Publication Date

August 13, 2014

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, News, Perspectives Daily



AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Todayfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Ruth Ben-GhiatRuth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of Italian studies and history at New York University. She lives in New York, New York, and has been a member since 1990.

Current school or Alma maters: New York University

Fields of interest: 20th-century European and Italian political and cultural history; World War I & II; empires, Fascism, Italian cinema

When did you first develop an interest in history?

At UCLA, studying with Robert Wohl. I did some archival research for a senior honors thesis on German émigrés to Southern California and was hooked.

What projects are you working on currently?

Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema is forthcoming in January 2015 ( I am working on a new book, Prisoners of War: Italians in French, German, and British Captivity, 1940-1950. The book Italian Mobilities (co-edited with Stephanie Malia Hom) is under contract with Routledge.

Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how? 

I have always been interested in cultural history, but having a joint appointment in Italian Studies has moved me further into the realm of culture and cinema. Empire is a newer interest: when I was in graduate school, no one talked about Italy having colonies, and it has been through my investigations of Italian imperialism that I’ve become immersed in the study of empire in general. My forthcoming book brings these interests together.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?

Too many to think of just one…

What do you value most about the history profession?

Educating others about the importance of the past, and how it can be relevant in their lives today. This is the premise of the Opinion series “World War I” I guest-edited in June—July 2014.

Why did you join the AHA?

To feel part of a professional community.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?

The delight of running into old friends and colleagues and going for an impromptu coffee or drink; the excitement of hearing a paper that opens up new lines of inquiry; the first time I interviewed others, as an assistant professor, rather than being interviewed; locking myself out of my room while wearing pajamas, and realizing that the random passerby I asked for help was someone who would be interviewing me later that day…

Other than history, what are you passionate about?

Yoga, movies, electronica; organizing events that bring interesting people together.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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