CfP: Sources of Decolonization: Interdisciplinary Approaches Toward the Ends of Empires

Call for papers, deadline 15 December 2021

The digital workshop is aiming at doctoral candidates and early-career researchers and wants to draw attention to the underexplored spaces and sources that historicize empire’s lasting presence at home. Through a mixture of presentations and hands-on source discussion, we hope to foster debate on the historical experiences of decolonization as well as on interdisciplinary theoretical or methodological approaches to the study of the end of European and non-European empires.

Sources of Decolonization: Interdisciplinary Approaches Toward the Ends of Empires

In recent years, public attention has been directed to the remnants of empire hiding in plain sight throughout imperial metropoles. The tearing down of the Edward Colston statue in the UK, public outcry over the presence of streets named after colonial officers in France or Uganda, popular demonstrations in support of decolonizing university curriculums around the world, and controversial efforts to deal with the holding of colonial objects in museums are all testaments to the shadowed persistence of empire, long after its formal end. This awareness has been heightened by new historical research on the traces of empire, left to dust during and after the processes of formal decolonization. Building on these impulses, our workshop will bring together doctoral candidates and early-career researchers to discuss their new and innovative approaches to historicizing the afterlives of empire.

In 2015, Jordanna Bailkin asked “Where (and what) is the archive of decolonization?” and thus challenged historians to reconsider the way they engage with imperial archives as well as the sources used to explore the multiple processes of decolonization (884-885). By doing this, she encouraged new perspectives to be included in historical debates. Similarly, Elizabeth Buettner has demonstrated how these processes have been largely overlooked in European imperial ‘centers’, and in doing so creating space to explore such implications in non-European contexts (2016). These new insights, alongside the understanding of the archives as critical spaces for the production, preservation, and persistence of imperial knowledge and histories, have generated increasingly interdisciplinary projects on how empire remains embedded in objects, architecture, localized politics, or in socio-historical spaces such as family structures. By bringing a diverse group of scholars together, our workshop hopes to facilitate a wider understanding of the processes of decolonization and their impact on “post-imperial” societies.

We invite proposals from a variety of imperial (European and non-European) and disciplinary contexts. The following is a list of suggested approaches and/or topics, but is by no means exhaustive:
- Identifying “empire” in imperial metropoles during and after decolonization
- Innovative sources (e.g. objects, music, food, children’s books, etc) in imperial history
- Perspectives on comparative decolonization processes
- Continuity of imperial practices and logics after the end of empire
- Theoretical or methodological approaches to sources in imperial history
- Examples of “overlooked” contexts of imperialism in post-imperial histories

The workshop is planned to take place digitally over three days, with an evening keynote on the eve of the workshop to kick off the proceedings. The first day will be made up of presentations and discussions of individual projects (15-20 minutes), concluding with a comment on historical sources in the writing of decolonization histories. The second day will be hands-on and include deliberation on the diverse body of sources used by the participants. We ask participants to bring a paper that includes consideration of their selected sources to be shared with the group. We aim to foster a discussion on the methodological and epistemological concerns regarding various sources and their potential(s).

An Abstract of 200-300 words and a short CV should be submitted to or by 15.12.2021. It should include a brief overview of the applicant’s project and a few words on their proposed source. Accepted participants are expected to submit a paper (2000 words max.) and an exemplary source from their work to discuss with the group by 21 March 2022.

Bailkin, Jordanna. "Where did the empire go? Archives and decolonization in Britain." The American Historical Review 120.3 (2015): 884-899.
Buettner, Elizabeth. Europe after empire: decolonization, society, and culture. Vol. 51. Cambridge University Press, 2016.