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March 15-16: Emerging Perspectives on Race and Gender in the 19th Century United States

"Live Stock" (1827)

One of the projects I’ve been working on as a postdoctoral fellow at the Pennsylvania State University is right around the corner!

The inaugural EMERGING PERSPECTIVES ON RACE AND GENDER IN THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY UNITED STATES Workshop is a workshop for junior faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and advance graduate students sponsored by the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center.  And it is happening THIS WEEKEND:

The past two decades have seen an explosion of exciting new perspectives on the subjects of race and gender in nineteenth-century US history. Scholars have demonstrated the integral role of these categories in many of the century’s major developments: from the emergence of a global capitalist economy and the origins of American empire to the making of new regimes of health, medicine, and body care. Along the way, scholars have reinvigorated old conversations and engendered new ones. Historians and other scholars have enriched and enlivened a venerable literature on free and enslaved African-Americans while bringing histories of Latino/a and indigenous Americans into the mainstream. They’ve uncovered previously unknown aspects of women’s lives while exploring the stories of trans- and ambiguously-gendered persons. And they’ve subjected the ‘unmarked,’ taken-for-granted categories of manhood and whiteness to extensive critical scrutiny. In the process, this community of thinkers has shattered the binaries – black/white, woman/man – that have traditionally structured work on race and gender, and provided ample evidence of the benefits to be gained by interdisciplinary and theoretical engagements. Many have embraced the ‘spatial turn’ or employed the human body as a site of scholarly investigation. Others have incorporated theories of performativity or intersectionality into their work, emphasizing the ‘constructed-ness’ of race and gender and the way in which the meanings of these categories inform one another. Taken together, the result of these developments has been a simultaneous expansion and redefinition of what scholarship on race and gender entails.

Some of the best work on these topics is being done by advanced graduate students and scholars in the early stages of their careers. To highlight and encourage this work, the Richards Civil War Era Center at the Pennsylvania State University, in conjunction with the Africana Research Center and the Department of Women’s Studies, invites proposals from early career scholars within three years of having received their PhD and advanced graduate students who are writing their dissertations for the first annual emerging scholars workshop. Taking place March 15-16, 2013 at the University Park campus of the Pennsylvania State University, the workshop will provide a forum for innovative young scholars to discuss new projects involving race and gender with faculty and graduate students from the departments of history, Women’s Studies, and African and African-American Studies. Dr. Daina Ramey Berry of the University of Texas will deliver a keynote address on professionalization and new directions in scholarship. Workshop papers should be no more than ten pages in length and pertain to works-in-progress rather than dissertation projects or book manuscripts nearing completion. Submissions will be pre-circulated to registered attendees and Penn State faculty, including select scholars chosen to provide detailed commentary on papers. Presenters will therefore have the benefit, not only of expert faculty feedback, but informed audience commentary and questions – extending from the immediate context of their papers to broader conversations around race and gender. Presenters can and should assume that commenters and audience members will have a basic familiarity and comfort with feminist and critical race theory and historical literature on race and gender.

The list of participants includes:

Brandon R. Byrd (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Cynthia Greenlee Donnell (Duke University)
Kara M. French (University of Michigan)
Kellie Carter Jackson (Harvard University)
Vanessa Holden (Michigan State University)
Stephanie Jones-Rogers (University of Iowa)
Adam C. Lewis (McNeil Center for Early American Studies)
Lyra D. Monteiro (Rutgers University)

Daina Ramey Berry (University of Texas-Austin) will deliver the keynote address.

The panels span four subject areas: Performing Race; Rhetoric, Race, and Politics; Slavery, Childhood, and Violence; The Sexual Marketplace

One of the reasons I took this postdoc was the opportunity to enter on the ground floor of this, the first ever, Richards Center Emerging Perspectives workshop. There are so few workshops of this kind–spaces where early career scholars specializing in race and gender get intensive, critical feedback on works-in-progress in a community of their peers. The Richards Center Emerging Perspectives workshop is also explicitly a ‘safe space’ and professionalizing space for scholars who may need extra support in forming their analyses or advice on how to navigate the next steps of the publication process or their career.

My hope is that the participants will form a cohort and support network among themselves that continues beyond the workshop. We know the feedback loop in academica runs a bit slow. For those of us doing research on race, gender, or sexuality in the early period, finding constructive feedback that moves beyond elementary knowledge and into deep analyses of structural violence, systematic oppression, colonialism and nation-building, transnational flows, bodies, performance, and intimacy can be difficult. Sometimes the feedback we get is destructive or presumes our incompetence because we present as scholars of color, young, queer, etc. Finding mentors, peers, and allies who believe in the work we are doing and understand where we are coming from is crucial. In this sense, I’m hopeful the workshop will lay a foundation for building scholarly community among those of us invested in the study of race and gender in the U.S. and beyond.

Besides which–we are going to have a lot of fun!

For more information on the workshop and the Center, click here.

Image Credit: “Live Stock,” found in Frances Trollope, Domestic manners of the Americans (London, 1832), vol. 2, facing p. 18; reprinted New York, 1832, facing p. 199; [trollope01] as shown on, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. (Click image for details)