The AHA, Digital Scholarship, and Modern Academia
Featured image by Sam Nystrom-Costales
The Historifans editorial team applauds the recent report of the American Historical Association that recognizes articles published in online journals like Historifans as publications of merit for tenure and promotion. We particularly seek to praise the committee for making this decision despite previous opposition from within the American Historical Association against expanding the definition of scholarship. Historifans has always supported a broad definition of scholarship and we are hopeful that hiring committees, tenure and promotion committees, and selection committees will adopt the same stance as well.
Historifans publishes peer-reviewed essays that engage with popular culture to make academic historical research accessible for a general audience. By engaging with source material including films, shows, comic books, novels, video games, toys, and even public health campaigns, our articles deliver meaningful scholarly content to a popular audience. Our contributors approach the task of putting popular culture and history into conversation in a variety of ways, from engaging with historical fiction to analyzing characters from shows and how they represent historical ideas. Articles have examined cultural products as historical artifacts of their time and entertainment as an analogy for the past, a particularly novel approach for a field in which the past is often used as an analogy for the present. Historifans pieces have also discussed how to bring popular culture into the history classroom in innovative ways that help teach not only ideas, but also methodologies and the historian’s craft.
Our articles undergo an extensive review process, ensuring that we publish only the highest quality historical work. We welcome submissions from all and have published excellent work from distinguished scholars, non-tenure track professors, and graduate students alike. Subject matter experts review each submission, both from within the ranks of Historifans editors and outside experts brought in for peer review. If an article has been published in Historifans, our readers can trust that it is vetted and sound. Our contributors produce serious scholarly work and the fruits of their labor should be acknowledged as such.
In its first six months our site has enjoyed tremendous public engagement. To date, we have had almost 20,000 page views, which has exceeded our wildest dreams from when we started developing the project in 2020. Historians across multiple fields and research interests have overwhelmingly embraced the opportunity to publish with our site. We have met with professors and graduate students across the country about Historifans and the opportunities that exist within Digital Humanities to promote historical research. Professors have assigned our articles at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We have heard from entertainment professionals that our articles have made their way into the writer’s rooms of the very shows we have featured on our site. Essays posted to our site have advanced original scholarship and contributed to ongoing historiographical discussions about the past.
Historians must embrace public engagement and the discipline as a whole must recognize public-facing writing and the labor associated with online academic endeavors. Writing for a public audience is very different from academic prose, and it takes considerable effort to balance expertise with accessibility. Creating and cultivating spaces where academics, practitioners, and the public can come together to engage with history are difficult tasks. The labor and sacrifices required to do such work should count towards professional advancement–authoring articles as research and editing them as service. The establishment of equitable avenues for the dissemination of scholarship is necessary in order to ensure that academia remains accessible and relevant to the public it purports to serve. We applaud the AHA’s recent report and hope that the AHA’s official position on digital scholarship will encourage the creation of more public-facing sites like Historifans and others.
Here at Historifans we have always known that these pieces are relevant, timely, and represent important historical research. As our first article states, “Historifans is truly a labor of love for the editorial team and all of our contributors.” We are excited for the future of our site, for the articles already in development, and for future contributions.
The Historifans Editorial Team
- Danielle Sanchez, ““Don’t everybody thank me at once”: A few historians, an obsession with pop culture, and the creation of (yet another) digital history site,” Historifans, 7/11/2022 https://historifans.org/2022/07/11/dont-everybody-thank-me-at-once-a-few-historians-an-obsession-with-pop-culture-and-the-creation-of-yet-another-digital-history-site/.