San Diego to Boston and All Points Between - thoughts on the AHA

About a week ago, I received an email (from a group I had never heard of) inviting me to move my AHA panel from the Hyatt. The issues were the hotel owner’s stance on gay marriage, and some labour issues. They weren’t offering alternative venues, but suggested that some people were using their own hotel rooms (I am not expecting a huge audience for my paper, but I was hoping for a better crowd than 3 people sitting on my bed). Shortly thereafter, I received a message from the AHA saying much of the message was disinformation, there is no labour dispute at the hotel, and repeating the outcome of discussions at the last AHA meeting: the hotel was booked years ago and pulling out at this stage would be more financially damaging to the AHA than to the hotel. A series of panels on the history of marriage will be held at the Hyatt.

Tenured Radical and others have discussed this proposed boycott and why it was not going to work for the AHA financially. This series of sessions on marriage being held at the Hyatt also generated some H-NET discussion, with a couple of responders saying they expected the panels to take one side of the debate (no papers endorsing an anti-gay marriage perspective). I don’t know yet but I suspect this will be true. And that’s unfortunate. I am in support of gay marriage, but I don’t think this is the type of thing on which the AHA should have a position.

I don’t know Mr Manchester or have any particular interest in his views, but as I understand it he participated in the elections as a citizen, legally exercising his democratic right to support a particular viewpoint, and donating money to the cause he supported. After all, it’s not just Doug Manchester holding a certain opinion, evidently thousands of Californians agreed with him. The subtext I’m sensing is that the Hyatt has become the focus for a lot of anger from AHA members who were unhappy with the passing of Proposition 8. If the Proposition had not passed, I don’t think anyone would be suggesting boycotting the hotel.

The more general complaint I’ve heard about the AHA in terms of its location is the cost: I think I’m paying more for my hotel this year than I did last year (which was New York at New Years). I will be interested to see how much attendance is down due to the economic downturn (as opposed to the lower attendance which is apparently typical whenever the AHA is on the West Coast).

I have been told that the reason we go to cities like Philly or Boston is that they are much cheaper than, say, Miami in January. But the cities that have hosted the recent meetings and are on the calendar for the next few years seem to offer a fairly unimaginative shuffle, with New York and DC on high rotation. (I understand the Washington meeting of 2008 was a last-minute replacement for New Orleans, but perhaps they could have moved the 2014 meeting away from DC).

2005 - Seattle
2006 - Philadelphia
2007 - Atlanta
2008 - Washington, D.C.
2009 - New York
2010 - San Diego
2011 - Boston
2012 - Chicago
2013 - New Orleans
2014 - Washington, D.C.
2015 - New York
2016 - Atlanta

I don’t know how the AHA chooses the destinations: does it depend on local members campaigning for it, like the Olympics? Obviously it has to be a city where a local organising committee can make arrangments, so a city with a density of members does make sense (also because all the people living and working in New York or Boston can make a good base, whereas at another city a higher proportion of attendees have to come in from outside). I get all of that, but it would be good to see some other cities getting into the mix. Baltimore? Savannah? Providence? Memphis?