Tag Archives: UHA Conference

ICYMI: The First One of 2018 Edition

The Metropole stormed into January with some great content, setting the tone for an exciting year. What were our New Years resolutions, you ask? We simply have one: to continue putting out the kind of great research and reflection that makes our blog the digital hub for urban history, read by experts and enthusiasts alike.

Last week we kicked off our first Metropolis of the Month for 2018 with John Sherrer’s bibliography of Columbia, South Carolina. This capitol city is hosting our upcoming Urban History Association Biennial Conference in October, and after reading Sherrer’s sweeping overview of the city’s history I have a better sense of Columbia’s early development, its role in the Civil War, and its evolution throughout the twentieth century. We also featured a post by Robert Greene II about Congaree Swamp (now Congaree National Park) and the role it played in sustaining Columbia’s black community from slavery through the end of the nineteenth century. As Greene writes:

Understanding the story of African American resilience in Congaree is key to knowing more about the history of African American freedom in South Carolina and across the United States. For African Americans, land was power. Self-sufficiency and free labor meant freedom. All of this was proven time and again in Congaree.

Stay tuned next week for more posts about Columbia, including a history of South Carolina’s black press and some insight into the difficulty of removing Confederate monuments.

In addition to our Metropolis of the Month coverage, we also announced the winner of the inaugural UHA/The Metropole Grad Student Blogging Contest, placed our first book on The Metropole Book Shelf, and published a historian’s reaction the “new” trend among urban policy makers for land-value taxes.

For those in SoCal, also make sure not to miss the upcoming sessions of the LA History & Metro Studies Group.

For UHA Grad Students, check out the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship in History Education at the Museum of the City of New York–applications are due on March 7. It’s $30,900 for two days per week of work, plus relocation expenses! I rarely wish I could rewind the clock and do grad school over again, but when I read about this fellowship I felt sad that I’d missed the opportunity to work at one of my favorite museums.

Also for UHA Grad Students, Carnegie Mellon University’s digital scholarship center, dSHARP, is offering a paid eight week summer internship–one of the projects is urban oriented (Bridges of Pittsburgh). Improve those DH skills and spend the summer in the great city of Pittsburgh? That’s a hard deal to beat.

For the Americanists in our ranks, the deadline to submit for the 2019 OAH Conference has been extended until January 23.

And finally, we close with our customary dose of humor:

Faithfully yours,

The Editors

A Vision for UHA 2018

Earlier this month, longtime UHA member Jim Wunsch of Empire State College (SUNY) raised some great questions and points of debate regarding how we organize, conduct, and process conferences, including: accepting fewer papers for presentation; rethinking how historians present research (and the context in which they are presented); and posting papers earlier to encourage greater engagement and debate. Yesterday, UHA President Richard Harris responded, and today the Program Co-chairs for UHA 2018, LaDale Winling and Elaine Lewinnek, weigh in.

We were pleased to see discussion about the shape and ambition of the 2018 Urban History Association biennial conference emerge on The Metropole blog earlier this month. The conference is the most important event of each two-year cycle for reinforcing key trends in the field, consolidating and creating new collaborations among different subfields, and introducing new voices in urban history. We want to discuss some current considerations and lay out a vision for the 2018 version of the UHA conference.

The 2018 conference, “Cities at the Crossroads,” sits at the intersection of several important trends within the field. The study of urban history may be at its most dynamic point in years because of the new voices bringing their stories of immigration and demographic change, capitalist investment and urban development, policy debates and political resistance, cultural change, environmental questions, and new scales of perspective – from the metropolitan to the transnational — to the urban realm.

Columbia Conference

The UHA continues to expand from its traditional emphasis on 20th century U.S. cities and draws participants and ideas from ever more subfields and periods. One of the developments of the Chicago conference we are trying to maintain is the involvement of the Africanists, Europeanists, geographers, and many others who should feel at home in an organization devoted to the study of cities. The UHA and the conference planners are also making efforts to be open and welcoming to younger members, graduate students, and allied professionals who are essential to remaining a vibrant organization and forum for ideas on the study of history.

The success of the last several conferences constitutes a challenging standard to live up to. One of the ways UHA 2018 can do this is by embracing the intellectual and collegial spirit of those events without trying to match the bigness, which will be hard to do outside of those major centers. Columbia, a small southern city with a thriving tradition of public history examining its own complex racial, regional, and urban history, offers the opportunity for tours, plenary sessions, and collegiality that has long been part of UHA.

Apart from the exchanges that happen in the paper sessions, one of the wonderful features of a manageably-sized conference like the Urban History Association is the serendipitous meetings and many opportunities to make new connections between newcomers and veterans alike in this collegial organization. At one of her first visits to UHA, one of us (Elaine) serendipitously met Richard Harris, whose discussion of the definition of suburbia in Unplanned Suburbs proved essential to her own book on suburban history.  This accidental meeting and the gracious exchange that followed helped create a new relationship between two scholars with shared interests, two scholars that have come together a decade later as we work on the Columbia conference. Maintaining this esprit de corps is a priority and we hope all who attend, comment, and present help bring these values to Columbia.

As Richard Harris points out, the recent survey of UHA members reveals that conferences are an opportunity to learn about new research, not only in paper sessions but also at the book exhibit and in chance encounters. At the manageable scale of the UHA, we learn with friends old and new, while exploring a city and discovering our own roles within the field of urban history.

The Call for Papers for 2018 requests “proposals for innovative workshops or non-traditional sessions,” in addition to the familiar three-paper format. We hope that historians who have an interest in promoting new lines of research and new modes of presentation and discussion will propose those ideas when they submit their paper and session proposals–-whether oral presentations or interactive workshops in lieu of research findings.

We hope you’ll join us in Columbia and contribute to this process of engagement and learning from each other.

LaDale Winling and Elaine Lewinnek

Co-chairs, Program Committee

UHA Conference 2018, Columbia, SC

The Conference Debate

Earlier this month, longtime UHA member Jim Wunsch of Empire State College (SUNY) raised some great questions and points of debate regarding how we organize, conduct, and process conferences, including: accepting fewer papers for presentation; rethinking how historians present research (and the context in which they are presented); and posting papers earlier to encourage greater engagement and debate. Today, UHA President Richard Harris responds, and on Wednesday the Program Co-chairs for UHA 2018, LaDale Winling and Elaine Lewinnek, will weigh in.

Jim Wunsch has made some good points about conferences, and especially the paper sessions. These are perennial – or perhaps I should say bi-ennial – matters that UHA conference organizers have wrestled with over the years and to which there is no perfect answer. Significantly, in the online membership survey that we conducted earlier this year, members were perfectly divided on the question as to whether we should be more selective in accepting paper proposals. My response expresses personal views, not those of the UHA, although they are consistent with, and draw upon, the way members answered other survey questions.

Jim points out that some papers are less than ground-breaking, while presentations can be underwhelming. He suggests that greater selectivity might be desirable; that some or all papers might be posted in advance and that, afterwards, The Metropole blog could celebrate those papers or intellectual exchanges that were especially original or exciting.

The probable result of greater selectivity would be a conference in which panel sessions were of higher quality, more satisfying and, if only because there would be fewer of them, better-attended. But it would also produce a smaller conference, more top heavy in terms of seniority. It would be difficult for program committees to turn down proposals from established scholars who might include ex-supervisors, and even when such proposals were rejected the senior scholars might be able to attend anyway. In other words, fewer of those present would be graduate students and junior scholars.

Obviously, there are pros and cons, and the balance surely varies according to the conference and the organization. There are some large conferences that I have attended which seemed unwieldy; where there were dozens of poorly-attended concurrent sessions; where little intellectual exchange seemed to occur. I name no names. There, indeed, I had wondered whether the downside of taking all-comers outweighed the upside. But I have found that at smaller conferences, such as those organized by the UHA and SACRPH, the balance is different.

Perhaps my opinion here is shaped by two of the first conferences that I ever attended, the first as an undergraduate and the second as a junior grad student. Both were modest in scale. The first was organized by housing activists in Newcastle, England, and helped inspire my continuing interest in housing. The second, in Guelph, Ontario, organized by Gilbert Stelter and Alan Artibise, was the beginning of a short series of Canadian urban history conferences, and it fueled my commitment to the field. Maybe it augurs well that my term as president should coincide with the first time that the UHA has held a conference in another mid-sized city.

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The book that came out of the first Canadian urban history conference.

Now if I am honest and if – even more challenging – my memory serves me well, it wasn’t the panel sessions alone that affected me in either place. Indeed, at the housing conference what I remember most vividly was a field trip to the Byker wall, an award-winning and soon notorious public housing project. At the Guelph conference what has stayed with me was the overall buzz – the excitement, the conversations in corridors and bars that declared: here is a community of people with shared, kindred interests. No subsequent conference could hope to fully recapture that feeling. It was first love, after all. But I still feel something similar when I attend the UHA and SACRPH conferences, sometimes in paper sessions, but at least as often in corridors or out in the city. The point I’m trying to make is that, for me, papers sessions are only part of the picture.

In this, I seem to be fairly typical. One the questions that we asked in the online survey of members was “what are the most important functions of the conference?” Respondents were given four options, and most checked off two or more. Almost nine out of ten reckoned that the conference was “very important” or “essential” as “an opportunity to learn what research other urban historians are doing.” Paper sessions are obviously a good part of this, but so too are chance encounters and, as a number of people indicated in their open-ended comments, conversations around the book exhibit. Just as striking, almost two thirds of members reported that one of the very important/essential functions of the conference was “to network – advancing my career and/or research” while almost half saw it as “an opportunity to socialize with friends and colleagues.” Fewer, about a fifth, also reckoned that it is “an opportunity to visit and explore a city that I may not know.” So, not surprisingly, it turns out that members attend UHA conferences for a variety of reasons.

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The Byker Wall Housing Project, Newcastle, England. Photo: Byker Community Trust

Bottom line: the presentation of a paper is as much a means to an end as it is an end in itself. If program committees were more selective, fewer people, and especially younger scholars, would be able to attend and enjoy the other benefits of conference attendance. That would be a high price to pay.

But it is true that we could all be more creative about how we present our research. Responding to another question, for example, one third of members reported that in paper sessions they usually read from a text (using no slides) but less than half that number reckon that this was the most effective type of presentation. It is here, perhaps, as Jim suggests, that we could all try to think outside the text, or the slide presentation. Along those lines, the program committee for the Columbia conference is encouraging people to propose less traditional formats, but I will leave it to the program co-chairs, LaDale Winling and Elaine Lewinnek, to say more about that.

Richard Harris

UHA President

Rethinking #UHA18 and the Academic Conference

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“The play’s the thing wherein I will catch the conscience of the king”
– Hamlet in Hamlet

I have to confess, I kind of dug William Shakespeare in high school and college (Measure Per Measure anyone?). Admittedly, it might have been because he was great at rhyming couplets and the like. Still, Hamlet’s decision to stage a performance simply to gauge the King’s alleged involvement with the poisoning of his late father always seemed like an incisive move by the Danish Prince, or a sign of his increasingly tenuous grip on reality. I suppose Hamlet’s motivation remains colored by whatever baggage the reader brings to the table.

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Of course, the UHA, AHA, SACRPH and others don’t conduct conferences as a means to root out nefarious crimes or as means to determine the motivations of its participants, be they speakers or audience members. However, in the glowing radiance of #SACRPH17, which by all accounts appeared to be a great success, questions regarding the efficacy, organization, and goals of academic gatherings remain well-traveled topics of discussion; such questions persist as points of debate and worth consideration as we draw attention to the CFP for #UHA18 in Columbia, SC and consider its own meaning for conference goers and the larger field of urban history.

With this in mind, we would like to draw your attention to a recent comment submitted to the blog by Jim Wunsch of Empire State College (SUNY). Professor Wunsch raises some great questions and points of debate regarding how we organize, conduct, and process conferences, including: accepting fewer papers for presentation; rethinking how historians present research (and the context in which they are presented); and posting papers earlier to encourage greater engagement and debate. We’d love for UHA members to chime in with their thoughts on Wunsch’s comments (at the risk of redundancy, in the comments section itself) but also the larger topic more generally. After all, the conference might not capture the field’s conscience but it does embody its direction and thrust.

With SACRPH in Cleveland and the SSHA in Montreal concluded and with planning for UHA’s Columbia, SC conference under way, it might be appropriate to consider for a moment how conferences might be improved.

Although expensive, they continue to be reasonably well attended because making a conference presentation remains for many academics a still useful way to demonstrate your academic interest and activity to those making promotion and tenure decisions. The problem is that since the success or failure of a conference is largely determined by how many attend, all too many papers of questionable value are accepted. And with so many panels scheduled during any given time slot, attendance can be disappointing. Then too by clinging to the ancient convention of reading papers out loud, sessions often prove tedious beyond words.

A modest reform would give priority to papers posted in advance. The presentation would entail explaining the basic ideas and argument and how they might fit into the larger historical framework; you know what you are supposed to do in a decent class.

This blog could play an important role in sustaining and strengthening conferences not only by celebrating them as joyful convocations, but also by singling out a few worthy and perhaps exciting papers and exchanges in various sessions.

Jim Wunsch

Empire State College (SUNY)

 

Planning Ahead for UHA 2018

We at The Metropole are still mourning the end of this last month’s excellent SACRPH conference, and so have eagerly begun to look ahead towards next year’s UHA Conference in Columbia, South Carolina. Jessica Elfenbein and Robin Waites of the Local Arrangements Committee and LaDale Winling and Elaine Lewinnik of the Program Committee assure us that we are not being premature in our enthusiasm–the deadline to submit paper proposals will be upon us sooner than we think! Check out the CFP below and leave a comment if you’re looking for urbanists to join a panel.

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The Ninth Biennial Conference of the Urban History Association

“Cities at the Crossroads”

Columbia, SC
October 18-21, 2018 

http://www.urbanhistory.org/Columbia2018

The Urban History Association invites submissions for sessions and papers on all aspects of urban, suburban, and metropolitan history. We welcome proposals for panels, roundtable discussions, and individual papers.

The conference theme, “Cities at the Crossroads,” reflects the growing interdisciplinarity of the field of urban history, the role of cities as meeting places, and the contemporary challenges of urban political isolation and tension over issues such as climate change, immigration, segregation, and inequality.

We encourage submissions that explore the diversity of the study of cities, including contributions from other disciplines and from historians who interpret notions of “urban” broadly and synthetically, whether politically, geographically, socially, or culturally. The program committee welcomes proposals for innovative workshops or non-traditional sessions. Successful panel and paper proposals need not adhere strictly to the conference theme, and the program committee will pay special attention to panels marking the anniversaries of events in or profoundly affecting cities, such as the Kerner Commission Report, the Fair Housing Act, or the 1968 Paris uprising.

Each proposal should have the following format:

Individual paper submissions should include an abstract up to 150 words with up to four keywords, along with a one-page CV, including address and email. These should be submitted as a single PDF file.

Panel submissions should include a cover page indicating the lead contact, with telephone and email, and the names of the session Chair and Commentator; a one-paragraph overview of the session’s themes and significance, plus a description of the format (eg panel, roundtable, workshop); a 100-word abstract for each proposed paper; and a one-page CV for each participant, including address and e-mail, all submitted as a combined, single PDF file.

The submission deadline is February 15, 2018. The program committee also plans for a graduate student workshop and a poster session, which will have a separate proposal deadline of May 1, 2018, with details forthcoming.

Please direct inquiries to Program Committee co-chairs LaDale Winling at Virginia Tech and Elaine Lewinnek at California State University-Fullerton (Columbia2018UHA@gmail.com). 

ICYMI: The 2018 UHA Conference CFP Edition

By Avigail Oren

We can’t imagine that our loyal readers have missed the exciting news–the Call for Papers for the 2018 UHA Biennial Conference in Columbia, South Carolina dropped on Wednesday. The deadline is not until February, so you have plenty of time to pull together panels and write your proposal. In the meantime, however…

Take a look at the amazing program for the upcoming SACRPH conference. I was perusing it the other day and realized that not only are some of my favorite academic colleagues presenting, but so is one of my best friends from college!

Also check out the EAUH’s CFP for the 14th International Conference on Urban History and the CFA for the OAH’s China Residencies Program, both due in October.

While we’re thinking globally, Joseph Ben Prestel has a new post on “Cairo, Berlin, and the Compartments of Urban History” up at the Global Urban History blog.

I recommend this interview with Anthony Bourdain, about an upcoming episode of his show Parts Unknown that was filmed in Pittsburgh, for Bourdain’s criticism of the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and the racialization of the opioid epidemic. Also, because Pittsburgh is great.

The correct response to this stupid Bodega startup is:

a) I can’t even

b) Eyeroll emoji

c) Screaming into the void

d) All of the above

And signing off with one of my favorite internet personalities, Lego Grad Student. Have a great weekend!