This dispatch comes from Mary Sanders, a PhD student in the history department at Oklahoma State University. Mary works on 20th-century American religious history and the history of terrorism and political violence. Currently, she's writing her dissertation prospectus and studying for her exams, which she'll take in the fall. Enjoy! --JF
I started my AHA trip yesterday with a 10-hour drive over from San Antonio, Texas; unlike Erin, I was nowhere near coherent enough last night to string any thoughts together! This afternoon, after braving the registration lines, I started off official panel sessions with “Restructuring Religion: American Approaches to Modernism,” sponsored by the American Society of Church History, and chaired by Kathryn Lofton of Yale University. I was particularly excited to see John Corrigan’s paper, “Religious Cases of Modern Spaces and Places,” in which he emphasized how religious communities shape their identities by how they use—or do not use—space. Elizabeth A. Clark’s paper, “From Italy to Harvard: George LaPiana and Roman Catholic Modernism” was a fascinating profile of a little-known church history professor at Harvard, and Amanda Porterfield’s “William James and the Modernist Esthetics of Religion” was a challenging and complex paper emphasizing the artistic elements of James’ thought.
I took advantage of the half-hour between sessions to head over to the job center, where I posted a recently-announced Modern U.S. job opening at my undergraduate alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University, before wandering over to the Roosevelt Hotel several blocks away for “God and Mammon: The Politics of Religion and Commerce in Mid-Twentieth-Century America.” The first paper was Kevin M. Kruse’s “Freedom Under God: Corporations, Christianity, and the Revolt against the New Deal,” which located the origins of the “Freedom Under God” movement not to the foreign policies and anti-communism of the 1950s, but rather to a reaction to the domestic policies of the 1930s. Darren E. Grem’s paper “Incorporating Conviction: J. Howard Pew, Christianity Today, and the Business of Evangelical Culture” offered a business and institutional history of Christianity Today and the relationship between businessmen and evangelicalism in the early Cold War era. Finally, Darren T. Dochuck’s paper “ “Go, Sell Thy Oil”: Evangelical Protestantism and Petro-Politics in Cold War America” described “oil patch evangelicalism” and talked about the close relationship between evangelicals and the petroleum industry. I was particularly impressed with this panel as a whole—it seemed to hang together very well, and each paper complemented the others nicely.
Overall thoughts at the end of the first full day of the conference: It’s good to be among historians that I respect and seek to emulate. It’s good to see what other people are working on. Also, if you’re looking for good beignets, you can’t beat Café du Monde.