U.S. Intellectual History Blog


2013 Conference Chair Report, submitted by Allison Perlman

2012-2013 Treasurer’s Report, submitted by Lisa Szefel

2012-2013 Publication Chair’s Report, submitted by Lora Burnett

2012-2013 Secretary’s Report, submitted by Ray Haberski

2012-2013 Report on a Future S-USIH Journal, submitted by Paul Murphy


S-USIH President’s Annual Report – 2013-2014

Submitted March 18, 2013, by Paul Murphy, President

In lieu of an End-of-Term report of the Executive Committee, as Andrew Hartman presented last year, I am taking advantage of our delayed annual meeting to present an annual report from the president that might accomplish some of the same aims (although, inevitably, with less felicity of expression and comprehensiveness).  On matters of the budget, I will defer to the treasurer, and on those relating to membership, the new website, publications, and next year’s conference, I will forego any detailed discussion in deference to the particular reports from other members of the Executive Committee.

1.  Annual Conference and Annual Meeting

One of the primary challenges for the Society and most especially for our 2012 conference chair, David Sehat, was the cancellation of our fifth annual conference due to the unprecedented devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy.  The conference was scheduled for Nov. 1-2 at the Graduate Center at CUNY.  Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast on October 29, with David monitoring events from a distance.  As the extent of the damage became clear, David had to assess the feasibility for a meeting.  In a teleconference on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 30, the Executive Committee recommended the cancellation of the conference, as indicated in an e-mail to David that afternoon:  “The Executive Committee met by phone and unanimously supports cancelling the conference out of concern for the safety of the conference participants and the dire circumstances facing the City of New York.”   David investigated the possibility of holding a smaller version of the conference in Spring 2013 but, in consultation with the Executive Committee, decided against it.  The Executive Committee decided to hold an online annual meeting in March.

David and Allison Perlman are to be commended for the excellent program they put together, and David, in particular, for the time-consuming and difficult management of the conference (including ironing out many details with CUNY officials) and for the very challenging task of tracking the situation in NYC and, ultimately, making the frustrating decision to cancel the conference.

The Society has greatly benefited from the support of the Graduate Center and CUNY for three years.  This past year alone, through the good offices of Martin Burke, we were able to secure the co-sponsorship of the Ph.D. program in History.  In addition, William P. Kelly, president of the Graduate Center of CUNY, waived the fees for our rooms.  As I wrote in a letter expressing our gratitude to President Kelly for the four years of support we have received from the CUNY Graduate Center, “Each of our conferences has been very successful.  Our location in Manhattan has attracted some of the top scholars active in the field and has allowed many younger scholars, including graduate students at CUNY, to share the stage with senior scholars and leading practitioners in the field of U.S. intellectual history.  At the same time, our group, which began as a collection of young scholars running a blog, has been able to establish S-USIH as a new professional society.”  Despite the inevitable frustrations accompanying our outsider status at CUNY, as we move away from Manhattan, there is good reason to appreciate the great benefits we derived from the support of the Graduate Center.

Plans for the 2013 (and now fifth) S-USIH conference and annual meeting, which will be held at the University of California, Irvine, are proceeding smoothly.  2013 Conference Chair Allison Perlman and her committee have chosen “Geographies of Ideas” as the theme, and David Hollinger, who was set to deliver the keynote in 2012, has agreed to return as keynote speaker this year.

At the Jan. 25 meeting of the Executive Committee, we discussed the need to provide future conference chairs more lead time to plan the conference, especially as they will make arrangements for location and facilities.  At the Executive Committee’s March 1 meeting, the following bylaw was approved:  “For the purposes of effective planning, the Executive Committee may arrange to have Conference Committee Chairs elected two or more years before the conference for which that chair is responsible.”  This year we will elect both a 2014 and 2015 chair.

2.  Executive Committee Meetings:  One of goals of last year’s officers to establish regular business meetings of the Executive Committee.  They held seven meetings, one of which was the annual meeting, held at the 2011 conference.  We have held seven telephone meetings to date, in addition to the online annual meeting scheduled for March 18-20.  We anticipate holding one, perhaps two, more meetings before our term is out.

3.  Non-profit status:  S-USIH received approval from the Internal Revenue Service for non-profit status at the end of 2012, which allows the Society now to apply for grants.  Credit goes to Mike O’Connor, who initiated the process in 2011, Secretary Ray Haberski, and Treasurer Lisa Szefel.  Membership fees are now tax-deductible.  S-USIH is incorporated in the state of Indiana.

4.  Blog, New Website, and Publications:  Under the leadership of Secretary Ray Haberski, the new S-USIH portal became operational in January 2013 and the blog subsequently migrated to it and to WordPress.  The website looks excellent.  Credit is due to Ray for the immense amount of work this project has taken and to our web contractor Curtis Billue, who has created an attractive site.  Recognition as well goes to Ben Alpers and Publications Chair L.D. Burnett for managing the transition of the blog to the new website.  The blog continues to be the preeminent voice and image of the Society.

5.  Book Award:  In 2012, the previous officers established a new annual book award to recognize the best book in U.S. intellectual history published by a member of the Society.  The winner receives $250.00; the winning book will be featured at a panel at the annual conference.  It fell to the Executive Committee to execute the plan for the award, which we did with some minor modifications (e.g., establishing mechanisms for books to be nominated).  I drafted an award announcement and disseminated it through various online sources.  My thanks to the distinguished scholars who agreed to serve on the inaugural committee:  David Steigerwald (chair), Dorothy Ross, and Jennifer Burns.  The Executive Committee left to this committee the choice of recognizing a series of books as “outstanding titles” or the “best” works in the field for that year.  One of the unforeseen challenges was getting word out about the award and ensuring that worthy books were nominated.  The committee received 22 nominated books and will announce its decision of the winner and runners-up on May 1.

6.  Affiliations and Opportunities for Collaboration:  There is great promise for the Society in collaborating with related scholarly and professional groups in the future.  For example, Kenneth Stikkers, president of the Society for the Advancement of Philosophy, offered S-USIH the chance to host a panel at their annual meeting on March 14-16, 2013, at Stockton College in New Jersey.  The Society accepted and organized a panel on Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s American Nietzsche:  A History of an Icon and His Ideas, with commentary from distinguished peers in history and related fields:  literary scholar Paul Grimstad, historian Warren Breckman, and philosopher Giovanna Borradori.  Our thanks to Jennifer for representing the Society.  Recently, a group of scholars led by Larry Friedman has been hosting a conference on public intellectuals at Harvard University.  Treasurer Lisa Szefel attended last year’s conference and suggested future collaborations with Friedman, who agreed to pursue the matter, meeting with the Executive Committee by phone at our January meeting.  We have formed an ad hoc committee to explore future collaborations with this group, and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn has agreed to represent the society at the group’s upcoming conference in April.  We look forward to planning joint programs and other collaborations in the future.

In both instances, the Executive Committee sees great benefit in establishing new partnerships and collaborative relationships with groups that have interests relating to U.S. intellectual history.  It would be good to continue and strengthen both initiatives begun this year.

In last year’s end-of-the-year report, Andrew reported on the possibility of S-USIH affiliating with a larger academic society, such as the AHA or OAH.  The AHA and OAH  require that an affiliated organization be in existence for three years.  We should continue to consider this option for action in 2014.

7.  Future journal:  Last year, Andrew identified one of the key Society’s key tasks as growing the organization’s membership, which is now largely linked to the annual conference.  The Executive Committee has discussed this issue, and it merits continued attention.  One of the tangible benefits of a scholarly or professional society such as ours is a print journal, which has been a subject of discussion for some time now.  I have submitted a preliminary report on some of the issues related to a future journal for the Society’s consideration.  If S-USIH is interested in pursuing a journal, the question will be whether to pursue an open-access digital journal or a traditional print journal, the latter with the goal, in part, of providing a tangible benefit to members.

Digitizing the Intellectual History Newsletter:  From 1979 through the early 2000s, various scholars published an independent Intellectual History Newsletter (IHN).  It began as photocopied (or mimeographed?) type-written pages from Thomas Bender.  In researching the possibility of a new journal, I asked the various editors of this journal if the journal has been digitized.  It has not.  Past editors Thomas Bender, David D. Hall, Richard Fox, Howard Brick, Casey Blake, and Charles Capper endorsed the idea.  Charles Capper indicated he would investigate the question of digitization.  At our last Executive Committee meeting I proposed that the Society volunteer to help with this digitization project, with the aim of linking the digitized set to our website.  Future action would require following up with Charles Capper and possibly coordinating with his staff at Modern Intellectual History on the project.

8.  Other future possibilities:  With increased revenue, the Society will have greater flexibility and an enhanced ability to run a successful annual conference (with honoraria for featured speakers and panelists).  Options might include lifetime memberships, tiered membership rates, or the solicitation of gifts for an endowment.  Such possibilities should be considered.  In addition, other S-USIH events could be planned, perhaps with the aim of generating revenue, such as writers’ workshops or regional meetings.