Call for Papers: Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

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See below.  I should add that I have not decided yet on the title of my presidential address.  I will not be speaking on Believe Me.  –JF

Call for Papers, Conference on Faith and History

Protest, Resistance and Transformation:
Agents of Change Past and Present
Baylor University
Waco, TX
October 7-10, 2020

Proposals for individual papers or panels should be sent to Lisa Clark Diller (ldiller@southern.edu) by April 1, 2020

Historians study and teach history because of the need to understand causation, contingency, and context. Christian scholars add to those traditional factors our faith-based reasons as well–a love for humans as made in the image of God, the mandate to care for Creation, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to tell the Truth. In a world in which our students, communities, churches and wider public are seeking to find ways to address the problems around them, historians can tell stories about the past that encourage, inform, and prophetically engage their audiences. We solicit papers that help us all do this better.

We welcome papers on a wide range of subjects. In this centennial of women in the US getting the right to vote, we are especially focused on those who worked to expand the boundaries of justice and freedom. However, we are also solicit papers on cross-disciplinary research, and the spiritual resources that are available to and possible because of Christian scholars. We hope to gain participation from those on the edges of the academy, including independent scholars, high school teachers, and graduate students.

Plenary Speakers:
Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise
Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne
John Fea, Believe Me: the Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

Conference of Faith and History Events Today

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The Conference on Faith and History is sponsoring several events today at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association.

This morning at 8:30 the Conference will host its annual breakfast reception.  There is no program for this event.  Stop by, grab some food, and enjoy some good conversation.

The CFH will hold two sessions today:

Educating for Activism: Historians and Politics in the Contemporary United States

What is Race: Historical and Theological Retrieval in American Christianity

Let the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association Begin!

30 Rock

I’m not as angry as I look in this picture!  🙂

Thousands of historians have converged on New York City this week for the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (and other history-related meetings).

I arrived in New York this afternoon, checked into my hotel, and headed straight to 30 Rockefeller Plaza where I chatted with NBC News Now anchor Alison Morris about the “Evangelicals for Trump” rally in Miami. (The video is not yet available).

After the interview I went back to my hotel and watched some of Trump’s speech in Miami and then attended the dinner board meeting of the Conference on Faith and History (CFH).  There are lot of good things happening in the CFH these days.  Stay tuned.  The Call for Papers for our 2020 Fall meeting at Baylor University in Waco will be released soon.

Tomorrow I am going to finally register for the AHA conference, spend some time in the book exhibit, and attend a breakfast and two sessions sponsored by the CFH.

If you could not make it to the conference this year, we’ve got you covered here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  We have several great correspondents reporting from the floor of the conference.

More to come…

Correspondents Wanted: 2020 AHA Meeting in New York City

AHA 2020 Cover

Is anyone interested in a writing a post or two (or three or four or five…) from the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (and/or related meetings) in New York from January 3-6, 2020?

Once again The Way of Improvement Leads Home is looking for writers/correspondents to report from the conference.

What am I hoping for out of these posts/reports? Frankly, anything. Let the spirit move you. I would love to get general observations, reports on sessions you attend, job market updates, or any other kind of stuff you might have the time or inclination to write about.

Feel free to be as creative and journalistic as you want. My only requirement is that you write material while the conference is in session. I will try to get stuff posted here in real time (or thereabouts) during the conference.

Though we can’t pay you for writing, we can introduce you, your writing, and your online presence to a several thousand readers a day. Our posts on the AHA are regularly picked up at other sites and blogs as well.

If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu and we can get the ball rolling. In the meantime, check out our posts from other conferences to get an idea of what some of our previous correspondents have done:

Megan Jones at AHA 2019

Brantley Gasaway at AHA 2018

Matt Lakemacher at AHA 2019

Zach Cote at AHA 2018

Mike Davis at AHA 2018

William Cossen from AHA 2017

Michael Bowen from AHA 2017

News from the Conference on Faith and History!

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As Vice-President of the Conference on Faith and History, I want to share some news.

FIRST, WE HAVE 2020 CONFERENCE DATES!

The CFH Biennial Meeting will take place October 7-October 10 at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

The Program will again include a Student Research Conference preceding the meeting.

Lisa Clark Diller (Southern Adventist University) will be the program chair.

More information will be forthcoming.

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SECOND, join us in New York City in January for three Conference on Faith and History-sponsored panels at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.  They are:

Lament as a Historical Practice

Friday, January 3, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Sheraton New York, Sugar Hill
Chair: Jay Green, Covenant College

Papers:
Frederick Douglass’s Fourth of July Speech and Lament in American History
Trisha D Posey, John Brown University
Justice Everywhere: The Prison to College Pipeline Program, Mass Incarceration, and Race Historical Continuity in Mississippi
Otis Pickett, Mississippi College
“How Long, O Lord?” A Historical Pedagogy of Lament
Timothy Fritz, Mount St. Mary’s University

Comment: The Audience

CFH Breakfast Reception

Saturday, January 4, 2020: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
New York Hilton, Green Room

Educating for Activism? Historians and Politics in the Contemporary United States

Saturday, January 4, 2020: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
New York Hilton, New York Room

Chair: Heath Carter, Princeton Theological Seminary

Speaker(s):
Beth Allison Barr, Baylor University
Cara Burnidge, University of Northern Iowa
Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Calvin College
Philipp Gollner, Goshen College
Luke E. Harlow, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Kathryn Lofton, Yale University
Jemar Tisby, University of Mississippi

Comment: The Audience

What Is Race? Historical and Theological Retrieval in American Christianity

Saturday, January 4, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
New York Hilton, New York Room

Chair: Rita Roberts, Scripps College

Papers:
Before Ontological Blackness: Race and the 18th-Century Black Calvinist Tradition
Steven Harris, Harvard University
“The Blood That Made America Great”: German Racial Thought in Southern Protestantism
Joel Iliff, Baylor University
Racism as Vice: Towards a Thomistic Account of an Ill-Defined Phenomenon
Nathan Cartagena, Wheaton College

Comment: The Audience

My Favorite Moment From the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society of the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR)

Yesterday I was part of a panel of early American historians who write op-eds and other public pieces for public consumption.  The panel included Jill Lepore, Erica Dunbar, Yoni Appelbaum, and Grantham Rao. I will blog about this panel later today, but I thought I would share an exchange that occurred during the session:

Me (during my presentation):  “I am an evangelical Christian.”  (This was relevant because I was talking about an op-ed I wrote about Trump in The Atlantic).

Audience member during Q&A, speaking to the standing-only crowd: “I think it is worth noting here that we have a real live evangelical in our midst.”

Me:  “Yes–and after the session I will be outside in a cage so you can all examine me more fully.”  (Yes, I can get a bit snarky).

Audience: Awkward laughter.

Jill Lepore (addressing the aforementioned audience member): I’m gonna stop you right there. This is not a session about John or his faith, it is about writing op-eds for public audiences.

Thanks, Jill.

I also appreciate all of the evangelicals and people of other Christian faiths who came up to me after the session and offered words of encouragement for my work.

More later.

Are Scholarly Conferences Accessible to Non-Academic Employers?

Conference

Ben Dumbauld, director of content at the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, does not think so.  I think his recent piece at The Chronicle of the Higher Education is worth considering.  Here is a taste:

I work for a nonprofit organization that produces curricular materials for K-12 teachers. I started there as a writer shortly before completing my dissertation and stayed on while I applied for faculty positions. In contrast with the quickly diminishing returns from my academic search, I flourished in my nonprofit job. I became a lead editor, and we soon determined that we needed to hire additional writers. We were looking for candidates who excelled at research skills, who could self-manage, and most important, who had the ability to see the academic potential of popular music and culture.

In other words, we wanted someone with graduate-level training in the humanities. I was certain that a scholarly conference would be a good place to look.

Doubt began creeping in, however, soon after the conference schedule was posted online. Scanning panel after panel of immensely specific, jargon-filled paper presentations, it suddenly dawned on me: I had no way to gauge where to begin looking for Ph.D.s who might fit our organization. In imagining my ideal candidate, I’d omitted a crucial quality: We needed someone who could translate research for a wide range of readers — and not just their fellow academics — in understandable and engaging ways.

Scholars are quite capable of doing that; they are teachers, after all. But reading the meeting’s agenda, I realized — embarrassingly, for the first time — that the quality we most needed was not one regularly prioritized at scholarly conferences.

It was too late to back out now. I had already bought my plane tickets and registered for the conference. So I packed my bags and highlighted the relatively few panels that focused on professional development and teaching, figuring that they would be the best places to find people curious about careers outside of academe.

Read the entire piece here.

SHEAR 2019

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On July 17, 2019 I will be in Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend the annual meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.  You can check out the program here.

I will be part of a roundtable titled “Early American History on the Opinion Page: Writing Historically-Minded Pieces for Contemporary Media.”  Jill Lepore (Harvard) will be presiding and my fellow panelists are Yoni Appelbaum (The Atlantic), Erica Armstrong Dunbar (Rutgers), and Gautham Rao (American University).

Here are a few other panels that caught my eye:

  • A “Presidential Plenary” on the United States in the wake of revolution that includes Annette Gordon-Reed, Frank Cogliano, Sarah Pearsall, Kathleen DuVal, and Rob Parkinson
  • A session on Federalist New York that includes a paper on Angelical (Schuyler) Church by Tom Cutterham
  • A session on religious disestablishment that features Jonathan Den Hartog, Brian Franklin, Rebecca Brenner, Elise Neal, and Johann Neem.
  • A session on the scholarship of the late Jan Lewis that includes talks by Carolyn Eastman, Peter Onuf, David Waldstreicher, and Nicole Eustace.
  • A session on “singular careers” in the new nation that includes papers by Seth Perry on Lorenzo Dow’s “eccentricity,” Steve Bullock on Parson Weems, and Jennifer Brady on “dramatic reading.”
  • A session on Joanne Freeman’s new book The Field of Blood.
  • A session on teaching “major topics to non-history students.”
  • A roundtable on politics in the 1790s that includes Rosemarie Zagarri, Sara Georgini, and Barbara Oberg.
  • A session on “telling the republic’s founding story in its moments of peril” that includes Seth Cotlar, Rob Parkinson, Honor Sachs, and Serena Zabin.
  • A session titled “Religiously Remembering the American Revolution” featuring Kate Carte, Tara Strauch, Adam Jortner, and J.L. Tomlin.

See you in Boston!

#OAH19: “Revisiting Reconstruction Political History”

Freedmen's Bureau 2Katie Lowe, a graduate student in American history at Towson University, is back from the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians where she was covering the conference for The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  In this conference dispatch, she writes about Session #AM2873: “Revisiting Reconstruction Political History.”  Read all of her OAH dispatches here.

Technically, the OAH meeting didn’t end until Sunday, but I had to catch a train, so my last panel on Saturday was #AM2873, “Revisiting Reconstruction Political History.” It was a good choice!

Corey Brooks (York College, PA) began with a discussion of Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Freedmen’s Bureau legislation and its eventual revision and passage. He argued that the bill represented a need for Congress to “advance meaningful liberty.” Brooks noted that there was a vocal minority, rooted in longstanding racial prejudice, against using a federal agency to help people of color. After Johnson’s initial veto, the legislation was changed in terms of appropriations, aid, and the distribution of claimed and abandoned land.

Hilary Green of the University of Alabama discussed efforts in Alabama to ensure education for African Americans during Reconstruction. These efforts were framed around the concept of “education as a vehicle for citizenship.” Delegates to Southern state conventions worked to have public education become part of state constitutions, with Alabama’s statute opening free education to all children ages 5-21. It became a right of citizens, including African Americans, to access education. This raised the question of who would be deemed worthy to gain education and the revolutionary nature of the conventions.  Texas and Arkansas had vague language in their statutes, without comment on freed or former slave status, while Florida’s statute made education accessible “without distinction or preference.” Race, class, and place continued to define access to education. Opposition from the South, philanthropy from the North, and the availability of resources could all affect the quality of schooling.

Kevin Adams of Kent State followed up with an examination of the far Western United States during Reconstruction..  He focused on the Army’s role in Reconstruction as part of a “chronological and geographically expansive approach.” Anti-Chinese mobs in the 1880’s triggered the use of the Army as posse comitatus in Seattle, even though this practice had officially ended years earlier.

Manisha Sinha of the University of Connecticut rounded out the panel with a paper reexamining Reconstruction with regard to the expansion of the state and the redefinition of American democracy to include political and civil rights for African Americans.  She began by suggesting that conventional wisdom, which paints abolitionists as political neophytes, is inaccurate. The political history of abolition and Reconstruction includes debates over the nature of the Constitution that led to political and social changes through government power.  Slaveholder influence in the U.S. government did not result in the growth of the state, but abolitionist work did. Radical Reconstruction could be seen as “rescuing the federal government from the clutches of the slave power.” She notes that suffrage and black citizenship were not new ideas during Reconstruction. The work of radical/political abolitionists remade constitutions to ensure the “[inscription] of black rights into law.” Sinha concluded by emphasizing the interaction between political citizenship and social justice.

The chair/commentator, Andrew Slap from East Tennessee State University, emphasized the “radical and revolutionary nature of Reconstruction” and suggested that the multiple approaches taken by the panel countered the idea of a “greater Reconstruction” that was too big to say anything meaningful. The floor was then opened to questions.

The first question was for Manisha Sinha.  How representative were radical abolitionists? She said that they were the “ideological vanguard” of the party, which is why they are important to the conversation and the formation of the idea of an American state responsible for the well-being of all of its citizens. Corey Brooks added that late wartime and post-war legislation had radical voices setting the parameters for congressional debate.

The next question was for Corey Brooks: Did the Freedmen’s Bureau have its own authority even after its reauthorization and realignment under the War Department?  The answer is yes. A follow up; “Why did Andrew Johnson veto the legislation? Brooks stated that Johnson claimed that eleven states did not have representation at the time and so he believed passage would be inappropriate.

Someone asked Kevin Adams if Washington was still a territory, how did federal authority extend there? He said that the Washington territory had asked for federal intervention.  Moreover, a broader view had emerged by this point giving government the power to intervene in all civil rights issues.

A member of the audience asked Hilary Green if the discussion over Reconstruction education extended to universities.   Yes, in South Carolina the University of South Carolina was desegregated. Some states agreed to build separate schools and others made provisions for students with special needs (blind, deaf).

Reflections on a First Visit to the Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians

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Katie Lowe, a graduate student in American history at Towson University, is back from the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians where she was covering the conference for The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  In this conference dispatch, she writes about what it was like to attend her first OAH.  Read all of her OAH dispatches here.

#OAH19 was the first big conference I’ve attended (and my first history conference), so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

I came in on Wednesday night to volunteer. I’m happy to report that about half a dozen people can stuff 2000 bags full of AHA swag in less than two hours, while another team prepares conference lanyards. I’m also happy to report that the OAH meeting team, which coordinated the volunteers, are wonderful people, and were quick to resolve any issues.

One of the things that surprised me is how loud the conference could be (and that’s before entering the book exhibit). I know it’s a cliché to think of historians as quiet (until they get into an academic dispute, of course), but I was not prepared for the volume.

I’m not completely sold on the panel format. I would really like to see the field become more accessible and engaging.  For me, this would mean a history conference in which fewer scholars read their papers at the audience. I realize that this would be a pretty big change for historians, but for now I would just appreciate more visuals or printed materials.  It would also be nice if presenters did not sigh upon learning that they have to use a microphone.  As far as the panel format itself, some sessions came together better than others, which I hear is not unusual.

One highlight: RIBBONS! (C’mon, you know you wanted a few).

My top takeaways are:

1) Redcaps are possibly angels.

2) Plan your day.  Know which panels you want to attend.

3) Be prepared to abandon all of your plans.

4) If you are an introvert, figure out where you can hide between sessions.

5) Don’t drink too much coffee!!

Overall, it was a great experience and I’m looking forward to next year.

Correspondents Wanted: 2019 OAH in Philadelphia

Philly Freedom

I know it is late in the game (the conference started today), but is anyone interested in writing a post or two (or three or four or five…) from the Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Philadelphia on April 4-7, 2019?

Once again The Way of Improvement Leads Home is looking for writers/correspondents to report from the conference.

What am I hoping for out of these posts/reports? Frankly, anything. Let the spirit move you. I would love to get general observations, reports on sessions you attend, job market updates, or any other kind of stuff you might have the time or inclination to write about.

Feel free to be as creative and journalistic as you want. My only requirement is that you write material while the conference is in session. I will try to get stuff posted here in real time (or thereabouts) during the conference.

Though we can’t pay you for writing, we can introduce you, your writing, and your online presence to a several thousand readers a day. Our posts on the AHA are regularly picked up at other sites and blogs as well.

If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu and we can get the ball rolling. In the meantime, check out our posts from other conferences to get an idea of what some of our previous correspondents have done:

2017 American Historical Association

2019 American Historical Association

2018 Organization of American Historians

I’m Headed to SHEAR This Year!

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That is the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.  It will be good to go back.  I haven’t been to SHEAR in close to a decade!  Here is my panel.  Thanks to Caitlin Fitz for the invite.

Roundtable: Early America on the Opinion Page – Writing Historically-Minded Pieces for Contemporary Media 

Chair:
Jill Lepore,  Harvard University/The New Yorker

Comments:
(Audience)

Panelists:

Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Rutgers University

John Fea, Messiah College

Gautham Rao, American University 

See you in Boston in July!

Critiquing Liberalism

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A map of Wendell Berry’s Port William

Over at The Front Porch Republic, Jeff Bilbro has a fascinating and brilliant review of a conference at Calvin College titled “Faith and Democracy in America: Christianity and Liberalism Rightly Understood.”

Here is a taste:

In early December, the Acton Institute and Calvin College’s Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics co-hosted a conference ambitiously titled “Faith and Democracy in America: Christianity and Liberalism Rightly Understood.” The dueling keynote titles caught my attention. Patrick Deneen was slated to give the first one: “Liberalism is Not Free: The Myths of Religious Liberty.” The next day, Jamie Smith would speak in defense of liberalism: “Thank God for Liberalism: An Alternative History Without Nostalgia.” Since I respect the work of both these scholars and have learned much from their writings, I made plans to attend. The conference didn’t disappoint, though I do wish the format would have allowed for a more genuine back-and-forth between Deneen and his critics. In what follows, I’ll try to avoid too much inside baseball and, rather than attempting to summarize all of the talks, will distill some of the central questions the conference raised for me.

Kristen Johnson, a professor at Western Seminary, articulated the conference’s animating questions when she asked whether Christians can find within a pluralistic space opportunities to live radically faithful lives. The danger, of course, is that a liberal, pluralistic space will so malform Christians that the distinctive character of a gospel-formed life is warped. In Smith’s book Awaiting the King he draws on Oliver O’Donovan to claim that “liberalism itself lives on borrowed capital and is only possible because of the dent of the gospel and the formative effects of Christian practices on Western societies” (17). But as liberalism draws down this moral (and, I would add, ecological) capital, can churches sustain the kinds of vibrant communities and institutions and practices necessary to form virtuous citizens, citizens whose first allegience is to the Kingdom of God? (I pursued this line of questioning further in my review of Smith’s book.)

Several of the speakers sidestepped these difficult questions by defending liberalism’s promises of equality and freedom without reckoning with the growing evidence that American liberalism is increasingly failing to deliver on these promises. Speakers such as Samuel Gregg, William Katerberg, Kristin Du Mez, and others pointed out that women and peasants and racial minorities were oppressed in pre-liberal social arrangements, as if that, in itself, answers Deneen’s critique of liberalism.

To this end, several potshots were lobbed at Wendell Berry as a nostalgic reactionary. It is much easier, however, to make fun of Berry for being nostalgic than it is to respond to his warning that our liberal way of life is causing irreparable ecological, cultural, and moral damage. (Even my three-year-old daughter has mastered the art of criticizing Berry: if I am too engrossed in my writing, she leans toward me and repeats “Wendell Berry is a bad dude,” knowing this is a sure way to get my attention.) Yet there are grave consequences when a culture forms its members to pursue wealth and happiness by cutting themselves loose from place and community and tradition. (One of these, as Comment recently explored, is loneliness, which is just one of liberalism’s fruits.)

These defenders of liberalism’s benefits, then, tend to criticize a straw man rather than actually responding to the arguments of people like Berry or Deneen. Indeed, Deneen himself explicitly acknowledges liberalism’s Christian origins and its good results:

Nor does reflecting upon what follows liberalism’s self-destruction imply that we must simply devise its opposite, or deny what was of great or enduring value in the achievements of liberalism. Liberalism’s appeal lies in its continuities with the deepest commitments of the Western political tradition, particularly efforts to secure liberty and human dignity through the constraint of tyranny, arbitrary rule, and oppression. In this regard, liberalism is rightly considered to be based on essential political commitments that were developed over centuries in classical and Christian thought and practice. (Why Liberalism Failed 19)

In other words, liberalism can be marked by the gospel and still be a political and cultural dead end. As Ivan Illich argued, corruptio optimi pessima.

By not acknowledging this possibility, these speakers largely failed to grapple with Deneen’s argument that liberalism is not, in fact, bringing about genuine freedom or just forms of society. Instead, it is sorting society into a small group of winners and a large group of losers. As Deneen puts it, “Society today has been organized around the Millian principle that ‘everything is allowed,’ at least so long as it does not result in measurable (mainly physical) harm. It is a society organized for the benefit of the strong” (148). Smith has elsewhere made a similar case himself, noting that “the dismantling of cultural jigs makes the poor especially vulnerable.”

Deneen’s book is a tour-de-force.  Berry, of course, is a prophet. 🙂  Both offer powerful critiques of liberalism.  It seems like their arguments and the implications of their arguments need to be engaged with something more than just an appeal to liberalism’s defense of oppressed groups.  I think we need less, not more, of this kind of identity politics, especially when it comes to any discussion about the future of democracy and the common good.  (And I include white identity politics in all of this, which is one of the reasons I  am such a critic of Trump).  Bilbro, Deneen, and Berry are drawing us to things that affect all of us as human beings–environmental degradation (and its impact on the poor), the destruction of places and local economies, the decline in vibrant communities defined by loving one’s neighbor over self-interest, and the “sorting of society between winners and losers,” to name a few. (Of course such universal human appeals like the ones I mentioned above are also part of the Enlightenment liberal project.  This is complicated).

Once could look at this another way.  Bilbro names conference speakers such as Samuel Gregg, William Katerberg, and Kristin Du Mez who “defended liberalism’s promises of equality of freedom without reckoning with the growing evidence that American liberalism increasingly failed to deliver on these promises.”  I was not at the conference, but I have read Du Mez’s paper (which is linked in Bilbro’s essay).  If liberalism has been so successful, then why is it necessary for Du Mez to ask “where are the women?”  I am sure Du Mez would respond to this question by saying that the work of liberalism is not yet done.  Or perhaps she would point to some of the limits of liberalism.  But it does sound like she believes that the liberal democratic order is still the best hope of progress for women and other oppressed groups.  And there’s the rub.  Bilbro, Deneen, Berry (and I would add others like Geneva College’s Eric Miller, Syracuse’s Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, or Pomona College’s Susan McWilliams to this list) do not think liberalism is, ironically, our best path forward.

Read Bilbro’s piece here.

Still Looking for Correspondents: 2019 American Historical Association meeting in Chicago

AHA 2019

Second call:

Is anyone interested in a writing a post or two (or three or four or five…) from the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago from January 3-6, 2019?

Once again The Way of Improvement Leads Home is looking for writers/correspondents to report from the conference.

What am I hoping for out of these posts/reports? Frankly, anything. Let the spirit move you. I would love to get general observations, reports on sessions you attend, job market updates, or any other kind of stuff you might have the time or inclination to write about.

Feel free to be as creative and journalistic as you want. My only requirement is that you write material while the conference is in session. I will try to get stuff posted here in real time (or thereabouts) during the conference.

Though we can’t pay you for writing, we can introduce you, your writing, and your online presence to a several thousand readers a day. Our posts on the AHA are regularly picked up at other sites and blogs as well.

If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu and we can get the ball rolling. In the meantime, check out our posts from other conferences to get an idea of what some of our previous correspondents have done:

2017 American Historical Association

2016 American Historical Association

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast at Harvard’s “Sound Education” Conference

Podcast Conference 2

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast co-host and producer Drew Hermeling is in Cambridge, Massachusetts this weekend.  He is doing a presentation on the podcast at Sound Education: A Conference for Educational Podcasts and Listeners.  Harvard University is hosting the event.

Here is a description of his session:

Seeing Early America Everywhere: Connecting Eighteenth-Century History to Unexpected Places with Andrew Hermeling (The Way of Improvement Leads Home)
@ Divinity Hall, Room 106

Colonial Puritans and Colin Kaepernick. Mount Vernon and Mar-a-Lago. Eighteenth-century midwifery and Obamacare. These may seem like odd connections, but in their efforts to prove that #everythinghasahistory, early American historians and podcasters John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling regularly demonstrate that today’s hot-button issues have eighteenth-century antecedents. If you look close enough, you can see early America everywhere.

There are some great podcasters at Harvard this weekend.  Here are a few that caught my attention:

Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace.  (Listen to our interview with Nate in Episode 6 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Ed O’Donnell of In the Past Lane

Blair Hodges of the Maxwell Institute Podcast

Marshal Poe of New Books Network

Liz Covart of Ben Franklin’s World (Listen to our interview with Liz in Episode 24 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Dan Carlin of Hardcore History

We will try to get Drew to write a report of the conference and post it here.  Stay tuned.

Podcast Conference 1

It looks like Drew is playing to a good crowd

Will You Be Attending the Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History in October?

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I hope so.  October 4-6 in Grand Rapids, MI

Our keynote speakers are Margaret Bendroth, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Beth Allison Barr, and Robert Orsi.

Other historians on the program include: Joel Carpenter, John Woodbridge, Brad Gundlach, Steven Keillor, Timothy Hall, Ted Davis, Jared Burkholder, David Swartz, Scott Culpepper, Trisha Posey, Fred Jordan, Bernardo Michael, Chris Gehrz, Jon Boyd, Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Ron Wells, John Turner, Amy Easton-Flake, Rachel Cope, Fred Buettler, Mike Kugler, Michael Hammond, Eric Miller, Jeff Bilbro, Timothy Gloege, Dwight Brautigham, Rick Kennedy, Richard Gamble, Elesha Coffman, Karen Johnson, Douglas Howard, Anthony Minnema, Amy Poppinga, Ron Rittgers, John Giggie, Jemar Tisby, Beth Barton Schweiger, Jonathan Den Hartog, Jennifer Hevelone-Harper, Glenn Sanders, Janine Giordano Drake, Andrea Turpin, George Marsden, William Katerberg, John Haas, James LaGrand, Paul Harvey, John Wilsey, Michael Lee, Brian Franklin, Heath Carter, Cara Burnidge, Jay Case, Katherine van Liere, Dale Van Kley, Luke Harlow, Jeanne Petit, Lisa Clark Diller, Daniel Williams, Darryl Hart, Tal Howard, Nancy Koester, Tracy McKenzie, John Fry, Catherine O’Donnell, Jay Green, Don Yerxa, Patrick Connelly, Otis Pickett, Emily Conroy-Krutz, Mark Edwards, Lauren Turek, Devin Manzullo-Thomas, Jesse Curtis, Rebecca Koerselman, Bill Svelmoe, Una Cadegan, Jill Titus, Kent Whitworth, Susan Fletcher, Bob Beatty, Seth Perry.

There will also be tours of the Meeter Center at Calvin College and a trip to the Gerald Ford Museum in downtown Grand Rapids.

Get all the information you need here.

OAH 2018 Dispatch: Digital History

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Messiah College students engaged in the Digital Harrisburg Initiative

We are pleased to add this dispatch from Gabriel Loiacono to our coverage of the 2018 meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Sacramento. Gabe is Associate Professor of History and Director of the University Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and is currently writing a book tentatively titled: “Five Lives Shaped by the Poor Law: Stories of Welfare in the Early Republic.”  Gabe writes:

This dispatch is about two digital history panels. I had a wonderful conference overall, including my own panel, “Beyond Northern Exceptionalism” (#AM2347). I will say nothing about that panel except that its genesis was on this blog when I read an interview with my co-panelist Christy Clark-Pujara about her book Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island. I read the interview and the book, reached out to Christy, and with Chad Montrie, Stephen Kantrowitz, and Sharon Romeo, we had a thoroughly enjoyable panel.

Now on to Digital History….

Giddiness and Guilt. I alternate between those two sensations when using digitized primary sources for my research and writing. The OAH panel “Consequences of Digital Technologies for History: A Roundtable Discussion on the Digital Future of the Historian’s Craft” (#AM2675) helped me to think about why that is. Panelist Lara Putnam caused much introspection in the audience when she said, and I paraphrase: “if you are feeling shameful about having used digitized sources, and that’s why you’re not citing the sources’ digital formats, we need to talk about that.” I, for one, have felt that shame and this panel helped me to think about why.

Panelists Andreas Fickers, Lara Putnam, Jason Rhody, and Jennifer Guiliano offered really thoughtful critiques about how, precisely, primary sources and the historian’s craft are changed by digitization. Fickers emphasized how we really need to think about the digital tools we use, how search engines are not neutral, and how sources are manipulated in the process of digitization. He offers a model of “thinkering,” thinking while tinkering, in order to come up with updated methodologies to fit our updated tools. Putnam pointed out how there have always been problems with how our sources are collected, preserved, and found, but some problems are new, like algorithmic bias. Now is the moment to “retro-engineer” old problems while thinking about new ones.

Putnam also pointed to what is lost in moving from the “analog” methods of finding and reading an old newspaper, and the digital method of encountering it as a search result. In particular, much of the contextual information about the newspaper, from other issues to what the rest of the issue says to where you can find this newspaper can disappear in a digital search. Rhody and Guiliano both referenced the ethics of google searches and Guiliano called into question the ethics of ancestry.com’s business model. Leaning on the work of communications studies scholar Safiya Noble (see Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism), they underlined how google searches of women or people color often turn up biased results. To what extent do biased results shape our and our students’ historical research? Moreover, how are historians of our period going to cope with using billions of tweets as sources?

The panelists only began to answer these questions. Guiliano warned that we better start learning statistical methods and how algorithms work. All underlined how important it is that we develop some methodology that takes into account the differences that digital tools make in our research and understanding.

This Digital History panel had my mental wheels spinning, and I decided to take in the next session in that room: “Teaching Historical Literacy in the Digital Age” (#AM2581). To my surprise, the rest of the audience was totally different, which was too bad. These panels spoke to the same big questions and there could have been a rich inter-panel conversation had more people listened to both. Four two-year college professors and one high school teacher made up this panel: Abigail Feely, Chris Padgett, Elise Robison, Rob Marchie, and Sara Ball. Where the first panel focused on theory and research methodology, this panel focused on the practice of teaching. The teaching expertise of the panelists shone in one after another example of how to harness digital platforms for teaching and how to help students think critically about digital sources. One of my favorites was to assign students to critique a website or even a google search in terms of what was missing and how dated or well-rounded the sources behind these digital resources were. Another favorite was to ask students to take digital photos of something (such as the suburb nearby) before students even knew they would be focusing on Levittown the following week.

Perhaps the single most exciting point I took from this panel was that historians’ skills are precisely the skills that students need to navigate the digital age. Evaluating the source (archival or digital) that you are looking at is what we teach. Likewise, building up context and the ability to take apart the argument being presented to you are skills that we teach! This was an exciting clarion call for us historians. Let’s tackle these new problems in research and teaching with our old methodologies, and develop new methodologies for new sources.

There were other digital history panels that I could not make. I bet those were good too. What an exciting series of issues to tackle at the OAH.