August 21, 2012
By Nike Nivar
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 and then contacted by AHA staff, but if you would you like to nominate a colleague for the AHA Member Spotlight, please contact Nike Nivar.
Matthew Avery Sutton is associate professor of history at Washington State University. He lives in Pullman, Washington, and has been an AHA member since 2004.
Alma mater/s: I received my PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2005, and currently teach at Washington State University. I will be spending the 2012–13 academic year as the Mary Ball Washington Professor of American History at University College Dublin, Ireland, on a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant.
Fields of interest: modern U.S. history; American religious history; American cultural history; politics.
When did you first develop an interest in history?
During my first year in college I took a survey course on modern U.S. history—I loved the class and have loved history ever since.
What projects are you working on currently?
I just finished a short textbook entitled Jerry Falwell and the Rise of the Religious Right: A Brief History with Documents, which will appear this October in Bedford’s popular History and Culture series (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013). My larger project is a comprehensive study of American Christian fundamentalism from its origins in the 1880s to the present. I argue that fundamentalists’ and evangelicals’ belief in an imminent apocalypse shaped their understandings of war, race, gender, economics, family, popular culture, education, and politics—basically all facets of life. It is tentatively entitled American Evangelicals and the Politics of Apocalypse and will be published by Harvard University Press in 2014.
What is the last great book or article you have read?
I loved Eric Larson’s In the Garden of the Beasts and admire his ability to use history to tell great stories. I’ve also just read an advance copy of Edward Blum and Paul Harvey’s forthcoming book, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America; this is a wonderful book that transforms how we “see” Jesus in American history.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you would recommend to fellow AHA members?
The blog Religion in American History is excellent, helping readers stay current on all things in the field of American religious history.
I don’t get to the movies as often as I would like but I love the TV shows Dexter and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
What do you value most about the history profession?
I enjoy both the research/writing and the teaching sides of the profession. Engaging with the broader public through my research and especially its relevance to modern political/religious issues is very rewarding; I also love helping students get excited about history in the classroom.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
I always enjoy the AHA annual meeting—it’s a great opportunity to see friends.
Other than history, of course, what are you passionate about?
I have two boys ages 3 and 6. They—along with my wife—are lots of fun and keep me busy.