Call for Papers: Universities and their contested pasts

Conference: 11 & 12 September 2019.  Deadline for abstracts: 31 May.
Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester (U.K.)

For many years, universities and their pasts were seen as a benign backwater – histories of institutions of public benefit of interest to alumni, staff and academic historians. However, in recent years, attention has been drawn to the uncomfortable past of some of these institutions.

Protests around the world have prompted universities associated with colonialism, slavery and inequality to face up to, and reconsider, their own histories. Presently, institutions are subject to calls from inside and outside their own walls to answer uncomfortable questions about: where their funding has its origins, the land they occupy and the provenance of their cultural and heritage collections.

This two-day event seeks to understand universities’ uncomfortable pasts (both distant and recent) and how we should deal with them. We invite papers that consider themes such as slavery and colonialism; racism, sexism and discrimination; research and the curriculum; university museums and collections; the connection between universities and the state. Papers may address questions such as:

  • How should we approach and seek to understand the contested histories of universities?
  • How have and should universities respond?
  • Do universities have more of a responsibility to address their pasts than other types of organisations?
  • What impacts do difficult histories have on the ‘brand’ and public perception of a university?

The University’s Research Group on University History warmly welcomes participation from across the academic disciplines, from heritage practitioners and from university managers and policymakers. We invite 20-minute papers that consider the difficult pasts of universities in all parts of the world, addressing a variety of time frames and that are academic and practice-based. The questions listed above are indicative only, rather than prescriptive.

Abstracts of a maximum of 250 words and a short bio should be submitted to universityhistories@manchester.ac.uk by 31 May 2019.

Please register here