The AHA is set to go in a few weeks in San Diego, CA. I’m happy, actually, that its in southern California this year instead of the more frequent northern climes. (Next year, unfortunately, it’s back to the northeast and Boston.)The History Department at UT, Knoxville has a few professors and a grad student presenting at the AHA this year. Here’s the list:
Jay Rubenstein, Knowing, and Not Knowing, Your Enemy: Changing Attitudes toward Islam during the Crusade Era, Christian-Muslim Relations in the Age of the Crusades: Toward a Synthesis. AHA Session 56, Medieval Academy of America 2.
Travis J. Hardy (grad student), “It Is the Indescribable Consanguinity of Race …”: Race as the Foundation for the U.S.-Australian Relationship in World War II and the Early Cold War. Allies of a Kind: The United States, Australia, and the Pacific in the Twentieth Century. AHA Session 223.
Graciela Cabana (Anthropology), Genetics, Identity, and Heritage in Argentina. History and the Roaming Genome. AHA Session 47.
Thomas Burman, Chair of the panel: Popes, Merchants, Mercenaries, and the Medieval Mediterranean. AHA Session 154. Medieval Academy of America 5.
We’re also interviewing for two positions, which is pretty exciting given current economy. There will be a whole slew of people there for interviewing. Last year we were able to make one hire, and I sat on that committee. It was exhausting, but also in its own way fun to talk to a bunch of candidates and hear about what people are doing in an area pretty far out of my field. I have real mixed feelings about the AHA and the interview process at is currently stands in the profession. In part, I think it’s unfair to put the burden of conference costs on unemployed graduate students who may, in a year like this, have to travel to an expensive city for one or two interviews. The price of such a trip can easily approach $750-1000. Only in academia. Grad students form one of the lowest paid elements in the higher ed establishment (above only adjuncts), often do a lot of teaching (though that’s not the case at UTK), and often don’t receive any benefits like health insurance. Yes, despite those realities they are being “apprenticed” into the profession. But, in order to make it over that hump, they have to get to the AHA interview. There is utility in seeing people in person, seeing how they act and articulate their research and teaching interests in a highly pressured situation. But, at the same time, the reality of that situation is so artificial relative to what we do on a day-to-day basis. Is it better than video or phone interviewing? I’m not certain. But at least in those instances, there are not inordinate travel costs to be born by poor grad students desperate for a job! There must be some utility to alternative interview processes, because many places are now trying to get a jump on the annual conference interview ritual in order to poach the best candidates.
Regardless, going to the AHA is always a bizarre experience. There is this mix of palatable fear and loathing around the job center and in the suite hallways, full of men and women wearing ill-fitting suits with sweaty palms new leather portfolios. But, especially for Latin Americanists, there are great panels to attend. The Conference on Latin American History gets free meeting space from the AHA as an affiliated association, and as such the AHA has become one of the best places to go hear about new and interesting work. And this year, I’m also looking forward to the few digital panels that are on tap. As Dan Cohen mentions here, it is a little disappointing how few those panels are. But, those few do look to be really good.
Speaking of digital stuff- there is an official twitter hashtag for the conference: #AHA2010. I’m going to try to cover my AHA experience this year on twitter (@parezcoydigo), assuming that I can get enough 3g bandwidth from the iphone.