CFPanelists: OAH 2024

Shelby M. Balik Discussion

We are looking for one additional presenter and a chair and commenter for the 2024 meeting of the OAH in New Orleans (proposal deadline: March 1). 


Our panel explores how nineteenth-century Americans’ small-scale and large-scale engagements informed each other and shaped community and identity. In particular, we are examining how local, national, and/or global ties and affiliations both competed with each other and also were mutually influential and co-constituting. For example, we are interested in how individuals used local and everyday experiences and relationships to imagine themselves as members of much larger and broader communities, and how involvement in these communities often shaped and structured small-scale collectivities. Our goal is to explore the advantages and disadvantages of different scales of analysis, the benefits of working across scales, and the value of finding ways to incorporate these different perspectives in scholarship. 


One of our papers will explore a religious ritual — the concert of prayer — and its uses in the early nineteenth century. The concert of prayer (which was first proposed by Jonathan Edwards, but gained wide popularity during the early republic) engaged believers across a broad region in simultaneous prayer at a pre-arranged time, from small-scale settings: usually at home, or sometimes in church. The clergy tended to call for concerts of prayer to pray either for a general revival or the international missionary enterprise, so these events can show how believers used ritual on the smallest scale to forge connections with national or global networks. 


Another paper will explore the significance of the local in Abraham Lincoln’s life and political imagination during his years as President. From his earliest forays into politics, Lincoln’s ideas and commitments developed through mutually formative involvements at the local, state, and national levels. He did not leave the local behind when he left Springfield in 1861. Illinoisans barraged him with news, advice, and requests. Some relocated with him to Washington, filling roles as staffers, advisers, and confidantes. Like many other highly mobile Americans, Lincoln carried locality with him, stretching rather than severing home ties. He and his circle offer an opportunity to explore the changing character and power of the local as the federal government swelled and Lincoln gave Americans new ways of envisioning the nation's place in their lives. 


If you are interested in preseenting a paper or serving as chair or commenter, please get in touch either of both of us. Thank you!


Shelby Balik, Metropolitan State University of Denver,
Andrew Witmer, James Madison University,


1 Reply

Post Reply

Thanks to everyone for your interest - the panel has been filled.