AHA Member Spotlight: Cynthia Bouton
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 Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
Alma maters: Université de Dijon, France, 1973-74; BA (French literature), Colgate University, 1976; PhD, Binghamton University, SUNY, 1985
Fields of interest: French history, women’s and gender history, social history, Atlantic history, revolutions
When did you first develop an interest in history?
I discovered history in my last year in undergraduate school. I was a French literature major. I took several history courses and discovered that everything (including the literature) made more sense to me. I took more the next semester, including a course on the French Revolution. I was hooked for life!
What projects are you working on currently?
My current project studies the circulation of basic subsistence foods (wheat, maize, rice, millet, and manioc) around the Atlantic during the age of revolution in the French, Spanish, and British empires. I am especially interested in comparing the ways that foods operated as political goods as they moved from field to consumption, and how revolutionaries understood this and acted upon these understandings.
Have your interests changed since graduation? If so, how?
No and yes. The issues of scarcity, the human experiences of and reactions to it, and the ways we try to understand it, have formed the core of my research, publication, and teaching. Throughout, my interest has focused on the ways that inequities in access to basic subsistence needs—often linked to status/class, gender, race/ethnicity, patronage/political relations, and place—have influenced responses to suffering (both the threat of it and strategies to alleviate it). However, my geographical focus has changed over time: from metropolitan France to the age of revolutions in the Atlantic.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I am currently showing the 2010 movie, También la lluvia (Even the Rain) in my classes (Protest and Collective Violence, and the Iberian World) this semester. It brings together many of the issues that animate my work. I don’t know what the students will think!
What do you value most about the history profession?
I love the intellectual stimulation and I’m always learning something new and new ways to interpret what I think I know already. I have wonderful colleagues and I value their diversity and engagement.
Why did you join the AHA?
I joined because it’s our profession’s premier association, it enables me to stay in touch with what is going on, and it represents history and historians to the wider world.
Other than history, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about social rights, my family, my friends, travel, baseball, and walking my dog.
Any final thoughts?
I wish we could communicate what we do—as educators, scholars, and as historians—to the public more effectively. I perceive a huge disconnect between what we do and how we are perceived. I worry that as this misperception gets translated into political policy, the study of history and the public university are doomed to extinction. I’d like to have a more influential discussion about how we can actively shape the future of public education, graduate education, and the history profession.
This post first appeared on AHA Today.
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