From the Annual Meeting 2007 column of the October 2006 Perspectives

Presidential Sessions 2007

Linda K. Kerber, October 2006

Political, economic, religious and environmental changes of recent decades have destabilized ideas about human rights, conditions of citizenship, and national boundaries. More than ever, the current historical context, whether considering international disputes over history, national battles over history standards, the historicization of identities long ignored, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, or challenges to disciplinary boundaries, yields a sense of the instability of historical inquiry itself.

We trust that this annual meeting will be distinctive not only for individual sessions but also for the opportunities it presents for continued conversations in sessions that address a common theme. A film festival will run throughout the length of the meeting, offering new historical and documentary films (see notice on page 40). Many of these films link to panels that relate to visualizing history and to documentary production. What began last year as a modest "Poster Session" in which historians display their research in formats other than panels or roundtables now includes some 30 historians, from a wide range of fields, available to discuss their work. This year, the poster session will be held in the Hilton's Grand Ballroom A on Saturday, January 6, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

In an unusual mode of programming, some panels are part of a sequence, making for workshops that continue through the meeting: thus a series of five sessions mark the bicentennial of the suppression of the transatlantic slave trade, and a series of three sessions consider "Labor, Migration, and Global Trade."

Most of this year's presidential sessions address the unstable history of human rights. None are limited to considerations of a single nation and most include panelists from outside the U.S. One session examines the history of commissions of truth and reconciliation—of which the one in South Africa is the best known, but some two dozen commissions have used history in their work and made history by their often dangerous work. The panelists include historians who have sought to protect and to make use of the findings of the Guatemala Truth and Reconciliation commission. "The Dilemmas of Asylum" session examines aspects of the history of sanctuary in the 20th century; comment will be provided by Justice Marcus Einfeld of the Federal Court of Australia, who has had to make decisions about granting the appeals of asylum seekers. A roundtable considers feminism in a postcolonial world and the centrality of gender to the imagination of how nations have constructed themselves in reshaping imperialist agendas. A session in memory of Kenneth Cmiel, to be held at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, considers the fragility of citizenship in the Middle East and elsewhere in the second half of the 20th century. The workshop on the suppression of the Atlantic slave trade begins with a presidential session on a multinational approach to the study of abolition.
The relationship of historians and their publics is the other key theme of presidential sessions. The complex issues surrounding the interpretation of race in American museums are addressed in a session led by Lonnie Bunch, the director of the newly created National Museum of African American History and Culture. Two roundtables bring together academic and public historians to consider the relationship of the profession to the general public, one focused on Ian Tyrell's new book, Historians in Public: The Practice of American History; the other on the ways historians contend with controversy when they unsettle national narratives.

—Linda K. Kerber

Thurs., Jan. 4, 3 to 5 p.m.

1. A Conversation about Historians in Public

Hilton, Grand Ballroom B

Sponsored by the AHA Research Division

Chair: Thomas Bender, New York University

Panel: James B. Gardner, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution;
Michael Grossberg, Indiana University;
Julie Des Jardins, Baruch College, City University of New York;
Linda Symcox, California State University at Long Beach

Comment: Ian R. Tyrrell, University of New South Wales

Fri., Jan. 5, 9:30 to 11 a.m.

25. The Dilemmas of Asylum

Hilton, Grand Ballroom B

Chair: Natalie Zemon Davis, University of Toronto

Papers: Seeking Refuge: Britain's Empire and Dominions—The Case of Australia, 1937–39
Carole K. Fink, Ohio State University

Political Asylum in Historical Perspective: Postwar Europe and Its Aftermath
G. Daniel Cohen, Rice University

Seeking Sanctuary: From the Caribbean to North America
Mary Renda, Mount Holyoke Colleg

Comment: Marcus Einfeld, Federal Court of Australia

Fri., Jan. 5, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

55. Using History during a Truth Commission, Making History after a Truth Commission

Hilton, Grand Ballroom B

Chair: Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University

Papers: Practicing History in the Context of a Truth Commission Investigation
Greg Grandin, New York University

Preserving the History of Truth Commission
Trudy H. Peterson, consulting archivist

Using History in the Wake of a Truth Commission
Tani Marilena Adams, Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica, Guatemala

Comment: The Audience

Sat., January 6, 9 to 11 a.m.

87. New Directions in the Study of Abolition: A Multi-National Approach

Hilton, Grand Ballroom B

Chair: Joseph C. Miller, University of Virginia

Panel: Luiz Felipe De Alencastro, Centro Brasiliero de Analise e Planejamento
Sandra E. Greene, Cornell University
Joseph Eyitemi Inikori, University of Rochester;
Walter Johnson, New York University;
David Trotman, York University

This panel is part 1 of a multisession workshop entitled "The Suppression of the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Bicentennial Reexamination, 1807–2007." See also sessions 133, 158, 189, and 218.

Sat., Jan. 6, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

118. Feminism and History in a Post-Colonial World

Hilton, Grand Salon C

Chair: Alice Kessler-Harris, Columbia University

Panel: Tabitha Kanogo, University of California at Berkeley
Thomas Klubock, State University of New York at Stony Brook;
Marilyn Lake, La Trobe University;
Mrinalini Sinha, Pennsylvania State University

Sat., Jan. 6, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

137.Citizens, Refugees, and the Right to Have Rights: Remembering Ken Cmiel

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Auditorium

Chair: David A. Hollinger, University of California at Berkeley

Papers: "All the clauses in the Preamble to the Constitution are worth fighting for": Social and Economic Rights in America's World War II
Elizabeth Borgwardt, University of Utah

Importing and Exporting Human Rights: American Policies of Refugee Relief at Home and Abroad, 1933–52
Stephen R Porter, University of Chicago

Citizenship as a Category of Exclusion? The Palestinians in Israel after 1948
Shira N. Robinson, University of Iowa

Stateless Citizens: Community and Identity in Gaza during the Egyptian Administration
Ilana Feldman, New York University

Comment: Lora Wildenthal, Rice University

Sun., Jan. 7, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.

166. Interpreting Race in American Museums

Hilton, Grand Salon C

Chair: Lonnie Bunch, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution

Panel: Akemi Kikumura-Yano, Japanese American National Museum
Rayna Green, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Sun., Jan. 7, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

195. Practicing History, Contending with Controversy: Public Historians and Academic Historians on Our Work, Early Twenty-First Century

Hilton, Grand Salon C

Chair: Sarah Shields, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Panel: Martin Blatt, Boston National Historical Park;
Peter Liebhold, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution;
Joseph Jordan, Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
Harvey J. Kaye, University of Wisconsin at Green Bay;
Ellen Schrecker, Yeshiva University