Radicalism & Reform: The 41st Annual Conference
Rochester, New York
March 19-21, 2020 

Conference registration is open; early registration ends January 15, 2020.

Inspired by the history of radicalism and reform in Rochester, New York, the NCSA committee invites proposals exploring the radical possibilities of the nineteenth-century world. From the aftershocks of the French and American revolutions to mutinies and rebellion in colonies across the globe, the nineteenth century was a period of both unrest and possibility. Abolition, suffrage, and reform movements reshaped prisons, education, and housing, marking this century as a period of institutional making and unmaking: a reckoning with ills of the past that was also profoundly optimistic about a more just and prosperous future.

Radicalism is also a generative term for considering transitional moments or social tensions: “radical” is often used interchangeably with “extreme,” but its earliest definitions describe not what is new or unusual, but what is foundational or essential. “Radical” is used to describe literal and figurative roots: the roots of plants, roots of musical chords, and the roots of words. To be radical is to embody tensions between origins and possibilities: to be anchored in what is foundational while also holding the potential for paradigm-shifting change. We welcome papers that consider these tensions in nineteenth-century culture, as well as those that consider possibilities for reforming nineteenth-century studies or academic life. Topics on nineteenth-century literature, history, art, music, or other cultural forms might include political movements or divisions, activism, resistance, labor, collective and direct action, or mutinies and rebellion. We also encourage broader interpretations of the conference theme: outsiders and outcasts, visionaries, agents of change, utopias, breakthroughs, failed reforms, conformity, or stagnation.

Topics on the state of nineteenth-century studies might include politically engaged teaching and scholarship, academic labor practices, harassment or prejudice in the academy, or new approaches to humanities education.

Keynote Speaker: Professor Manisha Sinha
Manisha Sinha is professor and the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History. She was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed on faculty, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she taught for over twenty years. Her recent book The Slave’s Cause was reviewed by The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe Christian Science MonitorThe Atlantic, and The Boston Globe, among other newspapers and journals. It was featured as the Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review. It was named the book of the week by Times Higher Education in May, 2016 to coincide with its UK publication and one of three Great History Books for 2016 in Bloomberg News. Her first book, The Counterrevolution of Slavery, was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015.

Sinha’s research interests lie in United States history, especially the transnational histories of slavery and abolition and the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. She is a member of the Board of the Society of Civil War Historians and of the Council of Advisors of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg, New York Public Library. She is a co-editor of the “Race and the Atlantic World, 1700-1900,” series of the University of Georgia Press and is on the editorial board of the Journal of the Civil War Era and Slavery and Abolition. She has written for The New York TimesThe New York Daily NewsTime MagazineCNN, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Dissent, Jacobin, and The Huffington Post and been interviewed by The Times of LondonThe New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, The Boston Globe, Slate, The Daily Caller, and Gothamist. She has appeared on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are and was an adviser and on-screen expert for the Emmy nominated PBS documentary, The Abolitionists (2013), which is a part of the NEH funded Created Equal series. She is currently writing a book on the “Greater Reconstruction” of American democracy and capitalism after the Civil War under contract with Basic Books.