CFP: Berkshire Conference on Women’s History, Toronto

The longest CFP I’ve seen in a long while…

CALL FOR PAPERS Berkshire Conference on Women’s History

Toronto: May 22-25, 2014
Proposals due January 15, 2013

The sixteenth Berkshire Conference on Women’s History will be held in Toronto on May 22-25, 2014. The University of Toronto will host the first Canadian “Big Berks” in collaboration with co-sponsoring units and universities in Toronto and across Canada.

Our major theme of Histories on the Edge/Histoires sur la brèche reflects the growing internationalization of the Berkshire conference. It recognizes the precariousness of a world in which the edged-out millions demand transformation, as well as the intellectual edges scholars have crossed and worked to bridge in the academy and outside of it. The conference in Canada prompts engagement with critical edges – sharpening, de-centring, decolonizing histories. Edges are spatial: impenetrable borders, stifling or protective boundaries, and spaces of smooth entry. Edges are temporal; they also evoke the creative and the avant-garde. Entangled in the idea of edges are rough encounters, jagged conflicts as well as intimate exchanges. It speaks to the alternative spaces the “edged-out” have carved for themselves and to efforts made to create a common ground, or commons, on which to make oppositional histories.

As a nation-state shaped by imperialist histories and its own colonial dynamics, Canada itself sits on the edge of a powerful if, perhaps, waning American empire. Like other white settler societies, it is a colonial state that has operated through dispossessing First Nations peoples, guarding the edges of white citizenship, and endorsing patriarchal models of assimilation; yet, this history unfolds and is resisted in myriad ways. Its historical trajectory, on the edges of empire, includes colonization first by the French with the resulting ongoing Francophone presence, and later the British. Its distinctive features include socialized medicine, same-sex marriage, and official but contested multiculturalism. On Anishinabe land, Toronto, a creative, cosmopolitan, and contested city, is both “home” and “elsewhere” for many of its diasporic residents. What better place to consider edges as sites of hope, excitement, and possibility but also of danger, displacement, struggle, and exile?

Because change so often emerges from edges, however slowly, painfully or partially, we invite “on the edge” histories of all locales and time periods. We invite in particular histories of the Caribbean and Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, and Indigenous, francophone and diasporic cultures around the world. We welcome papers that focus on bodies and objects on edges of all kinds. The theme also invites work that queers gender and sexual binaries. How can we historicize emergent, residual, and ongoing gender constructs such as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ as well as gender performances, sexual practices, and social identifications that challenge binary modes of gender and sexuality?

Our theme encourages critical reflection on how gender works. Gender has its many ragged edges: where private and public spheres, and masculinity and femininity, have been defined and redefined; where class, gender, race, ethnicity, nation, kinship, sexuality, and ability/disability have interacted. So, too, is gender on the edge of debate: a term in need of scrutiny to expose its uses, contradictions, strengths, and weaknesses.

The theme respects feminist theory and praxis as a critical stance in need of constant interrogation. We invite work on western and non-western feminisms and scrutiny of feminisms within the context of historically shifting power relations and international alignments. The conference provocatively asks if “mainstream” feminism can reinvigorate its critical edge. Should we, as scholars, however we are positioned, seek to destabilize the centre and authorize the margin? Or sharpen our critique in a world that, now, as so often in the past, stands seemingly on the brink?

We encourage comparative or transnational panels organized along thematic lines, even in the case of the more regionally-based subthemes. We especially invite conversations across centuries, cultures, locales, and generations. Proposals will be vetted by transnational subcommittees of scholars with expertise in particular thematic fields. All proposals must be directed to ONE of the subthemes and be submitted electronically. In formulating your proposal for one of the subcommittees, you are NOT required to address every topic in the thematic thread. Please list a second choice of subtheme, but do not submit to more than one subcommittee. Instructions for submission will be posted on the Berkshire Conference website in September, 2012.

Preference will be given to discussions of any topic across national boundaries, including for the regional subthemes, with special consideration for pre-modern (ancient, medieval, early modern) periods. However, single papers and proposals that fall within any single nation/region will also be given full consideration. As a forum dedicated to encouraging innovative, cross-disciplinary scholarship, and transnational conversation, we invite submissions from graduate students, international scholars, independent scholars, filmmakers, educators, curators, artists, activists, and welcome a variety of perspectives.

Paper abstracts should be no longer than 250 words; panel (2-3 papers and a comment), roundtable (3-5 short papers), and workshop (6-9 pre-circulated papers) proposals should also include a summary abstract of no more than 500 words. Each submission must include the cover form and a short cv for each presenter. If you have questions about the most appropriate subcommittee for your proposal or problems with electronic submission, please contact:


  • Borders, Encounters, Borderlands, Conflict Zones, and Memory
  • Empires, Nations, and the Commons
  • Law, Family Entanglements, Courts, Criminality, and Prisons
  • Bodies, Health, Medical Technologies, and Science
  • Indigenous Histories and Indigenous Worlds
  • Caribbean, Latin America, and Afro/Francophone Worlds
  • Asia, Transnational Circuits, and Global Diasporas
  • Economies, Environments, Labour, and Consumption
  • Sexualities, Genders/LGBTIQ2, and Intimacies
  • Politics, Religions/Beliefs, and Feminisms
  • Visual, Material, Media Cultures: Print, Image, Object, Sound, Performance

We will issue reminders, beginning in late August, 2012, and list program committee and subcommittee co-chairs. A list of the entire program committee will be posted on the website: For more details about the themes, see the initial Announcement 2014 Themes on the website: For questions, write to: