George and Ann RichardsCivil War Era Center

Colored Conventions
Emerging Perspectives on Race and Gender in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Emerging Perspectives on Race and Gender in the Nineteenth-Century United States

A workshop for junior faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and advance graduate students sponsored by the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center.

Keynote Address by Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, University of Texas

March 15-16, 2013: The Pennsylvania State University (University Park Campus)

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.

Potential Paper Topics Include:

  • Africa, empire, and the Atlantic World: imagining unconventional Atlantic (and hemispheric) narratives for the nineteenth century.
  • Black politics and white allies: the long African-American freedom struggle and its complex links to white political and social organizations.
  • Masculinity, femininity, and gender performativity: incorporating performative perspectives on gender (and race) into nineteenth-century historical scholarship.
  • Sex, slavery, and intimate relations: enslaved women, desire, and sexual labor beyond the ‘production/reproduction’ binary.
  • Youth, children, and elders: the role of age difference and life-cycle position in shaping the meaning and experience of race and gender.
  • Labor, bodies, and objects: scholarship on race and gender and its links to the ‘producerist turn’ and the ‘new materialism.’
  • Medicine, science, and technology: the construction of ‘raced’ and ‘gendered’ bodies of knowledge and practice and their relation to configurations of power.

Interested parties should submit a complete CV and a proposal of no more than 500 words to Kelly Knight ( or Sean Trainor ( by January 11, 2013. Travel funding is available, courtesy of the Richards Civil War Era Center. Questions or inquiries should be directed to Matthew Isham, Richards Center managing director at