U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Announcing the 2016 S-USIH Conference

The following announcement comes from Jennifer Burns, who’s chairing the next S-USIH Conference, which will take place at Stanford University on October 13-15, 2016.– Ben Alpers

Dear S-USIH members and readers,

Plans are well underway for the 2016 S-USIH conference, “From the Mayflower to Silicon Valley: Tools and Traditions in American Intellectual History.”  What can you expect at next year’s conference?  Fuller details can be found in the CFP posted on our conference page, https://s-usih.org/s-usih-eighth-annual-conference, but here follows a committee chair bird’s eye view of the event as it is shaping up.

For starters, as our conference theme indicates, we’re planning a multi-day collective conversation that tries to cover the true scope and scale of American thought.  It’s not just our own conference that has become notably “twentieth-century centric,” for this is a larger trend across American and even European history.  While it’s exciting to draw close connections between today and yesterday, we fear too much presentism shortchanges what history has to offer.  So if you study colonial, antebellum, or Gilded Age America, this is your year!

Relatedly, we want to encourage discussion on the very foundations of our field – be they the intellectual tools and categories we regularly use (or neglect), or the myths that drove the pioneers of our practice and influence us still.  Our plenaries on gender and Puritanism offer opportunities to dig into both problems.

And lastly, we want to push the boundaries of our subject and have some fun along the way.  Stanford’s own Fred Turner, author of the acclaimed book From Counterculture to Cyberculture will start us off with some provocations about STEM thinkers, while historian and commentator David Greenberg will cap off the conference by setting our own tumultuous presidential election year in historical context.

You’ll also notice a few changes to the conference schedule, part of an effort to ease the pace and provide more time for serendipitous encounters and coffee conversations.  Speaking of coffee, we’ll be meeting right in the heart of Stanford campus, and since restaurants are scarce, we’ll provide snacks, caffeine, and several meals.  While this academic setting has its benefits, it does impose some limitations, namely of space.  Therefore the conference won’t be as large as this year’s DC behemoth, which topped out at 240 registrants!  We’ll be more the size of past conferences in Irvine and New York – room for lots of scholarly variety, but with the intimate feel of an invitation only event.

The only thing that’s missing in this line up is you!  Our CFP closes March 1, so you’ve got plenty of time to wrangle your friends, write to your idols, and put together a smashing proposal.  If you’ve got a novel idea in terms of format or presentation, give it a whirl – we have some non-traditional spaces available, so we’re open to non traditional panels.  If you’re at a loss for collaborators or commentators, don’t forget about scholars at Stanford, San Francisco State, Berkeley, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Davis, Sonoma State, and other nearby universities.

Speaking for the conference committee as a whole (besides myself, the committee includes Claire Rydell Arcenas, Lilian Calles Barger, Ethan Schrum, and Jeff Sklansky), we can’t wait to see what you come up with.


Jennifer Burns, Chair, 2016 S-USIH Conference Committee