AHA Member Spotlight: Eric Zolov

Eric Zolov is an associate professor at Stony Brook University. He lives in Forest Hills, Queens, and has been a member since 2001. Zolov is the author of Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (1999), and is currently working on a book that explores the concept of a “Global Sixties.”

Zolov_picAlma maters: PhD, University of Chicago, 1995; MA, Latin American Studies, University of Chicago, 1990; MA, International Relations, University of Chicago, 1990; BA, Colby College, 1987.

Fields of interest: 20th-century Mexico, US-Latin American relations, global Cold War, 1960s, popular culture.

When did you first develop an interest in history?
To be honest, my high school history classes were taught by rote. Boring! I have a terrible memory for names, dates, and places. When I got to college, I took a class with Jack Foner, who was a special visiting professor that year. It was a remarkable course, a “people’s history” from below that focused on social history in the US labor movement.  I was hooked by the idea that history offered so much more than knowing “the right answer.”

What projects are you currently working on?
I have been exploring, for some time now, the concept of a “Global Sixties,” meaning the ways in which a simultaneity of interlocking events transpired at different points around the globe. I have a book manuscript that is advancing in fits and starts called, “The Last Good Neighbor: Mexico in the Global Sixties.”

Have your interests evolved since graduation?  If so, how?
While my research has definitely become more global, there has been a consistency in “thinking globally” that dates to my first book, Refried Elvis. I have always been intrigued by the ways in which signs and commodities travel and insinuate themselves into other contexts. But I am definitely more focused on political culture and the Left now than in my earlier work.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I am a sucker for the political thriller genre, as I imagine many historians are.  One film that I find especially nuanced (and riveting) is Four Days in September, about the kidnapping of the US Ambassador to Brazil in 1969. The current president of Brazil was involved with the guerrilla movements of that period so it really underscores the long arch of 1960s into the present.

What do you value most about the history profession?
I really enjoy the collegiality. People often bemoan the professional conference but I have hardly missed an AHA meeting over the years.

Why have you continued to be a member of the AHA?
Historians are among the last of the professional guilds. There is an obligation, beyond simple economic self-interest, in helping that guild ethos prosper—including, especially, through the transfer of shared knowledge to the next generation.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
I remember one of my first conferences, when I was broke and on the job market.  It was too expensive to actually register and I somehow managed to convince an actual professor to lend me his name tag so that I could get into the book fair.  I definitely got some strange looks from people who knew I was impersonating!

Other than history, what are you passionate about?
Live music. I have played the flute since I was a kid and it is great to find people to jam with.  Sometimes, even other historians!

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.

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