Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.—T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922
Тузенбах. Да, нужно работать. Bы небось думаете: расчувствовался немец. Но я, честное слово, русский и понемецки даже не говорю. Отец у меня православный…
(TUZENBACH: Yes, we have to work. Oh, I know you’re all thinking: Listen to the German getting sentimental again, but I’m really Russian, honestly I am; I don’t even speak German. And my father was baptized in the Russian church.)—A. P. Chekhov, Три сестры (trans. Paul Schmidt), 1900
At this point in time, Lithchat exists as a user-created, continually changing reimagining and repositioning of an answer to the question, “What is a Lithuanian-American?” It is both observing (analytically, critically) and generating (creatively) Lithuanian-American culture. It is a response and a solution to sclerotic, established Lithuanian-American cultural entities. It is not a rebellion. It is engagement.
Editorial principles of the site are
- that Lithuanian-American cultural practices are not what is handed down from above by “cultural organizations,” but, rather, the a posteriori description of what it is that self-identified Lithuanian-Americans do;
- that a canon of Lithuanian-American cultural practices, if it exists, is necessarily flawed and short-sighted (and élitist and racist);
- that acting in the interest of “cultural preservation” is a question-begging move of troubling audacity;
- that it is offensive to assume or demand a nationalist politics out of an ad hoc set of cultural practices;
- that the very term “Lithuanian-American” is ostensibly meaningless and not a source of rigid identity formation;
- that Lithuanian-Americans are not exceptional.
More simply, it’s my wish that whenever someone asserts, “I am a Lithuanian” or “I am a Lithuanian-American,” they understand these to be contingent descriptions, illuminating very little.
Additionally, this is not a site on a mission of public relations or white-washing. In other words, not only is Lithchat critical by default, but that it is also not a “family” site. “Family” serves as a code word for inert, palliative, and flattering. That is precisely not what Lithchat is. Lithchat is aggressive, destabilising, and forging ahead, uncaring of what the future brings other than more articles and photos.
2. TECHNICAL INFORMATION
Lithchat depends entirely on free software. As of Sept. 2008, the content is managed by WordPress and various plug-ins and the like. Previously, the content was managed by Joomla!, the photos by Gallery, and the two interacted via the Gallery Bridge extension for Joomla!.
Lithchat began in the early ’90s as the “List O’ Lugans,” a large list of email addresses compiled to a large extent by Jonas Korsakas and Gintas Mikučauskas. In early 1995 or so, Gintas, along with Kastytis Šoliūnas, transferred the email list to UIC’s listserv, and the name “lithchat” was invented. Once Gintas and Kastytis left UIC, the mailing list was going to be shut down. I salvaged as much of the archives as I could and copied it all to a listhost served by the University of Chicago. Once the possibility of running my own server (and domain) came within my grasp, I moved the lithchat information off the UofC domain to lithchat.com. This was around 1998.
The web version of lithchat.com was little more than a front-end to some half dozen mailing lists. But the addition of photos from events starting around 1999 made the site grow in popularity. Gallery, a program for systematically handling the photos, was installed in 2001—just too late to handle all the photos from the XPLJK in Australia.
In 2004, I installed the first content management system, WordPress, hoping that Lithchat would gain a web presence beyond a photo repository. Because of fundamental problems with using WordPress as a sort of community blog, I abandoned it in 2006 in favor of Joomla!, with a new commitment to have about four or five new articles every week on the front page, written by users of the site. The overwhelming task of generating so much output began hurting my academic efforts
The photo section continues its outsized presence on the site, though I imagine sites like flickr and facebook have cut into photo availability. And lithchat still hosts two mailing lists (using the Mailman program since 1998) on the site.
As of Sept. 2008, Joomla has been abandoned for a return to WordPress, which has gotten much more mature in its absence from the site. It is also much easier to maintain than Joomla. Earlier in 2008, the photos (some 13Gb worth) were pulled from the site. I do not yet know what to do with them.
4. CONTACT INFORMATION
One should never have to contact me in private, as writing a comment to a post is the most fruitful way of enagaging what goes on on this site. That said, should a need to contact me somehow arise, I can be reached at:
moacir < at > gmail < dot > com
I will not discuss content over email. If you would like to discuss the content of a post, write a comment—not an email.