As I enter my second year as Early Career Representative for BAAS, my next step is to complete the BAAS survey on the current state of American Studies in the UK launched by former BAAS Chair Sue Currell, writes Ben Offiler. Following on from the successful launch of the new Adam Matthew Digital essay prize, I am also engaged in a number of exciting discussions about how BAAS can further support ECRs in terms of professional development and access to institutional libraries and local archives.
As I enter my second year as Early Career Representative for BAAS, it seems like a good opportunity to take stock and reflect on the past twelve months and look ahead to what I hope to achieve in the next year.
One area I have been particularly keen to build on is the range of opportunities available for early career researchers. As such, I was very pleased to be able to launch a new essay prize in collaboration with Adam Matthew Digital. The AMD-sponsored prize is open to postgraduates, early career researchers, and independent researchers. Because the prize consists of £500 plus one-year’s access to one Adam Matthew Digital archival collection chosen by the author, early career and
independent researchers may be prioritised as this unique prize offers access to resources they may not otherwise have. The inaugural BAAS Adam Matthew Digital Essay Prize was awarded to Dr Patrick Doyle (Royal Holloway, University of London) for his fascinating piece on “Replacement Rebels: Confederate Substitution and the Issue of Citizenship.” Huge thanks go to Laura Canfield at AMD for getting this prize off the ground and adding it to the already impressive roster of awards offered by BAAS; I am looking forward to continuing working with Laura throughout 2016 to build on this initial success.
At Executive Committee meetings and on the Development and Education Subcommittee, there have been a number of exciting discussions about how BAAS can further support ECRs, particularly in terms of visiting research fellowships and access to institutional libraries and local archives. I am looking forward to continuing to work closely with the new editors of U.S. Studies Online and the new Postgraduate Representative, Katerina Webb-Bourne, to support the professional development needs of ECRs.
I will also be looking to work with the new Schools Representative, Mike Simpson, to create opportunities for ECRs to engage in widening participation events, particularly among communities underrepresented at university and in American Studies. Besides the inherent value of trying to improve access to higher education, public engagement is becoming an increasingly important area for the modern academic, particularly when it can be translated into that wonderfully nebulous goal of ‘impact.’ In addition to the bureaucratic requirements involved in ‘impact,’ I think it is important for PGRs and ECRs to receive opportunities and proper guidance to maximise the cutting-edge and potentially transformative nature of their research beyond the academy.
My key priority for the next few months (apart from marking, of course) is to complete a survey of BAAS members on the current state of American Studies in the UK, which was begun by Dr Sue Currell during her tenure as Chair. Inspired by a fantastic workshop on Gender, Inequalities and Academic Careers at the University of Leeds last year (organised by Dr Kate Dossett, Dr Say Burgin, and Dr Gina Denton), the survey will also seek to address how these issues are experienced by and impact American Studies postgraduates, ECRs, and academics, as well as questions concerning the health and future of the field.
As the joint IAAS-BAAS conference in Belfast showed, the research undertaken by UK American Studies scholars remains vibrant in scope and innovativeness, as well as the community itself being friendly and supportive for scholars at all stages of their careers. So, as long as President Donald J. Trump doesn’t accidentally (or intentionally, for that matter) press the big red button in January, the next twelve months will hopefully be as fun and fruitful as the last twelve have been.
As always, please do get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any concerns, problems or suggestions that you think I should know about!
Ben Offiler is currently Lecturer in History at Sheffield Hallam University. His first book, US Foreign Policy and the Modernization of Iran: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and the Shah, was published in 2015 by Palgrave Macmillan.