Call for Papers

‘Historical writing always has some effect on us. It may reinforce passivity; it may activate us. In any case, the historian cannot choose to be neutral; [s]he writes on a moving train.’ Howard Zinn

We invite post-graduates to submit abstracts for a one-day conference –  ‘what is radical history?’ – exploring the relationship between rigorous historical research and active political engagement. In 1970 Howard Zinn asked a question still important for politically-engaged academics today: ‘what is radical history?’ This conference will provide a space to re-engage with this debate, both to ask what we can learn from radical historical practice of the past but also to question what has changed in the intervening decades, and what a radical history might look like now. The conference is on Tuesday, March 24th 2015 at Birkbeck, University of London.

We invite contributions from post-graduates from any disciplinary background who have a strong historical component to their research. We have identified three themes on which we especially invite reflections:

  1. What identifies ‘radical history’ as ‘radical’? Does its radicalism lie in its subject of study or in the approach of the researcher?
  2. How does ‘radical history’ negotiate the relationship between ‘objectivity’ and politics?
  3. What use is ‘radical history’? Does it have a role to play in emancipatory politics?

We welcome theoretical responses to the question ‘what is radical history?’ as well as contributions rooted in empirical research. We invite submissions of 10-20 minutes in length: these could be collaborative or individual in nature, and encompass interviews, short films, and papers, as well as other appropriate methods. We aim to generate a multidisciplinary analysis of the nature of ‘radical history’ today and of the challenges that politically active researchers across various departments currently face within academia and wider society.

The conference will end with a round-table between activist-academics including Dr. Becky Taylor (Birkbeck, History, Classics and Archaeology) and Dr. Robbie Shilliam (QMUL, International Relations), and an audience-participatory discussion. The event will be free to attend.

Prospective speakers are invited to submit abstracts of 250-300 words. Separately, please also include your name, affiliation and contact details, as well as full-details of the presentation method and any audio-visual or mobility requirements. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 22nd December 2014. For more information about the conference, or to submit an abstract, please email the organising committee: Luca Lapolla (Birkbeck), Diarmaid Kelliher (Glasgow) and Tank Green (Exeter) at: radicalhistoryconference [at] gmail.com.

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