History of the Association

Origins and Founding

Inspired in part by discussions held at a conference honoring Hanna Pitkin upon her retirement, Dennis McEnnerney and Emily Hauptmann decided to found an association dedicated to promoting scholarly and convivial interaction among American political theorists. Their work was initially supported and encouraged by several theorists who attended the Pitkin conference. During the spring of 2000, an informal group from across the country began working on a mission statement and organizational plan for the Association. That informal group grew into a more formal Founding Committee. For details on the organization's initial plans, see the initial mission statement, The APT Manifesto.

APT Co-Founders

Dennis McEnnerney, Political Science, State University of New York, Oneonta
Emily Hauptmann, Political Science, Western Michigan University

The APT Founding Committee

Robert W. T. Martin, Government, Hamilton College
Greg Streich, Political Science, Central Missouri State University
John Medearis, Political Science, University of California, Riverside
Amy McCready, Political Science, Bucknell University
Dan Sabia, Government & International Studies, University of South Carolina
Ed Wingenbach, Government, University of Redlands

Growth, 2001-2003

Once the Founding Committee formed and approved the APT Manifesto, planning began for an initial membership drive. Several members of the Founding Committee, along with other interested colleagues, met briefly at the Midwest Political Science Association conference in April, 2002. At that meeting, it was decided that the summer would be devoted to building membership in the Association, as a prelude to planning a first conference.

In order to recruit an effective core membership, the committee decided to draft a common e-mail message describing the APT, inviting people to visit our website, and encouraging them to join the Association. Members of the committee agreed to forward the message to 10 to 20 colleagues they thought would be interested. In order to encourage a diverse membership, it was agreed that no more than three should be friends, or alumni of the same graduate program, and that all should make an effort to contact individuals who represented the spectrum of approaches to political theory and political philosophy. In addition, the committee agreed to target individuals who seemed willing to work in a collegial manner with people who embraced different perspectives. While the group aimed to recruit members from all relevant disciplines, including philosophy, it was decided to focus on political scientists initially, since the Founding Committee was composed of political scientists who, for the most part, had relatively few contacts in other disciplines. Over time, the Association would aim to recruit more widely.

At the 2002 American Political Science Association convention in Boston, a dozen members of APT met to begin planning a first conference. Simona Goi volunteered to host the conference at Calvin College, and a Program Committee was appointed. By November, the Program Committee had issued a call for papers. More than 130 people expressed interest in participating in the inaugural APT Conference, with broad representation from individuals at different ranks and types of institutions, representing a wide range of perspectives. When the conference opened at the Prince Conference Center of Calvin College in October 2003, 103 presenters, chairs, and discussants were on the program. As the conference wound down, the business meeting endorsed planning of another conference for 2004, and empowered the Co-Directors and the Founding Committee to form a committee to draft a constitution so that APT would have a lasting formal structure.

Colorado College and beyond

For its second conference, APT embarked on a new experiment: the archiving and pre-circulation of papers. In addition, at the conference, the Association moved forward organizationally when the business meeting voted to revise and adopt the Interim Governance Committee's draft APT Constitution.

Three successful conferences – at Washington University in St. Louis (2005); at Indiana University in Bloomington (2006); and at the University of Western Ontario (2007) – followed the 2004 Colorado College meeting.  Each conference introduced innovations. At Washington University, the first plenary sessions were staged and discussions on pedagogy were organized at the Saturday lunch. Also at the 2005 conference, as mandated by the new Constitution, APT elected its first regular officers. (For a list of past and present APT officers, click here.) For the 2006 conference, APT added a formal workshop on pedagogy, as well as plenary sessions on book reviewing and book publishing. 2007 saw the first "Theoretical Run/Walk" for conferees seeking some early morning communal exercise.

Subsequent APT conferences have met at Wesleyan University (2008), Texas A & M (2009), Reed College (2010), and Notre Dame (2011).  The Association attempts to rotate the meeting to different regions of the country, and to meet at both large and small institutions, whenever possible.

At the 2010 Business Meeting, the Association for Political Theory adopted its current Constitution as part of its reorganization as a not-for-profit educational association.  The Association is tax exempt under section 503 (c) (3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code. Donations to the Association are tax-deductible!

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