Aging as a Category of Experience: Scholarship and Activism

AHA Session 110
Coordinating Council for Women in History 5
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Sutton North (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Corinne Field, University of Virginia
Eileen Boris, University of California, Santa Barbara
Thomas Cole, McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics
Margaret Gullette, Brandeis University
Clara Rodríguez, Fordham University
Dara Walker, Penn State University

Session Abstract

Historians are known to focus on new subjects as the circumstances surrounding their lives prompt the asking of new questions about the past. This roundtable will consider age and retirement as historical experiences from two perspectives. First, while we have a growing literature on age as a category of analysis, recent work focuses on youth, increasingly from intersectional lenses that consider race/ethnicity, gender, class/caste, and other social factors. Second, as the generation of scholars who pioneered in the new women's and gender history face retirement, if not old age, the meaning of these experiences for research as well as the continuing practice of history intersects with the new scholarship on aging. This roundtable aims to bring these two components together to generate synergy as we think about status of the profession and research together. In doing so, it builds upon other such joinings previously engaged with--women, work and family, sexualities, and disability--in which questions of professional life and historical scholarship have converged.

Participants on this roundtable will bring a variety of disciplinary approaches and life experiences to bear on these issues. Eileen Boris, Hull Professor of Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara, will report on a survey to be undertaken by the Coordinating Council on Women in History during 2019 that aims to capture how members of all ages think about retirement and to gather ideas for what an aging agenda for women historians might look like. Through more in-depth interviews with female faculty over seventy years old, Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Resident Scholar, Women's Studies Research Center Brandeis, will inquire whether and how these older academics experience ageism in their departments and in the mass media. As a younger scholar just embarking on a new project focused on old age, Dara Walker, Postdoctoral Fellow, Penn State University, will consider what it means for a "millennial historian of black youth" to research the lives of older black people. Thomas Cole, McGovern Chair and Director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics, University of Texas, will discuss the transition in his own research from exploring the cultural history of aging in America to considering his own life history in context of interviews with other older men. Highlighting the importance of intergenerational collaborations for building fields like LatinX studies, Clara E. Rodríguez, Professor of Sociology, Fordham University, will explain why connections among older and younger scholars are particularly important for women and under-represented individuals in the academy.

As chair, Corinne T. Field, Associate Professor, Women, Gender & Sexuality, University of Virginia, will guide the conversation and moderate questions from attendees, encouraging an active exchange of ideas among presenters and audience members.

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