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.
Twitter Handle: @ninakushner1
Current school and alma maters:
I have been a faculty member at Clark University since 2005. I earned a BA from Dartmouth College in history and religion, and an MA and PhD from Columbia University, both in European history.
Fields of interest: history of sexuality, history of women and gender, 18th-century France and England
When did you first develop an interest in history?
As a young child, I lived in Europe on and off. My parents regularly took me to sites of historical significance and really helped me to cultivate an interest in history. When I was a little older and tuned in to my mother’s work as a woman’s and gay rights activist, I became deeply interested in the historical basis of social exclusion and how the state acts on the sexual body.
What projects are you working on currently?
I am working on two projects. The first, which I am co-writing with my colleague Amy Richter, is a historiography of women and gender, part of the series Issues in Historiography published by the University of Manchester Press. The second is a monograph currently titled The Rules of Adultery: Mapping Sexual Culture in Old Regime France, which uses adultery as a lens through which to examine sexual culture, class formation, identity, and marriage in 18th-century France.
Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?
Yes, but not dramatically. I am still compelled by the same kinds of topics and questions, but the angles and the stakes of these explorations have changed appreciably. For example, I am less interested in how sexual culture is shaped by policing and the state, and more interested in its internal structures and how they, in turn, inform political, social, and cultural practices.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
Although it is not in my field, this summer I have greatly enjoyed reading Scott Sandage’s Born Losers: A History of Failure in America.
What do you value most about the history profession?
Its potential for empowerment. As a teacher, it is amazing to help students see how much of the world around them is historically constructed and hence that they can reject or revise many of the narratives told to them about themselves. As a scholar, it is immensely interesting to both identify and analyze these constructions.
Why did you join the AHA?
Initially, to access job ads, but now to stay abreast of current trends and be part of an organization that works to support the profession and that lobbies for issues of critical importance.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
More a phenomenon than an anecdote: At every AHA, the delight that comes from running into people I have met at every stage of my career, often within minutes of each other and usually at the book exhibit.
Other than history, what are you passionate about?
My kids and my husband, friends and family, social justice, writing humor pieces, bad escapist fiction, really good and thought-provoking fiction, hiking, swimming, and just being present in the moment.
Any final thoughts?
Given both the crisis in higher education and the state of the media, I think there is something to be said for the call for more professors—and especially historians—to become public intellectuals.