Western History Association 62nd Annual Conference

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62nd Annual Western History Association Conference

The 62nd Annual WHA Conference will take place October 12-15, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. Browse through the conference menu (left) to learn more about the program, local arrangements, travel and accommodations, and resources for K-12 teachers and graduate students. We are also very excited to welcome several new advertisers and exhibitors and appreciate the generosity of our sponsors!

In "A Map to the Next World", U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo writes, “When traveling to another country it’s important to recognize the spirits there, and acknowledge them with prayers, so that you won’t inadvertently offend or hurt by ignorance of protocol of that place.” As historians, we may or may not read poetry and we may or may not be given to prayer, but we do traverse time and space. So we can heed Harjo when she implores us to ask that our presence in a place be “a blessing rather than a curse.” It takes a poet to make poetry of protocol, which we understand in relation to matters more prosaic—medical research and diplomatic practices, carceral codes and border routines, military maneuvers and pride parades. Harjo insists that places, including North American western places, also have protocols, even if historically those protocols have been too seldom observed.

The 2022 WHA Program welcomes session and individual proposals that consider protocols of place in North American Wests. Humans have created protocols that promote life in western places; Harjo, for instance, highlights protocols of introduction among Indigenous peoples. But in their migrations, humans have also marauded and massacred, mingled and merged, measured and manufactured, creating competing protocols that too often have reflected both inequities of power and indifference toward human and nonhuman lives. This is nowhere more evident than in the crossroads place that is San Antonio, sitting at the juncture of the western Gulf Coastal Plain and the southern Great Plains and in the homelands and trading grounds of Native speakers of Coahuiltecan, Athabaskan, Uto-Aztecan, Tonkawan, Karankawan, Tunican, Comecrudan, and Caddoan languages. When Spaniards built missions along the Río San Antonio in the eighteenth century, new crossroads emerged, and again in the nineteenth century, when four wars transformed the place from an outpost of Spanish empire, to a contested site in a newly independent Mexico, to a centerpiece of the short-lived Republic of Texas, to the largest city in the state of Texas and the regional headquarters of the Confederate Army. The military presence would only increase in subsequent decades, until San Antonio earned the moniker Military City USA. Meanwhile, after the Civil War, cattle and sheep markets collided in San Antonio as railroads converged there, creating a diverse city of Mexican Americans, Anglo Americans, African Americans, and German immigrants. The Porfiriato and the Mexican Revolution further swelled the Mexican population with displaced workers and political exiles, and when U.S. soldiers returned from the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa, they brought hundreds of Chinese immigrants who made San Antonio home to the largest Asian community in Texas until Vietnamese refugees poured into the state in the 1970s. The twentieth century also made a sonic crossroads of the city, first as a recording center for conjunto, blues, jazz, polka, country, and western swing, and then as birthplace of the West Side Sound that merged Tejano, Black, and Anglo music. Politically, San Antonio was the site of the Pecan Shellers’ Strike in the 1930s, led by organizer Emma Tenayuca; desegregation drives in the 1950s and 60s, championed by Henry B. González and the Rev. Claude Black; and, in the summer of 2020, multiracial Black Lives Matter protests.

We encourage proposals that reflect convergences like these and the protocols of place they produce, up to and including a not-yet-past of pandemic, police violence, and anti-Black racism, and of urgent, creative, collective responses that promise to transform the protocols of tomorrow at the crossroads that is the North American West. We look for work that addresses this theme using artful modes of presentation, following Harjo’s lead in offering words that are worthy of places. We invite panels created in the spirit of poetry that demonstrate engaged historical writing and make creative use of sound and images and digital tools.