January
2nd 2009
AHA open thread

Posted under: conferences, jobs

Since Historiann will be remaining at least 1,750 miles away from the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, y’all will have to keep me informed about what’s going on in New York.  What did you see or hear?  Who did you run into?  Did you see any interesting panels or discussions?  Do you feel like slitting your wrists or enrolling in truck driving school now, or are you infused with love of the life of the mind and appreciation for your fellow historians? 

Does holding the annual meeting in New York City mean that historians dress any better, or are they just as square and dowdy as ever?  (Wait, wait–don’t answer that–I think I know!)  Well, I suppose most dudes can’t pull off Historiann’s daring look (above right.)

Before you conference-goers unpack and start trolling the book exhibition looking for editors who might buy you a meal, try this food for thought from GayProf, who has written up some excellent tips for search committees, and how they should strive to actually read the candidates’ files, avoid violating state and federal laws in their interviews, and look like good future colleagues that anyone would want to work with.  The money quote:  “Lastly, remember to play nice. You don’t want to end up as the committee that becomes a dreadful story on a future academic blog.”  You’ve been warned, friends.  Also, a little belatedly, here’s some more good advice from Tenured Radical for job-seekers approaching their first AHA convention interviews–see especially her advice on how to answer the “do you have any questions for us?” question.

Anyhoo–enjoy those concrete canyons if you’re in New York this weekend.  Me, I like the ones we’ve got here in snowy Colorado, but I’ve got a few cowboys on the ground who should be telegraphing their dispatches from the AHA.  Check back here later this weekend for more reports from Historiann’s special correspondents!  (If any other readers want to send along their impressions, please do–you know how to whistle, don’t you?)

14 Comments »

14 Responses to “AHA open thread”

  1. GayProf on 02 Jan 2009 at 8:32 am #

    I am not attending the AHA, either. In many ways, it’s nice to be a passive (and distant) observer.

  2. squadratomagico on 02 Jan 2009 at 9:10 am #

    …just put your lips together and blow.

  3. Indyanna on 02 Jan 2009 at 10:28 am #

    I got as close as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ANNEX down in Soho yesterday, but didn’t quite find the main hotel. If I could, though, I’ll offer this recollection of an AHA in NYC back in the early ’70s, my first. No interviews, too early in the process to really be there, but an excuse to visit friends in the city and see what it was about. I walked into a 10-acre ballroom with a panel that had no historians, only what would later be called “New York Intellectuals.” As I arrived a young–but older than me–woman on the panel strode to the microphone and called Nat Hentoff (also on the dias) a name that shocked the imagination, repeated it several times, and he fled the stage. I wandered out in a daze and am still not sure if I was just imagining it. Those were the daze.

    Hentoff, by the way, just got laid off by the _Village Voice_. Maybe he wasn’t even on the program that year?! I guess, as another New York Intellectual (Yogi Berra) once said, “you could look it up…”

  4. Historiann on 02 Jan 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Indyanna–what was the name she called him? You must divulge!

    In any case, for those of you who are just passing through: I’ve been reliably informed by one of my Urban Cowboys that the lobby of the main conference hotel has free wifi, so there’s no excuse NOT to report back to Historiann!

  5. Indyanna on 02 Jan 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    I wouldn’t put it on the air; certainly not this air. But let’s say it related to what Linda Lovelace was to become famous for only a year or two later. She said this three or four times! This is assuming that it actually happened, or that it wasn’t somebody in the audience calling out Nat King Cole, or that it wasn’t the American Heart Association’s cardiology conference or something like that. It was a looooong time ago. And I was shocked, but I was already shocked. This was only a few months after our grad. chair called all the grad. students in and informed us that there probably wouldn’t be any jobs available until oh, maybe, nineteen-eighty five or so.

    Since this was probably no more than six months before the iconic first issue of Ms. hit the stands, with Gloria Steinem on the cover, I’m guessing that just before I walked into the room he said something like… Well, this takes us back to the problem that the cultural left had with gender issues coming out of Vietnam and into the Watergate era.

  6. Historiann on 02 Jan 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    Wow. I’ve NEVER had anything remotely that exciting or interesting happen at a conference. (Well, there was that time that Gordon Wood and Joyce Applebee got into it back at an Institute conference in Williamsburg in 1993–or am I imagining this?)

    I do recall a tenured faculty person in the audience rising to dramatically tear a grad student’s paper in two at the conclusion of an old Philadelphia Center friday seminar back in 1992 or so, and doing it in front of the paper’s author so that he could see it. (You may remember this Indyanna.)

    No one actually used the word C*&^ucker, although it may have been running through their minds.

    Ahhh, memories…

  7. John S. on 02 Jan 2009 at 4:50 pm #

    Wow–did that actually happen at an Institute conference? Is that related to the forum on Wood’s _Radicalism_ that appeared in the WMQ soon afterward? That forum was so remarkably contentious that I would have loved to have seen it happen in person.

    Now I shall have to dig into the records to see if I can figure out whose paper got so publicly shredded at the old PCEAS. I have witnessed one seminar session at the Center that had a moment almost as dramatic. At one session a scholar who felt her work had been misappropriated by the author of the seminar paper stood and read passages from the offending paper, followed by relevant passages from two of her articles. (And, indeed, the author had twisted the meaning of her articles around in order to make his point and criticize her work.) This was the opening question of a two hour discussion period. The odd thing was that the presenter had personally invited the aggrieved scholar to attend; presumably he did not anticipate this response.

    The tensest moment I have ever seen at a scholarly paper was a silent protest that occurred at a presentation on violence in early America. The presenter argued that we can see the value that early Americans placed on human life by examining changing rates of homicide, infanticide, and “feticide”–i.e., abortion. When asked to clarify this point, he reiterated that yes, cultures with higher rates of abortion place a lesser value on human life, hence his desire to track “feticide” to examine morality throughout American history. Much of the audience stood up at that point and silently walked out.

    Memories indeed…

  8. Indyanna on 02 Jan 2009 at 5:11 pm #

    Um, I was I,m pretty sure at both of those Philadelphia events. Indeed, I think I was guest moderating the first one, when the paper got torn in two, but missed that part because the presenter was being pretty wrangley as well.

    And I was definitely at the second one, sitting a couple of rows in front of the skirmish. When the protestor sat down hir partner stood up and continued the filibuster. The almost brand new fellows at that seminar huddled before the wine and cheese social hour and came up with a new rule: Never cite anybody who might still be alive. So far as I know, this one has been honored only in the breach.

    The Moose almost came down from over the fireplace and got into the scrum that day…

  9. Historiann on 02 Jan 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    Well, John S. and Indyanna–I’ll expect BOTH of you to send in your reports if you see, hear, or overhear anything like these events at the AHA this year.

    I can’t believe how placid and uncontentious my life in Colorado is now by comparison!

  10. John F. on 02 Jan 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    I too was at the MCEAS session that John S. is talking about, but I am dying to know more about the paper-ripping incident that Indyanna describes! I will be at the AHA on Sunday and Monday, but will be staying with my parents in North Jersey.

  11. Indyanna on 02 Jan 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    As best as I can remember I was preoccupied dealing with the presenter, who got so wound-up at the end that ze finished the seminar (the last minute or so) on hir feet. I didn’t specifically see the paper-shredding incident but was told by several that it was not just torn in half, but confettied and tossed in the air above the shredder’s head! (These tales do take on lives of their own). I did look up to see the shredder talking with the very senior prof. to hir left–one of the wise men of this seminar series–appealing for support in the flap. Ze was being noncommittal but placatory, sort of calming the waters.

    For those not familiar with this seminar series, it is famous for robust but civil discourse. The *very* occasional blowups, like the two referenced in this thread, are remembered forever as much because of their rarity as for their ferocity.

    I’m off in the morning, Historiann, to try to scare up some good copy. But we might have to settle for something as bland and mundane as that poor Brit guy in Atlanta two years ago who got taken to the pavement for jaywalking.

  12. dance on 04 Jan 2009 at 7:38 pm #

    I was at a panel on the whole Jefferson-Hemings DNA thing a while back, just after the scientific evidence came out, and it got a bit shirty. But that was open to the public, and I think it was the audience who were yelling and angry or near to tears, not the historians on the panel.

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