The 2019 conference explores who can ‘speak’ and who has ‘spoken’ in, about or on behalf of the city from 1600 until the present. Planners, governors, powerful interest groups and a host of established elites have often loudly declaimed their right to shape both the form and the experience of the city. However, other groups and individuals have made the city a site of action and activism in which the voices of the notionally ‘powerless’ might be amplified in the pursuit of diverse political and social goals. In addition, the city as a lived space has provided people with a place to experience, create and understand multiple, often overlapping identities, which themselves have articulated the complex dynamics of urban society. Amongst this clamour, urban historians have often privileged the loudest voices: those able to command podiums and squares, print books and dominate headlines, or those who have left material evidence of their architectural or infrastructural ambitions amongst the urban fabric. In contrast, more obscure aspects of the city remain either ignored or frustratingly obscured by the established practices of recording and research. The conference seeks not to simply correct this imbalance or invert an existing binary, nor to merely promote certain voices as more valuable or authentic. Instead, its intention is to understand the origins and mechanisms at work in creating the hierarchy of voices and the ways that we might complicate our approaches to these.
We encourage potential participants to interpret the conference theme in a broad sense and welcome creative approaches to the question, but would draw their attention to two particular themes. Firstly, the ‘voice’ or impact of marginalised urban groups on the past life and governance of the city; and secondly, the role of historians in making our understandings of the city and its history more inclusive at a time of government directives around ‘impact’, ‘public engagement’, and ‘heritage’.
Potential framing questions might include:
- How have historically marginalised groups in the city (women, racial/ethnic and religious minorities, the poor and working classes, and LGBT+ people), shaped or challenged the image of the city (both urban-generic and place-specific)?
- How has expertise in and of the city been constructed ‘from above’; how can we complicate, problematize and challenge this dominance; and how have ‘below’ and ‘above’ communicated/clashed? ‘Experts’ may include planners, officials/politicians, landowners etc.
- How does power operate through ideas of ‘heritage’ in the conservation, regeneration, and celebration of the city? Who has been excluded or ‘othered’ in processes of ‘place-making’?
- What disciplinary approaches or novel sources can improve our understanding of the urban marginalised; and how could historians work with local communities? Methodologies may include oral history, geography and GIS-mapping, and heritage studies.
- What value can the ‘history of emotions’ bring to understanding the voices of the city?
- What roles can and should historians play today in setting the agenda for urban policy? How can we ensure diversity in who can speak on the city? How has ‘applied history’ supported or challenged the erasure of minority voices in the past and present?
The conference committee invites individual papers and panel proposals of up to three papers. Papers might be in the form of thematic or case studies, cutting across time and space to draw out the larger-scale historical process at work in relation to the conference theme. Contributions ranging from c.1600 to the present are welcome and can be drawn from any geographical area. Contributions from doctoral candidates are an important feature of the Urban History conference and we will once again host a two-stranded new researchers’ forum. The first strand is aimed at those who are midway through a PhD or undertaking early career research project (papers should be the same length as main sessions, but need not be related to the main conference theme). The second strand provides anopportunity for first-year PhD students to present a 10 minute introduction to their topic, archival sources, and historiography. This is an opportunity to obtain feedback from active researchers in the field of Urban History, but also to introduce your work to colleagues in the field.
Abstracts of up to 300 words, including a paper or panel title, name, affiliation and contact details should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mark your proposal ‘Main Theme’, ‘New Researchers’ or ‘First Year PhD’ in the subject field and abstract. Those wishing to propose sessions should also provide a brief statement that identifies the ways in which the session will address the conference theme. The final deadline for proposals is 19th Oct 2018.
Bursaries. Students registered for postgraduate study can obtain a modest bursary on a first come, first served basis to offset expenses associated with conference registration and attendance. Please send an e-mail application to Dr Nick Hayes at email@example.com also ask your supervisor to confirm your status as a registered postgraduate student with an e-mail to the same address. Deadline 7th December 2018. The Urban History Group would like to acknowledge and thank the Economic History Society for its support for these bursaries.
For further details please contact
Dr James Greenhalgh
University of Lincoln
Tel: 01522 83 7729
Dr Markian Prokopovych
University of Birmingham
Tel: 0121 414 3259