Cultural Histories of Empire conference

Kevin Morrison Announcement
Subject Fields
Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, World History / Studies, Military History

A small number of spots have become available for presenters in the International Society for Cultural History's 2023 conference on "Cultural Histories of Empire." The program committee welcomes proposals that address the conference theme outlined below. In addition to two plenary speakers, Jane Lydon (Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History, University of Western Australia) and Carlos F. Noreña (Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley), highlights of the conference include: a special session on "Creative Writing for Cultural Historians"; a collective book launch for authors who published a monograph or edited collection in the past two years on any aspect of empire; a gala dinner and conversation on John M. MacKenzie's A Cultural History of the British Empire; and access to the Society for Global Nineteenth-Century Studies' panels, plenaries, and workshops on the theme of "Comparative Empire." Individual paper or panel proposals (3 presenters) should be submitted by 10 March for priority consideration. 


Cultural Histories of Empire, 19-22 June 2023

Empire has been a persistent form of human organization and one of the primary mechanisms for the dispersion of cultural forms. Some of the earliest known empires include the great imperial formations in Mesopotamia in the second millennium BCE and in Persia and around the Mediterranean in the first millennium BCE. Over the past two millennia, empires have appeared in all regions of the world, including in the Americas (Tawantinsuyu), Asia (the Mughal Empire, Khmer Empire), Europe (the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Oceania (the Tu’i Tonga Empire), and Africa (the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire). They have also cut across large swaths of the planet (such as the British, Spanish, and Dutch empires). Although decolonization was a defining historical process of the twentieth century, the expansionist efforts of nation-states today suggest that empire remains a political, military, and economic strategy and a geographic and cultural ambition.

For its first conference in Asia, the International Society for Cultural History invites paper and panel proposals on the theme of “Cultural Histories of Empire.” Historians and contextually oriented scholars working on any period or location are encouraged to explore (but are by no means limited to) the following topics:

  • imperial culture: literature, music, art, religion, sport (cricket, horse racing, rugby, etc.)
  • iconographies of imperial power
  • conceptual terminology in the study of empires
  • forms of resistance to and subversion of imperial authority
  • inter-imperial commodity chains, trade journeys
  • nationalistic movements, transitions from empire to nation-state
  • the embodied experiences of empire
  • environmental colonialism
  • everyday empire: street signs, posters, patterns of consumption
  • the circulation of periodicals and imperial press systems
  • leisure practices, such as reading, cooking, hiking, and feasts in imperial contexts
  • performances of colonial authority: ceremonies, hearings, trials, gatherings
  • popular attitudes toward empire
  • imperial propaganda: Ara Pacis, literature, public monuments, film, radio, television, rhetoric (“political spin”), etc.
  • travel writing (memoir, journalism, blogs, letters), adventure fiction
  • informal empire

As always, we also welcome panel and paper proposals on methods and theories of cultural history; new approaches to cultural history; and the history of cultural history.


Presentations should be no more than 20 minutes in length and delivered in English: Individual paper 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. 

Proposals and inquiries should be sent to Those individuals whose abstracts are accepted for presentation will be expected to become members of the ISCH:


Presenters are invited to consider submitting articles to the ISCH’s official peer-reviewed journal, Cultural History, published by the Edinburgh University Press ( and monographs to the book series it publishes with Routledge (


The conference will feature a prize competition for the best paper presentation by an early career researcher (details tba).


The 2023 ISCH conference will be held in parallel with the Society for Global Nineteenth-Century Studies’ World Congress on the theme of “Comparative Empire: Conflict, Competition, Cooperation, 1750-1914.” Attendees of both events will gather for plenaries and cultural activities and have the option of participating in an array of workshops. You can read more about the SGNCS World Congress by visiting its website, For the latest ISCH conference news, visit For any questions about the ISCH conference, please contact the program chair, Kevin A. Morrison, at