Hotels & Crisis: Historical and Cultural Perspectives

Kevin James's picture
Call for Papers
June 25, 2022 to June 26, 2022
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Diplomacy and International Relations, Military History, Peace History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Social History / Studies

Scholars exploring histories and stories of hotels have identified many ways in which they have been actively embroiled within civil conflicts. They are sites of violence and of refuge. They are communication and command centres. They are also sites for diplomacy which aims to bring conflict to an end. Hotels have often been ‘soft’ targets in conflicts, because of their high level of openness compared to other institutions. Potent symbolisms and distinctive affordances have made hotels significant shapers of conflict.

COVID-19 has seen hotels enrolled in efforts at containment and control—as sites of contagion and of quarantine, and as a critical component of the travel and hospitality sector which has been profoundly impacted by the pandemic. Current circumstances invite reflections on the historical uses of hotels for such purposes, the resilience of their commercial functions in times of crisis, as well as the ways in which they may be implicated in or even bring about shifts in our understanding of such concepts as hospitality, security, mobility.

This workshop aims to incorporate critical, historical and cultural studies of wartime hotels, real or imaginary, within a wider research agenda which explores their roles in periods of disruption, whether through armed conflict, environmental catastrophe, pandemic, or other events. It aims to: (1) draw comparisons across space and time to explore the adaptability of the hotel’s spaces and functions; and (2) develop a framework for exploring the hotel and its literary or cultural representations, which encompasses themes of disruption and continuity in core activities, physical and symbolic reconfiguration, and relationships between the hotel, its wider environment, and actors such as the state.

We invite submissions of 300-word proposals and brief one-paragraph bios from scholars whose work has an historical or cultural focus, exploring hotels (and other forms of commercial accommodation such as motels and lodging-houses) in diverse places, including both urban and rural environments, in any time period up to and including the SARS epidemic of 2002-4.

Presenters whose proposals are accepted will be asked to pre-circulate a 3,000-4,000 word paper in early June 2022. The workshop will focus on intensive discussion of the pre-circulated papers and on establishing a scholarly infrastructure to promote sustained dialogues on the topic.

The workshop is co-sponsored by the Tourism History Working Group and Centre for Scottish Studies at the University of Guelph, where ‘The British Hotel in War and the Transition to Peace, 1914-22’ project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, is based, and by the ‘Hotels and the Modern Subject: 1890-1940’ research project which is funded by the Hellenic Foundation for Research & Innovation and hosted by the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

The event will take place in London, UK.

Please email your proposals by 15 January 2022 to Kevin James, Department of History and Centre for Scottish Studies, University of Guelph:

Contact Info: 

Prof. Kevin James

Conference Committee Chair

Department of History and Centre for Scottish Studies, University of Guelph, Canada


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