Thursday, May 28, 2015

CFP: Critical Legal Histories of the North American West

From Southern Methodist University, we have the following call for papers:
Laying Down the Law: Critical Legal Histories of the North American West
A Joint Symposium Sponsored by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at SMU and the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s History Department and Center for Great Plains Studies

We solicit proposals for papers that offer a critical approach to legal borderlands in the North American West. Legal borderlands include spaces such as bordertowns on the margins of Indian reservations (Whiteclay, Nebraska and Pine Ridge) and international boundaries (El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Chihuahua); mining camps that host a vast range of racial/ethnic and gendered residents (Clifton-Morenci in Arizona); and multilingual courtrooms where federal, state, territorial, and tribal laws intersect (everywhere in the West). In addition to physical spaces, legal borderlands also include philosophical spaces where the legal code is ambiguous or contradictory—for instance, in its support of violence initiated as self-defense, in its assumption of consent in heterosexual and not in homosexual relations, or in its ambiguous definitions of racial and gendered rights.

Laying Down the Law will center its discussion on two deceptively simple questions: how have legal borderlands defined the North American West, and how have Westerners defined and/or challenged legal borderlands? We expect that contributors’ answers to these questions will characterize the West as a place of many overlapping legal borderlands rather than a lawless place.  Our aim is to encourage proposals that center on contested jurisdictions and jurisprudence, on disputes over authority and identity, and on inconsistent racial and sexual regulations.  Collectively, contributors’ essays should illustrate the importance of western legal history, in its myriad and complex forms, in American experience, history, and identity.

We welcome submissions from scholars of all ranks to contribute critical and innovative scholarship toward this anthology of western legal history. 8-10 selected participants will meet at UNL in Fall 2016 to circulate early drafts of their essays in a workshop setting and to present their work in a public forum. Participants will meet again in Spring 2017 (location TBD) to share advanced drafts. Conference co-organizers Katrina Jagodinsky (University of Nebraska Lincoln) and Pablo Mitchell (Oberlin College) will co-edit the chapters in an anthology published by a university press that maintains lists in both Western and Legal History. Noted scholars Kelly Lytle Hernández, Nayan Shah, and Jeff Shepherd have already agreed to contribute chapters as well. Please submit a one-page CV and a 500-800 word proposal describing your project, the research undertaken, and its connection to the symposium theme to Pablo Mitchell ( by September 15, 2015. For more information about the symposium please contact Pablo or Katrina Jagodinsky (

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