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AHA annual convention will feature many politically relevant panels

January is almost upon us, and it is time again for the American Historical Association’s annual meeting. The 2010 convention, themed “Oceans, Islands, Continents,” will take place in San Diego from January 7-10.

Protests by numerous history departments over the prominent support given to California’s Proposition 8 by the owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, one of the hotels where the meeting is to be headquartered, have prompted the AHA to sponsor a working group for “Historical Perspectives on Same-Sex Marriage.” This working group will explore recent scholarship on sexuality and marriage and will be running a series of threaded sessions throughout the convention. In keeping with the theme of “Oceans, Islands, Continents,” the working group is co-sponsored, along with the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, the 2008 documentary An Island Calling, an exploration of the deeper issues surrounding the 2001 slaying of a prominent gay couple in Suva, Fiji.

As always, the AHA will be hosting a number of different sessions that place current events in an historical context. The inauguration of America’s first black president, coupled with the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, has spurred the formation of a panel chaired by UC-Berkeley’s David Hollinger to examine Barack Obama and the influence of various modes of twentieth century American history on his presidency and political thought. A roundtable discussion chaired by Michael A. Bernstein of Tulane University will also examine the legacy of the New Deal and its effect on Obama’s economic policies, the history of social legislation in America, and the Democratic Party’s complex relationship with foreign relations and national security.

The proliferation of new technologies has revolutionized both historical research and the teaching of history, and the AHA has formed several panels to address the ever-increasing digitization of the historical profession. Google’s controversial Google Books program will be the focus of the provocatively titled panel “Is Google Good for History?”

The AHA is not just the domain of academic historians, and there will be several panels at this year’s convention on history teaching in our nation’s high schools, and the relationship between academics and primary and secondary school teachers. The panel “Working Together: A Century of Collaboration between Classroom Teachers and University Professors to Improve History Teaching,” chaired by a high school teacher, will trace the origins of the separation between the university and the high school, and the developments within the past twenty-odd years to raise historical education standards in the United States.

HNN will have comprehensive coverage of these panels and many others, and will, of course, bring you the details of the AHA’s business and procedural meetings. Look for conference updates starting January 7.