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Graduate conference 2018

"back to the future: visions of tomorrow in history”

Friday, MAY 3, 2019 (all day)

The “The history of the future” can, at first, seem like a contraction in terms. But the past several years have seen increasing scholarly interest in the study of past futures. Not only are utopian, dystopian, and apocalyptic visions of the future interesting in their own right, but they also offer historians a lens to reexamine core disciplinary issues of contingency and historical change. Looking at the hopes and fears people had for future can tell us about their priorities and reveal what kind of change they considered possible or likely.

The future was (and is) the site of political contestation. Scientists, politicians, avant-garde artists, science fiction writers, revolutionaries, environmentalists, parents, teachers, religious figures, and corporations all have had different ways of knowing, envisioning, and shaping the future. Debates over what the future should be like—and whether humanity will be around to see it—continue to animate debates to the present day.


All events in Harris Hall 108 (Leopold Room) on MAY 3

9:00-9:30 a.m. Coffee and Introductions


Chair: Jessica BIDDLESTONE (Northwestern)

Sian OLSON DOWIS (Northwestern), “From Factories to Farms: Visions of Liberation in Post-Industrial Detroit” 

Ben SCHACHT (Northwestern), “William Morris and the Angel of History: Reading the Commonweal with Walter Benjamin” 

Sean GILLERAN (UCSB), “‘We Have Your Mechanical Brain’: An Internet History of Malcolm X Hall” 

Virginia L. CONN  (Rutgers), “The Future in Black, White, and Glorious Red: Lian Huan Hua and the Development of Chinese Futurity” 

Respondent: Lauren STOKES (Northwestern)


11:00-11:15 A.M. Coffee


Chair: Keith CLARK (Northwestern)

Ludwig DECKE (Friedrich Schiller University), “Envisioning a Post-Holocaust Future: The Postwar Planning of the American Jewish Committee during World War II”

Niko LETSOS (Northwestern), “Unipolar Blues? The Japanese Challenge to American Supremacy”

Eunike G. SETIADARMA (Northwestern), “Futuring Rice: The Vision of Self-Sufficiency in Indonesia, 1950-1965”

Respondent: Haydon CHERRY (Northwestern)


12:45-1:30 p.m. Lunch


Chair: Beth HEALEY (Northwestern)

Peter A. KLEEMAN (UMass Amherst), “Looking to Space Age Material Culture for a History of the Future”

Harriette KEVILL DAVIES (Northwestern), “Target: Space: Depictions of Space Travel in Children’s Trading Cards”

Gabriel D. HENDERSON (American Institute of Physics), “Contesting the Apocalyptic Temper – Moderating Futures-Communication during the 1960s and 1970s”

Kevin BAKER (Northwestern), “The Growth of Limits: Technology, Growth, and the Crisis of Planning in Europe”

Respondent:  Diana KURKOVSKY WEST (Northwestern)


4:45 - 5:30 p.m. Reception



"Generations in History: Youth, Age, and Metrics of Cultural Change”

Convened by Emily Curtis Walters

Friday, May 11, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Harris Hall 108 (Leopold Room), 1881 Sheridan Rd, Evanston

9:00 - 9:30 a.m. Continental breakfast and welcome

9:30 - 11:00 a.m. Panel I: Generations, Institutions, and Power

11:00 - 11:15 a.m. Coffee break

11:15 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. Panel II: Generations, Networks, and Historical Change

12:45 - 1:30 Lunch

1:30 - 3:00 Keynote: Professor Sabine FRÜHSTÜCK (University of California Santa Barbara), "The Ends of Innocence and the Problem of Generations in History"

3:00 - 3:15 p.m. Coffee break

3:15 - 4:45 p.m. Panel III: Generations, Families, and Intimate Relationships

4:45 - 5:30 p.m. Reception Back to top