2012 Annual Meeting

The 2012 ACLS Annual Meeting took place at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia, PA on May 10-12. In attendance were members of the ACLS Board of Directors, Delegates of the constituent societies, members of the Conference of Administrative Officers, presidents of the constituent societies, representatives of Affiliate organizations, representatives of college and university Associate institutions, ACLS fellowship recipients, committee members, foundation representatives, and other invited participants.

The Board of Directors met on May 10. (Board members in attendance are pictured at right.)  For current membership, see Board and Committees.

There were two informal sessions on Thursday evening. In one session, Andrzej W. Tymowski, ACLS director of international programs, moderated a panel on “The Future of International Education and Research Collaborations in Challenging Times.” The panelists, Sandra Barnes, professor of anthropology, University of Pennsylvania; William G. Rosenberg, professor emeritus of history, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Aili Tripp, president, African Studies Association. The discussion touched on the effects of budget cuts on funding for international programs and studies. Results of these cuts have changed the nature of research and training, decreased expertise in specific world areas, created a new generation/workforce that is not globally savvy, which leads to an increasing cultural isolationism. Suggestions including making use of new technologies and taking advantage of the new diaspora populations on campus; the importance of collaborations with scholars in other world regions was stressed. Also noted was the cultural imperialism of U.S. universities and dominance of English as the common language of scholarship; the importance of learning about scholarship in lesser known languages that are not translated into English.

In the other evening session, William E. Davis, executive director of the American Anthropological Association, moderated a panel on “Learned Societies, Humanities Journals, and Federal Mandates.” The panel was composed of Kathleen Keane, director, Johns Hopkins University Press; Patrick Kelly, vice president and publishing director, Wiley Publishing; and Deanna Marcum, managing director, Ithaka S+R and former associate librarian of Congress. Patrick Kelly provided an overview of open access policy arena. Kathleen Keane described how the cost and pricing structures of humanities and social sciences differed significantly from those of the STEM publications that are often the intended target of open access regulations. Deanna Marcum asked the audience not to think of the issue as a simple binary, but as a continuum of possibilities along which various publications and parts of publications could be arranged. During the lively discussion that ensued, members of the audience expressed the hope that these issues could be the subject of further ACLS programming.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the ACLS Board of Directors, opened the Council meeting on Friday morning, May 11. Lawrence R. Wirth, ACLS director of finance, reported on ACLS finances. Voting members (Delegates and board members) approved the ACLS budget for FY 2013 and the following elections to the board:

  •  Earl Lewis, African American History and Provost, Emory University, was elected to a three-year term as chair.
  •  Kwame Anthony Appiah, Philosophy, Princeton University, was elected to a four-year term as member.
  •  Richard Leppert, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota, was elected to a four-year term as member.  

Nicole Stahlmann, director of fellowship programs, reported that that during the current 2011-12 competition year, ACLS offered support through 15 discrete programs, the largest number of funding opportunities in ACLS’s 94-year history. Over $15.5 million was awarded to scholars worldwide.

Pauline Yu began her "Report to the Council" by congratulating ACLS board member Earl Lewis on his appointment as the next president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She stressed the differences between the far-sighted philanthropic support for higher education and advanced research and the meme of a “business model,” which has come has come to dominate so much thinking about scholarship. Even so, she was proud to point out that ACLS was in a strong financial  position to pursue its basic business of investing in scholarship and working with its member learned societies. She concluded her report by citing President Calvin Coolidge’s dictum that “[t]he chief ideal of the American people is idealism.” “The subjects of the humanities are the ideals, ideas, creativity, and meanings through which people shape their cultures and live their lives,” she asserted. “Making that wealth available and accessible is our business plan, and we’re sticking to it.”

As in recent years, the Council meeting concluded with a presentation by current ACLS Fellows on “Emerging Themes and Methods of Humanities Research.” This year's speakers were 2011 ACLS Collaborative Research Fellows Alejandro L. Madrid, associate professor of Latin American and Latino Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago and Robin D. Moore, professor of musicology/ethnomusicology, University of Texas, Austin; Rebecca Schuman, 2011 New Faculty Fellow, Ohio State University; and Jessica A. Schwartz, 2011 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow,doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology, New York University. Schwarz’s project is an ethnographically based historical examination of the moral, ethical, and epistemic values that underlie the production and codification of nuclear knowledge. She is focusing on how the aural and musical can help us think “the unthinkable” and recover people’s voices and lives that have been and stand to be silenced by global nuclear culture motivates her research. Rebecca Schuman’s interdisciplinary research addresses timeless questions about early twentieh-century German literature using both the source material and the methodology of early analytic philosophy. Her presentation demonstrated the relevance of Wittgenstein’s philosophy to literary study, with particular reference to Kafka’s The Trial. Alejandro Madrid and Robin Moore collaborated on a project on transnational circulation and resignification of danzón. Their joint presentation highlighted the rewards and challenges that collaborative research and writing offers. Audience members suggested that the individual presentations could be connected under the theme of “music and silences.”

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chairman Jim Leach spoke at luncheon on "The Power of the Humanities."

The afternoon session focused on “How the Humanities Help Us Understand Economic Behavior.” It was moderated by Sewell Chan, deputy editor of the Op-Ed/Sunday Review at The New York Times, and featured Alexander J. Field, Michael and Mary Orradre Professor of Economics, Santa Clara University; Jonathan Levy, assistant professor of history, Princeton University, and Deirdre McCloskey, UIC Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago. The lively discussion touched on a number of topics.  Alexander Field said that history and literature can be especially useful to the better understanding of economics. He spoke of John Kenneth Galbraith, a Keynesian economist and public intellectual. Due to his bestselling books in matters of economics during the fifties, sixties, and seventies, he was arguably the best known economist in the world during his lifetime. Jonathan Levy noted that economists and humanists lack a common language. Twentieth-century economic thinking has fetishized risk, while historians have focused on uncertainty—confidence versus panic. Closing the gap between economics and the humanities will not be easy, but better communication would help.  Deirdre McCloskey spoke of the artificial distinction between science and the humanities—humanities equal quality and science equals quantity. Economics, she emphasized, needs a serious re-engagement with ethics. The American outlook is to be practical, and therefore hostile to the humanities. Economics needs to deal with more than the maximum utility in mind.  

There followed a discussion of maximum utility, whereby a consumer is assumed to be rational and will thus maximize his or her total utility by purchasing a combination of different products rather than more of one particular product. Utility explains how individuals and economies aim to gain optimal satisfaction in dealing with scarcity.One needs to look at multi-motivations to understand human behavior. 

Joyce Appleby, professor emerita of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, delivered the 2012 Haskins Prize Lecture in the evening of May 11.

The Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) held their spring meeting on the following day, May 12. 

The 2013 ACLS Annual Meeting will be held in Baltimore, MD on May 9-11. Robert Alter, Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley, will deliver the Haskins Prize Lecture.