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Graduate conference 2021

"History of the self"

april 16, 2021

via Zoom 

Keynote speaker: Professor Judith Coffin (University of Texas, Austin), author of Sex, Love, and Letters: Writing Simone de Beauvoir, 1949-1972 (2020)

Convener: T.H. Breen Graduate Fellow Ruby DAILY
CALL FOR PAPERS: proposal deadline January 4, 2021

Identity, subjectivity and self-reflexivity are all inexorably linked to historical thinking, from Marx’s theory of class-consciousness to contemporary queer scholarship. Historians cannot evaluate agency, narrative, contingency or context without also considering the ways in which historical actors perceived or defined themselves. In the wake of the “psychological turn,” this becomes doubly important as we begin to unravel the complex ways in which both we and our historical subjects spend time, money, emotional energy and even political capital on discovering and reifying the “true self.”

We therefore invite submissions from scholars in all fields of history and related disciplines to a conference on the “History of the Self.” The conference theme aims to highlight intersections between the self and categories such as citizenship, sex, race, religion, community, politics, medicine, economics, and consumption. Submissions might address some of the following questions: In what ways is selfhood political? Does the concept of the individual self intersect with, or depend upon, the concept of individual rights? How have ideas of selfhood played into revolutions or helped preserve the status quo? How can selfhood or identity circumscribe experience? Is self-fashioning inherently freeing or limiting?

The conference will take place on Friday, April 16, 2021 via Zoom. The keynote speaker will be Professor Judith COFFIN, a historian at the University of Texas-Austin, author of Sex, Love, and Letters: Writing Simone de Beauvoir, 1949-1972 (2020). You may read more about Professor Coffin at

Interested graduate students should send a paper proposal of no more than one page (250 words), and an updated CV to Ruby Daily ( by Monday, January 4, 2021. A Northwestern history faculty committee will select the papers. Conference papers will be ten to twelve pages double spaced and due Thursday, March 25, three weeks prior to the conference, in order to allow time for circulation to the commentators. Presentations will run 10 minutes.




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