Call For Papers: The Fifteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women

October 7, 2009, 2:34 pm

The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians has just posted its call for papers for the 15th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, which will be held at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, June 9-12, 2011. The theme is “Generations,” and the link to the call will remain in the sidebar at left until March 1 2010, the closing date for proposals.

As your favorite Radical has been a program chair in the past, and remains an active member of the organization, here are answers to a few frequently asked questions:

Do you have to be a woman to attend this conference? Oh, what is a woman anyway: as Denise Reilly would say, “Am I that name?” No, you don’t have to be a woman to participate or attend, but you will certainly have a better time if you are interested in feminism and/or scholarship on women. There are some men who are regulars (Tom Dublin, Danny Walkowitz, Marc Stein and Kevin Murphy spring to mind immediately), and others who attend as many women do, because they have been invited to participate or because they happen to be in the neighborhood.

Are the conference organizers really interested in scholarship on race? Yes, and every kind of scholarship that attends to a racial analysis: colonial and post-colonial scholarship, the histories of slavery, immigration and migration, Native American, First Nations and indigenous studies, borderlands, Atlantic studies, whiteness studies, subaltern studies (OK, you keep naming them — and put some people from these fields on your panel, ok?) If you are working in these areas, be assured that many of the women you most admire will be at the conference, and you should be too. And if your scholarship has not yet intersected with important new global and transnational scholarship that highlights the histories of people of color? There’s plenty of time to start reading and get ready to meet senior and rising young historians where they are.

Are graduate students welcome? Most definitely. In fact, many of us who are now officers and strong supporters of the organization originally attended the conference as graduate students, and it became one of our first introductions to doing institutional work with, and developing genuine friendships with, senior scholars. You will have the most fun if you come with a group of friends, so start planning now. But guaranteed, you will make new friends, sometimes really good ones.

OK, but are graduate students welcome as participants? Again, absolutely — and you may find, as a feminist scholar and/or a historian of women, that this is a particularly generative location for your work. Things to think about in putting together a proposal might be:

Work across institutions. In other words, your co-panelists should not be your most immediate colleagues. The point of a conference is not performance (although performance can be fun); or a line on your vita. The point is intellectual exchange that pushes your work forward. Think about diversity as well, and if you can, internationalize your panel.

Find a senior scholar to comment on your panel who you genuinely want to engage with. This may require you conferring with one or more of your mentors to ask them to make an introduction for you. Often assistant professors will be the best people to make these connections, because they know a broader range of young scholars whose books are just coming out, and whose work might best speak to yours.

Try to think of a paper to give that will be interesting to you and everyone else almost two years from now. One of the observations I would make about the Berks is that, because it has a longer lag time from acceptance to presentation, and because graduate student time moves more quickly, the paper you wanted to give can seem a little stale by the time the conference really rolls around. Some of the best panels, bar none, that I hear at conferences are focused on methodological issues and questions of evidence, not uncovering something (you think) no one has heard about yet. Round tables can be particularly vital.

Will it be a relentlessly Americanist conference? Lord no, but we rely on you to work actively to put international scholars on your panels. By this we mean not just non-United States specialists, but people who live and work outside the United States (which includes Canada and Mexico, my friends — not so far away geographically, but sometimes not as much on our radar as they should be.) Some money becomes available to support travel to the US for scholars who need it, but you might want to also dig through institutional coffers to see if you can help at an early stage.

Is there a dance? Oh yes. One of the best.

Will I have a good time? Double yes. It is unlike any other conference, including we can guarantee you will not have to cross picket lines to get into it. Since we are meeting in Happy Valley, unlike San Diego, any homophobia or transphobia you encounter will be entirely aberrational, and will be suppressed immediately by roving bands of lesbian monitors recruited from the Northampton vicinity. (“That’s a joke, son!”)

Oh, and by the way? The stars will be out, I promise. I will be there; so will Historiann, and I would be shocked if Knitting Clio did not attend. Because GayProf will have finished his Never Ending Project of Doom, we will insist on his attendance as well.

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