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It’s Safe To Go Back To the Annual Meeting; A Radical Guide To Days 1 and 2 of The 2011 AHA

January 5, 2011, 10:34 pm

I just want to say:  gays were not involved in logo design or color choice.

Last year there was quite a hullabaloo about the American Historical Annual Meeting out in San Diego. Doug Manchester, who owns the hotel the AHA chose, had given gobs of money to Prop 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative.  He also got a lot of that money by running a union-free work place.  It was what you would call a lose-lose choice for the AHA, and resulted in a lot of people flying out there to picket, and a lot of other people having to give their papers by sneaking in and out hidden in laundry trucks.  (No, not Really!  That was a joke!)  This year there are no worries: you can come into the hotel without worrying that you will have to cross a queer picket line, or worse, that the hotel bar is off limits to Good People.  We historians are meeting in the People’s Republic of Boston, a city that is unionized up the yin-yang and where everyone is free to gay marry.  Go here to find out how to gay marry while you are in town; or slip over the Connecticut border and do it there!

But maybe you have never been to an Annual Meeting, you are a graduate student, and you aren’t sure what to do after you gay marry.  Sure, you can run around to cool panels with famous people on them, and you should definitely go to your friends’ papers and show up at your own panel.  But what else?  Read on:  I can’t link everything worthwhile on this great program, but here are a few that caught my eye in the first 48 hours.

Thursday there are some great teaching workshops going on all day. You don’t have to be very far along in your grad school career to attend one or more of these since they could keep the first few years of your teaching career from being a confusing hell.  Try How to Create An Undergraduate Course and How To Become An Effective Lecturer on for size, as well as Wise Use of the Methods Course in the afternoon.  Hint:  for those of you with conference interviews, attending these workshops is a bonus, since it might give you some ideas that would allow you to take the teaching part of your interview in a direction that is new and unexpected.  Imagine a conversation that begins with you saying, “Yesterday I heard Derek Musgrove talking about an interesting technique that I would like to try out.  For the survey, I think I would tweak it a little (blah, blah, blah.”)

Thursday afternoon?  How about, instead of reading on this blog that, hypothetically, it would be great if historians were trained for careers other than teaching, find out what those careers already look like at Careers in History:  The Variety Of The Profession.

Friday at 9:00 A.M. the Book Exhibit opens.  This is a critical venue for meeting, greeting, and being introduced to others.  Remember the Radical Rules of the Road when in mixed company:

  • Greet your graduate mentors but do not cling to them.  In fact it is best, when you see them, to look as though you have somewhere very important to be.  Practice saying into the mirror:  “Gosh, it’s really great to run into you — I’m off to the Chapel Hill booth to meet up with a friend/an editor/someone on my panel.  Have a great meeting!”  Only break this rule if they happen to be with someone very important in your field, in which case, keep a keen eye out for an introduction.  Count slowly to five in your head:  if the introduction is not forthcoming, skate out of there.
  • Leave any and everyone before they leave you.  If you see someone’s eyes drifting over your shoulder, even slightly, say warmly:  “I’ve really got to run — so nice to have had a chance to say hello,” then skate.
  • If there is someone you know, but are unsure whether to greet or not, casually pick up a book and leaf through it.  If said person greets you, look very surprised and say: “OmygodIcan’tbelieveIdidn’t see you!”
  • If someone important calls you by the wrong name, let them.  If they do it twice, correct them.  If they keep doing it, forget it. There is one historian, who will remain nameless, who has greeted me for twenty five years as if I were Isabel V. Hull of Cornell, and I no longer correct her. 
  • If you run into someone you just did a hotel room interview with, you don’t have to act like you are employed by an escort service and pretend you have never met them.  Smile and nod; if you are close enough to speak say hello and say you had a good time in the interview.  Even if you didn’t.  
  • Have one sentence to say about your dissertation if a senior scholar asks.  One.  “I’m writing about the transgender community in Havana after the Cuban Revolution,” for example. Most people are just asking to be polite, although in the rare instance that the person really is interested in it, be conversational — do not launch into your interview speech.
  • Never, never, never ask a senior scholar what s/he is working on unless you are dinner partners.  Your just-to-be-polite question is:  “Are you having a good meeting?”
  • Check compulsively, but discreetly, to make sure your fly is not open. 

At 9:30 Friday, there is a workshop on interviewing.  I cannot stress enough how important this workshop is, particularly for those of you who are not yet on the job market.  Interviewing is not just about saying, doing and wearing the right things, although it is that.  It is about reading your audience and responding to the questions that are actually asked while delivering the information you want your interviewers to have.  Much of the workshop consists of mock interviews held in a large ballroom that is not unlike the gang interviewing room in the basement where you might, one day, actually be interviewed.  The people who pose as interviewers are kind and helpful, and will honestly critique your performance.

In the same time slot is Getting A Job At A Community College, which is unfortunate.  But if you have been on the market for several years, if you realize that teaching is your bag, if you are part of an academic couple — why not find out?  And learn a little more about
the kind of institution where the majority of students start their college career?

Other Friday events that look promising are the International History publishing roundtable, which has an all-star cast, including Susan Ferber of Oxford University Press; Social Science Research Council info session; Revisiting the Teaching of Religious History

And of course, if you want to meet Tenured Radical go here.  Women historians and feminists of all genders will want to attend the Coordinating Council for Women in History reception. 

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