Report of the Delegate to the ACLS (May 2017)

The ACLS is important for all of us in the humanities, but after writing a full report on last year’s meeting, I do not have much to say about this year’s.  The SCS sends its delegate to vote at the business meeting, and the meeting is necessary but not exciting.  We admitted a new society, for Austrian history, and approved the officers.  The presentations by fellowship recipients were, as usual, fascinating.  Freeman Hrabowki of University of Maryland, Baltimore County, spoke at lunch, and Pauline Yu interviewed Earl Lewis of the Mellon Foundation.  I attended a breakout session about innovations in humanities curriculum; most of the discussion was about joint teaching with scientists, and I did not learn anything that seemed especially valuable for the SCS (I do not quite understand why nobody seemed to be collaborating with social scientists).  Harry Frankfurt gave the Haskins lecture, which was very meaningful to me because he was a friend of my parents, and prompted considerable discussion afterward.

I did raise an issue with a member of the EC, which plans the meeting.  On the first evening, there was a panel on “Who Speaks, Who Listens: The Academy and the Community, Memory and Justice.”  John  DeGioia, president of Georgetown, talked about that university’s reckoning with the slave sales that financed it; two speakers addressed issues in Baltimore itself.  It was all interesting and worthwhile, but I was troubled that it seemed to assume that disciplines addressing distant times or places had no place in a discussion of memory and justice. We are hardly the only ACLS society whose concerns are not as obviously in the here-and-now, but we may need to be vigilant about being marginalized even there.

Ruth Scodel

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