As many of you know, spring is an active season for S-USIH as we hold the fourth annual election of society officers and accept paper and panel proposals for the sixth annual conference. This society has the distinction (I think this is true) of being the only professional society to emerge out of a blog. Thus this blog and its expressions on other social media have changed the way the field of U.S. intellectual history and the historical profession in general operate for many of us. Over the next year, I hope that the society will continue to build on the success of the blog by expanding the digital offerings offered through the website.
I am involved in a move that has the potential (I fervently hope) to push that collective project along. After fourteen years at Marian University teaching history and doing all the things that need to get done a small college, I am moving permanently to IUPUI. Physically the move is about three miles further downtown in Indianapolis; intellectually and professionally I am moving a greater distance—my email address has changed! The immediate reasons for going to IUPUI have a great deal to do with a legacy of American Studies at that institution and the opportunities, it seems to me, that present themselves these days for trying different ideas in the humanities. My new colleagues are working with me to create new undergraduate and graduate programs in American Studies that will attract students who wish, at the doctoral level in particular, to earn a research degree that they can apply to work outside of university teaching. This proposal has much in common with the ACLS Public Fellows program and initiatives in four history Ph.D. programs funded by the Mellon Foundation through the AHA.
The history of American Studies at IUPUI helped define the university over the last 40 years by generating a number of research centers, including two that have has particular relevance to USIH, the Institute for American Thought and the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture. The first, is directed by Marianne Wokeck, a historian of Early America and an innovator in areas of university teaching and a rare breed among higher education administration. Marianne overseas a center that houses five major paper collections (each with their own director) that are remarkable for their connection to U.S. intellectual history. The collections include the papers of Frederick Douglass, Charles S. Pierce, George Santayana, Josiah Royce, and (a nod to the popular culture side of USIH) Ray Bradbury. The director of the Santayana scholarly editions is Martin Coleman, an associate professor in philosophy, is also quite active in the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. He and Ben Alpers met up at the recent SAAP conference where S-USIH sponsored and panel, and SAAP will sponsor a panel at the S-USIH conference in October 2014.
The second center I mentioned above is directed by Philip Goff, a religious historian who has built the strongest center for religion and American culture in the United States through the twin anchors of the Lilly funded Young Scholars in Religion Program and the center’s journal, Religion and American Culture. The YSR has been crucial for generations of scholars such as Stephen Prothero, Amy Koehlinger, Kathleen Cummings Sprow, Kathryn Lofton, Matthew Sutton, Darren Dochuk, Ed Blum, Randall Stephens, Matt Hedstrom, to mention just a few. Taken together, the two centers have much to recommend them to us.
The IAT has expressed great interest in helping S-USIH establish a digital copy of the Intellectual History Newsletter and had the capacity to strengthen the website through IT support. IUPUI also has a series of grants, available to us now, to run workshops, small conferences, and to pay for more technical support. Phil Goff’s center is a model for how to run vibrant programs that create cohorts of young scholars and connect them to the established leaders of different fields. Moreover, the National Council for Public History has its institutional home at IUPUI under the directorship of John Dichtl. The NCPH provides an interesting model for building a scholarly organization that is modest in size (compared to the huge umbrella organizations) but also lively in the network of scholars and students who work within it.
My tenure home at IUPUI will be in the department of history (American Studies is not technically a program that can grant tenure) and I am quite happy to join colleagues who, in addition to public history, work in digital history and medical humanities, while also employing a great variety of theoretical frameworks to cover a traditional history curriculum. The department also has graduate students who have expressed interest in helping with the S-USIH conference in Indianapolis in the fall. I hope that in the future we might offer formal positions for graduate students to work on conferences and other aspects of the society. Today, in fact, one of those graduate students, who is a regular reader of the blog, asked if there was place on the website to find foundational essays on the history and theories of intellectual history—a good idea and a good project. I think my move to IUPUI might allow S-USIH to pursue more of them.