2020 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities
Baltimore, MD

Gendered Environments: Exploring Histories of Women, Genders, and Sexualities in Social, Political and "Natural" Worlds

Deadline: Sunday, March 17, 2019

Call for Papers

Submitting a Proposal

Call for Papers: the 18th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities May 21-23, 2020 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

The theme for the 2020 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities will be Gendered Environments: Exploring Histories of Women, Genders, and Sexualities in Social, Political, and "Natural" Worlds. The conference will be held May 21-23, 2020 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

The 2020 "Big Berks" focuses on the histories of women, genders, and sexualities, and this year devotes special attention to a pressing theme of our current moment: the role of environment(s), ecologies, and natural systems broadly defined in the histories of women, genders, and sexualities. As we plan our meeting at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay, a profoundly vibrant ecosystem where humans have gathered for millennia, we are reminded of the many ways in which the natural world has shaped human society. Its history also highlights the local and global connections of all places. This place is the homeland of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, and was home to Henrietta Lacks; it is the site of the Baltimore Fish market and a part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, a node in the Atlantic Flyway, and at the edge of the Atlantic World.

Our aim is to hold conversations that think through the intricate interplays among gender and sexuality, social and legal systems of power and political representation, and the material realities of an interconnected world continually shaped by physical nature, the human and nonhuman animals, plants, and other beings that inhabit that nature. If Earth's history has indeed entered a new geological epoch termed the Anthropocene, where do the historical knowledges and experiences of women, people of diverse genders and sexualities, and people of color, along with environmental justice efforts in the historical past, enter into our efforts to understand, theorize, contextualize, and meet these existential problems?

While the notion of environments invokes important thinking about Earth, our theme extends to a capacious definition of social, cultural, and political surrounds. The histories of women's lives, intellectualism, and activism unfold across a range of environmental contexts that are simultaneously material, political, economic, and cultural. We interpret this overarching theme broadly, inviting submissions for an array of engaging and interactive presentations intended to generate conversations across time, fields, methodologies, and geographic borders; across races, classes, sexualities and gender identities; among academic and public historians, activists, artists and performers. We are especially keen to attract participants from around the globe and scholars of time periods and geographic fields that typically have been underrepresented at the Berkshire Conference.

We hope these conversations will highlight fresh perspectives and create new networks for intellectual collaboration and activism among scholars, public historians, artists, activists, teachers, and those interested in history, the environment, climate change, social movements, and social justice. Such interaction has dynamic potential to move the history of women, genders, and sexualities in particularly innovative directions that generate new theories and methodologies, bringing these histories into new spaces – not only in our universities and liberal arts colleges but also in community colleges, neighborhood centers, K-12 schools, prisons, NGOs and other activist groups in the United States and abroad. Such an approach is critical as we are experiencing the effects of pressing environmental issues, even as the value of research from climate science to the humanities is being questioned.

Reviving connections between communities and institutions, historians are increasingly joining forces — inside and outside the academy – with an eye toward affecting social change and social justice. New forms of cooperation have raised important historical questions: What can we learn from internationalizing the discussion of women, communities, and the environment? How can we use multi-sited histories of human and non-human animals as well as the relationships of communities to local and distant ecologies to rewrite gendered histories from long distance trade and exchange to the rise of global capitalism? How can scholars and activists collaborate to transform the pedagogical landscape in our ‘classrooms’ around environmental issues in the past and present? This conference is a call for collaboration and cooperation across many lines of difference.

The 2020 Berkshire Conference will be a venue for difficult conversations about these and other crucial questions. In the hope of promoting a greater range of conversations and interactions, this "Big Berks" seeks to intentionally diversify the way we present and discuss history. In addition to traditional modes of presentation, we encourage the submission of conference presentations that feature different kinds of voices. We strongly encourage submissions that include scholars, public historians and/or activists, artists, and/or performers. We also encourage submissions that include multiple styles – such as digital technologies, formal papers, performance, and/or the arts – along with varied formats from e-posters, pop-up talks to lightning sessions. We invite submissions broadly themed on the histories of women, genders, and sexualities, including but not limited to those with a special interest in environment(s), ecologies, and natural systems.

To begin a submission, select a presentation type below:

Please note that all submissions require at least one abstract and a 1-page CV for each participant.

Click here to download the full requirements for each submission type.
  1. TRADITIONAL PANELS

    Traditional panels may consist of either three 20-minute papers, a chair, and an organizer, OR three 15-minute papers, a chair, an organizer, and a commenter. The chair's role is to introduce the papers, while the respondent's is to provide 10-15 minutes of commentary on the papers. Presenters will be held to stated time limits by the chair to ensure time for at least a 30-minute question-and-answer period. All panel proposals must include a chairperson (who may also serve as respondent). All panel organizers must submit a 250-word session abstract that describes the overall questions and goals of the session, as well as abstracts for each paper in the session. Paper abstracts, written by the individual scholars and submitted by the session organizer, should explain the presentation's argument and specific contribution to scholarship in the field.

  2. LIGHTNING SESSIONS

    Lightning Sessions are an opportunity for five to seven scholars to deliver very short presentations of their work (about five minutes each in length) followed by a ten to fifteen minute comment pulling together the themes of the session. This format is ideal if a group wants to explore a range of perspectives on an issue, get a broad sense of the state of the field on a topic, or offer several different answers to a larger question or problem. Lightning session organizers must submit a 250-word session abstract that describes the overall questions and goals of the session, as well as abstracts for each paper in the session. Paper abstracts, written by the individual presenters and submitted by the session organizer, should explain the presentation's argument and specific contribution to scholarship in the field.

  3. ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS

    Roundtables are structured discussions revolving around field specific themes and questions; the session consists of three to five discussants and a moderator, who takes an active role in the session. The roundtable is not a forum for the presentation of short papers; discussants may not read papers and may prepare no more than 3-5 minute responses to the questions being discussed. The purpose of this format is discussion and interchange among a group of scholars about a debate, question, or issue in the field. Participants will speak to each other rather than from a podium. The moderator will pose the questions and control the time given to each discussant to respond. After everyone on the panel has spoken and engaged with other panelists, the moderator will open the discussion up for participation by audience members.

  4. WORKSHOPS

    These are panels in which the papers are pre-circulated. They must be completed and posted online by April 1, 2020 and all panelists (and possibly audience members) will read the papers in advance. Workshops may include up to 7 participants and a commentator. Panelists' 5-7 minute presentations will highlight key questions or problems in their papers. Commentators address each paper and talk about common themes for 10-15 minutes. Panelists engage in back-and-forth discussion with audience members and other panelists about their work. All panel organizers must submit a 250-word session abstract that describes the overall questions and goals of the session, as well as a 250-word abstract for each paper in the session. The paper abstracts, written by the individual scholars and submitted by the session organizer, should explain the presentation's methodology, sources, argument and specific contribution to scholarship in the field.

  5. POP-UP TALKS

    These short (10-15 minutes) individual talks are intended to bring scholarly content into the public spaces of the conference, including in the book exhibition, coffee shops, lounges and poster sessions room.

  6. ARTIST, PERFORMANCE, PUBLIC HISTORIAN, OR ACTIVIST PRESENTATIONS

    We encourage submission of sessions whose content centers on the work of artists, performers, public historians and activists. These sessions is to encourage new kinds of conversations between historians and these other approaches to storytelling and the past. An abstract of 250 words should be submitted for these sessions along with the names and a short, one page, resume or biographical statement for each participant.

  7. DIGITAL POSTERS

    Intended to allow individual scholars to present their data and discuss their research in a less formal setting. Presentations will be comprised of illustrative materials in a digital format. We encourage individual submissions for this kind of exhibit. Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words.

  8. EXHIBITORS

    If you have any questions regarding exhibits, please contact BigBerks2020@berksconference.org