AHA Member Spotlight: Susan Kwosek
Susan Kwosek is an assistant professor at South Carolina State University. She lives in Bowman, South Carolina, and has been a member since 2017.
Alma maters: MA (anthropology), Northern Illinois University, 2006; PhD (history), Northern Illinois University, 2019
Fields of Interest: Atlantic, African American, diaspora, religion
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
When I began my student career at Northern Illinois University in 1999 I hoped to find an answer to the question, “Why can’t we all just get along?” To that end, I began my studies in history and anthropology of religion, with Voodoo in New Orleans and Vodou in Haiti as my foci. After 20 years of school, 13 years of field research in Haiti and the United States, and three degrees, I still do not know the answer. But I have acquired a Vodou family that ritually adopted me into their Haitian lineage with whom I have been working continuously since 2005. I left New Orleans three days before Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and lost one-third of my research family and friends, but am thankful for the two-thirds that persevere. I hunkered down with my family through Hurricane Dean in Haiti in 2007, with no injuries or loss of life, but also suffered with them long-distance, as we lost another third of our community during the earthquake in 2010. It is only the generosity, hospitality, and openness of these people that make my research possible.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
As a transplant from the Chicagoland area to South Carolina, I love the warm weather and the beach!
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently revising my dissertation into a book while developing and teaching online courses in the COVID-19 era.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
While my focus has always been on African-derived religions in the Americas, specifically Haitian Vodou and New Orleanian Voodoo, since graduation and relocation to South Carolina I have become interested in doing a comparative study on New Orleanian Voodoo and Low Country Gullah-Geechi spiritual traditions.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?
While examining 19th-century newspapers I came across an 1860 article in a US newspaper that was written in Haitian Kreyol.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I just finished reviewing Food in Cuba by Hanna Garth. The deceptively simple title leads to a book with a wealth of information on gender, food insecurity, politics, and cultural traditions.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
Perspective. It seems trite because it is what we all tell our students they get from history courses, but perspective on who, where, and why different groups in the world today act and believe as they do is invaluable.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
From the time my dissertation chair dragged me kicking and screaming to my first annual meeting (because what ABD student has the money or time?!) I have been hooked. The AHA is my one-stop shop for everything from the forum community, to helpful tools for teaching during a pandemic, to the panels and presentations of the conference, to information about grants and awards. And discounts! You cannot forget the AHA member discounts.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
At my first annual meeting, when my dissertation chair introduced me to several renowned historians whose books I had read while obtaining my degrees, I turned into a total gushing fan-girl. If I had had one of those books handy I would have been asking for autographs.
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, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
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