Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Call For Papers: the Radical Becomes Serious for a Hot Moment

I am sitting at my desk looking at some lovely contracts for a new series in Recent American History, received yesterday from the University of Georgia Press. The series will be co-edited by yours truly and my former Zenith colleague, Renee Romano, who is now a member of that wonderful history department that has been assembled by Oberlin College. The series is going to be kicked off with an anthology, for which we have already issued a call in several venues. I have reprinted our call below:

Call for Papers: “Problems and Methods in Writing Recent American History.” We invite submissions of articles for an anthology on the methodological, political, and ethical challenges related to studying the history of recent events in the United States. The collection, which will be published by the University of Georgia Press and will launch a new book series featuring titles that explore American history since the 1970s, will reflect on the specific methodological challenges of doing late twentieth century history. Besides facing frequent suspicion that their research is not historical enough, scholars who undertake contemporary history are challenged to work outside an established secondary literature. They often encounter methodological problems that are foreign to scholars of a more distant past, such as negotiating with living subjects or trying to wade through the evolving sources available on the Internet. Topics that articles might explore include: when an event becomes “historical” enough to be a subject of research by historians; the role of oral history in research on recent events; the ethics of writing about living subjects, their friends, and family; the challenges of doing research on participants in social movements who are themselves now prominent scholars; the difficulties of finding archival sources, acquiring permission to use restricted archives, and being responsible to those who possess personal collections; how modern technology changes historical research, from tracking down emails or cell phone records, to using blogs and social networking sites as sources; dealing with the lack of perspective that the passage of time traditionally affords; and addressing how historians can or should borrow from other fields such as sociology, anthropology or political science when studying recent events. Essays should be no more than 25 manuscript pages and should be written to appeal to a general scholarly audience. Send abstracts to both editors by March 1, 2009; completed manuscripts will be due by September 1, 2009: Renee Romano, Department of History, 10 North Professor Street, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH 44074, and Claire Potter, Center for the Americas, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06457. For more information, please email or

As an addendum, Renee and I are hoping that we will be holding a mini-conference prior to the submission of final drafts, where participants in the volume will gather here at Zenith and talk about the parameters of the field.


Anonymous said...

I love this idea, and I can't wait to read it when it comes out. I spent a good deal of time thinking about these issues while I was writing my senior thesis, which was about a mid-20th century political campaign. A lot of people who volunteered for the campaign are still alive.

So, what if I examine all the evidence available to me, including lots of things campaign volunteers said and wrote about the campaign at the time, and conclude that it meant something very different than what they (at least the ones I know) think today that it meant? That seems -- rude, for one. I was terrified that a longtime mentor of mine would hate my paper, or worse, be insulted by it, and didn't show it to him for a long time because of that. Does it even make sense to conclude that a thing means something different than what the people involved in it thought it meant? Is it a useful argument to make?

I finally decided to just write my paper anyway, and if people thought I was wrong, they could argue with me. And it worked out okay, I think. But I wish I'd had better answers to all the questions I had about ethics and -- everything.

Anonymous said...

this is so exciting!

i miss prof. romano!

(-zenith student, obviously.)

Tim Lacy said...


I'd love to get involved with this. I've encountered a number of the problems mentioned here in researching Mortimer J. Adler (d. 2001)---a man despised by a significant cohort of still-living sectors of the academy.

- TL

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