From the Annual Meeting 2006 column of the October 2005 Perspectives

Presidential Sessions 2006: Nations, Nationalisms, and National Histories

AHA Staff, October 2005

History has always been important for the development of nations, which draw their identity from a real or imagined common past. At the same time, nations have been important for the development of historiography; nations shape the way historians draw their maps, arrange their books, and define their areas of specialization. But nations are problematic as well as powerful. The historian's task is to do justice to the significance of nations, nationalism, and national histories without accepting them uncritically; to explain them without explaining them away.

This year's presidential sessions critically examine the nation as a historical problem and a historiographical category. The Thursday afternoon session takes a global approach to the relationship between ethnic loyalties and civic institutions. On Friday morning, three papers illustrate issues in international history, an approach that builds upon but also extends the experience of individual nation states. On Friday afternoon, a roundtable of historians looks at "failed nationalisms," thus reminding us of the fragility and contingency of nation building. The two Saturday sessions focus on nations and nationalism in modern Europe, which has played a particularly important role in both national politics and national discourse. The Sunday sessions take a global perspective: first by looking at the way nations were represented at fairs and exhibitions, then by examining the international history of human rights.

In addition to these presidential sessions, a number of other presentations contribute to the annual meeting's central theme. Of particular interest are the three sessions (78, 98, 136) on the Scholars' Initiative in Yugoslavia, a project that confronts the troubled past and contested present of national questions in this region.

— James Sheehan

Thursday, January 5, 3:00–5:00 p.m.

1. Nationalism: Global Perspectives on the Civic/Ethnic Dichotomy—Roundtable

Marriott, Grand Ballroom Salon A

Chair: Yael Zerubavel, Rutgers University

  • China
    Prasenjit Duara, University of Chicago
  • United States/Canada
    Eric Kaufmann, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • East Central Europe
    Nancy Wingfield, Northern Illinois University
  • Central Asia
    Adeeb Khalid, Carleton College
  • Comparative Perspectives
    Aviel I. Roshwald, Georgetown University

Friday, January 6, 9:30–11:30 a.m.

22. New Directions in International History

Loews, Millennium Hall

Chair: Jeremi Suri, University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Gender, Domesticity, and International History
    Kristin L. Hoganson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • The Perils of Parsimony and the Pleasures of Perusing the Past: Gold Battles and Military Strategy in the Twentieth Century
    Francis J. Gavin, University of Texas at Austin
  • Diasporan Dialogues: African Perspectives in World History
    James H. Sweet, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Comment: Jeremi Suri

Friday, January 6, 2:30–4:30 p.m.

51. Failed Nationalisms: Winners and Losers in the History of Nationality—Roundtable

Loews, Millennium Hall

Sponsored by the AHA Research Division

Chair: Charles E. King, Georgetown University

Panel:

  • Nina Silber, Boston University
  • Mrinalini Sinha, Penn State University
  • Ronald G. Suny, University of Chicago
  • Timothy Snyder, Yale University
  • Larry Wolff, Boston College

Saturday, January 7, 9:30–11:30 a.m.

80. What Difference Does a Nation Make? Rethinking Religion in Nineteenth-Century Europe—Roundtable

Loews, Regency Ballroom Section B

Joint session with the American Catholic Historical Association

Chair: John W. Boyer, University of Chicago

Panel:

  • Marc H. Lerner, University of Mississippi
  • Ellen Astrid Koehler, University of California at Davis
  • Carol E. Harrison, University of South Carolina
  • Anthony J. Steinhoff, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Saturday, January 7, 2:30–4:30 p.m.

111. European Nations: Their Origins, Contexts, and Ideologies

Loews, Regency Ballroom Section B

Chair: Pieter M. Judson, Swarthmore College

  • The Discovery of Germany, 1500–1800
    Helmut W. Smith, Vanderbilt University
  • The National and the Maritime
    Linda Colley, Princeton University
  • National Sentiment and Nationalism in the Age of Democratic Revolutions
    David A. Bell, Johns Hopkins University
  • The Trap of Backwardness: How Does Eastern European Nationalism Fit?
    Maria N. Todorova, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Comment: Ivo Banac, Yale University

Sunday, January 8, 8:30–10:30 a.m.

141. Nations on Display? Exhibitions, World's Fairs, and the National Question, 1851–1958

Marriott, Grand Ballroom Salon C

Chair: Peter Hoffenberg, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

  • A Chosen People? The Soviet Union at the World's Fairs, 1937–58
    E. Anthony Swift, University of Essex
  • Of Menu Cards and Dinner at the Ming Tombs: China's Early Twentieth-Century Nation-Building in a Global Context
    Susan R. Fernsebner, University of Mary Washington
  • How to Use the Empire to Build the Nation, or the Congo at Belgian World's Fairs 1885–1958
    Matthew G. Stanard, Indiana University
  • The City of Algiers and the 1900 Paris World's Fair
    Nancy Lee Turpin, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Exhibitions, World's Fairs, and Nationalism: A Historiographical Reflection since the Crystal Palace
    Peter Hoffenberg

Comment: The Audience

Sunday, January 8, 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

170. An Atlantic History of Rights

Loews, Regency Ballroom Section B

Chair: Philip D. Morgan, Johns Hopkins University

  • An Enslaved Enlightenment: Re-Thinking the Intellectual History of the French Atlantic
    Laurent Dubois, Michigan State University
  • Public Rights and Private Commerce: A Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Creole Itinerary
    Rebecca J. Scott, University of Michigan

Comment: Philip D. Morgan

Of Particular Note

Scholars attending the annual meeting may find the following special sessions—organized by the Scholars' Initiative on Yugoslavia—also interesting.

Friday, Jan. 6: 2:30-4:30 p.m.

78. The Scholars' Initiative in Yugoslavia, Part I: History as a Destructive Force in Multiethnic Societies

Loews, Washington Room C

Saturday, Jan. 7: 9:30-11:30 a.m.

98. The Scholars' Initiative in Yugoslavia, Part 2: Its Design, Implementation, and Impact

Loews, Congress Room C

Saturday, Jan. 7: 2:30-4:30 p.m.

136. The Scholars' Initiative Team Reports, Part 3: Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies

Loews, Congress Room B