CFP Speaking Out: Whistle-Blowers, Dissidents, and Disclosures

Callie Wilkinson's picture
Call for Papers
November 15, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Diplomacy and International Relations, Human Rights, Journalism and Media Studies, Political History / Studies



26 June 2020, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Whistle-blowers loom large in the contemporary media landscape; Chelsea Manning continues to figure in the news, while Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg have inspired major Hollywood movies. Yet, the history of whistle-blowers, and the controversy that they tend to ignite, has received relatively limited historical attention outside of the late twentieth century. How might changing ideas of humanity, state, society, and citizenship have informed acts of speaking out? How have shifting structures of affiliation (the household, the family, the corporation, civil society) played their part? What unique difficulties did individuals confront when attempting to bring abuses to light? Using the modern term ‘whistle-blower’ as an analytical rather than an actor’s category, the aim of this workshop is to think historically about insiders who have used their privileged access to information to make abuses visible, and the changing motives for and consequences of unauthorized disclosures.

This workshop is designed not only to historicize whistleblowing, but also to think about whistle-blowers in relation to other modes of speaking out. Those not employed by an organization, but subject to its abuse, likewise develop strategies for making this misconduct visible. Yet, age, race, gender, class, resources and institutional affiliation can result in different levels of mobility and audibility, and differential access to political platforms. What obstacles did individuals face in trying to make their voices heard, and how did they work to circumnavigate them? Can connections be drawn between the resistance of victims of misconduct and a whistle-blower’s decision to speak out?

This one-day workshop will bring together scholars working on different regions and time periods to discuss patterns and variations in how historical actors have sought to disseminate information and make abuses visible. Topics of discussion might include, but are not limited to:

  • Concepts of transparency, accountability, and state secrecy
  • Ideas of public duty and civic responsibility
  • Violence
  • Corruption
  • Maladministration
  • Sexual abuse

The workshop will consist of 20-minute papers. There will be an early career panel in the afternoon for which PhD students and postdocs are particularly encouraged to apply. All those interested in presenting a paper are invited to send their proposed title and an abstract of maximum 300 words to by 15 November 2019.  

Contact Info: 

Dr Callie Wilkinson, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Warwick