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Thursday, 28 April 2016

“In BAAS I found an intellectual home”: Meet the new Chair of BAAS, Professor Brian Ward



The following is excerpted from the British Association for American Studies website.

As the new Chair of BAAS I want to ensure that the Association continues to provide for all its members the sort of nurturing and intellectually generous environment that has meant so much to me over the past three decades, writes Professor Brian Ward. It was at BAAS that I first found an intellectual home among people who saw the virtues of multiple, sometimes genuinely integrated approaches to the study of the American experience.

The first BAAS conference I ever attended was in the mid-1980s at King Alfred’s College, the forerunner of the University of Winchester. At the time I was a postgraduate in history at Cambridge University, working on a thesis that explored the links among African American popular music, black consciousness and race relations during the civil rights and black power eras. That thesis bore all the hallmarks of my BA in American Studies from the University of East Anglia at a time when there really wasn’t much inter-disciplinarity in traditional history departments. More than a few eyebrows were raised as I gamely tried to argue that Motown songs were as revealing as Malcolm’s speeches and that James Brown meant a good deal more to most African Americans in the 1960s than H. Rap Brown. Still, I did manage to secure college funds to build a discography of esoteric rhythm and blues and soul records from a postgraduate tutor who was more used to disbursing money for additional palaeography instruction. I mention this only to note that it was at BAAS, amid the panels and pints of the annual conference, that I first found an intellectual home among people who saw the virtues of multiple, sometimes genuinely integrated approaches to the study of the American experience. >>>read more

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