U.S. Intellectual History Blog

OAH panel on the state of U.S. intellectual history

The OAH annual meeting will be in New York from March 28-31. I will be chairing a roundtable there that might be of interest to our readers. Called “The Future of U.S. Intellectual History: Challenges and Possibilities,” it will convene at the unenviable Saturday 8:00 a.m. slot. Participants include myself and Stephanie Evans (University of Florida) as moderators, along with commentators Walter Hoelbling (University of Graz, Austria), Anne Kornhauser (Columbia) and Jackson Lears (Rutgers).

I wanted not only to alert any interested readers to our panel, but also to solicit input. Are there any aspects of U.S. intellectual history that you might like to see addressed? Right now I’ve got in mind the following topics:

  • a consideration of recent influential works in intellectual history,
  • an assessment of the criticism of intellectual history itself as an inherently elitist enterprise (alert blog readers might remember that I originally proposed this roundtable under the title “Dead White Males”),
  • the question of whether there is a need for intellectual history as a separate subdiscipline when cultural history is so influential, and 
  • the always crucial issue of the employment outlook for intellectual historians.

I’d be interested in any other topics that would be of interest to our readers. Please respond in the “comments” section (or feel free to email me) with suggestions or any other kind of feedback.


3 Thoughts on this Post

  1. I have myself always wondered at the sharp divide that seems to exist between US intellectual history and European intellectual history. there are some books doing a ‘north atlantic’ perspective (even quite traditional intellectual history, like kloppenberg’s ‘uncertain victory’), but for the most part, work that crosses oceans seems to be either on empire or on counter-currents of one kind or another (for instance, on the black atlantic). this kind of work does not self-identify as intellectual history, but it would be hard for an intellectual historian to deny its worth (especially gilroy).

    i guess what i’m asking here is if increasingly transnational approaches to intellectual history–which might, for instance, tie the US quite closely to parts of the caribbean–ought to be discussed and welcomed, and if so, how they ought to be understood in relation to older national models.

    (though i doubt that i can get to NYC for this panel).

  2. That’s a great question, and I’m somewhat embarrassed to have overlooked it. I’ll be certain to bring up the topic at the OAH. Thanks very much, Eric, for your comment.


  3. Mike,

    This is a twist on your third bullet point, but I’m interested in this: What would it take to create a stronger, more democratic identity among U.S.-based intellectual historians? Of course we/I have proposed a regular conference and society, but is that enough? Is it simply true that intellectual historians, in general, don’t care about the health of the subfield? Do the intellectual historians that matter see the field as an international endeavor exclusively, and thereby discount domestic efforts to strengthen the subfield?

    – TL

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