radically. I am especially fond of working with first-year students. I don’t know, there’s something about helping young people shape their life trajectories that inspires me. I used to fancy building a time machine. Turns out I’m not good at physics. Helping young people is probably the next-best thing to going back and making all the right decisions.
I’ve been working with brilliant scholars around the world to help start this new academic discipline in Veterans Studies for more than a decade. And I think we’ve come a long way with the program at our school. I served in the Army a long time ago and that experience shaped my research and writing interests early on. I specialize in twentieth-century American war literature and social theory. Though, I’m pretty fond of playing with ideas from across the disciplines. Interdisciplinarity pays off. It would be fine with me if I were remembered as a charlatan. At least I’d be remembered for something.
I recently finished my first book on the topic of veteran identity. We often tell veterans to gather together in communities, to tell their stories in therapists’ offices and other safe spaces. I feel like this is appropriate when dealing with combat trauma and mental health issues. But most veterans do not experience combat. Most of the veterans who do are not permanently scarred by it. Yet, there’s something about the way we conceive of them in the American unconscious that is just as limiting. Plenty of altruistic people are advocating for veterans. I like to think I am working to solve the other side of the equation – fixing the world veterans return home to after service.
What if instead of saying “thank you for your service” we asked veterans to tell us about their service? What if there was an explicit role for veterans as instructors on the topics of humanity and resilience in our society? Our beautiful rituals and heartfelt platitudes are fine. But can we alter the practice of patriotism in such a way that veterans could become their most capable and authentic selves? That’s what I try to figure out in the book and much of my other writing.
In addition to veterans issues I am interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning. I began my journey as an educator using expressivist writing pedagogies in a variety of disciplinary settings. As I matured, I became interested in conscious and unconscious power dynamics that exist between teachers and students. My most recent course designs emphasize transparency in learning and teaching, students as partners in the classroom, service learning, and ungrading.
Oh, yeah, the humanizing stuff. We have some really amazing doggos and a cat. My partner is a feminist scholar-activist who doesn’t take any guff. None. I declared myself “King of the Dogs” for a week and I thought it was going to drive her crazy. Anyway, it’s best not to bring your guff around the house. I’m full of the stuff. Most importantly, I really feel like I got some mileage out of the word “guff” today.
Of course, I digress.
Travis L. Martin, PhD, is founding director of the Kentucky Center for Veterans Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. He has established several nationally recognized programs to support returning veterans in higher education and the non-profit sector. A scholar of American literature, psychoanalytic trauma theory, and social theory, Dr. Martin presents frequently at conferences and universities. He has published dozens of research articles and creative short works on veterans’ issues. A former sergeant in the U.S. Army, he served during two deployments in the Iraq War (2003-04 & 2005). His book War and Homecoming: Veteran Identity and the Post-9/11 Generation is slated for publication with the University Press of Kentucky in 2022. He resides in Richmond, KY.