(See Part II of the wrap-up here.)
Historiann coming at you again from the High Plains Desert. I had planned to update the blog more frequently but was unable to do so, for reasons which will become apparent in the following wrap-up. It was a (mostly) great trip and all of the panels I saw were really interesting and useful. Here are some of the highlights (and a dramatic lowlight!):
- Thursday morning’s “State of the Field: Borderlands History in Early America,” featuring Juliana Barr, Jane Merritt, and Alan Taylor, with Susan Sleeper-Smith serving as chair. Merritt provided a detailed overview of post-Turnerian borderlands history, Barr’s comments focused on the problematic fact that “borders” still usually means fictitious borders on maps drawn in Paris, Madrid, and London instead of equally contested Native American geographies, and Taylor sounded the alarm that borderlands might become the next “Atlantic World”–a concept that loses its focus or explanatory power because everyone claims to be doing it. Sleeper-Smith’s summary comments noted the power of studies on gender and sexuality to illuminate connections between geographically and culturally different borderlands spaces, and she also confided to Historiann after the panel re: Taylor’s concern that “borderlands” is on its way to being the next “Atlantic World”: “It’s already happened.” Given that the theme of the conference was “History Without Boundaries,” that seems very likely!
- A longshoreman’s lunch of beer and oysters with Tenured Radical Thursday afternoon, at a tavern with an excellent view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Range.
- An private insider’s tour of Seattle fashion shopping with Stephanie M. H. Camp, late of the University of Washington and now at Rice University. She got a fab DvF wrap dress, and I got a fun spring/summer caftan-style dress and a spring raincoat. (We don’t see many raincoats for sale around these arid parts!)
- An eighteenth-century panel Friday afternoon, “Identifying Strangers and Regulating Migration in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World,” featuring a discussion of a forthcoming book by Cornelia Hughes Dayton and Sharon Salinger, Warning Out: Robert Love’s Search for Strangers in Pre-Revolutionary Boston,which argues against the prevailing historiography that views the warning out of “strangers” as harsh and exclusionary. Based on their close reading of a ledger kept by Robert Love, a sometime-tailor and retailer who was paid to stroll through the town and identify strangers, the authors argue that warning out strangers in the 1760s and 1770s was a means of permitting migrant laborers to seek work in town without making the town responsible for poor relief. Few people were ever actually escorted to the town line, because Boston served as the hub of a regional job market–monitoring the population of migrant laborers, rather than evicting them, was therefore the purpose of the warning-out system. Commenters Billy “the Red” Smith and immigration law professor Daniel Kanstroom weren’t having any of it, however. Smith sees great value in analyzing this record of 800 poor people, of course, but questions its larger argument and urges the authors to ruminate more on Love’s discretion in warning out some (only poor) people, but ignoring the middling and wealthy strangers in his midst, not to mention the huge proportion of “strangers” who were mariners–perhaps as much as 1/4 to 1/3 of all Boston migrants in these decades. Kanstroom was even more skeptical of the book’s larger argument, and drew many parallels to Kafkaesque modern immigration law. Panel Chair Elaine Forman Crane wanted to hear more about Love himself, as well as about the gendered aspects of warning out, since it was a majority of women from towns near Boston who were warned out, although single men were the majority of the immigrant laborers.
- My book was spontaneously mentioned and raved about at not one but two panels, and on one panel the raver didn’t even know I was in the audience. That was fun!
- Dinner with my soon-to-be fellow panelist Todd Romero was great, until shortly after I got back to my hotel room Friday night, when my dinner revisited in reverse, several times through the night. (Maybe the Boeuf Tartare was indeed a mistake?) My panel was at 8:30 a.m. the next morning, so I rallied. Todd looked pretty bad too, and reported that he had suffered the same symptoms all night long–he assumed it must have been the oysters he had. Then I ran into Tenured Radical again, and she reported the onset of the symptoms that Todd and I suffered 12 hours earlier–and I started thinking that I might in fact be the Typhoid Mary of 2009, since all of my friends seem to have caught whatever I was throwing. (But–I had lunch with TR more than 24 hours before Todd even arrived, so the timing didn’t make sense.) I then heard from others that several people associated with the OAH had suffered “food poisoning.” Nuts to that–I think it’s likelier that the OAH was a big incubator of Norovirus–let me know if any of you hear more evidence one way or the other about non-alcohol related barfing and diarrhea at the OAH. Bi-Co homegirl Bethel Saler bought me a bottle of Vitamin Water, and Todd and I soldiered on to participate in our roundtable.
- More on that, and on the lunchtime speech of the fabulous Mary Ryan, in my next update!
UPDATE, 3/29/09: You have got to read Tenured Radical’s hillarious story about her bout with the dread Norovirus. Let’s just say that she made quite a “splash!”