This blog post is the third in a series of posts supporting the UHA’s inaugural Membership Drive. These posts will introduce you to some of the many amazing scholars, activists, teachers, and others in the UHA’s membership community, as well as highlight the role played by the UHA in the lives and careers of its members. We hope they’ll inspire you to deepen your involvement with the organization by joining the UHA or renewing your membership. The UHA is only as strong as its members, who make possible our efforts on behalf of our discipline. Please visit urbanhistory.org/membership today to join or renew.
Join Urban History Association member Clayton Howard and members Tracy Neumann and LaDale Winling as they discuss the UHA’s value to scholars and teachers. The following interviews have been edited for space.
How long have you been involved in the UHA and what prompted you to join?
Tracy Neumann: I joined sometime in grad school (I can’t quite remember when! It feels like I have always been a UHA member!), for all of the reasons grad students join professional associations – my research focused on urban history so it was a logical choice, I wanted a place to present my work, I wanted to know what other people were working on.
UHA is really a nicely-sized organization. It’s not so big that you feel anonymous, or only want to attend its conference when it’s in New York so you can see your grad school friends, yet not so small that it’s just the same people presenting the same stuff all the time. Plus, it’s not an intimidating experience.Tracy Neumann
What do you see as the biggest benefit of being a member of the UHA?
LaDale Winling: The Urban History Association has been the most important professional organization of my career. In 2004, the first year of my PhD program, I joined and traveled to the conference in Milwaukee and found the people and research so compelling that I have been an active and enthusiastic member ever since. In those 17 years, I have presented and commented at conferences numerous times, served on the board, organized the program with Elaine Lewinnek for the 2018 conference in Columbia, SC, have mentored graduate students at workshops, have published in the Journal of Urban History, and have served on the Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book in North American Urban History committee. In each of these activities I have asked myself, “how did I get so lucky to be part of such a stellar and supportive community of scholars?” The UHA has become one of the most intellectually dynamic, accepting, and diverse organizations I have seen — capable of growth and transformation — and I’m happy to support and promote its work far and wide. Please join me in renewing your membership and making sure UHA can continue to grow, to improve, and to support the work of emerging and continuing scholars.
Tracy Neumann: UHA is a really nicely-sized organization. It’s not so big that you feel anonymous, or only want to attend its conference when it’s in New York so you can see your grad school friends, yet not so small that it’s just the same people presenting the same stuff all the time. Plus, it’s not an intimidating space. My experience, anyway, has been that senior scholars are extremely welcoming and very interested in the work of grad students and more junior colleagues. Because of that, UHA never feels especially hierarchical, either because of your status in the academy or the perceived rank of your institution. Basically, at the UHA conference and through the other activities it sponsors (blogging contests, member profiles, virtual events) you can make friends and find mentors without having to try very hard. And I want to give a shout-out to Avigail Oren and Ryan Reft for doing such a great job with The Metropole and the UHA Twitter account, both of which have been real pleasures during the pandemic.
I would like to see urban historians developing even more ambitious ways to reach the public, to bring work to the broader world, and to influence policy from the local and the international scales.Ladale winling
What are your hopes for the future of the UHA?
Tracy Neumann: Over the past few years, UHA has really made an effort to invite in new voices and different kinds of scholars. I hope to see this continue, and that the organization continues to become less provincial in terms of the geographic specializations of its members. Our members have by and large been Americanists, like me, and I think we have a lot to learn about urban research methodologies, how we conceptualize cities, and what kinds of questions we should be asking from our members who work on other world regions. I hope we can better reach out to these folks in the years to come and make them feel welcome in UHA.
LaDale Winling: I would like to see urban historians developing ever more ambitious ways to reach the public, to bring our work into the broader world, and to influence policy from the local to the international scales. The scholars, teachers, and public historians of the Urban History Association have been on the forefront of some of the most important issues facing us today, such as mass incarceration, racial and spatial inequality, and immigration. I think our historical perspectives give us great insight into issues of contemporary politics and society — climate change is another. As we continue making UHA more inclusive to topic, to method, and to region, we have a great opportunity to weave public engagement into our work to reach increasing audiences and increasing partners for our research.
Ready to join or renew your membership? Learn more about UHA membership online or by contacting membership director Kara Schlichting at firstname.lastname@example.org. Memberships purchased after August 1st will be good for the remaining portion of the current calendar year plus the next calendar year (e.g. a one-year membership purchased on September 15, 2021, will be good until December 31, 2022).
Clayton Howard is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University and the author of The Closet and the Cul-de-Sac: The Politics of Sexual Privacy in Northern California (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).
Tracy Neumann is a historian of cities and the built environment. She is an Associate Professor at Wayne State University and an editor of the Global Urban History blog. She is the author of Remaking the Rust Belt: The Postindustrial Transformation of North America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), which examines the relationship between neoliberal urbanism in North Atlantic cities and the postindustrial redevelopment of manufacturing centers in the US and Canada.
LaDale Winling is an associate professor of history and core member of the public history program at Virginia Tech. His book, Building the Ivory Tower: Universities and Metropolitan Development in the Twentieth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), examined the role of American universities as real estate developers in the twentieth century.
Featured image (at top): One of the world’s first great cities, Athens, Greece, at night. Ryan Reft (September 2021).