CfP: "Crowd Control"

Scott Kushner's picture

Dear H-Amstudious Colleagues,

I'm proposing an open session for the 2020 meeting of SHOT, the Society for the History of Technology.  I hope you'll consider submitting an abstract, and that you'll feel free to be in touch with any inquiries.  See below or visit

Organizer: Scott Kushner, University of Rhode Island (

Queues, gates, doorways, turnstiles, stanchions, guards, cages, pens, cells, anterooms, hallways, cameras, bottlenecks, streets, signage, velvet ropes, bouncers, bleachers, fences, barriers, ushers: the methods of crowd control are technological interventions.  The ways that crowds have been constituted, apprehended, understood are historically, geographically, and culturally contingent.  The discourses that differentiate crowds from (and conflate them with) adjacent categories of analysis, such as audiences, mobs, masses, multitudes, are similarly variable across different contexts.  The purposes to which crowd control has been put have also changed over time and space, organizing the flows and stases of bodies in order to impose political, social, cultural, and economic logics specific to and co-constitutive of the contexts in which its various technologies are situated.

This SHOT session seeks to develop an understanding of technologies used to control crowds of people over time.  Participants will present research on historically-situated technological devices, protocols, systems, and infrastructures that modify built and natural environments in order to contain, channel, direct, arrange, expel, disperse, and otherwise direct the movements and stillnesses of human bodies.  The significance of this work to the history of technology lies in concentrating discussion about the ways that technological interventions have shaped the spatial dispositions of groups of human bodies in order to sculpt the experiences of those spaces and of the crowds of people those spaces attract.

Proposals engaging with any era and geographic context are welcome.  The organizer is interested in placing in conversation scholars and audience members working with and curious about a range of materials and methodologies.  Potential participants are therefore invited to imagine the notion of crowd control in adventurous manners.

Procedure: Those interested in proposing presentations for potential inclusion in this session should kindly prepare a one-page abstract (500 words maximum) and a one-page short CV (300 words maximum) with current contact information.  Please send these materials to Scott Kushner ( no later than February 15, 2020.

Note: If you will be a first-time SHOT presenter and wish to be considered for the Robinson Prize, please indicate as much in your abstract and send a separate email to this effect to  (Find information about the Robinson Prize at the SHOT website.)