What does it mean to give consent? Or to withhold it? In what situations is it asked for? When isn’t it? And why? These are questions that most historians of early America face some time, some way or another. But the range of uses of consent is vast, from the many senses of government through relations of labour, exchange, sex, and kinship. Next March at the Rothermere American Institute in Oxford, Kathryn Olivarius and I will hold a conference with the aim of drawing connections and patterns across these disparate realms.
We are interested in both how early Americans of all kinds understood notions of consent, and how consent might work as a category for historians today. Is there anything special or distinctive about how consent worked, or the role it had, in early America? How might it relate to other master concepts like sovereignty, freedom, contract, and democracy?
I wanted to use this post to advertise the conference and its Call for Papers, but also perhaps to begin a discussion of the topic that might help raise issues and areas we hadn’t thought of, and hopefully inspire potential proposals. You can find all the details of the conference on its mini-site here; and I’ll be adding more there as we move closer to the date.
We’re particularly encouraging papers from graduate students and early career researchers (i.e. the untenured), and we expect to provide bursaries for accommodation and travel within the UK. But if you’re based in the US and can make it over here, we’d love to have you too! I’m also very pleased to announce that the University of Chicago’s Professor Amy Dru Stanley will give our keynote address. We think it’ll be an exciting two days, and we’re really looking forward to your proposals!