Call for Panelists, OAH 2017: U.S. Postal Service as Site of Social Control, January 13 Deadline

Emily Seitz's picture
In light of the 2017 conference theme of "circulation," we propose a panel exploring the postal service as a site of social control.  While much of the writing on the U.S. Post Office Department emphasizes national identity and federal authority, little has examined the ways that postal regulations shaped behavior, promoted exclusionary policies, or reinforced particular values.  This panel highlights the relationship between government bureaucracy, the behavior of residents in America, and the circulation of licit and illicit knowledge.  
Our first paper focuses on the Dead Letter Office Museum and draws on recent scholarship into the history of immigration, gender, and tourism to evaluate the Dead Letter Office and its museum as an important site for the negotiation of American identity in the decades after the Civil War.  Our second paper joins scholarship on the Post Office Department and the history of sexuality to consider how the newly expanded Post Office allowed its most famous Postal Inspector, Anthony Comstock, to regulate sex at both the individual and national level.
We seek a third panelist whose work can speak to the Postal Service's role in reinforcing U.S. social norms.  Please send your abstracts of no more than 250 words and a biography of no more than 500 words to Ashley Bowen-Murphy ( and Emily Seitz ( by Wednesday, January 13th.