2023 Conference Call for Papers

Outsiders, Outlaws, and Outreach in the Space Between, 1914-1945

West Texas A&M University,
Canyon, Texas, USA
June 8-10, 2023

For the 2023 Space Between conference, hosted “out West” on the campus of West Texas A&M University—in a region that often feels “out of range” from larger institutions and cultural trends—we are interested in papers on the interwar period that explore spaces “out there” and cultural productions “outside the norm” or by “outsiders.” For this conference, we wish to reach beyond the centers of elite culture, scholarship, and institutional control. For instance, we welcome scholarship on topics that fall “outside” traditional avant-garde styles and movements, including cultural artefacts by artists reaching outside their zones of familiarity or outside of elite circles of art lovers, such as Hannah Höch’s April Fools sewing jokes published in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (BIZ), Virginia Woolf’s fashion publications for Vogue, or Diego Rivera’s art brought into the mainstream as public government-sponsored murals. We seek papers on the ways “outsiders” made their voices heard in the interwar years, such as Zora Neale Hurston’s double-edged letters to teacher Frank Boaz about her anthropologic study; Martha Pettway’s African American quilts made from found materials that undermine the elitism of dominant modernism; or Gandhi’s anti-colonial protests which were visible even though they were “way out there” to certain audiences. We hope for papers about ethnic minorities, political dissidents, homosexuals, and colonized subjects in concentration camps, gulags, and imperial labor camps—made “outlaws” or placed out of reach, out of sight, out of mind. We seek papers that embrace “out of the way” places, such as middlebrow cowboy novels about the US West, or the retrieval of forgotten or overlooked narratives such as the Tulsa Massacre of 1921. We also invite papers that complicate notions of inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion, or explore the spaces between these categories.

Considering the categories of in and out, we’re additionally interested in papers that explore the pedagogy of the Space Between, and ways it can be made more accessible to wider audiences. We hope to attract scholarship that makes the interwar period more relevant to and relatable for scholarly and non-scholarly communities today: how do we engage scholarly (insider?) and non-scholarly (outsider?) audiences in the continued study of the Space Between? What does it mean to invite “outside” scholarship on the “interwar” period, and to explore its very in-between-ness? What does it mean to be “outside,” and outside of what? From whose perspective is “outside” or “inside” determined? How can we reconsider what it means to be “between” pressurized currents and perspectives, as mediators, pedagogues, or cultural producers, then and now? How do we do “outreach” beyond our own comfort zones and bring our ideas on the Space Between “within reach” of broader geographies and demographics? If as Audre Lorde has suggested, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” how do we, as critics of and educators about the interwar period, continue the work of thinking outside of the box, and attend to and support new projects that do the same? What sort of power organizes and shapes efforts to reach out? What differences can we locate between various sorts of institutions that seek to reach a wide public—radio, cinema, journalism, etc.? And, finally, is there joy, liberation, and independence to be found in that “outsider” view, in “coming out,” in being a part of the “great outdoors,” in finding ourselves turned inside out?

Some themes might include (but are not limited to):

  • Public Humanities Outreach in the Space Between, exploring the Space Between—how is “between-ness” both in and out?
  • Feminist, socialist, and anti-imperialist organizations and unions that reached out for political power, but were kept out of reach.
  • Outreach through mass media to the general public via journalism, radio, cinema, and other communications technologies—that also sometimes failed to reach their audiences. 
  • Middlebrow writers kept at arm’s reach in terms of cultural capital—sometimes because they reached out to a mass readership.
  • Interwar geographies of “out West,” “the Outback,” outskirts, outside, out of bounds, out there, way out there, out of the way.
  • Connecting with an artistic history of interwar outbreaks, outcries, acting out, out-of-touch, feeling burnt out, and being on the outs with our countries, our communities, our families, ourselves.
  • Proposals that highlight interwar artistic movements and manifestations seeking to outwit, outsmart, outshine and otherwise stand out—even those that are outdone.
  • Ways in which the interwar artistic community and the strategies we learn from it have helped remind us that “the truth will out.”
  • Finding liberatory and joyous languages to express interwar marginalized experiences of coming out, coming out fighting, breaking out, or out-of-body experiences – an independence born of being an outsider.

Please submit a 300-word abstract and a 100-word bio to Bonnie Roos at broos@wtamu.edu by December 15, 2022.