Research Division 2009

by Iris Berger

As you enter into this position as a new vice president, you quickly discover that the AHA Research Division serves as a bit of a catch-all. The Division is supposed to promote historical research and its dissemination, but has relatively few tools to do so. This can be because the Division oversees the work of essentially autonomous bodies, such as the American Historical Review and the meeting Program Committee, or because the best ideas are often limited by the Association’s resources.

Despite that, we are moving forward on some ideas for new pamphlet series and panels for forthcoming meetings, and we are looking into collaborative projects with other organizations to help extend our mission.

After considering a broad range of topics, the division is currently developing the idea of a series on regionalism proposed by AHA Council member Prasenjit Duara. We feel this topic will allow us to incorporate a wide range of historical subjects, such as trade, culture, movement of populations, and relations between urban spaces. Members of the Division have also discussed the feasibility of a pamphlet or series on food history, and will be looking to develop some sessions at the 2011 Annual Meeting as a starting point for the idea. Members of the Division are also exploring plans for a book on history publishing coupled with a new section on the AHA web site devoted to history publishing to be updated regularly.  The idea is to address questions about using materials from a book for articles, the differences between a first and second book, and what publishers require for publication.

The Division also worked with other organizations to increase its commitment to serve as the principal home for issues of advocacy on historical issues and address its concerns about the digitization of copyrighted materials.  The Division works closely with the National Coalition for History on advocacy questions, and we have greatly benefited from the good work of its director, Lee White. We also continue to address concerns about the digitization of copyrighted materials, especially in recent controversies about Google Books and Paper of Record, and have benefited from assistance from the Association of Research Libraries and the AHA’s Task Force on Intellectual Property.

In 2009 the Division and its staff worked extensively on organizing panels for the 2010 Annual Meeting in San Diego. This work resulted in eight sessions on the program ranging from discussions of the future of print in the digital age to the future of doctoral programs in history. We also put together three sessions for the special workshop on same-sex marriage issues. Looking ahead, we are considering co-sponsoring panels on how to assess and analyze history and other humanities disciplines, how to publish history, and a number of more specialized and anniversary sessions.

Finally, we believe that an important part of the work of the Division is to support the development of new research. We are discussing whether and how we might fund young scholars to attend international conferences and considered whether the Association could reproduce a discontinued ACLS program that provided funds.  We look forward to exploring opportunities that might make this a reality.