AHA Member Spotlight: Donna J. Guy

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series. The members featured in this column have been randomly selected by AHA staff or nominated by fellow AHA members. If you would you like to nominate a colleague for the AHA Member Spotlight, please contact Nike Nivar.

Donna J. Guy is a professor of history at Ohio State University. She splits her time between Worthington, Ohio, and Tucson, Arizona. She has been an AHA member since 1987.

AHA Member Spotlight, Donna J. Guy

Current school or alma mater/s: BA, Brandeis University; MA and PhD, Indiana University. I taught at the University of Arizona from 1972 until 2001.

Fields of interest: Argentine history, sexuality and gender studies, and political economy.

When did you first develop an interest in history?
I became interested in history as a way to integrate my interest in language studies, cultural studies, and history. I also searched for a way to make creative contributions and found that history most suited my talents. On a lighter note, I wanted to travel to Latin America and I was too short to be a flight attendant. I kept hoping to be hijacked to Cuba whenever I flew!

What projects are you working on currently?
I am finishing a book on charisma and letter writing entitled Write to Me Argentina: Letters to Juan and Eva Perón. I just finished an article on prostitution and suicide in late 19th-century Argentina, as well as an article on department stores and the rise of female mobility on the streets of Buenos Aires in the early 20th century. Next month I will present a paper on an unpublished manual for men on their wedding night from early 20th-century Argentina. I am about to retire but I consider myself an active historian.

Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?
My interest in history has expanded and diversified. I was trained as an interdisciplinary historian and this has helped me greatly. I wrote my doctoral dissertation and first book on the political economy of sugar in Argentina in the late 19th century. After writing a number of articles on that and on commercial law, credit, and Argentine industrialization, I switched to the history of legalized prostitution for my second book. My third monograph was on the role of women in the formation of the welfare state in Argentina, and I have edited volumes on international feminisms, sex and sexuality in Latin America, and comparative frontiers on the northern and southern edges of the Spanish empire. My books have been published in Spanish as well as in English, along with many of my articles. I have also learned the value of service to the profession and have served on many committees related to history and Latin American history.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I would recommend a British film entitled Shooting the Past. It is available on DVD and explores the meaning and value of archives.

What do you value most about the history profession? 
I value all the wonderful colleagues I have had, as well as the ability to keep in touch over the years through meetings such as the AHA. I am passionate about historical research and teaching and try to teach the values of passion in the profession to undergraduates and graduates.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?
Besides my husband, I am passionate about keeping in touch with friends and colleagues here, in Europe, and in Latin America, thereby creating bonds that will maintain themselves after we retire. I also love the flora and fauna of the desert, the beaches (obviously not in Tucson or Columbus), travelling, and comparing different cultures as we travel.

Any final thoughts? 
The historical profession, along with the university, is undergoing fundamental transformations. What will keep us on track is remembering why we decided to study history and to impart that to our students.

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  1. Ignacio M. Garcia

    Professor Guy made me sweat to get my Ph.D. I will never forget her sitting me in her office and telling me I’d better learn to analyze or I would never be in the big leagues. I don’t know if I ever did, but she is one reason I have an endowed chair and six books. Thanks Donna.

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  2. Jeffrey M. Shumway

    Donna was a great advisor and continues to be a wonderful mentor. It is sad to hear her utter the word “retire” but we are all fortunate that she will remain engaged in the discipline. Muchísimas gracias Donna.

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  3. Dina Berger

    This is a well-deserved spotlight on a great academic and teacher who has become an invaluable mentor to me long after graduate school. Here, here Donna!

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  4. Jessica Pliley

    Donna was, and continues to be, a fabulous mentor. She has always challenged me in exciting ways, pushing me to think bigger and to tackle more complex issues. Her body of work reminds all of us about the value of both archivally-driven projects and interdisciplinary lenses. Thank you.

    Reply