Category Archives: American Studies Association

January 5, 2015, 12:47 pm

The Rules Were Not Suspended: What Happened at the AHA Business Meeting

grumpy_noYesterday afternoon the members of the American Historical Association (AHA) present at the business meeting were asked to take up several resolutions proposed by Historians Against the War (HAW). These resolutions proposed that the AHA condemn the state of Israel for alleged violations of academic freedom against both US and Palestinian scholars; and for attacks on research centers in Gaza last summer. You can read the resolutions here; you can read accounts of the meeting at History News Networkin my Twitter feed (I was sitting right behind Rick Shenkman, so I guess we were the press section) and in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The business meeting had been preceded by a session organized by the Mid-Atlantic Radical Historians Organization (MARHO). It too was organized late and was not on the program, although it was well publicized in the weeks leading up to the annual…

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January 28, 2014, 10:31 am

There Are More Than Two Sides To Everything


I welcome the broader observations about the current state of American Studies that Christopher Shea has made at the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Boycott Debate is Symptom of Broader Debate in American Studies,” 1/27/2014). However, I do regret the characterization of the ASA as split between, as he implies, progressive proponents of the boycott and “cultural conservatives.”

Why? In my view, this choice reinforces the views of the most vigorous participants in this conversation (including those who have become activist in their views that an academic organization has no business becoming activist) that there are only two “sides.” You can call them radical and conservative;  or perhaps you will want to characterize them as those whose faces are turned to an intellectual future and the angry traditionalists. In the dichotomies proposed, there is no middle ground, no place of in…

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November 21, 2013, 10:35 am

Blogging for Free Speech and Academic Freedom: The 1000th Post


Illustration by Ernest Hopf.

Given that my reply to one commenter had become post-length (look at the comments section of the prior post) I decided to make a few small edits and elevate it to the main page of the blog. I do so with a message to those opposing the resolution for an academic boycott of Israel at #2013ASA: stop throwing stones, and focus. The principles of free speech and academic freedom are, I believe, positive and compelling reaons to defeat an American Studies Association (ASA) boycott of Israel based on the principles laid out by PACBI. Questioning the motives and ethical stances of fellow academics affiliated with BDS is not. I have been particularly concerned by unwarranted charges of antisemitism and racism, on this blog, in the academic #twittersphere.

I would also like to say…

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November 19, 2013, 1:09 pm

Burned-out, Dissenting and Staying Home: On Not Attending the ASA Annual Meeting

boyoboyI had not planned to attend this year’s American Studies Association Meeting, which is just as well. After I learned this week that a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel would be presented for discussion, I realized I need a time out from American Studies. Part of this is that the organization — which I have always loved, and still love, for its activism — has taken itself in an intellectual direction that I sometimes no longer even understand. This year’s meeting, for example, bears the theme, “Beyond the Logic of Debt: Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent.”

Does anyone but me look at this and say “Why does this one thing before the colon seem not to bear any relationship to the thing after the colon?” Speaking of colitis, some are getting it from next year’s CFP, which seems to deliberately mock the idea of scholarly meetings by arguing that conferences may …

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November 16, 2012, 12:30 am

From The Mail Box: Reader Questions Whole Concept Of Academic Conferences

#2012ASA agreed to wait until after the election to deconstruct empire. Subsidize with tax dollars hasta pronto. Hillz

It’s very rare that I get a response to a post on academic conferences like this one. In the comment thread to yesterday’s post, archie_kelvin asks:

A long, long time ago, on the dear departed “Brainstorm” site, there was a long, long thread (in response to a post somewhat like TR’s) about attending an academic conference in a sunny clime, far away from the campuses of most attendees.

archie followed up with a bunch of questions, which I will attempt to answer (and yes, archie, my panel went very well today — thanks for asking.)

Aren’t these things just boondoggles, mini-vacations wholly or partly on somebody else’s tab?

All conferences, in all professions, are at least partly…

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November 14, 2012, 11:25 pm

At Thanksgiving, We Thank The Lord For American Studies

Binders full of academics are being disgorged at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the American Studies Association Annual Meeting. Good news: unlike many places in the Northeast, there is heat and hot water, and it’s about 80 degrees. Your favorite Radical, who spent this pre-convention day eating fish sandwiches at the beach, has an unexpectedly fantastic room at the Caribe Hilton, the conference headquarters. A Mad Man-ny styled place with 1960s retro furniture and a shower as big as some Manhattan apartments, it has a balcony and a view of the entire coastline.

Those of us who are checked in here had a fantasy about being able to slip in and out of panels, and in between go back to the beach. I was not the only person to design my convention-wear so that a bathing suit would fit comfortably underneath.  Alas, it is not to be: the actual meeting…

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October 21, 2011, 11:45 am

What Time Is It? It’s Time For The American Studies Association Meeting!

Cowabunga, Buffalo Bob!

Of course, ASA means something different as you age: it used to mean “Par-tay!!!” Now it mostly means jiggling a lot of appointments around the panel I am on so that I can do everything I need to do for my publishing life in fewer than two days.  The restrictions on partying are fine since I no longer drink much and the closer I get to the Big Sleep, the more I need to practice on a nightly basis.  My current conferencing style also means I am no longer using intellectual work to facilitate conference going, but just the opposite. Shrewder minds than mine understood this back in graduate school and they have the careers to prove it. In any case, there is only so much you can do over the interwebz and by conference call in the academic publishing biz :  some stuff still requires the good old face to face, as Bertie Wooster might have put it. (more…)

January 3, 2009, 12:05 pm

Wrap-up of AHA Day 1: The Radical Hasn’t Been To A Session Yet

And doesn’t really expect to. I’ll be lucky to make the book exhibit. Much as I would like to see some scholars perform their scholarship in groups, this year I am fated to see them do it one at a time in hotel rooms. Which is interesting, but not exactly the community experience one expects of a scholarly meeting. However, since Zenith seems to be one of the few schools that did not cancel its searches, it makes us minor celebrities. Thanks, (Not So) New President.

Yesterday’s highlights outside of the hotel room where my search committee was meeting included brisk walks up and down the Avenue of the Americas (quickest cutover to the Doubletree, where our interviews are being held, is on 47th street – that way you exchange the clots of tourists on Broadway who stop and take pictures of each other in front of the ESPN studios for the not much lighter, but moving crowds on Sixth…

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October 20, 2008, 12:26 pm

Go East, Old Radical: Home From the American Studies Association

I have spent much of my life going east, or going “out east”, as they used to say in southern Idaho, a place where I spent a large part of my youth. Going East is, of course, for those of us born and/or raised in the former English colonies, a consequence of having gone West in the first place. So now I am Back East (another quaint phrase from the Mountain States), in my comfortable remodeled nineteenth century clapboard house, determined to spend the day at home after having spent the weekend working for Zenith.

This is one of the few times I have attended a convention without attending either a panel or a party. For all my careful collation of the many events where the big American Studies programs host gatherings of the interdisciplinary clan, the combination of interviewing, the time change, the thin air, and a tendency of the bodily fluids to evaporate without even becoming sweat …

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February 17, 2008, 7:50 pm

Sticky Wiki

Cruising around the blogosphere as one does, and following link to link, I ended up on Academic Cog’s December post about the academic job wiki. My favorite Cog was upbraiding midnight raiders who erased sections of the wiki, claiming that they had done so as a “political act” to protest the oppressions of the job market. I agree with Miss Cog, mutilating the wiki was a mean thing to do, although I think it was probably a function of wiki-madness itself, perhaps enhanced by drink, that gave some jerk the idea that hir own rotten year on the job market could be made better by destabilizing other people’s peace of mind. Having never really thought much about this job market wiki before last year (when I stumbled upon it and, to my horror, found a colleague’s divorce detailed by a disappointed job hunter as the reason why s/he was given a job, purportedly by sympathetic friends, that…

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