From the 2010 Annual Meeting column of the September 2008 issue of Perspectives on History
Oceans, Islands, Continents
Theme for the 2010 Annual Meeting
The 2010 annual meeting convenes in San Diego, a modern center of research in the natural sciences, an ancient locus of Cahuilla and Kumeyaay settlement, a borderland between the United States and Mexico, a major base of the U.S. Navy, and a site of historical and continuing encounters between the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. The program's theme, "Oceans, Islands, Continents," invites AHA members to engage intellectually with our meeting venue, and to explore disciplinary developments that have brought history, geography, archaeology, anthropology, literature, and many other fields into vibrant conversation.
Our conceptions of the water that surrounds us and the land forms upon which we live owe as much to history and culture as to cosmology and geology. Not only routes and technologies of navigation, but also the very names we give to parts of the contiguous ocean that encircles the globe have varied over time. Nor have landforms proven much more solid. Geographers invented the "natural" distinction between islands and continents less than three hundred years ago; the boundaries separating Europe, Africa, and Asia—three "continents" sharing one landmass—have been contested for millennia; mapmakers conjoined North and South America as a single "New World" region into the 20th century. In short, oceans, islands, and continents are domains of history.
The Program Committee invites proposals that interpret the rubric of "Oceans, Islands, Continents" broadly. We seek panels exploring the history of seagoing peoples across all places and times, from the ancient mariners of Greece and Polynesia, through the ages of exploration and sail, to the late 20th-century invention of the "Pacific Rim." We invite analyses of continental societies from the Iroquois Confederacy and the Mali Empire to the Soviet Union. We welcome sessions mapping the environmental, scientific, cultural, economic, social, political, military, and religious dimensions of the past: histories not only of (and between) nations and empires, but also of trans-regional arenas—archipelagoes, littorals, watersheds, edges, and borderlands of all kinds. We encourage members to interrogate the dynamics of centers and peripheries, borders and citizenship, inclusion and exclusion, dominion, negotiation, and resistance.
We draw on a language of voyaging and encounter, seeking to explore how historical subjectivities are constituted, fantasies and ideologies projected, identities forged, transformed, and reinvented. Oceans might evoke narratives of movement and fluidity: the circulation of goods and ideas; the forced and voluntary migrations of peoples; the global transmission of power, faith, food resources, and disease. Islands could provoke explorations of communities and localisms, and the elucidation of networks and regions. Continents may help to define contests over nations and states, and registers of belonging or separation. Yet continents can also be seen in terms of mobility, oceans in terms of communities, islands in terms of contested territory. Each category contains and is defined by the others. All are shaped by specific events as well as by regimes of law, cultural practices, and historical constructions of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class.
Overall, "Oceans, Islands, Continents" invites explorations of scale, scope, and place in historical inquiry. These units of geography, authority, and imagination might be taken to symbolize the extension and reach of historical narratives. Which narratives are "macro" or "micro," major and minor, grand or intimate? Which histories travel, which remain rooted, and why? We invite works that cross boundaries in time and space, genre and method: creative explorations of history, fiction, poetry, film, and art. We offer these ideas not as boundary-markers but as nodal points in the broader streams of conversation the members of the AHA will bring to San Diego in January 2010.
Jane Kamensky (Brandeis University) and Matt K. Matsuda (Rutgers University at New Brunswick) are co-chairs of the 2010 Program Committee.
The 2010 Program Committee:
- Jane Kamensky, co-chair
- Matt K. Matsuda, co-chair
Rutgers University at New Brunswick
- David T. Garrett
- Emma D. Hipolito
UCLA History-Geography Project
- Kristin Hoganson
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Dorothy Ko
- Robert C. Ritchie
The Huntington Library
- Robert A. Rosenstone
California Institute of Technology
- Damon Salesa
University of Michigan
- Sudipta Sen
University of California at Davis
- Denise A. Spellberg
University of Texas at Austin
- Lynn M. Thomas
University of Washington.
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