CFP: Campuses and Colonialism symposium, deadline 9/20/19

Alyssa Mt. Pleasant's picture
Call for Papers
September 20, 2019
United States
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Indigenous Studies, Literature, Law and Legal History, Political Science

CALL FOR PAPERS: Campuses and Colonialism

A Joint Symposium Sponsored by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University and the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina, and convened by Stephen Kantrowitz (University of Wisconsin), Malinda Maynor Lowery (University of North Carolina), and Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (State University of New York at Buffalo)

Since the turn of the millenium, a growing number of U.S. university campuses have undertaken serious intellectual and institutional accounting for their complicity in the histories of slavery and the slave trade. More recently, struggles over Confederate memorialization have rocked University of Virginia, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University, the University of Texas, and other campuses. But when it comes to the histories of settler colonialism, U.S. universities have barely begun a comparable consideration of their roles and responsibility. A few institutions have considered the roles and responsibility of honored alumni and major donors in massacres during the Plains Wars (such as John Evans, one of the founders of Northwestern University, who was Governor of Colorado Territory when the Sand Creek Massacre took place in 1864), but in contrast to the ongoing and impressive projects undertaken with reference to slavery at Georgetown, Brown, and many other institutions, these have been studies with limited horizons, often aimed at determining whether particular facilities should be renamed.

Building on these efforts, the time is ripe for a sustained look at the role of university campuses, particularly but not exclusively in the United States, in the history of settler colonialism: the forcible transfer of land; the replacement of Indigenous with settler populations; the remaking of physical and cultural landscapes in the image of the newcomers; the relegation of Indigenous peoples either to a vanishing past or a zone of misty and demeaning romanticism. We propose that campuses consider how these histories are woven together in faculty research, graduate and undergraduate student recruitment and retention, curriculum offerings, built environments, labor practices, and more. We invite scholars to consider a variety of questions:

  • How have universities wittingly and unwittingly been institutions of colonialism?
  • What forces have challenged and transformed institutional relationships to Native populations and cultures?
  • What is the relationship between the study of slavery and global Indigenous studies?
  • What should universities remember and share about their histories?
  • How have Native communities built relationships with universities and changed them?
  • How have universities and/or Native people challenged assimilation, as a policy and an assumption?
  • How can universities act as agents of decolonization and decolonial thinking?
  • How can we surface scholars' leadership in establishing and maintaining institutional structures that support NAIS and Indigenous scholars and students?

Topics could include the foundations of the first colleges in the colonial era through the struggles of the current moment, encompassing land grants and treaties; removals; intellectual struggles over control of Native heritage and artifacts; the formation of tribal colleges; the rise of Native American and Indigenous Studies in response to twentieth-century social movements; Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), anthropologists, and curators; interpretations of the historic landscapes of campuses; relationships between tribal institutional review boards and university researchers; mascots and collegiate sports teams; and the ways that colonialism has institutionalized hierarchies of knowledge that inform how our universities make decisions and allocate resources today.

The goal of the symposium is to marshall academic research from mutliple disciplines and geographic locations to initiate a dialogue about universities and settler colonialism that centers contemporary Indigenous communities as long-standing stakeholders within universities, rather than objects of remembrance for scholars to study. We welcome scholars whose work concerns settler colonialism and decolonization from a variety of disciplines including history, political science, education, law, anthropology, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and literary studies. In addition to the conveners/editors, the symposium will feature a handful of invited scholars: Andrew Jovilette (San Francisicso State University), Michael Witgen (University of Michigan), Khalil Anthony Johnson, Jr. (Wesleyan University), and Jean M. O'Brien (University of Minnesota).

Participants selected for the symposium will complete and share 5,000-6,000-word chapters at two multi-day meetings: a Fall 2020 workshop at SMU's campus in Taos, NM, at which draft papers will be presented; and a Spring 2021 meeting at UNC-Chapel Hill to discuss final versions. These will form a published volume, co-edited by Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Malinda Maynor Lowery, and Stephen Kantrowitz, to be published by a university press. Participants' travel, meals, and lodging will be covered by the symposium.

We welcome submissions from scholars of any rank or affiliation, including graduate students, who are eager to contribute substantively to what promises to be an exciting and important academic endeavor. By the deadline of September 20, 2019 applicants should submit a proposal of 500-800 words, describing the research undertaken and its connection to the goals of the conference, and a one-page CV. These should be submitted as a single Word document, titled with the applicant's last name, to Steve Kantrowitz at

Contact Info: 

For more information about the symposium, please contact Steve Kantrowitz (, Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (, or Malinda Maynor Lowery (

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