Call for Papers: Modern British Studies Beyond Boundaries, 3-5 July 2019

Boundaries and borders are vexed subjects. As we write this, we don’t even know what, precisely, the geo-political borders of the United Kingdom will be by July 2019. There could be, then, no more timely moment for questioning the boundaries that have shaped the field of Modern British Studies, and to embark on a project of imagining a scholarly practice that might remake or even transcend them.

The Modern British Studies Centre at the University of Birmingham invites proposals for our conference, Modern British Studies Beyond Boundaries. This conference is the third in a series of bi-annual gatherings assessing the state of our field and pushing forward conversations about the methodological stakes and the political engagement of our work.

Modern British Studies Beyond Boundaries seeks to showcase work and provoke dialogue about the boundaries – whether geographical, epistemological, pedagogical, or something else entirely – that have defined the project of British Studies. We want to ask: how can a critical British Studies question, reshape, or perhaps demolish those boundaries, and with what results? For example:

  • How should British Studies be taught in the present day? What does inclusive pedagogy consist of in our discipline? How might we challenge the boundaries between ‘learner’ and ‘teacher’ or between ‘expert’ and ‘subject’?
  • How are scholars now working beyond national boundaries, conceptualizing Britain as, for instance, an imperial state spread across the globe?
  • How can we put local or national studies of decolonization into the same frame as metropolitan-centric histories of the end of empire? Likewise, how can British Studies situate Britain effectively in comparative and European contexts?
  • What does British Studies look like from a regional or local perspective? What would it mean to take seriously not only Scotland but Scunthorpe as a unit of analysis? What happens when British Studies centres Dublin or Delhi instead of London?
  • In what ways does the category of ‘modernity’ create its own set of boundaries, and how are scholars of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries usefully working with or against this and other sorts of periodization?
  • How have social boundaries of race, class, gender, embodiment, and so on, been constituted within British Studies? How can methodologies that question these categories be applied? Could the insights of transgender history speak productively to the practices of transnational or transimperial history, for instance? Or how might disability studies inform British histories of embodiment?

We welcome proposals from everyone with a stake in Modern British Studies, particularly scholars working in other geographical areas or national traditions, as well as early career scholars, including postgraduates, and people working outside of the academy. Building on our conferences in 2015 and 2017, this conference provides a forum to showcase diverse work, explore new methodologies, and prompt engaged conversations among those working across disciplines on Britain since the eighteenth century.

Confirmed keynote speakers include: Caroline Bressey (University College London), Enda Delaney (University of Edinburgh), and Sharon Marcus (Columbia University). There will also be a plenary session focused on teaching.

We accept proposals for full panels or single papers, though with a preference for full panels where possible. Panel proposals should be for ninety-minute sessions. They may be in the format of the traditional three-paper panel with commenter, or may take a different format. All sessions should be formed with attention to diversity of perspectives in terms of geography, chronology, career stage, background, and discipline or method. The conference organisers will not accept proposals that do not meet these criteria in some way. To assist in forming sessions, we will host a page on our website for calls for fellow panellists, or use the hashtag #mbs2019 on Twitter. You may also submit a proposal for a single paper and, where possible, we will seek to create productive sessions using these submissions.

Session proposals should include:

  • Title of the session
  • Brief description of the session (c. 300 words)
  • Full contact details for all participants
  • Details of participant contributions (e.g., title and c. 300 word paper abstracts)

Paper proposals should include:

  • Title of the paper
  • Brief summary of the paper
  • Full contact details for the author

Email proposals by 28 February 2019 to modernbritishstudies at

Following the practice of the 2015 and 2017 conferences, we will open with a set of conversations relevant specifically to postgraduates and early-career researchers. The programme for this portion will be publicised through our blog and attendance at both is encouraged.

The registration fee covers a portion of the cost of running the conference and providing lunches, tea breaks, and receptions. We will continue to offer 100 free registrations for postgraduate students, early-career researchers on short-term contracts, and the unwaged.

Photograph from Margaret Stanton Collection, Modern Records Centre, Warwick.

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