Breaking News (Call for Proposals from the Radical History Review)

Thomas Harbison's picture
Call for Papers
New Jersey,
February 1, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Communication, Cultural History / Studies, Journalism and Media Studies, Public History, World History / Studies

Breaking News, Call for Proposals
Radical History Review Issue number 141 (October 2021)
Abstract Deadline: February 1, 2020
Co-Edited by Steven Fabian, Marissa Moorman (Indiana University, and Josh Shepperd

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionary made “post-truth” its international word of the year.  The adjective reflects the contemporary trend of deliberately misusing facts to erode the public’s trust in our gatekeepers of information such as news outlets, health authorities, and political institutions.  Yet, as Kenan Malik wrote in The Guardian in 2018, “lies masquerading as news are as old as news itself.”  Malik, however, also makes an assumption about the past, stating that until now “only governments and powerful figures could manipulate public opinion.”

The Radical History Review seeks submissions which examine this assumption. From medieval town criers, to the couriers who ran along the highways of the Incan empire, to the rumors that spread among the enslaved of St. Domingue, how did news break to the public in the past, and how did everyday people and subaltern actors break past elite gatekeepers of public information?  What efforts were made to break the public’s faith in those who presumed to guard the “public good” and why?  How can scholars break down, or deconstruct, the ways in which we understand the struggles over public discourse?

Subaltern actors, such as Ida B. Wells, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Lois Gibbs challenged powerful gatekeepers by bringing their own breaking news to the attention of the public, but faced heavy handed attempts to delegitimize their narratives. Conversely, throughout history everyday people dominated informal news networks of their own based in ports, taverns, and caravanserais where word of mouth could rapidly shape public opinion to devastating effect. Could – and did – authorities infiltrate and manipulate these networks to serve their own ends?  How did breaking news stories acquire the kind of widespread traction that changed public discourse?  We encourage historical scholarship from all periods and geographies, particularly non-western societies and marginalized communities.

Topics may include:

  • news and the production of inequality
  • technologies and the ability to control news
  • freedom of the press and censorship
  • whistleblowers, denialists
  • ethics: objectivity/empiricism, bias, manipulation, and fake news
  • the “CNN effect”/news “going viral” historically
  • industry of news production and its workers
  • “manufacture of consent” vs. tool of dissent
  • demarcating news from entertainment
  • “imagined communities” and “the global village”
  • news as public record/memory/archive

The RHR publishes material in a variety of forms. We welcome submissions that use images as well as text. In addition to monographic articles based on archival research, we encourage submissions to our various departments, including: Historians at Work; Teaching Radical History; Public History; Interviews; and (Re)Views.

By February 1, 2020, please submit a 1-2 page abstract summarizing the article you wish as an attachment to with “Issue 141 Abstract Submission” in the subject line. By March 1, authors will be notified whether they should submit a full version of their article for peer review.

Those articles selected for publication after the peer review process will be included in issue 141 of the Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in October 2021.

Abstract Deadline: February 1, 2020


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