Weekly Wanderings: AHA FOMO Edition


▪ Four thousand historians descended on Denver this weekend for the annual American Historical Association (AHA) conference, but I wasn’t among them. Driven by a fear of missing out (FOMO), I went back and forth and back and forth about going to the conference, eventually deciding that I just don’t need to be there this year, no matter how much I wanted to go.* Yes, I could have met up with colleagues whom I don’t see frequently enough, gone to some panels for a shot of academic inspiration, and loaded myself up with more volumes to read in the book exhibit, but the appeal of those couldn’t outweigh the fact that what I really need right now is to save my money, stay home, and work on the books (yes, books; I’m writing two at once, because it’s going to be that kind of year) that are supposed to be done in time to make an appearance at the 2018 AHA book exhibit in Washington, D.C.  Besides, Denver is apparently just as cold and snowy as Ann Arbor is right now, so I’m not missing out on better weather by staying here.

* Nerdiest sentence ever written?

▪ I was interested in this blog post by Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed about a panel at the AHA considering the role of collaboration in historical scholarship. Unlike researchers in the sciences, economics, or political science, historians are expected to work alone, and publications produced in collaboration with other scholars don’t “count” when tenure review comes along. As a result, graduate students and early career researchers work in solitary splendor (or confinement) and generally continue doing so even after they pass through the gates of tenure. They might join forces with colleagues to produce a textbook or edited volume, but “real” historical scholarship—books driven by archival research—tends to have a single author’s name on the title page.

By sheer happenstance, both of the books I’m writing right now are collaborative ventures (in one case, I’m a co-author; in the second, I write words and an artist draws pictures to accompany them). Admittedly, neither of these books would be characterized as a research-driven monograph, though both involve mountains of research. And neither I nor either of my collaborators has a tenure-review board to worry about. Still, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy working with other scholars on projects and could imagine trying to produce a traditional scholarly book with someone else. I like bouncing ideas off another person and trading drafts of writing back and forth; having a co-author on a monograph could also widen the bounds of possible topics, if s/he has different language skills than I do and can access different archives. If more senior scholars were willing to have a go at these types of projects, their leading by example could make collaboration more possible for graduate students and young professors.

For me, the biggest potential negative to consider would probably be the perils of working with a male co-author, since research has shown that female scholars are often not given as much credit for their work when they collaborate with men (that research looks at tenure outcomes, but I hypothesize that women also come in second when people are mentally assigning credit for “whose book it is” even in casual conversation). I don’t know if that gender disparity came up in the AHA panel, and it’s not enough to deter me from working with men (again, I’m never going to be up for tenure), but it would be something to address if more scholars pursue collaborative projects.

▪ There’s no chance that men will get credit for the Winter issue of World Policy Journal, because it was entirely produced by women—from the issue’s guest editors down to the artist who drew the cover. I was invited to contribute an article on China to this special “Interrupted” issue and thank co-editor Lauren Bohn for offering me the opportunity. (And for anyone who doubts the power of Twitter, that’s where Lauren and I “met” months before she asked me to write this article.) The journal is paywalled, so you’ll need either institutional library access or a World Policy Journal subscription to read “Good Girls Revolt: The future of feminism in China.”

▪ After watching a lot of miniseries and episodes of HGTV shows throughout the fall, I decided I wanted something long and meaty to sink my TV-viewing teeth into during the cold, dark winter months. I perused my options at Netflix and Amazon Prime and eventually settled on a re-watch of the complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. (Yes, even season 7.) I just started on Friday so I’m only a few episodes in, but ohhhhh, the ‘90s fashions. I’m so glad my high school had a uniform so I had fewer opportunities to wear choker necklaces, high-heeled clogs, and blouses over tank tops.

(I mean, I wore all of the above. But at least it was only a couple of days a week, versus all seven.)

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