U.S. Intellectual History Blog

4 Thoughts on this Post

  1. I was at that panel and will say a few things about it in my next post. As is usually the case, I basically disagree with Luker but feel that he’s being a potentially useful PITA about this (as he is about many things) by raising some potentially significant questions. Luker’s challenge here is on two fronts: ideological (and implicitly intellectual) diversity and “identity politics”:

    How could a panel on the state of the study of recent American conservatism not include a conservative historian? Donald Critchlow, for example, should have been there to respond to Rick Perlstein’s criticism. I’ve seen this happen again and again at our conventions: major panels dealing with major issues and there’s not a dime’s worth of difference in what or the ways the panelists think about them.

    As Tenured Radical points out in the response linked above, the panel was plenty intellectually (and I suspect ideologically) diverse. The notion that there was not a dime’s worth of difference among the panelists is simply wrong.

    But how about the idea that a panel on the history of conservatism has to include a conservative? As Luker writers in the comments on TR’s post: “you *know* you simply cannot imagine a state of the field panel on women’s history or on African-American history that did not include a person of said identity. Could it be that the plea of “identity politics” only applies when it’s conservatives who go unrepresented?”

    In fact there are plenty of subfields in which a member of the identity group under study would not necessarily be included in the panel, including (but not limited to): politicians on political history panels, members of the working class on labor history panels, diplomats on history of foreign relations panels, scientists on a history of science panel, and (increasingly) veterans of the ’60s on history of the sixties panels.

  2. In relation to the academy, many conservatives define their status in terms of identity, even going so far as to argue for affirmative action for conservative academics. This is probably not what Luker had in mind, but it’s not new.

    As long as the panel took the subject of conservatism seriously, treated it with some empathy, the politics of the panelists should not matter. The problem with historical treatment of conservatism, prior to it becoming a trendy topic, is that few people took it seriously. This probably has something to do with the fact that few historians are conservative. But for the purposes of this panel, political “identity” is a non-issue.

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