Logo of the Western Humanities Alliance.
The Western Humanities Alliance (WHA) was originally founded in 1982 by Murray Krieger, Ian Watt and Hayden White as a West of the Rockies English Institute. It was meant to be an alliance of Humanities Institutes and Centers, “a forum for interdisciplinary exchange in the human sciences.” The founders’ purpose was to provide an opportunity for scholars in the American West to share their interests unrestricted by fields of specialization and free from the pressures of professional conventions. At a time when interdisciplinary work was just emerging, scholars gathered at the yearly meetings to find a space in which to discuss issues at the confluence of literature, philosophy and history. The annual meeting was intended to be at once scholarly and convivial, allowing speakers time to dilate on their work and on related questions in the humanities and social sciences.
Expanding its membership to include universities outside of California and adopting a larger conference format, the organization was renamed as the Western Humanities Conference in 1988 and as the Western Humanities Alliance in 1999. After a very brief hiatus in the early 2000s, the WHA re-emerged under the stewardship of Reginald McGinnis, who served as President from 2006-2014. McGinnis stabilized the organization during the post-financial crisis years and worked with the various constituents to streamline its organizational structures. From 2014-2018, Catherine Liu served as President and oversaw the WHA's expansion of disciplinary into Television and Film and Media studies.
Over the past two decades, annual meetings have been held in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington as well as in the Western Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Most recently, the Calgary Institute for the Humanities hosted WHA’s annual conference on “Spectral Cities” at the Calgary Public Library on November 2-3, 2018. Since 2005, WHA’s annual conference proceedings have been anthologized by Western Humanities Review published by the University of Utah English Department.
Rockwell’s election marks the first time that a Canadian humanities institute assumes the WHA Presidency.
Learn more about the organization’s past and present on the WHA website and you can also follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/whauci/.
(Brief history of WHA contributed by Catherine Liu)