I’m at the American Historical Association conference in Washington DC this weekend. Heather and I are using it as a way to get a little vacation from the kids, and to give talks. We’re both on a panel on post-academic careers, organized by friend of mine who I knew when I was at Berkeley– and who later beat me for a job at Montana State.
I haven’t been to AHA in about 15 years, and the last time I attended it was in Washington DC. History of science has its own set of conferences, which are smaller and a lot more intimate, and I usually went to those. AHA is kind of so large, it’s a great place place to hook up with friends from school or people in your speciality, but that size makes it hard to meet anybody new, or the have those serendipitous encounters that are so valuable in social networking events.
When I first got here, for a couple hours I kept looking at people and thinking, I think I recognize them. Then I had another realization: it’s not that I recognized 80% of the members of the American Historical Association, it’s that We all look the same. The dress code (tweed or other woolens for people with jobs, suits for young job-seekers), the ubiquity of backpacks, the predominance of beards and glasses, and a few other things, and a certain look of abstraction or otherwordliness, all combine to generate a certain Look. I wonder if I could still pass.
Not to sound snide or critical: this is a look I sported for years, and see whenever I go home. But it’s illuminating to look in on a group you were once so deeply a part of.
[To the tune of Bombay Dub Orchestra, “Feel (Thievery Corporation Remix),” from the album “Bombay Dub Orchestra“.]