At the USIH Conference in Indianapolis


Just arrived in Indy to attend the sixth annual conference of the Society for US Intellectual History. This year’s theme is “Materiality of Ideas.” Here is the theme’s official description:

This subject calls attention to the history of ideas by focusing on the various embodiments of American thought. This can include considerations of the relationship between immaterial and material realities; the development of American thought through the production or reproduction of ideas; the substance of thought, including the presence or absence of material objects; the manifestations of thought in economics, politics, or culture at local, national, or global levels; and, materialization in intellectual history including, but not limited to, book culture.

I am chairing a session entitled “Revolutions and Regenerations of New England Clergy in the 18th Century.” Lauren Gray, a PhD student in American religious history at Florida State University, is giving a paper entitled “Birthing Bodies and Doctrine: Jonathan Edwards on the Materiality of Regeneration.” She will be arguing that Edwards’ understanding of the spiritual rebirth (John 3) is understood through the materiality of childbirth. Up next will be Jordan Taylor, whose paper is entitled “The Fruits of Revolution: New England Clergy, Commerce, and the French Revolution.” Taylor is a PhD student in Early American Republic at Indiana University-Bloomington. He’ll be arguing that transatlantic commerce and communication were essential in explaining the shift of American public opinion that took place in the mid to late 1790s from supporting the French Revolution to opposing it. He’s looking at New England geographer and preacher Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826) as a case study in this shift in American public opinion regarding the French Revolution. They’ll present their papers, and then I’ll provide comment prior to Q and A from the audience.

This is my first S-USIH conference, so I’m looking forward to attending the sessions. I am thrilled with the theme, and it will be hard to choose between what sessions to attend. Here are some papers that caught my attention–

Searching for National Goals: The Challenge of the Policy Sciences to Academic Ethics in the early 1960s, Fred W. Beuttler, Carroll University (I just presented with Fred on a panel at CFH at Pepperdine a couple of weeks ago.)

Roundtable: Media History as Intellectual History with Raymond Haberski, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, Nicole Hemmer, University of Miami, Kyle Barnett, Bellarmine University, Josh Shepperd, Catholic University, and Allison Perlman, UC Irvine

Santayana’s Materialist Religion, Martin A. Coleman, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

“In God’s Sight”: Jesse Jackson, Western Civ, and the Moral Case for Multiculturalism, L.D. Burnett, University of Texas at Dallas

From Philosopher to Philosophy: The Canonization of John Locke in America, 1860-1960, Claire H. Rydell, Stanford University

Reading John F. Kennedy’s Cold War: Books That JFK’s Approach to Foreign Policy, Jason Duncan, Aquinas College

Roundtable: Theological Turn in Intellectual History with Matthew S. Hedstrom, University of Virginia, Molly Worthen, University of North Carolina, Andrew S. Finstuen, Boise State University, and K. Healan Gaston, Harvard Divinity School

The History of the “History of the Race Concept” and the Invention of Racism, Jonathan Hagel, University of Kansas

Global Intellectual History and Political Economy in the Early American Republic, Emma Gallwey, Harvard University

“What You Can Do For Your Country”: JFK, the Peace Corps, and the Revival of National Service Patriotism, Anne Mørk, University of Southern Denmark

“When the Cannon is Aimed by Ideas”: Emerson, the Civil War, and the Transcendentalist Embrace of the Nation, Peter Wirzbicki, University of Chicago

What are “Enlightenment Values” and Do They Have a History? Alex Jacobs, Vanderbilt University

So a lot of good stuff to choose from. In whatever down time I have, I’ll be writing the last chapter of the exceptionalism book.


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