U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Help Wanted With Panel Proposals


I’m trying to dream up panel proposals for USIH 2009 and OAH 2010. I have a pretty firm idea for USIH (probably something on Diggins), but definitely need help for OAH (due Wed., Feb. 25). Here are my rough ideas for topics:

1. Catholic Intellectual Life in the 1930s and 1940s: Related to my own work, my contribution would be on Mortimer J. Adler and the Thomistic philosophy movement in Chicago/U.S. If that timeframe doesn’t work, I could expand it to the interwar period or 1900-1950.

2. 20th Century Anti-Intellectualism: I wrote a survey paper on this for the 2008 USIH conference, but now want to relate anti-intellectualism directly to my work on Adler and the great books movement. This might also include some intersections with Catholicism.

3. Diggins: I could modify whatever I do for USIH for OAH in the spring? Hmm…

4. Higher Education Admissions: This isn’t sexy, but I have a project in the works that I can definitely use here—something ~not~ related to the great books, Adler, or UIC (not directly at least).

One reason I’m presenting my ideas publicly is that I’d like to find partners in crime. Anyone planning for OAH in 2010? If so, any thoughts on collaboration? – TL

9 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Tim–I don’t have anything to offer you, but I thought I would post a panel proposal I’d like to formulate.

    We are going into the NAACP’s 100th anniversary. I write about young black intellectuals’ critique of the NAACP in the 1930s. I would love other panelists looking at an analysis of NAACP strategies and rhetoric for either ASALH or the OAH.

  2. Hi Tim:

    I would like to contribute to a panel on Catholics intellectuals in the cold war. I am doing stuff on Catholics and civil religion and focus on John Courtney Murray and his interaction with the ‘religion in general’ debate. Sound interesting?

  3. Lauren: I wish I could help. Most of the 1930s intellectuals I’ve studied sadly weren’t talking about the NAACP. If they had, or had even just addressed the race issue in writing, my job today would be a sexier one, perhaps.

    Ray: Hmm…Your proposal does sound interesting, except that my main character stopped doing Catholic philosophy around 1950. Is “religion in general” like Bellah’s civil religion? Then again, Hutchins and Adler and many of their friends were proponents of world federal government. If I can link that to Catholic intellectuals in the late 1940s and early 1950s, I might have something for you.

    – TL

  4. Personal thing here–judging topics based on their “sexiness” really bugs me. Race or gender shouldn’t be studied because they are the hip and with it thing right now. They should be studied for their own inherent importance and, significantly, for their interest to _you_.

    I get especially annoyed when people presume that blacks would study black history, because well, duh, but I must be studying it because I thought I could jump on that affirmative action bandwagon.

    Dagmar Herzog’s book sells because, well, it’s titled Sex after Fascism, but it’s successful because she was passionate about the subject. She wouldn’t have written the book she had without that passion, no matter how “sexy” the topic.

    But thanks for your interest.

  5. Lauren,

    I’m with you on the judging that bugs. Thankfully the long credentialing process in history prevents folks from being schemers in that way. You can’t spend 5-8 years working on something because you think it’ll please others.

    However, there are folks in positions of power that do make judgments based on “trendiness.” If it’s not race, gender, ethnicity, or class, it might be transnationalism or some other thing. So “sexiness” is just a synonym for trendiness. But there does seem to be an ironclad reality about such things: what comes up must eventually come down. The hot thing always becomes the object of a backlash.

    If you were writing on the 1960s-1980s, I could make my diss. figures work with your interests. Maybe we’ll work together in the future!

    – TL

  6. Yet one ignores academic trends at one’s own peril. My own dissertation topic is, to me, the most interesting and important in the world. But it has no real academic constituency, and looks very “old school” to most people. And now after four years on the job market and well over two hundred applications, my ability to remain in the profession of higher education hangs by a thread. So, in my view, sexiness matters immensely, and ignoring the likely reception of one’s work is simply foolish.

  7. This is a false dichotomy. With a little bit of what Will Ferrell aka GWB called “strategery,” you can have it both ways. I mean, take what you love and find compromise topics that meet trends half-way. This won’t work with chronological trends, but it does work with topical situations. Besides, just because your topic isn’t “sexy” when you start working on it doesn’t mean it won’t be, at least mildly, when you finish.

    Moral: You have to do what you love mainly, and perform some intellectual gymnastics with regard to trends along the way. – TL

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