From the 2009 Annual Meeting column of the September 2007 Perspectives
Globalizing Historiography: Theme for the 2009 Annual Meeting
Felice Lifshitz and Jerry Bentley, September 2007
The AHA and its members have drawn inspiration from the historical scholarship of colleagues in other lands from the very beginnings of the organization. In 1885, the year following its foundation, the AHA extended its first honorary membership to Leopold von Ranke, and it has since added another 88 honorary foreign members to its rolls. In keeping with this tradition, the theme for the 2009 annual meeting will be Globalizing Historiography. This theme encourages AHA members to expand and interrogate the boundaries of their discipline by examining the relationship of professional historical scholarship in the American historical community with professional historical scholarship as practiced elsewhere.
One of the great strengths of American historical scholarship over the past four decades has been its remarkable ability to enlarge the scope of its concerns in response to the changing demographic patterns of recruitment into the historical profession. The receptivity of the American historical profession to new influences both foreign and domestic has led to increasing concern with issues of diaspora, migration, and immigration, tied to older concerns with race and ethnicity, and to the emergence of the new field of transnational history. It has also involved recognition that many of the conventions and analytical categories of the discipline of history, as practiced in the United States, were originally created in a global context (for instance, of imperialism and colonialism), and are thus already deeply implicated in perceptions of global interactions and exchanges. The 2009 annual meeting offers an opportune moment to renew and deepen AHA members' commitments to fruitful awareness of the global context in which we work, and to a certain extent have always worked, by explicitly Globalizing Historiography.
The chosen theme for the 2009 annual meeting might take historians in multiple, distinct yet overlapping directions as they formulate plans for potential sessions. For some it may prompt efforts to rescue history from the nation by framing national histories in larger, and more appropriate, contexts. For others it may support programs already underway to internationalize historical understanding by bringing perspectives of scholars from different lands to bear on national histories. For yet others, it may provoke a challenge to the very legitimacy of the discourse of "globalization," or its relevance to historiography. It will certainly invite consideration of the nature of modern historical scholarship in light of differing national and cultural traditions of historical thought and practice. To what extent do AHA members share the thematic, theoretical, methodological, and analytical concerns of their colleagues in other lands? To what extent do such concerns diverge, and how might the perspectives of professional historians beyond North America challenge and enrich the work of AHA members? To what extent do particular national and cultural traditions hamper communication and understanding among professional historians in different lands? How do the shifting, and (arguably) ever more intensively global, contexts in which we live and work inflect the work of historians, both here and abroad? How does one approach and write the history of "premodern" societies in light of the new perspectives generated by transnational and global history? Are the theoretical and methodological principles of historiography sensitive to the changing global conditions within which the writing of history takes place and if not, should they be? Can, or should, historiography be truly globalized? These are but a fraction of the questions we hope to raise through the chosen theme, Globalizing Historiography.
—Felice Lifshitz (Florida International University) and Jerry Bentley (University of Hawai'i) are co-chairs of the 2009 Program Committee.