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South Asia in 1947: Broadening Perspectives Workshop, Call for Papers

By Josh Allen - March 20, 2017 (0 comments)

By Aashique Iqbal and Radha Kapuria (conference organisers)

2017 marks the 70th anniversary of perhaps the most important year of South Asia’s 20th century. The year saw the end of the British rule in India and the creation of the independent dominions of India and Pakistan. As was pointed out for another equally turbulent time, 1947 was a year in which “decades
happened.” The passing of nearly two centuries of colonial rule was accompanied by mass violence, the
movement of populations, the establishment of new institutions and the reconfiguration of South Asian
polities oriented towards new centralising nationalisms. The Partition of British India between India and
Pakistan has come to mark a watershed in histories of the period due to its immense scale, and its often
tragic consequences for millions of people in both the newly independent states. 1947 was also significant
for a bevy of other reasons such as the transformation of colonial subjects into citizens, the integration of
the princely states, the consolidation of constituent assemblies, the militarisation of South Asia, and the
entry onto the world stage of two states representing nearly a fourth of humanity, to name a few. Seven
decades give us sufficient distance to consider the consequential year of 1947 from a broader, extraPartition

Our one-day long workshop, taking place at the IHR (University of London Senate House) on 12th June 2017, aims to explore the consequences of 1947 for South Asian history seventy
years on. We invite paper proposals that throw new light on the Partition of British India. We are also
especially keen to encourage proposals dealing with other aspects of 1947, which include but are not
limited to:

*Decolonisation in South Asia
*Warfare and conflict
*The Princely States
*Regional histories
*Reconfigurations of intra/inter-South Asian territorial boundaries
*Art and Culture
*Political thought
*Historiographies of 1947
*India and/or Pakistan, and the world
*Popular movements
*The experience of groups and/or regions outside/contesting ‘mainstream’ Indian and Pakistani

Paper Proposals of no more than 300 words along with a one-page CV should be emailed to Panel proposals for groups of three or four speakers are also welcome. These should in addition to individual CVs and abstracts, also include a panel proposal of no more than 500 words.

The University of Oxford’s Dr. Yasmin Khan has been confirmed as keynote speaker.

The deadline for submissions is 15 April 2017. There will be no registration fees. Unfortunately we
may not be able to provide any support for travel and accommodation.

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"Living Well and Dying Well in the Early Modern World" a call for papers

By Josh Allen - March 13, 2017 (0 comments)

by Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth, Harry McCarthy, Josh Rhodes (conference organisers)

Following the success of our inaugural conference last year, the Centre for Early Modern Studies at the University of Exeter is pleased to announce our second annual postgraduate conference. This two-day conference will explore the varied aspects of life and death and their representations in art, literature, and culture between 1500 and 1800, and we welcome proposals for twenty-minute papers from postgraduate students in any humanities discipline. The conference will take place between 15-16th June at the University of Exeter’s Streatham campus.

Suggested topics for papers include, but are not limited to:

*Ideas of a good life in the early modern period

*The economic lives of early modern families

*Concepts of happiness, satisfaction, or enjoyment

*Advice on how to ensure a good life or death

*Class and society

*Celebrations and memorials (in society, art, music, and drama)

*Medical, scientific, and other advances which contributed to the quality of life

*Work and labour

*Valued relationships, beliefs, or objects

*Gendered virtue, sociability, or affection

*Stage representations of living, the life cycle, death, and dying

Proposals should comprise a 200-word abstract and a brief biography. Please email proposals to with the heading 2017 conference proposal by 31st March 2017. Any queries can also be emailed to the same address. Some travel grants will be available and will be announced closer to the conference.

Keynote Speakers:

Dr Lucy Munro (King’s College, London; funded with the generous assistance of the British Shakespeare Association) and Dr Amy Erickson (Robinson College, Cambridge).

Living Well and Dying Well in the Early Modern World is a Past & Present supported conference. Past & Present is pleased to be able to support a number of academic conferences and similar events each year, more information can be found here. We are keen to receive applications from scholars at all stages of their careers. 

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Publishing, "Refugees and the definition of Syria 1920-1939"

By Josh Allen - February 27, 2017 (0 comments)

By Dr. Benjamin Thomas White

The blog below is a cross-post from Benjamin’s personal blog Singular Things. In it he provides a personal reflection upon the processes that culminated in our publication of his article (currently available on advanced access, “out in print” in May) “Refugees and the definition of Syria, 1920-1939”.

The wheels of academic writing turn slowly.

It’s seven years since I first gave a talk at a workshop in Princeton outlining some ideas about how the arrival and settlement of refugees in Syria helped to define the modern state’s territory, institutions, and national identity. It’s six years since I developed them more fully in a seminar at the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford, which I entitled “Refugees and the definition of Syria, 1920-1939“. (The name stuck.) Over the next year or two I did some further archival research to test the ideas out, and was pleased to find that rather than contradicting my argument, this extra work allowed me to nuance and extend it. Meanwhile, just as I was learning more about Syria’s history as a destination for refugees in earlier generations, the civil war there broke out, and turned the country into the world’s largest producer of refugees.

Three years ago, while I was on research leave for a semester after changing jobs, I worked these presentations up into a full article. That turned into a bit of a monster (especially when the footnotes were included: Lordy!) but I was quite happy with it, and a couple of academic friends read it and gave me some positive feedback—as well as some advice on points that needed improving, of course. So I made some minor revisions, then sent the draft to a contact who was preparing a special issue of a historical journal, on refugees and statelessness.

And then nothing happened. For nearly a year. The person I’d been in touch with had gone on parental leave, her co-editor didn’t reply to my e-mails, and when I eventually contacted the journal, they couldn’t help—they’d never heard of the special issue. So I withdrew the article. By that point, two years ago, I was back to a full teaching load with plenty of other responsibilities. I didn’t know quite what to do next.

Eventually, though, I asked another couple of (senior) colleagues to read over the article and tell me if they thought it would be worth submitting it to Past & Present—a very good journal, but one with a famously intimidating review process. Both of them thought that with a bit of reframing to make it suitable for a non-specialist audience (ie, historians who don’t specifically work on refugees and statelessness), the article would make a plausible submission. In November 2015, with a bit of free time, I gritted my teeth and made what turned out to be some fairly minor amendments to reframe the article—and, a bigger job, reformatted the footnotes in line with the requirements of a different journal. And so, in some trepidation, I was able to send it off.

This was quite a big deal for me, because by that point it had been four years since my book came out, and in the meantime I’d published nothing but book reviews. I’d started my first permanent job at an institution where I didn’t feel at home, then moved to my second—which meant two rounds of settling in to a new city, getting to grips with a new institutional culture (and new administrative responsibilities), and preparing a lot of new teaching. Finding time to research and write had been difficult, and I’d also had to change what I was working on: the war in Syria had made it impossible for me to continue a project I’d begun. I knew what I wanted to do instead, and I’d started making connections here in Glasgow (thanks to GRAMNet) that would help me develop it—but I was grimly aware that the gap opening up in my publications record was like an ever-growing question mark over my future as a researcher. Anyone working in British academia will know what I mean.

Last March, I got the reply from Past & Present: to my delight, they wanted to publish it. During the double-blind peer review process, five (!) reviewers had read the article. One of them was lukewarm, the other four were positive or very positive. They all had suggestions for minor revisions, and a kindly-worded email from the editor suggested how I might approach them. I submitted the revised final version in early July, after I’d made some amendments and got a friend who’s an academic copy-editor to check the footnotes. (I told him to charge me the full rate, of course.) Proofs came my way for checking in the autumn, along with a publication date: May 2017, seven years to the month after the workshop where I first presented the argument, with online access a bit earlier. I didn’t imagine, when I started on this work, that it would take so long to see it to completion—or that the country whose history I’d been writing would experience such catastrophe in the meantime.

“Image (c) Benjamin Thomas White, used under a CC BY-NC 4.0 licence”.

“Image (c) Benjamin Thomas White, used under a CC BY-NC 4.0 licence”

All of which is by way of announcing that my article ‘Refugees and the Definition of Syria, 1920-1939’ is now available online, and will be out in print soon. For anyone who wants a shorter version without footnotes, a post will be going up on shortly. The next article I publish should be out rather quicker—though the gestation time has been almost as long.

Many thanks once again to everyone mentioned in this post who read the article in draft form and helped improve it.