Call for Papers

Indigeneity, Nationhood, and Migrations of the Book

We are pleased to invite submissions for the 27th annual conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP), to be held in Amherst, Massachusetts—primarily at the University of Massachusetts—from Monday, 15 July to Thursday, 18 July 2019, with optional book-historical excursions on 19 July. (Information on pre- and post-conference activities is preliminary and will be steadily updated.) The conference theme is “Indigeneity, Nationhood, and Migrations of the Book.”

Download Call for Papers

In the West-Eastern Divan (1819), a collection of German poetry inspired by the medieval Persian author Hafez, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe advised, “If the poet you’d understand / Go you must in the poet’s land.” Later in that century, American poet and Amherst native Emily Dickinson said, “I see—New Englandly—” but lauded the power of the book “To take us Lands away.”

What is the role of place in book history: from “native tongue” to “Native writing,” author’s homeland to author’s house, sites of reading to websites? Print capitalism has been adduced as a factor in the consolidation of vernaculars and national literatures and the rise of the national imaginary from Europe to its colonial regimes. Rather than viewing the relation between indigenous and European communication practices as a hierarchical and sequential one of center and periphery—“literacy” replacing “illiteracy” (whether dismissed as “inferior” or eulogized as “authentic”)—what could we learn by instead exploring it as one of encounter and continuing evolution?

Consider the setting for SHARP19: New England—the very name connoting old and new “worlds”—was at once native land for the original inhabitants, with their established social and communication systems, and a site in which European settlers, rather than simply replicating the homeland (making a “new” England), created out of many sources and influences a different, distinctly American culture. Successive generations of arrivals—from captive Africans and indentured Asians to voluntary, if often unwelcome, immigrants—writing in their mother tongues or in English, transformed the very notion of an “American” language and literature. Alfred Kazin, son of Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Russia, provocatively entitled his pioneering 1942 study of modern American prose, On Native Grounds. How have literacy and print functioned here and around the world on a spectrum including oppression, resistance, assimilation, and dialogue?

We invite book historians to train their eyes on indigenous cultural practices, national literatures, colonized and colonizing texts, landscapes and sites of literary life, and textual migration and exchange in a global context. Areas of inquiry may include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • The indigenous book: concepts, definitions, evolution
  • Making marks to new media: varieties of communicative practice
  • Cross-cultural encounters, diglossia, heteroglossia, and cultural hybridity
  • The uses of print by colonizers and colonized
  • Decolonizing book history, libraries, and archives


  • The formation and material expression of national literatures
  • Meanings and manifestations of the vernacular: national languages, lexica, dictionaries
  • Immigration, identity, publication, and ethnic/national literatures
  • The national: canon formation, the organization of academic knowledge, and library cataloguing
  • Gender, sexuality, textuality, and the construction of the national


  • Materiality and the surface of the text from petroglyphs to pixels
  • Media migrations: manuscript, print, analog, digital
  • National books, translation, circulation, and globalization
  • Literary landmarks: sites of creation, curation, fandom, and cultural pilgrimage



Although engagement with the conference theme is desirable, SHARP welcomes paper and panel proposals (preference generally accorded to the latter) on any topic related to the global history of the book in the broadest sense of the field.

SHARP 2019 will follow the custom of most of our conferences and ask that members limit themselves, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, to two program submissions, for example, a paper (submitted individually or as part of a panel) and a roundtable, lightning talk, or other larger group activity. Of course, presenters may also chair panels as an additional contribution to the conference.

Proposals must be submitted electronically via our Open Conference System.   The system employs a “controlled submission vocabulary” of keywords (the name of our organization includes three of them) to assist the conference committee in reviewing proposals and constructing a coherent program.

The vocabulary below, drawn from the practice of recent conferences and updated to reflect our ongoing commitment to increase the diversity and inclusivity of book history, is meant to be indicative and suggestive, not prescriptive; if you find that the appropriate terminology is missing from this list, please use the term “Other.”

Geographical Focus

  • Africa: Egypt; Ethiopia; Kenya; Mozambique; Nigeria; East Africa; North Africa; South Africa; Sudan; West Africa
  • Asia: China; East Asia; Gulf States; India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Subcontinent; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Korea; Middle East; Palestine; Philippines; Russia (Eurasia); Saudi Arabia; Singapore; South Asia; states; Syria; Taiwan; Turkey
  • Europe: Austria; Austria-Hungary; Baltic Region; Belgium; Central Europe; Croatia; Czech/Slovak; Denmark; Eastern Europe; England; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Holy Roman Empire; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Italy; Luxembourg; Netherlands; Northern Ireland; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russia (European); Scandinavia; Scotland; Serbia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey in Europe; Ukraine; Wales; Yugoslavia; Other European countries
  • North America: Canada; Mexico; United States
  • Oceania: Australia; Fiji; Melanesia; Micronesia; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea
  • Central and South America: Argentina; Brazil; Colombia; Latin America; Peru; Other South American countries; Other Central American countries
  • Global and Other Geographic Interests: British Empire; French Empire; Mughal Empire; Ottoman Empire; Roman Empire; Reading in Arctic and Antarctic

Historical Period

  • Ancient: circa 3000 to 1000/800 BCE; Ancient: circa 1000/800 BCE to 400-600 CE; Pre-Codex; Incunabula; Medieval; 16th Century; 17th Century; 18th Century; 19th Century; 20th Century; 21st Century


  • Aboriginal; African-American; Almanacs/Gift Books; Alphabet/Alphabetic; Arabic; Archives; Artist’s Books; Asian-American; Authorship; Bible; Bibliocide; Bibliography; Bibliophilia; Big Data; Bindings; Book Arts; Book Design; Book Prizes; Book Trade; Bookbinding; Bookselling; Buddhist; Censorship; Cheap Print; Children’s Literature; Close/Distant Reading; Codex; Codicology; Collecting; Colonial; Colportage; Comix; Coptic; Copyright; Cultural Tourism; Cuneiform; Cyrillic; Dictionaries; Digital Culture; Digital Humanities; E-Books; Editing; Editors; Engraving; Ephemera; Epigraphy; Erotica; Esperanto; Fine Presses; First Nations; Gender; Genre; GIS; Globalisation; Graphic Novels; Greek; Hebraic; Hieroglyphics; Hindu; Hispanic; Illustration; Image and Text; Immigration; Incunabula; Indigenous; Indigeneity; Inscriptions; Internationalisation; Internet; Islamic; Journals; Judaic; Latin; Latinx; LGBTQ; Libraries; Literacy; Literary Agency/Agents; Lithography; Magazines; Manuscript; Maps and Cartography; Marginalia; Marks; Materiality of Texts; Media Ecology; Migration; Music; Nation; Nationalism; Native American; Newspapers; Numismatic; Orality; Paleography; Palimpsest; Paper/Papermaking; Paperbacks; Papyri; Paratextual Elements; Parchment; People of Color; Periodicals; Petroglyphs; Philatelic; Photography; Pictographs; Postcolonial; Print Culture; Printing; Proofreading; Publishing; Reading; Reception; Remediation; Scribal Culture; Scroll; Self-publishing; Serials/Serialization; Technologies of Writing; Technology of Text Production; Theories of the Book; Translation; Typography; Vernacular; Women; Writers’ Houses; Xylography; Zines.

SHARP sessions are generally 90 minutes long, composed of three 20-minute papers plus a discussion period.

Proposals for individual papers must include a title, an abstract (maximum 250 words), and a short biography of the presenter (maximum 100 words). Proposals for full panels must include a panel title and a panel abstract (max. 300 words) that outlines the main theme(s) of the panel. In addition, the proposal must include individual titles, abstracts (max. 250 words), and short biographies (max. 100 words) for each participant in the panel.

We also encourage proposals for lightning talks, posters, and digital project demonstrations. These must include a title, abstract (250 words), and short biography (max. 100 words) for presenters. Finally, we would like to reserve some space for a category that we are calling Roundtable/Debate/Dialogue, which might enable SHARPists to discuss issues of broad or topical interest to the membership. (For example, questions of theory and methodology, career paths, pedagogy, diversity and inclusivity have generated much conversation in recent years.) These must include a title, abstract (300 worlds), and short biographies (max. 100 words) for each participant.

Basic audio-visual technology will be provided for paper and panel sessions, but digital project presenters are encouraged to bring their own laptops, as these sessions will employ the format of a poster session.

We are pleased to welcome proposals in all languages of the SHARP community; note, however, that the chief working language of most gatherings has been English.



Membership is not necessary for the submission of a proposal but those whose proposals are accepted must be SHARP members by the time of conference registration. (Membership information)



SHARP can provide a limited number of travel grants to graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and independent scholars. Candidates will apply as part of the proposal submission process. SHARP can provide a limited number of travel grants to graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and independent scholars:

If you wish to be considered for such a grant, please state this in the Comments for the Conference Director box when submitting your proposal. If you are proposing a panel and one or more members of the panel are seeking support, please give their names in the appropriate box.


Online submission process opens:       October 2018

Acceptances announced:                       mid-March 2019 [delayed]

Online submission process closes:        30 December (extended)

Registration opens:                                 late March 2019


Images and sources:

• Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, West-oestlicher Divan (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1819), rare first issue with errors; Hagen 416; Wilpert-Gühring 113 (private collection),

• Emily Dickinson, poem “There is no frigate like a book,” Amherst College Archives and Special Collections: Emily Dickinson Collection, Amherst Manuscript #462 , Franklin # 1286; Johnson #1263

• Genesis, or, The first book of Moses (Park Hill: Mission Press, 1856), example of Cherokee printing from the Kim Wait/Eisenberg Collection of Native American Literature Collection, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections. 

• Selected modern titles from the Kim Wait/Eisenberg Collection of Native American Literature Collection, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.