CFP: Calling the Law into Question: Confronting the Illegal and Illicit in Public Arenas (Publication: Radical History Review); DL: 01.09.2010

Radical History Review (Web), Issue Number 113

The Radical History Review is planning a special issue that explores how historians, activists, curators, historic site and museum administrators, as well as other creators and managers of historical content, address public audiences around issues of the illicit or the illegal. With the goal of „calling the law into question,“ the editors seek research-based and reflective pieces that examine how engagement with histories of the illicit or the illegal can challenge normative representations of how laws and moral customs have been constructed, upheld, and discursively supported. We seek contributions that examine why publicly engaged work should confront histories of the illegal and illicit, which many people would rather avoid, ignore, or forget. We are also interested in how publicly engaged work can explore the social and cultural contexts that define and police what is illegal or illicit, in a manner that provokes different publics to rethink how these categories are created.

We are especially interested in submissions that address museum exhibits, documentary films, websites, art, or writings intended for audiences outside of academia. This special issue offers opportunities both to take stock of the issues public historians, activists, and public scholars face in terms of audience, funding, and institutional support, when they choose to engage with histories of the illicit/illegal, and also to evaluate successful and unsuccessful examples of work – in terms of influence, financial and institutional support, and critical and popular reception – that have been created to this end.

Examples of possible topics include:

  • Representation of criminality and vice in neighborhood and local publichistory projects as well as in crime and vice tourism
  • Environmental justice tours that expose EPA violations (e.g. directed at corporations/industry/etc.)
  • Local/regional/national museums that focus on the history of law enforcement
  • Museological displays that address war crimes (e.g. the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City) or conscientious objectors/“draft dodgers”
  • Challenges posed by public history tours of former prisons and places of incarceration
  • Public commemorations that intersect with histories of unlawful actions
  • The challenges of engaging public audiences around „illegal“ migration and the maintenance of territorial sovereignty
  • Public protest or public art questioning the moral and/or cultural validity of religious laws and conventions
  • Conflicts over the inclusion of materials depicting violence or sexual content in public projects aimed at children and youth
  • Museums and public history sites that contextualize international law and the maintenance of human rights
  • Examinations of how the history of oceanic piracy has been portrayed in public arenas
  • Web-based challenges to copyright and intellectual property laws, and public defenses of such practices
  • Exhibits and other public displays aimed at supporting or discounting reproductive rights
  • Public exhibits that address the use of banned substances (contemporary and historical)
  • Explorations into how liberation narratives (such as gay liberation) offer progressive histories of overcoming the stigma of being illicit or illegal, at the expense of examining historical complexities
  • Analyses of when and how do formerly illegal acts become (publicly sanctioned) icons of national culture? (Capoeira in Brazil is one example)
  • Documentaries (television/film/radio) focusing on insider trading, corporate excess, and illegal market manipulations
  • Examinations of the challenges of securing funding and institutional support for public projects that engage histories of the illicit/illegal

Because the *Radical History Review* publishes material in a variety of forms, the editors will consider abstracts for scholarly research articles as well as proposals for relevant photo essays, artwork, reviews (exhibit/film/web/book), interviews, discussions between scholars and/or activists, teaching reflections, and annotated course syllabi. Furthermore, the editors encourage submissions that „call the law into question“ in the full range of geographic locations and eras.

Preliminary inquiries may be sent to the editors: Amy Tyson at and Andy Urban at

By September 1, 2010, please submit a 1-2 page abstract summarizing the article or other contribution you wish to submit with „Issue 113 abstract submission“ in the subject line. By October 15, 2010 contributors will be notified whether they should submit their piece in full. The due date for solicited, complete articles for blind peer review is March 1, 2011. Articles that are selected for publication after the peerreview process will appear in volume 113 of Radical History Review, which is scheduled for Spring 2012. Note: for artwork to be considered, please send low-resolution digital files (totaling less than 2 MB in size) to with „Issue 113 abstract submission“ in the subject line). If chosen for publication it will be required that you send high-resolution image files–JPG or TIF files at a minimum of 300 dpi—along with permissions to reprint all images.

Abstract Deadline: September 1, 2010


Amy M. Tyson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of History
DePaul University


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