From the 1999 Annual Meeting column in the November 1998 Perspectives
Program Committee Chairs Report on the 1999 Meeting
John Voll and Gary Kulik, November 1998
The program of the 1999 annual meeting in Washington, D.C., provides coverage of a broad range of topics in the standard formats. In addition, the Program Committee made a special effort to utilize the unique resources of Washington. Off-site sessions will be held at the National Digital Library (Library of Congress), the National Archives, the Holocaust Museum, the National Museum of African Art, and the Newseum. The Library of Congress will host a special reception highlighting the area studies reading rooms and other research facilities. There is a special session on issues regarding the National Archives and records preservation with the Archivist of the United States, John Carlin, and a panel on "The Region in American History" chaired by William Ferris of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The theme of "Migrations and Diasporas in History" is the topic of a rich variety of panels, beginning with the special plenary session on Thursday night. The session provides perspectives and critiques of current scholarship in the fields of migration and diaspora histories. The panel brings together major scholars in the field: Wang Gungwu of the National University of Singapore (Chinese diasporas and diasporas in world history), Colin Palmer of CUNY (African diasporas), Julia Clancy-Smith of the University of Arizona (Mediterranean diasporas in the 19th century), and Richard Hovanissian of UCLA (Armenian history). AHA president Joseph Miller of the University of Virginia will chair the plenary session. Throughout the rest of the annual meeting, there will be more than 30 panels that deal in some way with the topic of migration and diasporas. The topics of these sessions range from broadly theoretical (panels on "Global Approaches" and "3,000 Years of Migration in the Eurasian Steppe") to special case studies like "Diasporic Identities: The Case of Mauritius." The chronological coverage is equally broad, ranging from "Venetians Overseas in the Middle Ages" to contemporary experiences of "Identity in Returnee States" like Bosnia, Armenia, and Palestine. There is also coverage of more standard migration and diaspora subjects in Jewish history (6 sessions), African diaspora (6 sessions), and migration in U.S. history (11 sessions). Taken as a whole, the coverage of "Migration and Diasporas in History" represents what Program Committee member Claire Moses of the University of Maryland at College Park referred to as a major "conference within a conference."
The program includes much more than coverage of the theme. There are more than 12 panels directly related to teaching, with some special emphasis on the interests of precollege teachers. Ten sessions deal with concrete professional issues like "alternative careers for historians," the "state of publishing today," discussions of faculty and graduate student unionization, and the characteristics of a "good" history department. The AHA's new initiatives in coverage of area studies bore fruit with a number of good proposals resulting in 14 sessions covering Latin America, 10 with coverage of East Asia, 10 with coverage of Africa, and 8 covering Middle Eastern subjects.
Special anniversaries also receive important recognition. There are panels on Duke Ellington at 100, the bicentennial of the Neapolitan Republic, 50 years of relations between the People's Republic of China and the United States, and a special panel on the history of rural midwestern United States marking the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Agricultural History Society.
It is not possible to mention all of the sessions, but the committee worked hard to provide as comprehensive a coverage as possible. We have attempted to provide a balance of presentations by senior scholars and new scholars on subjects that range from issues of teaching and professional concerns to specialized presentations representing some of the best of the current scholarship in many of the major fields in the discipline. We look forward to an exciting meeting in Washington.
—John Voll (Georgetown University) is the 1999 Program Committee chair and Gary Kulik (Winterthur Museum) is the cochair.