The History Department’s 40th Annual Susman Graduate Student Conference

Narratives of Resistance: Challenges, Practices, and Possibilities

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Thursday and Friday, March 29 and 30, 2018

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Shannen Williams, Assistant Professor of History at the University of
Tennessee Knoxville*

Opening Address: Dr. Camilla Townsend, Professor of History at Rutgers University**

The graduate students from the Department of History at Rutgers University are pleased to invite
their peers in the humanities and social sciences to submit papers for the 40th annual Susman
Conference, “Narratives of Resistance.”Through this conference, we hope to examine the analytic of resistance by thinking
critically about frameworks of oppression and power, their boundaries, and ways to push past
views of resistance along a binary of success and failure. After all, as historian Robin Kelly
points out, according to these standards, “virtually every radical movement failed because the
basic power relations they sought to change remained pretty much intact. And yet it is precisely
these alternative visions and dreams that inspire new generations to struggle for change.”1
Drawing from this observation, we invite papers that explore resistance(s) that defy the
disciplinary features of the archive. We encourage papers that explore the history of resistance as
a way to engage with alternative visions of the future and their legacies.

We acknowledge, however, the possibility that resistance narratives have their limits.
Resistance is a major trope in the history of subaltern groups, but historians have argued that it is
also a Eurocentric notion.2 Others point out that “resistance” assumes a straightforward and oneway
relationship, while obscuring the possibilities of more nuanced relations. Does resistance
always involve domination? Who is entitled to resist? What are the political stakes behind our
narratives of resistance?

Finally, as events over the past year have reminded us, violent and oppressive institutions
can be and have been met with equally powerful forms of activism and opposition. We hope to
explore the ways that historians might actively engage with this response. How can historians
draw from narratives of resistance to inform our political engagement in the present day? How
can the methodologies and conceptual tools of history be better employed to blur the boundary
between academia and activism? We look forward to a conference that addresses historians as
both resistors and chroniclers of resistance.

We welcome graduate students to submit proposals that explore any time period or geographical
location related, but by no means restricted, to the following themes:
 Imperialism & decolonization
 Race & the subaltern
 Indigeneity/indigenous histories
 Alternative forms of knowledge
 Gender & sexuality
 Migration & diaspora
 Radical social movements
 Environmental justice
 Activism within and beyond the academy

Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, January 14, 2018. Please submit all proposals to the
Susman planning committee at Participants will be notified of
acceptance by February 10th. Individual paper proposals should include a 150–300 word abstract
with paper title and CV with author contact information. Please list any audio-visual

*Each year, we invite a graduate of the Rutgers doctoral program in History to present a keynote
address. Dr. Shannen Dee Williams received her Ph.D. in African American history from Rutgers
University in 2013. She focuses on religious history, especially the history of the Black women
in the Catholic church, and is currently working on a book entitled Subversive Habits: Black
Nuns and the Long Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America.

**Camilla Townsend received her Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1995. She has written
extensively on indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and is the author of works such as
Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (2004), Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the
Conquest of Mexico (2006), and Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico
Kept Their Culture Alive (2016). She is especially interested in gender and the study of the Aztec
language Nahuatl.