Witness and "Withness"

Call for papers.

Writers, thinkers, activists, and academics daily bear witness to the world, engaging in thoughtful reflection that invites social and intellectual community.  We articulate meaning in our own varieties, calling on others (and calling others) to inspire curiosity and ethically responsible living in the embodied moment.  We also do so by reflecting in the company of images, sounds, and words that resonate loudly with ourselves and others.  But we cannot do this alone.  We witness from a position of “withness.” John Updike said, “Suddenly summoned to witness something great and horrendous, we keep fighting not to reduce it to our own smallness.”  Over decades, the Southern Humanities Conference has attempted to bear witness from a context of “withness,” a position that cherishes community, radical hospitality, and open, imaginative discourse.  We welcome newfound intellectual possibilities and nurture lifelong learning and humble inquisitiveness.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there, do seem to stir and move to bear you witness.”

The Southern Humanities Conference invites proposals for papers on any aspect of the theme “Witness and ‘Withness’”. The topic is interdisciplinary and invites proposals from all disciplines and areas of study, as well as creative pieces including but not limited to performance, music, art, and literature. Please note that the name of our organization simply reflects its having been founded in the U.S. south; no presenter is expected to present anything “southern,” though southern topics are also welcomed. Conference attendees come from all over the United States, Canada, as well as overseas.


Please submit proposals of 300-500 words through our website at www.southernhumanities.org (preferred), or to Brett Bebber at southernhumanities@gmail.com. Proposals are due by December 15, 2021, but are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. 


Two awards of up to $300 are available to help mitigate the costs of travel to the conference, one for first- or second-time presenters, and one for graduate students. If you would like to be considered for one of these awards, please indicate which award in your proposal.  Please see the website for more details.

Topics are not limited to but may address any of the following areas, and may integrate the theme in trans-disciplinary or interdisciplinary ways.  That is, the paper or creative presentation may address the theme from particular perspectives OR may address the integration of two or more dimensions of the theme

Please indicate in your abstract if you would like to be considered for either the Reynolds or Ussery Awards. The deadline for these awards is November 1, 2021. Awardees will be notified no later than two months before the conference. The award will be presented at the Open Mic night of the conference.

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Possible topics may include but are not limited to any aspect or combination of "Witness and 'Withness'" and . . .

  • Witnessing, Remembering and Forgetting

  • Community and Community-building

  • Hospitality and “Withness”

  • Literature and Literary Analysis

  • Poetry and Creative Writing

  • Art and Art History

  • Sociology and Anthropology

  • History and the Historical

  • Memory and Forgetting

  • Gender

  • Race/Ethnicity

  • Social Class

  • Sex and Sexuality

  • Religion and Spirituality

  • Geography and Geographies

  • Philosophy and Social Ethics

  • Psychology, Community, and the Sense of Self

  • New Media and Digital Humanities

  • The Visible/Invisible 

  • Dis/Ability

  • Theatre/Drama (theory and live performance)

  • Dance (theory and live performance)

  • Music (theory and live performance)

  • Education and the Educative

  • Cinema and Culture

  • Cultural Difference

  • Humanities and the Human

Southern Humanities Council

    an interdisciplinary community