An Intellectual Conversion Narrative

Historians in the News
tags: historians, intellectual history, USIH, community

Historian of Religion in US

This morning I’m sitting in an airport on my way to New York City for USIH’s annual meeting. I found my way to USIH in some ways by chance. The annual meeting happened to be in Dallas, where I live, and I received a call for volunteers. In the glow of being post-comprehensive exams but not yet deep into my dissertation work, I signed up to help. I attended the meeting and have stuck around ever since.

Prior to attending that meeting in Dallas, I didn’t necessarily consider myself an intellectual historian. Religious historian? Yes. Midwestern historian? Certainly. Historian of U.S. and the World? Sure. Intellectual historian? I wasn’t convinced. I liked the study of ideas, for sure, but I wasn’t sure intellectual history was for me.

As a first generation college student from a community where few people went on to earn four-year degrees, I didn’t grow up having philosophical debates. I didn’t read thinkers like Marx or James until college, or in some cases graduate school, and I have never had a conversation about them with someone from back home. From the outside, I didn’t know if I fit.

At my first meeting of USIH, however, I realized that there was a place for me in these conversations. Marx and James weren’t so intimidating after all, and there were plenty of other folks being discussed as this group of scholars wrestled with the history of ideas. So, as we kick off our annual meeting today, I wanted to reflect a bit on why I stuck around after that first conference a few years ago.

Read entire article at Society for US Intellectual History

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