The Western Society for French History’s 45th Annual Conference was held on November 2-4 here in Reno, sponsored by our very own Center for Basque Studies and the Santa Clara University History Department. Dr. Sandy Ott led the local arrangements committee with help from numerous members of the CBS staff and students, dedicating countless hours to the conference’s success. There were around 150 speakers and attendees to the 35 panels on diverse topics such as “Imperial Mobilities: Labor, Goods, and Technology between Colony and Metropole” and “Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and Exile the French Basque Country.” To check out the program, visit the WSFH website. I will include a brief description of the conference, however, provided by the society:

The forty-fifth annual conference of the Western Society for French History will be held from November 2-4 in Reno, Nevada. The theme for this year’s conference is “Diasporas, Displacements, and Migrations,” and engages with diverse human experiences of relocation, both forced and voluntary, and invites reflection on large-scale human displacements, both past and present, and the long-term consequences they generate. Our keynote speakers will be Tyler Stovall (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Annette Becker (Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense).

The University of Nevada, Reno is the home to the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies, which is co-sponsoring the conference. The conference will highlight the Basques and their vibrant culture, and participants will be able to sample Basque cuisine at the Friday business luncheon. The Basque experience reflects the conference theme, and our aim is to bring aspects of Basque culture to the program so that participants can appreciate the historic importance of the Basque people in the Great Basin Region of the American West.

This year the conference organizers are introducing a new format: a linked Conference Plenary Roundtable and Conference Workshop.  Following on last year’s excellent discussion at the roundtable “Crisis in French History?” we have planned the roundtable “Addressing Structural Racism in French History and French Historical Studies,” followed by a related workshop in which we hope colleagues can explore in more depth pedagogical questions raised by the roundtable discussion.  If you are interested in exploring strategies for engaging with questions of race in your classrooms, please plan to attend this inaugural Conference Workshop.

As co-sponsorers of the event, we had our own books out and of course, Dr. Ott’s new Living with the Enemy. We also had a collection of posters from the Jon Bilbao Basque Library on display, which really livened up the space.  Numerous questions were asked about the Basques at the registration desk. One professor, although raised in Brittany, had Basque ancestors who had made their way into France. Another had visited the area in the late 1960s, who recalled his travels with much enthusiasm. The attendees seemed genuinely interested in learning more and got the chance to have a Basque-style lunch too. Food is always the best way to learn about a culture!

Yesterday’s post outlines the panel on “Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and Exile in the French Basque Country” and the presentations by Aurélie Arcocha-Scarcia, Mari Jose Olaziregi, and our own Ziortza Gandarias. Dr. Zulaika’s comments resonated with the present and the past of the Basques. Overall, it was a great success.

On a personal note, I had the chance to reconnect with a professor of mine after 10 years. I had seen his name on the program, Dr. Jonathan Beecher, but couldn’t put a face to the name. The moment he walked up to the registration desk, I immediately recognized him. He was on a panel entitled “Flaubert, Marx, and 1848,” with Biliana Kassabova and Dominica Chang, chaired by Naomi Andrews and commented on by Mary Pickering. I had a chance to attend the panel, and as I had read both Flaubert and Marx in Dr. Beecher’s class, “19th Century European Intellectual History,” I was brought back to the days that I began my studies in History. Back then, my focus was on Modern Europe, Germany to be exact. How things have changed! I am now in my sixth year studying Basque migration! Attending that panel made me reflect on my path as a historian, and the many professors and books that have influenced my studies. In that regard, the WSFH conference was a wonderful opportunity to hear different scholars and re-energize my own studies.