GraduateRoundtable Front Lines: Early-Career Scholars Doing Digital History

AHA Session 111
Friday, January 4, 2013: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Bayside Ballroom A (Sheraton New Orleans)
Frances Abbott, University of Alabama
Frances Abbott, University of Alabama
Joanna Guldi, Society of Fellows, Harvard University
Trevor Owens, Office of Strategic Initiatives, Library of Congress
Miriam Posner, University of California, Los Angeles
Tom Scheinfeldt, George Mason University
The Malleable PhD The Public Practice of History in and for a Digital Age

Session Abstract

Digital history’s growth in popularity has been accompanied by anxiety about how, and whether, these new methods and their practitioners will fit into traditional history departments. At the 2012 meeting of the American Historical Association, discussions of digital history often turned to questions about graduate education, the job market, publication, and promotion. This roundtable aims to approach these questions head-on, relaying experiences and recommendations from early-career scholars navigating these transitions.

Digital historians who elect to enter the professoriate often find themselves faced with a number of questions related to credentialing, tenure, and promotion. Many digital projects, for example, require publication venues other than the bound monograph. What sorts of avenues exist for digital publications? Will tenure committees be prepared to accept and evaluate these nontraditional projects? How many universities can be expected to offer the infrastructure and resources digital historians need?

The AHA’s leaders have suggested that for new Ph.D.s, one solution to the jobs crisis may lie in seeking careers outside of the professoriate — an option that digital historians have been particularly interested in pursuing. How can graduate students gain the experience to prepare themselves for these positions? If new Ph.D.s turn to these alternative academic careers, what can they expect? Can a historian in a nontraditional career expect to pursue a research agenda? What are these alternative jobs, and how well are new Ph.D.s adapting to them?

In this roundtable, a group of digital historians, in jobs both on and off the tenure track, will take up these questions, drawing on their own experience to suggest how we can prepare young digital scholars to enter various job markets, and how we can prepare employers to receive them.

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