Loyola University Chicago

Department of History


Historians in the Field: Ramblers at the AHA Conference

Earlier this month, the American Historical Association (AHA) held their annual meeting for 2018 in Washington, DC. As with past years, many Loyola History Department students and faculty attended the gathering to present their work, meet with peers, and learn about developments in the field.

The AHA Conference is an amazing opportunity for historians to connect and collaborate with their peers from institutions around the country. “The sheer volume of historians in close vicinity makes for some great elevator, lobby and public transit conversations. I love overhearing people talk about history in every direction,” says Loyola PhD student Karen Sieber. At the conference, Loyola historians worked with old friends and new colleagues to troubleshoot issues in their own work and explore new avenues for collaboration. “I got to learn about other digital projects and how they attacked similar metadata problems I've experienced in different ways," Karen continues. Professor Aidan Forth is also optimistic about collaborative work coming out of conference conversations: “Moving on from the conference we are all hoping to put together an edited volume that explores histories of state surveillance and detention in the Anglo-American world.”

The conference also proved to be a fruitful experience for new attendees.  “As a first-time attendee, I was interested in getting exposure to the wider historical field, meeting other scholars with similar research interests, and creating networks with future potential employers. I really enjoyed my time at the conference and considered it overall productive," says PhD student Sean Jacobson.

A number of Loyola faculty members and students presented their own work as part of conference panels and learning sessions. In the very first conference time slot on Thursday, January 4th, Dr. Kyle Roberts presented a paper which built on work done with Loyola graduate students in the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project. Also on the first day of the conference, Dr. Michelle Nickerson sat on a panel exploring Teaching Conservatism in the Age of Trump, which was later featured in Inside Higher Ed. Professor Aidan Forth presented on “Empire’s Double Edge: Coercion and Care in British Imperial Camps, 1876–1903.” The panel, he describes, “brought together histories of refugee relief and punitive incarceration directed at populations conceived as both victims and villains, ‘a risk’ and ‘at risk.’”

Current PhD student Emily Davis presented as part of a panel on “Negotiating Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism in the 19th-Century United States.” She got involved with the AHA conference through a call for papers from the American Catholic Historical Association. Karen Sieber presented The Well-Read President, a digital timeline project examining Theodore Roosevelt’s Reading Habits, as part of the Digital Projects Lightning Round. “It's something I could talk about for an hour, condensed into a 3-minute lightning round, which is always a challenge,” she explains.

In addition to presenting their own work, Ramblers enjoying attending a number of other sessions at the conference. “While the sheer number of panels spread across three hotels was a bit overwhelming, I enjoyed the ones I was able to attend,” says Sean Jacobson. “My favorite panel was ‘Reconsidering American Response(s) to the Holocaust,’ because it related most to my own research interests and gave me opportunity to connect with archivists at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.” Dr. Forth particularly enjoyed panels focusing on history in post-'Brexit' Britain. He says that he hopes to incorporate what he learned at the conference into his classrooms.

The conference also held ample learning opportunities for attendees outside of traditional panel sessions. Loyola Professor Dr. John Pincince presided over the Conference on Asian History/Society for Advancing History of South Asia (CAH/SAHSA) Luncheon, while Dr. Patricia Mooney-Melvin and Dr. Roberts attended the AHA’s Career Diversity Institute, which met at this year’s conference to highlight history pedagogy and career diversity. 

Career workshops were also a great opportunity for conference attendees to learn more about the field.  “Learning about the tricks and vocabulary of applying to federal government jobs helps me have a better perspective on my career path as I progress through the program here at Loyola,” says Sean Jacobson. Conference attendees also attended tours that took them outside the walls of the Convention Center. “As a public historian, I always take advantage of at least one tour offered at AHA,” says Karen Sieber. “My AHA moment (pun questionable) was sitting in on a planning meeting at the Smithsonian after a curator's tour.”

We hope to see even more Ramblers at the January 2019 AHA conference here in Chicago! Stay updated and learn more about opportunities to get involved here.