Thoughts on Not Attending the 2017 ASEH Meeting

After a lot of painful wavering, I have decided against attending the American Society for Environmental History meeting in Chicago at the end of this month. I have been to every conference since Tucson in 1999. It is, without question, the annual highlight of my professional life, not to mention one of the big social events I genuinely look forward to: catching up with some of my closest and best friends, most of whom I only see at the conference.

But this year, I won’t be going. The first two months of the Trump regime have made the United States—a country whose history I know quite well—a most uninviting idea. I’m not boycotting the US. I’m not protesting. I’ve wrestled with the divisive nature of the current presidential administration, and whether it would be more fruitful to resist it by showing solidarity with colleagues: attending and celebrating the sharing of knowledge that typifies the good academic work done all over the country. But in the end I am uncomfortable crossing a border that many of my colleagues and graduate students either can’t cross, or wouldn’t feel safe crossing at the moment.

To my many ASEH friends: I’ll miss you. See you soon.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Not Attending the 2017 ASEH Meeting

  1. Interesting thoughts, Michael. But if you are not protesting, what is it then? Don’t get me wrong, I sympathise. While hoping that a Chinese location of departure will not deny me entry, I am curious to learn first hand how much if the civil resilience displayed in the media can be seen in reality. ASEH definitely has the potential to becoming a bitter-sweet conference this year. See you soon, Agnes


    1. Safe travels and best of luck Agnes (I’m sorry I won’t see you there!). I think the main rationale stems from the final sentence—that the exclusionary practices of the travel ban constitute an unequal and unfair obstacle to some who would attend and benefit by doing so. It seems disingenuous to cross the border as freely as I probably can to enjoy the personal and professional pleasures of attending the ASEH meeting when others cannot. I want to stress the personal aspect of the decision, because I am far from convinced it is the right choice—and I certainly don’t want to make my decision to stay home a call to arms to others. But, yes: I hope to see you soon!

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