Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dispatches from the AHA in New Orleans (7)

Mary Sanders checks in. She discusses a very busy day and calls our attention to a new blog she has started with Erin Bartram called "Digital Grad Lounge."  Check it out.  --JF

Here are my thoughts on today. 

Wow.  What a day.  I’ve decided that the AHA is equivalent to three and a half days of solid graduate seminar.  I can say this honestly: my brain is completely exhausted.

It’s a good kind of exhaustion, though, the kind of exhaustion that comes from being completely interested and engaged and excited about the ideas around me.  I started off today with the Conference on Faith and History breakfast.  I ended up talking with Robert Tracy McKenzie, Will Katerberg, and Mark Noll—a guaranteed recipe for early-morning intellectual engagement!  I then went to the CFH sponsored panel on Darren Dochuk’s From Bible Belt to Sunbelt:Plain-folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism.  Although I haven’t yet read Dochuk’s book (it’s on my exam list!), I enjoyed Daniel Williams’ and Molly Worthen’s comments.

For the rest of the day, I decided to step outside my “U.S. Religious History bubble” and go to some panels on the history of U.S. Foreign Relations, particularly as it pertains to the Middle East.  At the first panel, “The Iraq War is History? A Roundtable Discussion,” Dina R. Khoury of George Washington University, Melvyn P. Leffler of the University of Virginia, and Peter R. Mansoor of Ohio State talked about the difficulties of looking at the 2003 invasion of Iraq historically.  The second panel was “The United States and the Middle East: The End of the American Century?”  Osamah F. Khalil of Syracuse University, Toby C. Jones of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and Waleed Hazbun of the American University in Beirut offered complex and nuanced papers on a variety of topics, from the concept of the Middle East as a British/American construction (Khalil) to the techno-politics of oil (Jones) to the provocative argument that the American era in the Middle East is quickly coming to a close (Hazbun).

Erin and I finished off our day with a great conversation with John Fea, who has been so kind to let us write dispatches for his blog during this conference.  One of the great benefits of being here is that I get to have conversations about everything from graduate school to teaching to research…conversations that don’t happen in the everyday grind of the semester.  Erin and I have both been inspired by those conversations, and so we’ve decided to launch an attempt to translate them into the digital sphere with a new blog, The Digital Grad Lounge.  We envision that it will be a place for graduate students to talk together about the things that we’d talk about in a physical lounge—with, of course, the added benefit of it being digital and therefore accessible to everyone.  We’ve put the inaugural post and project up at http://digitalgradlounge.blogspot.com/2013/01/welcome-to-experiment.html .  Please, come join the conversation!

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