Anthony Smith

University of Dayton
Candidate for Vice President (2023)/President (2024)

Candidate statement

I would be honored to serve as Vice President of the ACHA. In past years I have been a member of the Executive Committee. More recently I served two consecutive years as chair of the annual program committee. This included the years when Covid required the Association to adjust to rapidly changing events. From this experience, I came to appreciate how the ACHA enjoys impressive resources as a professional community. These include its clear, organizational and administrative structure, its culture of respect, collegiality, and dialogue, and above all, its membership and their dedication to the field of Catholic studies during a period of disruption and uncertainty.

More broadly, I consider the ACHA currently one of the most exciting professional organizations in the humanities. Its smaller size translates into offering a real intellectual community for scholars that larger organizations such as the AHA and AAR often lack. Further, its increasingly interdisciplinary character draws upon the wide range of approaches and methods in the study of Catholicism. The transnational and global turns, the deepening exploration of diversity within Catholicism, and the examination of Catholicism’s involvement and legacies in the histories of racial, colonial, and national regimes reflect some of the current vibrancy of the scholarship the Association supports. Finally, projects the organization has pursued including its social media presence, website, webinars, New Books Network podcast, and the recently awarded AHA/NEH grant to research Native American Boarding Schools evidence the creativity of the ACHA as a major home for Catholic studies. I am eager to support and further the Association’s work at a moment of expanding possibilities for Catholic history.

While excited about the new initiatives, I’d also like to see the ACHA continue practices that have made it a unique organization. This includes offering a place particularly for younger scholars entering the field as well as encouraging a supportive, generative community for all interested in the study of Catholic history.

Recognizing the distinctive character of the ACHA within the humanities, however, also means acknowledging that as historians and other scholars of Catholic studies, we face a moment of crisis of the humanities themselves. Challenges from outside the university and within pose serious questions about the continued well-being not only of the discipline of history but the entire humanities. This affects all of us, whether we work at private or public institutions, archivists, or as independent scholars. This crisis is also our crisis and needs conscious attention.  Whether that includes extending our social media, digital and online options, creating alternative and new publics for Catholic studies scholarship, or exploring ways the ACHA can collaborate with the AHA and other similar professional organizations to protect the humanities, or other possibilities, I am interested in facilitating the ACHA’s role as a forum to ensure the future of Catholic studies.