2016 Conference Call for Papers

Natural and Unnatural Histories

Artist in His Museum, C.W. PealeHistoricism achieved its full flowering in the nineteenth century, when the historical methods of inquiry envisioned by figures such as Vico, Herder, and von Ranke were taken up and transformed in philosophy, art criticism, hermeneutics, philology, the human sciences, and, of course, history itself. By 1831, John Stuart Mill was already declaring historicism the dominant idea of the age. Taking human activity as their central subject, some nineteenth-century historicisms extended Hegel's distinction between historical processes governed by thought and non-historical processes governed by nature. At the same time, scientists like Lyell and Darwin radically challenged nineteenth- century understandings of history by arguing that nature itself is historical. Powered by fossil fuels, industrialization began to prove this point by profoundly altering global ecologies at a previously unimaginable scale. We seek papers that investigate nineteenth-century histories and natures. How do natures, environments, or ecologies interact with histories at different scales—the local, the national, the transnational, or the planetary? What role does the nineteenth century play in the recent idea of an Anthropocene era? How might nineteenth-century natural histories help us to rethink historicism in the present? What are the risks and promises of presentist approaches to the nineteenth century? Possible topics include, but are not limited to:


  • Narrating history, narrating nature
  • Ideas of the natural, the unnatural, and/or the supernatural
  • Nineteenth-century ecologies broadly construed: domestic ecologies, aesthetic ecologies, imperial and postcolonial ecologies, synthetic or technological ecologies
  • Evolution and extinction
  • Posthuman histories
  • History, nature, and/or science in art
  • Family histories, social histories
  • Climate change, geosystems, geohistories
  • Bioregionalisms, transregionalisms, literature and "sustainability"
  • Queer ecologies/histories
  • Disability histories/Cripping nature
  • Life and non-life
  • Monstrosity and teratology
  • Flora, fauna, and fossils
  • Ecopoetics, Environmental justice
  • Reporting events/recording nature
  • Commemorative musical compositions/performances
  • History as genre: history painting, Bildungsroman, epic, historical novel, historical drama, etc.
  • Biopolitics, biopoetics
  • Discourses of pollution, toxicity, garbage, waste
  • Resource imperialism
  • Political ecologies and economies
  • Cross-cultural, indigenous, mestizo, subaltern nature writing
  • Creaturely life, life forms, nonhumans
  • Landscape aesthetics
  • Global South studies
  • Utopian/dystopian, steampunk, or neo-Victorian natures and/or histories
  • Nineteenth-century histories of philosophy, religion and/or theology
  • History of science, history of medicine, public health discourses
  • Natural disasters, cataclysmic events
  • Sexological, criminological, and/or psychiatric narratives
  • Resources, capital, economies
  • Biography and autobiography, case studies, archives

Deadline: November 2, 2015. Upload proposals via the conference website incs2016.appstate.edu. For individual papers, send 250-word proposals; for panels, send individual proposals plus a 250-word panel description. Please include a one-page CV with your name, affiliation, and email address. Proposals that are interdisciplinary in method or panels that involve multiple disciplines are especially welcome. Questions? Contact Jill Ehnenn at incs@appstate.edu.

(Image: Artist in His Museum (1822), Charles Willson Peale. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Gift of Mrs. Sarah Harrison (The Joseph Harrison, Jr. Collection) www.pafa.org)