Spaces of Oppression: Creating a History That Fosters Tolerance--SAH, Providence, 2019

Lydia M Soo's picture
Call for Papers
June 5, 2018
Rhode Island, United States
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Ethnic History / Studies, Human Rights, Women's & Gender History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies

Society of Architectural Historians, 72nd Annual International Conference, Providence, Rhode Island, April 24–28, 2019

CFP:  Spaces of Oppression:  Creating a History That Fosters Tolerance

Session Chair:  Lydia M. Soo, University of Michigan

Recent events have brought into focus the profound level of intolerance and lack of empathy in the United States towards certain groups based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, mental/physical ability, age, income/class, and social behavior.  That such attitudes persist, despite effort and progress towards overcoming them, perhaps is not surprising, given their roots in this nation’s earliest history.  Beginning in the colonial period, practices, laws, and institutions were established to oppress, control, and marginalize, doing so by means of policy, but also architectural space.  Spatial strategies are employed around the world as a tool of oppression; this session interrogates their long-standing, wide-ranging, and often unrecognized use in our own back yard.  By doing so, it hopes to begin to create an architectural history that fosters tolerance.

This session’s objectives are both scholarly and pedagogical.  It seeks to bring together historical studies of legally-sanctioned oppressive spaces from the fifteenth through twentieth centuries.  It also seeks to identify the topics, textual sources, and heritage sites for teaching the history of oppressive spaces.  Participants are asked to explore the premise that this architectural history—supported by scholarship as well as classroom and experiential learning—can play a role in creating greater tolerance within society today.  Everyone at some point has felt uncomfortable or trapped within his/her physical surroundings.  Can an understanding of the oppressive spaces of the past lead to greater empathy towards those in comparable situations today? 

Papers may present 1) historical case studies (e.g. plantations, reservations, “camps,” “schools,” “homes,” and other public or private spaces intended to segregate, detain, punish, re-educate, or ostracize) and/or 2) theories, methodologies, and pedagogies related to the subject of oppressive spaces.  Papers on institutional buildings in North America are encouraged; those addressing spaces more regional in scale, under-the-radar and/or ambiguous, or located elsewhere will be considered.

The Society of Architectural Historians is now accepting abstracts for its 72nd Annual International Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, April 24–28, 2019. SAH encourages submissions from architectural, landscape, and urban historians; museum curators; preservationists; independent scholars; architects; and scholars in related fields.  A 300-word abstract and CV (2 pages maximum) should be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. CDT on June 5, 2018, to the online portal found at  See this link also for additional guidelines. Please do not send these materials to the session chair.  Any questions, however, can be emailed to the session chair.

Contact Info: 

Lydia M Soo, PhD, Associate Professor Emerita

Taubman College of Architecture, University of Michigan

Contact Email: