British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds With Brian Ward

The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association. 

Earlier this month we invited you to spend 60 seconds with the new members of the U.S. Studies Online editorial team. Now the new members of the BAAS Executive Committee have kindly let us learn more about their lives, their interests, desert island books, and memorable moments…


ADSS_BrianWard_facultystaff_255Where are you right now?

In my office at Northumbria University: 4th floor, nice view, something approaching sunny outside.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?

To Miami Beach, February 18, 1964, when the Beatles met Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, in his training camp as he prepared to take on Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight boxing title.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Figuring on a lavish but tasteful dinner for 8, my 7 companions would be Muhammad Ali, Mark Twain, Florence Mills, Dorothy Parker, Helen Oakley Dance, Bob Dylan, and Barack Obama.

You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?

Either Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, or David Glen Gold, Sunnyside.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

A toss-up between discovering lost footage of Martin Luther King giving an impromptu speech in Newcastle and getting the advance copy of my first book, Just My Soul Responding – oh, and being elected BAAS chair, of course.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Work towards becoming mid-career academics as quickly as possible, but never forget the challenges you faced getting there! Seniority has its own peculiar demands, but completing a PhD, trying to find a secure job, getting out those first publications and then trying to come up with a second project are daunting prospects for early career academics. That’s why BAAS is committed to helping members navigate those particular hurdles, putting on an increasing number of professional workshops around things like funding, publishing, impact, Open Access, REF and teaching. There are a lot of seasoned campaigners out there, so I’d advise ECRs to make full use of that experience and expertise.

What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?

I’m doing something with the British Library and Eccles Centre in early July to mark the 40th Anniversary of punk in the UK. Not sure if I can reunite my long lost — but never missed – band, Wilton and the Shagpiles, but I’m excited to be part of a discussion of the Sex Pistols’s ill-fated US tour.

How did you come to your current area of research?

Hmmm, that pre-supposes I currently have a single area of research, when I’m juggling several projects. I’m a media-popular culture brat, so no matter how hard I try, I rarely escape working on music and the media for very long. I’m just finishing a big, co-authored book on Artists and Repertoire men – and a handful of amazing women — in the early roots music recording industry (the Simon Cowells of blues and hillbilly). I’m also beginning to work on a medical humanities project on disease, disability, dying, and death in the US South.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

I guess I once had fairly typical pipedreams of being a musician/footballer/cricketer, but was cruelly stymied by a lack of talent. Is being retired a profession?

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Wilkie Collins, Woman in White: it’s barely visible under issues of TIME, MOJO, and the official 2016 West Ham United annual.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Let’s say 5 weeks or so – I was making good headway before succumbing to the many temptations of [I]BAAS in Belfast…

About the Author

Professor Brian Ward is Chair of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS) and Northumbria UniversityÕs first Professor in American Studies. Brian has published widely on the modern US South, with interest also in various aspects of Anglo-American cultural relations, the civil rights movement, popular music, and the 1960s. Throughout his career he has been awarded with many awards and grants, including the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship and an AHRC Research Network Grant.