Annual Meeting 2007

Meeting Theme: "Unstable Subjects: Practicing History in Unsettled Times"

Carolyn Brown and Barbara Welke, September 2005

From the totalizing and familiar frame of the nation-state that will be examined extensively in the 2006 AHA Annual Meeting, for the 2007 meeting we turn to history outside the nation-state. In historical terms, after all, the nation-state is a recent phenomenon; its future is unclear. The ancient, medieval, and early modern world span most of recorded human time. Their history is fundamental to capturing the diversity, contingency, and instability of human existence and community. Moreover, even in the 20th century, millions of people have lived and today continue to live constrained by the logic of the nation-state and yet do not share fully in the rights it promises. Political, economic, religious, and environmental changes of recent decades have destabilized ideas about human rights, conditions of citizenship, and national boundaries. More than ever, the current historical context, whether considering the historicization of identities long ignored, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, international disputes over history, national battles over history standards, or challenges to disciplinary boundaries, yields a sense of the instability of historical inquiry itself. This is the rich terrain—the dynamism permeating all historical periods, from the ancient to the modern—embraced in this year’s theme, "Unstable Subjects: Practicing History in Unsettled Times."

The Program Committee welcomes panels that explore the shifting boundaries of identity, community, and humanity. For example, we invite panels addressing the history and fluidity of racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, and gender identities, and of community and empire that bridge the traditional chronological divides of the historical discipline; panels exploring border disputes—cultural or territorial—and the creation of border-spanning identities and cosmopolitanism; panels considering the fragility of citizenship and its relationship to human rights, statelessness, displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, diasporic populations, and immigrants; panels that explore the history of capitalism from its earliest origins to the private, multinational corporation, as well as panels historicizing globalization as a process and interrogating the history of human, technological, and agricultural movement; and panels addressing the history of human rights, NGOs, and movements by native peoples for recognition. The theme "Unstable Subjects" also presents the opportunity to think about the stability of the physical context in which history takes place, which is itself historically constructed: a capacious environmental history that considers the changing physical environment and its relationship to the rise and fall of civilizations, environmental devastation, and global warming. We are interested in critical historical consideration of the instability of history itself as reflected in national standards debates, international disputes over history textbooks, and the search for truth as a path to reconciliation. We welcome "state of the field" panels that move across traditional chronological and geographic boundaries.

The topics listed here are offered as ideas at the beginning of a conversation. For all of these questions, and the many others you, the larger community of historians, will bring to this inquiry, we see special promise in and wish to encourage panels that cross chronological, geographic, and subject area boundaries.

2007 Program Committee

  • Carolyn Brown
    (Rutgers University-New Brunswick),
    co-chair
  • Rachel Fulton
    (Univ. of Chicago)
  • Kathleen Kean
    (Nicolet High School, Glendale, Wisc.)
  • Mark Peterson
    (Univ. of Iowa)
  • Barbara Welke
    (Univ. of Minnesota),
    co-chair
  • James B. Gardner
    (National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Inst.)
  • Louis A. Pérez, Jr. (Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • Eve Troutt Powell
    (Univ. of Georgia)
  • Vanessa Schwartz
    (Univ. of Southern California)
  • Craig Wilder
    (Dartmouth College)
  • Anand Yang
    (Univ. of Washington at Seattle)
  • Nicole Phelps
    (Univ. of Minnesota), Program Committee Assistant)