Graduate conference 2021
The End of the World as They Knew It: Crisis and Collapse in History
May 14, 2021
Keynote speaker: Professor Kate BROWN (MIT), author of Manual for Survival: An Environmental History of the Chernobyl Disaster (2019)
Convener: T.H. Breen Graduate Fellow Sian OLSON DOWIS
CALL FOR PAPERS: Proposal deadline February 1, 2021
From the ongoing global pandemic to the looming specter of climate catastrophe, it is widely recognized that we are living through a period of extraordinary crisis. Yet catastrophe and precarity
are far from new. Throughout history, people have believed that they were experiencing the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as they recognized and understood it. Many others have prophesied that end times were soon to come. Indeed, crises and disasters are so abundant in historical literature that they are arguably the primary scaffolding upholding our dominant historical narratives.
We invite scholars in all fields of history and related disciplines to submit paper proposals exploring the history of the end of the world, broadly defined. “The End of the World as They Knew It: Crisis and Collapse in History” aims to inspire a lively and thoughtful conversation on the history and historiography of political, economic, environmental, social, cultural, and religious crises and disasters. Submissions may address, but should not be limited to, any of the following questions:
- How should historians define crisis? Whose experiences and perspectives shape our understandings of crises and catastrophes at any given moment, and whose voices get left out of such determinations? If we redefine “crisis,” how might our historical interpretations shift?
- What role do crises and disasters play in bringing about historical change? What possibilities have crises and catastrophes opened up, and what have they foreclosed? How is the rhetoric of crisis and emergency mobilized to achieve particular agendas?
- What are the analytical possibilities and limitations present in the concept of crisis? Given its widespread use among historians, how can the concept of crisis continue to hold analytical weight for historical research?
- How have different societies across space and time responded to periods of crisis, catastrophe, and collapse? What has it meant to witness the collapse of established orders and systems of meaning throughout the past? How have different historical actors made meaning out of mass destruction and loss?
The conference will take place on Friday, May 14, 2021 via Zoom. The keynote speaker will be Professor Kate BROWN, historian and Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Brown is the award-winning author of many books, including Manual for Survival: An Environmental History of the Chernobyl Disaster (2019). More on her website at https://sts-program.mit.edu/people/sts-faculty/kate-brown/
Interested graduate students should send a paper proposal of no more than one page (250 words), and an updated CV to Sian Olson Dowis (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Monday, February 1, 2021. A Northwestern history faculty committee will select the papers. Conference papers will be ten to twelve pages double-spaced and due Thursday, April 29, 2021, in order to allow time for circulation to the commentators. Presentations will run 10 minutes.
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