CfP: Texts in Motion: Materiality, Mobility, and Archiving in World History

Call for papers, deadline 12 March 2018


May 12, 2018. Cambridge, UK.
The movement of people, commodities, and ideas has long attracted the attention of scholars of world history. Straddling the interstices between commodities and ideas, written texts have been a particularly productive subject of study. This one-day conference invites graduate students to reflect critically on the written and other physical sources on which their research depends as ‘texts in motion’ within world history. We welcome submissions which interrogate the material and political trajectories of particular texts, which foreground the power relations and truth regimes underpinning the archives of world history, which attend to the sensory and affective dimensions of working with the written word and physical texts.

We are particularly interested in texts like petitions which undergo multiple and varied movements across their life-histories. To highlight what is distinctive about texts in motion, we also encourage reflections on texts which appear fixed in place, and on the relationship between visual and oral sources, on the one hand, and written texts, on the other. And we invite critical reflections on what is lost – or gained – in our engagements with written texts as a consequence of the digitisation of archives.

The conference aims to bring together researchers working on various parts of the globe, including the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. We welcome papers on a wide range of themes, including but not limited to:

  • Texts in motion: from ‘fixed’ monuments to ‘mobile’ petitions and letters
  • Making text mobile: technological innovation, scribal labour, translation work
  • Architectures of power: colonial archives, catalogues, hierarchies, classification
  • Materiality: archives as repositories of paper, questions of lacunae, loss, and decay
  • Archives in motion: engaging displaced and migrated archives
  • Allure of the archives: tactile, interpretative, and emotional experiences of the archive
  • Digital histories: immateriality and the consequences of archival digitisation
  • Beyond text: visual sources, orality, and regimes of truth, accuracy, authority

We encourage graduate students in any related discipline and at any stage of their studies to apply. Our aim is to bring together researchers working on various parts of the globe, including the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Europe, and across the many different scales of world history.

Organised by the convenors of the World History Workshop, University of Cambridge: Laura Channing, Annalise Higgins, Louise Moschetta, Ayse Polat, Tom Smith, and Chris Wilson.

If you wish to submit a proposal for the conference, please send a short abstract (200-250 words) and a one-page current academic CV to by 12 March 2018.