МАГ/The International Association for the Humanities     ЖУРНАЛ МЕЖДУНАРОДНОЙ АССОЦИАЦИИ ГУМАНИТАРИЕВ | Volume 5, Issue 1 (34), 2016.

ASEEES, a Collective Effort to Advance the Scholarly Field: An Interview with William Rosenberg

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RosenbergThe Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) является некоммерческим, неполитическим научным сообществом. Оно объединяет преподавателей и исследователей, занимающихся бывшим СССР и странами социалистического блока и считается ведущей неправительственной организацией в мире, ставящей целью распространение и развитие знаний о Евразии, бывшем СССР и Восточной и Центральной Европе. Ассоциация стала преемницей Комитета по славянским исследованиям (Committee on Slavic Studies), основанного Американским советом научных обществ (ACLS) в 1938 г. и через десять лет преобразованного в American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS). В 2010 г. название Ассоциации после длительных обсуждений было заменено на Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Ассоциация издает журнал American Slavic and East European Review (“The Bridge-MOCT” публиковал интервью с его главным редактором Марком Стейнбергом), проводит ежегодную Конвенцию и является коллективным членом Американского Совета Научных Обществ.

Профессор Уильям (Билл) Розенберг – специалист по российской истории, архивам и конструированию исторического знания. Он являлся Президентом AAASS в 2002-2003. Редакция журнала The Bridge-MOCT обратилась к Биллу с просьбой рассказать об Ассоциации и ответить на вопросы о том, чем занимается научная ассоциация и как она “устроена”.

Elena Gapova: ASEEES is defined as a nonprofit, non-political, scholarly society. It is one of many: there is an anthropological association, two major associations of historians, and many others – more than 100 in fact that are active members of the umbrella group American Council of Learned Societies . What is “the purpose” of such organizations? They are not professional unions (at least, not in a traditional sense), so why do scholars choose to “unite”? Why do young scholars join such organizations?

William (Bill) Rosenberg: Scholarly associations in the United States pursue a variety of different goals, but the primary purpose in each case is to bring scholars together within their own fields of study. We would call it today “networking,” although association members interact around scholarly questions, teaching matters, and broader concerns of their fields and disciplines – no 140 word Twitter stuff here. Commonly, there are three complementary ways in which the “associating” occurs: an annual meeting (or convention) typically organized around the presentation of scholarly research; a learned journal, usually published three or four times a year; and some form of newsletter (the ASEEES NewsNet for example, or the American Historical Association’s Perspectives. Scholars from major research universities as well as small colleges find the annual meetings a stimulating way to meet and talk with their colleagues, to become familiar with current research, and to share less formally some of the concerns they may have about teaching, the state of their fields, or even matters of funding. In the 1890s the American Historical Association began the effort to establish a U.S. National Archives; in the 1950s, Russian, Soviet, and East European area scholars launched the Slavic Review. While scholarly societies are not profsoiuzy, the are indeed professional unions in the original sense of the term: a joining of professional scholars and teachers whose collective efforts often serve to advance the interests of their fields, scholarly and otherwise.

Young scholars in particular look to the scholarly associations meetings as the best forum to present their work. It gives them an opportunity to interact with well known and often very distinguished seniors, receive constructive commentary on their research, and engage actively in conversation about it with away from their home institutions and its faculty. Scholars of all ages and levels of accomplishment from colleges and universities away from major urban centers in the U.S. also find the opportunity to interact with their colleagues stimulating intellectual and often useful in other ways as well.

E.G.: What issues does ASEEES take on? Can you say that it “represents” Slavic scholars, speaks on their behalf in academia and beyond?

B.R.: All scholarly associations are governed democratically in the US by an elected panel of Officers and a Board of Directors or some such equivalent. Association presidents are typically well-known scholars in their own right, but in any case individuals recognized as familiar with the scholarly and professional issues that most concern their colleagues. These rotating representatives may take up a variety of issues, depending on the circumstances and their own understanding of what they might be able to accomplish in practical terms.

Currently the ASEEES leadership is confronting directly the problems created by the drastic reduction in federal US funding for our regional fields, including support for language teaching. It is addressing the question of how it might best respond to this crisis in ways that could assure the effective training of a new generation of specialists, both in the U.S. and the region. Also on the agenda is the question of increasing the ability of scholars in and outside the region to interact with each other, and the broader issue of whether regional studies itself, which some universities regard as an outmoded paradigm, still matter. In this connection, members of the Board are working to identify the topic issues of global importance for which expertise in our region is important: migration studies, health and demography question, youth, environment, and others, along with already established issues like human rights and social change. This year’s ASEEES convention, for example, is organized around the general theme of “revolution,” but using the rubric broadly to embrace revolutions fields like demography and health as well as social change.

E.G.: How is ASEEES sustained financially? Its members pay their dues: how are these spent? Is there any other form of financial support but… Where can it come from?

B.R.: The two principal sources of revenue for all American scholarly associations are subscriptions to their journals and newsletters, and registration fees for their annual meetings. For individual scholars, subscriptions are part of membership fees; for institutions, they may or may not be. Registration fees for annual meetings are scaled to encourage participation of younger scholars, but since they are a major source of revenue, they also serve to stimulate program committees to arrange the most interesting and stimulating conventions. Sometimes the magic actually works.

The larger and longer lived associations, like the American Historical Association (with 16,000 members) have also been able to build small endowments over the years through member gifts or legacies. Typically these are applied to prizes or fellowships, rather than operating expenses. All other revenues – from subscription fees associated with dues or separately, from convention registration fees, and from advertisements in journals and newsletters as well as exhibition space for publishers at annual meetings – are applied to cover the costs of publications and the support of association staff. Typically, although not always, universities hosting scholarly association offices donate space and some services as well, motivated by the notion that housing the association brings credit to the school as well.

E.G.: How is the Association run, practically speaking? How is the President elected and what were your “rights and duties”? Is there a “governing board” as well?

B.R.: Practically speaking, the administrative vitality of the ASEEES depends on its Executive Director. The same is true with other major societies. Presidents, other officers, and members of the Boards of Directors are nominated by an appointed committee composed of members of the association not currently sitting on the Board. Two candidates are typically offered for each position. All registered association members are eligible to vote, regardless of position or rank. Since association officers typically serve for only one year, their actual term of service includes their year as an officer-elect and an additional year as past-officer. At any given time, therefore, there are three “presidents”, say, attending all administrative meetings: future, present, and past. The Executive Director manages to coordinate their sometimes different interests and agendas, along with those of a constantly changing board. The are no formal “rights and duties”, only the moral obligation to invest time and energy for a period in the interests of the association and its members. Typically, candidates for governing positions are asked to provide a short statement of what they think these are as part of the election process. There no financial compensation, nor even in most cases support for travel or lodging. These are “duties” the officers (or their home institutions) are expected to bear.

E.G.: And are there people who oversee more technical issues, for whom ASEEES is a paid job?

B.R.: Yes, in addition to the Executive Director, the ASEEES staff currently has a paid full or part-time staff that includes a memberships and subscriptions coordinator, a convention coordinator, a NewsNet editor and communications coordinator, and a finance person, all working at the ASEEES office at the University of Pittsburgh. The Slavic Review staff includes an unpaid editor and a paid managing editor, along with a small group of advanced graduate students who receive university fellowship support for their work with the journal.

William (Bill) G. Rosenberg, former AAASS (ASEEES) President, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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