C19 2024 CFP: “The End of the Human(ities)”

deadline for submissions: 
August 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
contact email: 

“The End of the Human(ities)”

In The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois explained that the problem of the color line was a problem of (meta)physical and educational implications for those who “still seek, the freedom of life and limb, the freedom to work and think.” Du Bois’s “freedom” connected the liberation of the body, soul, and mind—the desire to live and learn unbounded—to the human. He introduced a quandary still relevant today: To think and be human is to think about how to study life through the “humanities.”

Scholars of the long nineteenth century like Anna Julia Cooper, Frederick Douglass, Du Bois, and others understood the potential and limitations of the humanities and the human regarding racial uplift and solidarity. However, today, between Black Lives Matter and abolitionist movements, the race to end Critical Race Theory, the end of the English major, Afropessimism, and more, many question if we are or should be at the end of the humanities and the human. 

We invite papers that consider what happens at the end of the human(ities). Are we at the end of the human(ities), and if not, how can we think of the human(ities) differently—alternatively? What comes after the fall of the human(ities)? Can the human(ities) still attend to ways of being human external to Westernized frameworks? With the revival of nineteenth-century popular terms and movements such as abolition, how do we read these recurring afterlives? Topics can interrogate the human/humanities through institutional, disciplinary, ontological, political, spatial, etcetera lens and debates that resonated in the nineteenth century but also are significant for the current moment. We especially welcome papers highlighting Black and other underrepresented voices, theories, and texts. 

Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words and a brief bio by August 15th to Courtney Murray at cxm2274@psu.edu and Kirsten Lee at leekir@sas.upenn.edu.