AHA Member Spotlight: Casey R. Olthaus
Casey R. Olthaus is an assistant English teacher at Kyoto Prefectural Sagano Senior High School in Kyoto, Japan, but will soon be returning to the US to begin her MA at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She lives in Kyoto, Japan, and has been a member since 2017.
Alma maters: BA, University of Cincinnati, 2017
Fields of interest: medical humanities, science, medicine and public health, culture, social theory, gender and sexuality
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
I began my undergraduate studies majoring in biology, signed up for a required history course my first semester, and quickly developed an unexpected passion for history. I changed my major shortly after and decided I wanted to teach at the university-level in order to offer students the same dynamic and inclusive approach to history that my first history professor offered me. After receiving my BA, I decided to gain teaching experience before continuing my education, which led me here to Japan.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
Kyoto is a beautiful city, full of cultural heritage and what seems like a history with no beginning. I feel privileged to live here and, additionally, to have had the opportunity to work at Sagano High School. My students are truly outstanding, globally minded individuals. Although I am primarily an English teacher our curriculum focuses on English for communication, sharing student research internationally, and cultural exchange. My students and fellow teachers have helped me continually grow as an educator throughout my time here and I look forward to applying the new perspectives I have gained in future classes.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
My interests are constantly changing as I gain new understandings and interact with the world around me. Over the past several years, I have spent time conducting research in the UK, living in Germany, and, now, working in Japan. These experiences have shifted my interests more towards comparative history, transnationalism, and international exchange.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?
While conducting archival research in the UK for my undergraduate thesis on World War I medical advancements in the field of psychiatry, I happened upon a manuscript from 1733. This document outlined many of the same beliefs about psychological disorders that were still being perpetuated throughout the medical community during and after the Great War. It was enlightening to see how, even when it seems that scientific and medical research has reached an apex, internal biases and social stigmas can limit our ability to conduct objective medical research, offer effective treatments, and otherwise hinder medical advancements. This discovery sparked my current interest in utilizing sociological thought to examine the past influence of internalized social and cultural biases on medical discourse and its continued relevance today.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I have two books I have read recently and found enjoyable, especially if you are interested in concepts of gender. If you are interested in US history I would like to recommend From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women's Rights in Gilded Age America by Kimberly Hamlin. For anyone interested in German history, I suggest Body by Weimar by Erik Jensen.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
I love the lessons that history has to offer and the unique perspective in which it allows us to critically evaluate society, ourselves, and the fluctuating social structures that often govern our lives. I am drawn to the idea that studying the past offers us the opportunity to create a better future.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
While I have been abroad gaining teaching experience the AHA has kept me up to date on research trends, current historical discourse, and generally kept me connected with the academic community. As I once again begin conducting research I look forward to exchanging ideas, sharing research, and otherwise utilizing the many resources available through the AHA. More broadly, I appreciate what the AHA stands for and how it continually advocates for the discipline by voicing support for historians, education, and research all over the world.
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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