The History of Experience and Agency: A Critical Intervention
Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in the History of Experiences (HEX), Tampere University
The new history of experience is a methodologically and conceptually innovative approach that seeks to ask novel questions about social, cultural, biological, political, religious and economic history. Among other things, it seeks to understand how individuals and groups meaningfully perceived reality and, crucially, their own role in it. Does this framing suggest a route away from the concept of “agency,” which, despite critical historiographical treatment in some fields, remains important in the social sciences and many other historical subfields? Historians have sought to uncover or account for agency in marginalized and oppressed historical actors and groups in laudable efforts to point to real and sometimes invisible power relations, as well as highlighting cases of resiliency and explaining individual and group responsibility for events throughout the lifecourse. Historians in several subdisciplines have questioned the usefulness of the concept of agency for some time now. Historians of race and particularly of slavery, of the poor, of gender and of children and youth have all pointed to substantial problems with the concept. While some have proposed redefining and repurposing the concept, others have called for its outright rejection and replacement.
We would like to explore the extent to which the history of experience might be used to replace agency and/or deal with its inadequacies. Or does the concept of experience somehow change our understanding of agency as well? How does the interplay of experience and agency influence our understanding of history and society?
We seek scholars who engage critically with the concept of agency in their research, and who are thinking with “experience,” to present their work in the form of digital poster sessions. We especially welcome applications from graduate students and early career researchers. These sessions will take the form of 5-minute video presentations with a slide show. We will invite participants to view these presentations throughout the week of the conference and leave questions and comments on a digital discussion board, and we invite presenters to respond throughout the week as well. On Friday, March 12, we will have a live “poster social” where presenters are invited to discuss their research with conference participants in a relaxed way. To participate with a video poster, please submit your abstract by December 13, 2020. You will be notified if your poster is accepted in early January 2021. (https://events.tuni.fi/historyofexperience2021/call-for-posters/)
All panels will be viewable online, either live or recorded, with pre-registration.
Our keynote speakers will be Profs. Lynn Thomas (University of Washington) and Mona Gleason (University of British Columbia).
Check out our program for more information about the conference here.