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2021: Portland






“To the West and Beyond: The Local and the Global in Western History”

61st Annual WHA Conference
October 27-30, 2021
Portland, Oregon

The American West and its people have never existed in isolation, nor has it or they ever been exceptional. Rather the West has always been interconnected with other regions of the world through migration, trade, intermarriage, and technology. Consequently, as a region, it has reflected the myriad of conflicting beliefs and traditions of those who have called this place home while living among an array of diverse neighbors.

The 2021 WHA Program welcomes sessions and individual proposals that examine the interconnectedness of peoples and places in the American West. We are particularly interested in hosting panels that break out of the traditional paper-reading format. Portland is an ideal host city in which to explore these themes of globalization, connections, and local reactions to these broader influences. In the 1840s, American, British, and French traders encountered the Upper Chinook, Multnomah, and Cascade peoples along the banks of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. The resulting clash and changes brought to the region are only a microcosm of what has played out in the West over the last half a millennium. Today, Portland is a gateway that connects the economies and societies of the Pacific Rim from the United States to Mexico to the Philippines to China and India. Like the West writ large, Portland is a crossroads of people, ideas, goods, and technologies.

Portland is a city of confluence and convergence that seeks global significance. Yet, with a remarkably homogeneous population well into the twenty first century (many would say by design), its recent and carefully curated reputation for tolerance is under challenge. Social movements that demand local and global focus on climate change, globalization, and immigration clash in the city’s streets of Antifa and the Proud Boys highlight the unsettled nature of American identity and conquest itself. Moreover, Oregon has been the background for many of the tensions in recent American history--environmental protection and the northern spotted owl, Rajneeshpuram and religious pluralism, LGBTQ+ rights movements and those who oppose them, and the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by far-right activists in 2016. As such, we encourage sessions that explore the history and entanglement of the indigenous peoples, settlers, and interlocutors in the North American West.

The 2021 Program Committee is Co-Chaired by Erika Bsumek (University of Texas, Austin), Erik Loomis (University of Rhode Island), and Michael Witgen (University of Michigan.)

The hard deadline is December 15, 2020 and no extensions will be granted through the WHA's online abstract submission platform. If you have questions please contact the 2021 Program Co-Chairs or the WHA Office (

Travel scholarship and prizes for students and public historians are awarded annually by the WHA. Please visit the WHA awards for more information.

Policy: Program Committee Statement on Diversity of Session Participants:

1) The Program Committee will actively promote the full and equitable inclusion of racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, people with disabilities, women, and LGBTQ people on the Annual Meeting program. 2) Although not all sessions can reflect the entire diversity of the profession, the Program Committee will encourage proposers of sessions to include diverse sets of participants, addressing gender diversity, racial and ethnic diversity, sexual diversity, religious diversity, disability-based diversity, and/or LGBTQ diversity. 3) The Program Committee will encourage session proposers to consider the benefits of including on their panels historians in various career paths and of various ranks (i.e., senior scholars, public historians, graduate students, independent historians, etc.) within their organizations/institutions.

For a full list of the WHA's Policies and Best Practices for each Conference Program Committee, click here.


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