CFP: “Miss America and Pageants: Gowns, Crowns, & Contradictions”

Katherine Turner Announcement
New Jersey, United States
Subject Fields
American History / Studies, Anthropology, Communication, Popular Culture Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies



“Miss America and Pageants: Gowns, Crowns, & Contradictions”

Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey

September 29, 2023

Proposals due by midnight March 12, 2023


Rowan University, a research university of about 22,000 students in South New Jersey, will host this inaugural conference devoted to the phenomenon of beauty pageants and other similar competitions. With this conference, we hope to generate public and scholarly conversations about the complex social, cultural and political meanings of pageants. The conference will also showcase Rowan’s Miss America digital archive, a digital collection of documents, photos, and artifacts from the Miss America Organization collection. This conference is not sponsored by or directly affiliated with the Miss America Organization. 

We are planning a one-day conference including keynote speaker Margot Mifflin, panels and roundtable sessions, and a poster session including both physical and digital posters. It will be both streamed and in-person, but we encourage in-person attendance when possible.

As scholars, we come here neither to praise the beauty pageant, nor to bury it. Our intention is to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and understanding of this American institution. We especially hope to:


• highlight perspectives from people and groups traditionally excluded from pageantry

• integrate the history of mainstream pageants such as Miss America with nontraditional pageants (Black, indigenous, queer, etc)

• explore the dialectic between pageant organizers, participants, and critics

• interrogate the competition’s impact, as a largely female-organized institution focused on female participants, on women’s social, cultural, and political status

• explore pageantry through theatrical, performance, and artistic lenses

We invite papers and posters or digital project entries from all disciplinary backgrounds, including



Communications studies

Film and television studies

Women and gender studies

Childhood studies




Cultural studies

Theatre and performance studies

Visual Arts


Papers may be on any topic related to pageants with a United States or international focus. Scholars, teachers, professionals, grad students, and others are invited to submit and attend. 

Presentations will be delivered in person (virtual presentations may be possible in certain circumstances); attendees may attend in person or virtually. 


Presentations should be no more than 20 minutes in length and delivered in English. Individual paper or poster proposals should consist of an abstract (not exceeding 300 words) and an 80-100 word bio in a single Word or PDF file. Panel proposals should include abstracts for 3-4 papers, a brief rationale that connects the papers (100-200 words), and biographies of each participant (80-100 words) in a single pdf or Word file. Please indicate if one of you will serve as panel chair. Successful panel proposals will include participants from more than one institution, and, ideally, a mix of disciplines/fields and career stages.


Submit proposals for papers, panels, or posters to Dr. Katherine Turner at by March 12, 2023. 


Dr. Katherine Leonard TurnerCoordinator, American Studies ProgramProject Lead, Miss America Digital Archive at RowanAmerican Studies/History DepartmentsRowan University


More information at

About Our Keynote Speaker:

Margot Mifflin is an author and journalist who writes about women’s history and the arts. She wrote the first history of women’s tattoo culture, Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo, and The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman. Her book Looking For Miss America: A Pageant’s 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood, is the first feminist cultural history of the Miss America pageant. Margot’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Vice, The Los Angeles Review of Books, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, and many other publications. Margot is an English professor at Lehman College/CUNY and teaches arts journalism at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.

Contact Information
Dr. Katherine Leonard TurnerCoordinator, American Studies ProgramProject Lead, Miss America Digital Archive at RowanAmerican Studies/History DepartmentsRowan University  
Contact Email