The deadline for the Mormon History Association’s annual conference in Boise, ID is coming up in about two weeks on Wednesday November 15th. The deadline is significantly later than usual so I trust that most of you are prepared and have already submitted. If not, no worries! There is still time.
The call for papers says:
While Idaho provides a rich tableau for the study of Mormonism in the context of the state’s history as a multiracial, multi-ethic, and multireligious place, we also seek papers and panels that address the theme of “Homelands and Bordered Lands” from any vantage point in the Mormon past. In addition to papers and panels that address the conference theme, the program committee also welcomes proposals on any topic in Mormon history.
In other words, Idaho is a fascinating place to explore the evocative theme of “Homelands and Bordered Lands” BUT the conference organizers will also welcome proposals on any area in Mormon history.
At MHA, as with other conferences, proposals for panels (consisting of a chair, three presenters, and a commentator) are much likelier to be accepted than individual papers. The first reason for this is that the program committee is made up of volunteers and shuffling all the papers to fit into cohesive panels would takes a lot of work. Secondly, unified panels enable both the audience and commentator to draw thematic threads throughout the presentations. Individual papers will still be considered but organizing a panel will significantly improve your chances.
I also want to draw your attention to the following part of the call for papers: “We encourage people to organize roundtables, ‘cafés’ in which participants are arranged in small groups to discuss a topic, pre-circulated papers, and so forth.” In other words, a good panel proposal does not have to consist of a chair, three presenters, and a commentator. You could propose a roundtable on professional development issue or under-explored methodology that is relevant to Mormon History. For other ideas look here.
What does a compelling abstract look like? A few years ago JI contributor Ben wrote a post where he summarized what conference organizers look for in a proposal. Y’all should read the whole post, but let me liberally quote some of the most important points.
- When providing a description of your proposed paper, be as specific as you can about your topic, your approach, and your potential findings. It is not reasonable for you to have your entire paper written at this time – heaven knows we all submit paper proposals as a way to jump-start future research – but it is pretty obvious when a proposal is written without much thought. As a program committee, we want to know that you have given the topic serious thought, that you are familiar with the sources you will consult, and that this is something that will turn out to be a fine finished product. Put simply, your paper proposal should not be something you write on a whim an hour before you submit it, perhaps with a bit of academic jargon thrown in, but should rather be a reflection of your engagement with, knowledge of, and excitement for your topic.
- Both the paper and panel proposal should cover what makes your submission relevant. What will be new in these presentations? What stories are you telling that have previously been ignored? How are they filling a space in the field previously overlooked? We sometimes like to cover the same stories, arguments, and theories again and again, so it is crucial to show what is going to be novel and important in these new presentations.
- In putting together your panels, try your best to be as diverse as possible. This diversity includes not only demographic background, though that is always important, but also institutional or occupational backgrounds. For example, a panel on a particular person or event could include papers from an academic professor, a public history employee, as well as an interested observer. And it is always to crucial to ask if your panel could benefit from a different gender or racial perspective, a sensitivity that MHA has recently tried to address more frequently.
In an effort to help you through the difficult task of organizing a panel we want you to use the comment section of this post to network and find fellow panelists. Please summarize your idea for your paper. If others have similar ideas they can get in touch via the JI moderators.
Happy writing everyone!