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Envisioning Peace, Performing Justice: Art, Activism, and Cultural Politics in the History of Peacemaking
October 24-26, 2013
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

The Peace History Society seeks proposals for panels and papers from across the humanities, social sciences, and fine and performing arts disciplines that reveal both the artistic and performative dimensions of peacemaking and the vital roles that artists and activists have played as visionaries, critics, interpreters, and promoters of peacemaking efforts around the world.   

Artists of all kinds—from celebrated professionals to folk, outsider, underground, and guerilla artists—have long put their creative powers in the service of initiatives for peace and justice.  At the same time, politicians and peace activists have continually crafted modes of communication, confrontation, celebration, and commemoration that employ elements of theater, fashion, music, dance, visual art, creative writing and, more recently, digital media.  These “exhibitions” and “performances” have been presented to audiences of all kinds, in venues as varied as the world’s great museums and performance halls, formal ceremonies and tradition-steeped rituals, university commons and the Internet, as well as coffeehouses, houses of worship, and the streets. 

Prospective participants are encouraged to conceptualize “artistry,” “envisioning,” “performance, “representation,” “activism,” and “memorialization” in broad terms that will expand historians’ view of peacemaking and activism as art forms and of artistic production as peace activism. We invite critical reflections on, as well as appreciations of, the intersections of oppositional politics with visionary and performative identities and acts.

Included among the many questions we hope to explore within this conference theme are:

  • How have “peace” and “justice” been envisioned in the arts?  How have artists (professional, outsider, folk, guerilla, underground, etc.) participated (or attempted to participate) in peacemaking processes?
  • In what ways can peace activism be considered an art form?
  • How has peacemaking been “staged,” “choreographed,” “scripted,” “narrated,” or “pictured” in political institutions, at negotiating tables, in public rituals (such as the Nobel ceremony), or at sites of struggle such as demonstrations, strikes, or occupations? 
  • How have various forms of artistic expression intervened in prevailing political discourses on conflict and peace? 
  • How have major social movements such as labor, feminism, the counterculture, and anticolonialism shaped the ways in which groups like The War Resisters’ League, Women Strike for Peace, YIPPIE!, School of the Americas Watch and others developed distinctive languages or modes of performance in their activism?  How have activists strategically “performed” race, class, gender, and/or national identity to convey specific messages about peace or achieve specific forms of justice?  To what degree did such groups create distinctive cultures of peacemaking?
  • How have specific moments in peace history been presented, re-presented, promoted, altered, commemorated, contested, or misremembered through works of art?
  • How does a performative conception of peacemaking and peace activism either empower or hinder peace activists who wish to speak truth to power?
  • How do we critically analyze performative visions of peacemaking while remaining alive to these visions’ potential to revitalize peace activism and keep it culturally relevant?

The Program Committee wishes to emphasize that the theme of “artistic production” is intended to be broadening, not restrictive.  Proposals for papers that address variations of the conference theme or issues in peace history outside of this specific theme are also strongly encouraged. 

Strong conference papers will be considered for publication in Peace and Change to be co-edited by the program co-chairs and Robbie Lieberman, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

For conference updates, visit the PHS website, at

Please forward proposals for individual papers or a panel to both program committee chairs by November 1, 2012.  Email submissions are greatly preferred.

Heather Fryer
Department of History
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178

Andrew Barbero  
Department of History
Southern Illinois University
1000 Faner Drive, Room 3374
Mailcode 4519
Carbondale, IL 62901
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