[R6037] Promoting Public Scholarship in Middle East History

Created by Stephennie Mulder
Tuesday, 10/06/20 01:30 pm


Over the last decade, even as enrollments in history and art history classes have declined, the public maintains a vibrant and growing interest in history. That interest is evident in the prominence of historically-themed programming in film, television, and gaming, which abounds in historical content of varied quality and scope - the most salient example is the success of HBO's medieval-themed Game of Thrones, which dominated global television rankings for nearly a decade, eventually making it the most-watched series in television history. As a result, most people are now learning history not in the classroom, but thorough popular media.

This roundtable proposes that scholars must be a part of the conversation shaping the public view of the past, and that in an era of fake news and media disinformation, it is in fact urgent that we actively participate in shaping popular history. Recent appropriations of imagined pasts by ideologically-driven groups - ranging from ISIS to white nationalists (who often look to an imagined Crusader past for justification for modern Islamophobic actions) - underscore the immediacy of the call to shape the public's perception of the history of the Middle East.

Yet many scholars are not trained to engage with popular history: they have never acquired the skill set necessary to write popular versions of their scholarly work, write for the media, appear on television, or reach out to filmmakers, television producers, or game developers. Many of us are also unaware of the potential of social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter for furthering academic work and connecting directly with the public. And many junior or contingent scholars may have concerns about the repercussions of public-facing history for hiring, tenure and promotion.

This roundtable assembles a group of prominent early and mid-career scholars who have worked in various public-facing realms for an open-ended discussion of how scholars of the Middle East can engage the public more effectively.

The roundtable will be loosely structured around the following topics:

Writing popular articles, op-eds and opinion pieces - how to write and pitch to editors
Pitching publicly-accessible readers or monographs to publishers
How scholars might influence the design and development of games
How scholars might influence the production of television and film programs
Using social media to do public-facing history - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Integrating public-facing scholarship into the classroom through platforms like Wikipedia
The perils and benefits of public-facing media for academics on the tenure-track and for contingent faculty





Stephennie Mulder

(The University of Texas at Austin)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;