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.
Sheila McManus is associate professor of history at the University of Lethbridge. She lives in Coalhurst, Alberta, and has been an AHA member since 2001.
Alma maters: BA, University of Calgary; MA, University of Victoria; PhD, York University
Fields of interest: history of the borderlands of the North American West; race, gender, and sexuality in North America; historiography
When did you first develop an interest in history?
During my first degree. I started out as an English major but I enjoyed my history classes so much more—the profs were better, my grades were better, and the student club was fantastic.
What projects are you working on currently?
The main one is Both Sides Now: Writing the Borderlands of the North American West (under contract to Texas A&M). It is a historiographical analysis of recent scholarship on the US–Mexico and US–Canada borderlands.
Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?
They have expanded considerably. My research interests are now more continental, more about the shared histories of and relationships between the Canada–US and US–Mexico borderlands. My teaching interests have also expanded—I rarely teach courses in my own field but have developed a real passion for teaching methodology and historiography, and I am currently trying to develop a world history intro course.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog,etc., that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon—I use it to start my second year methodology class and it is the perfect film to get students thinking and talking about perspective, evidence, whether or not historians are like judges, etc.
What do you value most about the history profession?
The collegiality. So many other disciplines seem to have all these internal fractures, according to subject matter or theoretical stance, and history just doesn’t have those fractures. Good history is good history.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
I was a commentator for a borderlands panel “Crossing Borders: Frontier Theory in Pan-American Perspective” in San Francisco in 2002, back in the day when borderlands panels were at the worst times and got very small audiences. My younger brother had come up from Los Angeles to meet up with me and he sat in on the panel. He was impressed that I managed at one point to get the audience to laugh; I responded “we’re historians, it’s not a high bar!”
Other than history, what are you passionate about?
Teaching and helping other faculty become better teachers. In the last year I’ve been a teaching fellow at the University of Lethbridge’s Teaching Center and become a facilitator for instructional skills workshops for new and experienced faculty.