Just back from the Southern Historical Association. Serving as Chair of the Membership Committee of the SHA, it’s my duty to command you to join now! Seriously, if you know of folks working on topics related to the history of the South, they need to be members – and for you graduate students, it’s just $10 for the year – in other words, for less than the cost of a couple of venti soy-pumpkin lattes, you can support this excellent professional organization. You graduate students reading this blog – just join now, and make a point of getting to the annual meeting, which next year will be in New Orleans (Oct. 9-12, 2008).
This year, my panel time was limited, as I was serving on the Program Committee, planning the 2008 meeting. Since this consumed 9 to 5 on Friday, I missed what looked to me the highlight of the meeting – a panel on Sunbelt Evangelicalism, featuring Steven Miller of Webster Univ., Darren Dochuk of Purdue (recent recipient of the Allan Nevins Prize), and Daniel Williams of West Georgia. Each up-and-coming younger scholar presented a tantalizing appetizer of their forthcoming works on Billy Graham, the rise of Sunbelt Religion and the “Southernization of Southern California,” and Republican Faith: The Rise of the Christian Right respectively – to be published by U. Penn Press (Miller), Norton (Dochuk), and Oxford (Williams). I really, really wanted to play hooky from the Program Committee just for this.
One could hardly ask for a better preview of the future of the field of recent American history and religion/politics. Nancy MacLean of Northwestern and Donald Critchlow commented – apparently they are working together on a volume on contrasting essays debating the history of the recent conservative movement, modeled after the widely used volume by Steven Lawson and Charles Payne Debating the Civil Rights Movement. Anybody who is reading this who was there, please feel free to add your comments and observations.
I keep trying to get back to the discussion John Wilson and I were having about religion and the 1960s, but just haven’t gotten to it yet. So keep staying tuned, I’m rereading portions of Suburban Warriors to respond specifically to his criticism of that book.
But here’s an opportunity to plug work that is suggestive of what I wrote about previously in my response to Wilson. It seems to me that scholarship in the field has moved in precisely the ways he was calling for, and suggestions that academia is somehow hostile to this are unwarranted. The papers above, previewing the forthcoming books by these younger authors, are exactly what I had in mind when suggesting originally that the “canonical narratives” are not as closed to a richer reading of religion and recent American history as Wilson seemed originally to suggest – and I might add that Williams was a student of James Patterson at Brown, whose volume Grand Expectations came in for some sharp and deserved criticism (for one rather simplistic paragraph on evangelical religion) in Wilson’s previous post. Again, though, the work of Williams and many others suggests that religion does not have to be, and is not in fact, relegated to the “margins of high academe,” and that works in the pipeline now will quickly find their way into, and alter, the canonical narratives.
Did I mention that you need to join the SHA? Just kidding – not.