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The Social Science History Association at 40: A Savory Chop Suey

  • Susan Boslego Carter

Abstract

Multidisciplinary conversations are tough. Language, habits of thinking, and styles of presentation and criticism differ profoundly across disciplines. Academic rewards to multidisciplinary research are unpredictable. Yet year after year, for 40 years running now, the Social Science History Association (SSHA) has hosted increasingly large, multidisciplinary conferences that attract scholars from a diverse set of academic fields and geographic regions. By fostering debate in an atmosphere of civility, respect, and inclusiveness, the SSHA has become a premiere venue for introducing the latest in social scientific topics, methods, and data. Here I salute the founders and guardians of the culture responsible for this impressive achievement with a multidisciplinary foray into the history of America's chop suey craze of the early twentieth century. Like the remarkable history of the SSHA, the history of chop suey illustrates the importance of civility, respect, and democratic inclusiveness in fostering innovation. It is a story that celebrates the rewards to institutions that promote such virtues.

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