Call For Panelists - AHA 2021 - HOPE AND/IN HISTORY

Pheroze Unwalla's picture
Call for Papers
Washington, United States
Subject Fields: 
Environmental History / Studies, History Education, Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, Public History, Women's & Gender History / Studies

Call For Panelists - AHA 2021, SEATTLE 


Dear colleagues,

We are seeking panelists for the 2021 American Historical Association (AHA) Annual Meeting in Seattle. The panel is tentatively titled HOPE AND/IN HISTORY: PEDAGOGIES AND PRACTICES. Below is a draft abstract:

Paulo Freire once said that “without hope there is no way we can even start thinking about education.” To what extent does that hold true in History? For many historians, hope perhaps seems trivial or, worse yet, a marker of presentism and moral education that threatens to undermine the historical enterprise at large. Our discipline’s relationship to hope thus remains ill-defined, if, that is, historians even acknowledge a relationship exists.

We are, however, dealing with circumstances that urge us to ponder and flesh out the connections. For one, our growing (and warranted) disavowal of inevitable progress has, among other things, thrown the promise of the future into doubt. Further, and not unrelated, climate change, extinction crises, the resurgence of fascism and chauvinist nationalism, domestic and international terrorism, growing inequality, wars and genocides and other phenomena all intimate a world spiraling to its doom. Arguably, all are helping cultivate fatalistic attitudes among various publics, including scholars and students.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, many history classrooms have become sites of anguished ambiguity vis-à-vis the future, if not outright despair; sites where hope might seem foolish or callous to the suffering of affected populations or too precarious and emotionally dangerous to nurture in ourselves and our students.

And yet, in serving a humanities discipline, we believe there is no avoiding what Bloch called that “most human of all mental feelings.” Hope is a historical category to be scrutinized like any other. But, more than that, our hopes for the future, or lack thereof, invariably impact our teaching aims and strategies as well as the conclusions about past, present and future to which we lead students. Finally, we argue that the production of hope is vital to all humanities education and implicit to university missions to develop engaged citizens willing and able to address and resolve critical issues.

Consequently, this panel seeks to understand a) what kind(s) of hope (complex, critical, patient, etc.), if any, we elicit in the history classroom; and b) how that hope(lessness) impacts our students’ understanding of history, the diverse cultures/places they study, and their potential to effect change and create a ‘better’ world.

Papers can meditate more broadly on hope and/in history education and/or examine specific case studies of pedagogical strategies/rationales/failures to cultivate hope in the history classroom and beyond. Some potential questions include (but are not limited to):

  • How might we, as historians, inspire hope through our teaching? What pedagogical strategies can be used in the classroom to create hope, particularly when teaching on histories of war, violence, oppression, environmental devastation or other subjects with present-day resonance?
  • How do our courses/subfields/methodologies lead students to certain conclusions about the inevitability or precarity of the past, present and future?
  • How might different modes of hoping (patient, critical, resolute, etc.) concord/conflict with History? How can we elicit hope in our students without us/them falling prey to presentism and/or the ‘progress trap’?
  • Can/should History be an instrument of social and cultural transformation? To what extent can/should historians ‘show the way to the future?’ How might pedagogies of hope inspire radical transformation in and beyond the classroom? How might pedagogies of hope serve to preserve the status quo? 

Please email abstracts (250-300 words) AND a short bio (max. 250 words) to Dr. Pheroze Unwalla ( by February 13th, 2020.

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