In 1999, the Scottish Association for the Study of America was launched at the University of Stirling, with US Ambassador Philip Leder as the opening ceremony guest of honour. The association was born with two principle aims: to bring Americanists across Scotland together through events at venues; and to exchange information of interest about associated events and visiting speakers. Dr Colin Nicolson of Stirling University drafted SASA’s constitution, which is still the basis for our system of governance, and elected an executive committee. Professor Sir Duncan Rice, Principal of Aberdeen University and an authority on the anti-slavery movement, was SASA’s first honorary president, who was later succeeded by Professor Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones of the University of Edinburgh.
SASA’s main calendar event has always been an annual conference, hosted on a rotational basis at various Scottish Universities. The conference seeks to give opportunities to postgraduate students to communicate their research findings and ideas. In more recent years, the conference has seen an increase in not only UK-based scholars, but participation from both Americans and citizens of European and other nations as well. In 2015, the Association expanded its remit beyond just the United States, to include the growing interest in North American and Caribbean studies in UK and European academic study. Past winners of our conference paper essay prize (previously sponsored by the Adam Matthew Digital Archive), and our current Ellen Craft Postgraduate Essay Prize, have gone on to publish articles based on initial research discussions at past SASA events.
In the early years, SASA ran master classes for a small number of postgraduate students, which now take the form of a biannual postgraduate workshop, first established in 2017. Given the overwhelming nature of the academic job market, our workshops help American History and Studies PhD students navigate the job, fellowship, and publishing worlds with helpful support from society members and past-committee members.
Overseen by former Vice Chair Dr Catherine Bateson, and our former Social Media Secretary Krysten Blackstone, the Association has evolved and grown in recent years to expand both its postgraduate scope, but also its impact in broader Scottish communities. With a large and active following on Facebook and Twitter, we encourage and regularly promote information of interest to our followers concerning the activities of North American-related academic groups, as well as sharing and supporting broader issues and resources involving social justice in the US. From the beginning, SASA was dedicated to local and national outreach, notably to secondary schools. As a result, in 2021, it inaugurated a new initiative by running the Sophia Jex-Blake Essay Prize, a competition for students at Scottish secondary schools.
Despite our ever-growing association, attendees and members often note how SASA has maintained its place as a welcoming and inclusive organisation, particularly championing and encouraging first time speakers and collegiate panel atmospheres that have led to fruitful collaborations and roundtable discussions; and we hold this praise with great pride. Indeed, while we were one of the last in-person conferences in the field to be held (Dundee, February 2020), Covid-19’s impact on SASA saw us become fully virtual over a week of successful online tours, essay prize talks, postgraduate workshops, quizzes, and an expansive virtual conference with two streams of panel papers. While we’ve been beaten by snow before (infamously at the cancelled 2018 St. Andrew’s conference), 2021’s attendance of the same number of people who regularly come to in-person events goes to demonstrate that SASA’s power can beat Zoom fatigue any day!
History of SASA written in collaboration by:
Honorary President Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
Former Vice Chair Catherine Bateson
The 2021 SASA Executive Committee
Meet the Committee
Hannah Jeffery is the Chair of SASA. She is a Leverhulme Early Careers Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh working on a book project titled, Beauty in the Struggle: Black Muralism from Enslavement to the Cold War. She has a forthcoming book with the University of Georgia Press titled, A Monument to Blackness: Murals and the Black Freedom Movement from Harlem Renaissance to Black Lives Matter.
Dr. Ben Quail is Lecturer in US History at the University of Glasgow. He is a historian of US social and foreign policy, whose scholarship focuses on the role of the media in portraying war to the American people. His first monograph, Selling Guns and Butter: Media Management in the Age of Lyndon Johnson, was published by Palgrave MacMillan in December 2021. It investigates the relationship between the media, Vietnam and the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and is particularly interested in the reasons behind the erosion of Johnson's credibility over the course of his time in office.
Social Media Secretary
Aija Oksman (she/her) is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh and the Social Media Coordinator with SASA. Her research interests are broadly on interdisciplinary and intersectional focus on women’s and other marginalised voices acts of resistance in literature, self-representation, and re-imagining of identities. Alongside her studies, Aija has been teaching Literary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, with a range of Early-Modern and Modern to Contemporary English, American and Scottish literatures. Aija is also the book reviews editor and monthly book talk organiser for the U.S. Studies Online (USSO).
Mara Curechian is a second-year PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews. Her research examines literary depictions of queer kinship – formations of community and interdependence that are not centered around the reproductive logic of the white heteronormative family – and their intersection with race and gender in the nineteenth-century literature of the American South.
György Tóth holds degrees in English Language and Literature and American Studies from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary (M.A.) and The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA (Ph.D.). In his academic specializations, György combines U.S. cultural and social history with Transnational American Studies, Performance Studies and Memory Studies to yield interdisciplinary insights into the politics of U.S. social and cultural movements in post-1945 Europe. Since 2014 György has been serving as Lecturer in post-1945 U.S. History and Transatlantic Relations at the Division of History, Heritage and Politics of the University of Stirling, Scotland, UK. His book From Wounded Knee to Checkpoint Charlie: The Alliance for Sovereignty between American Indians and Central Europeans in the Late Cold War was published by SUNY Press in 2016, and he is co-author of Memory in Transatlantic Relations from the Cold War to the Global War on Terror, published by Routledge in 2019.
Public Engagement Officer
Katherine Burns is a final-year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her interdisciplinary research examines "Information Wanted" advertisements and is provisionally entitled ""Keep this Unwritten History": Mapping African American Family Histories in "Information Wanted" Advertisements, 1880-1900."
Audrey Sisel is a PhD student of the American Civil War at the University of Edinburgh, studying the experiences of Black and white women under Union occupation in northern Virginia. She received a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in negotiation and conflict resolution from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and later worked for the United States National Park Service as a park ranger of historic interpretation at Manassas National Battlefield Park. She moved to Scotland to pursue her master’s degree in American history at the University of Edinburgh before beginning her PhD in 2022.