Publication Date

March 24, 2016

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, 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.

Sarah Abrevaya Stein is a professor of history and Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in Santa Monica, California, and has been a member since 2003.

Stein_SpotlightAlma maters: PhD, Stanford, 1999; MA, Stanford, 1995; BA, Brown, 1993

Fields of interest: modern Jewish; European and Mediterranean; empire, colonialism, and decolonization; and Sephardic

When did you first develop an interest in history?
I loved history as early as high school, when I eagerly exhausted the offerings of my excellent public school.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am now working on a book I am tentatively calling Family Papers: A Sephardi Journey through the Twentieth Century. Written for a general audience, this study will undertake a voyage through the intertwined histories of a single family, Sephardi Jewry, and the dramatic ruptures that transformed southeastern Europe and the Judeo-Spanish diaspora. This book will also trace the history of a collection, reflecting on how one family archive came to be built and preserved, and how it knit together a family even as the historic Sephardi heartland of southeastern Europe was unraveling.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
My interests are always shifting, as is my geographic focus, which is peripatetic. My first book was born out of an interest in print culture and empire: my second turned to global commerce, the ebbs and flows of trans-hemispheric fashion, and the nuanced relationship between imperialism, long-distance trade, and consumption. Since then, I have written two books (one forthcoming) that approach legal history with the questions and sources of a cultural historian. Through these shifting projects, I retain an interest in shedding light on unexamined corners and voices of Jewish culture, and on writing locally but thinking globally.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I am a feverish reader of fiction in my spare time: a recent favorite that feeds my historical and methodological interests is Antonio Munoz Molina’s Sepharad.

What do you value most about the history profession?
One of the favorite parts of my job is teaching non-history majors, including those who might take only one course in history during their years as an undergraduate. The study of history, at its best, teaches us to be critical thinkers and informed citizens. Especially for those of us who teach at public institutions (as I have done for the entirety of my career), helping students cultivate these skills is a great honor.

Why have you continued to be a member of the AHA?
To support a fine organization, to learn from my colleagues, to struggle with the very hard question of what holds our discipline together and when and where it is useful to look beyond its borders.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?
Being a parent, travel, long walks, and a good night’s sleep.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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