Agency & Action

34th Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association
12-15 November 2009
Long Beach, California

Call for Papers

Submission deadline: 1 March 2009

“Agency & Action”

The 2009 Program Committee seeks panel proposals that will focus on questions related to Agency and Action. (Please note that individual papers and complete panels not related to the "Agency and Action" theme are also welcome!)

Agency – the capacity to act – is a concept central to everyday life and many academic disciplines. But quite different ideas of actors and agency abound. Some celebrate agents as the autonomous springs of action. Others focus on agents as both foundational units of social structure and evasive delegates in need of monitoring. What are we to make of the relationship between these camps, each in its own way faithful to the idea of the unified social actor operating within constraints, and still others’ ideas of subjects as internally driven and constituted by social, biological or discursive structures?

Turn the problem around, then, and foreground historical formations of agency, including social movements, collective action and the depersonalized edifices of firms, states, families, networks, associations, schools, churches, and other forms of organized social order in whose name people act. How these edifices emerge, are designed, built, demolished and rebuilt, in continual processes of change: this is the flip side of the agency question.

As social science historians and historical social scientists, we hail from many traditions and disciplines. But we share common ground in the weight we assign to thinking historically about agency and action. In exploring the connections between agency and history, can we deploy our differences to advantage? How might our collective intellectual resources help each of us rethink our own work and others’ contributions? More broadly still, what do the streams of social science history imply for understanding action in today's world, and for the historical social science of the future? Let’s embark.

How to participate in the 2009 SSHA Program
Starting in January 2009, proposals for individual papers and complete sessions will be accepted at Proposals for individual papers and complete sessions are due 1 March 2009.

Register your individual paper or complete session or paper here.

Download pdf.

SSHA President for 2008-2009
Julia Adams, Yale University,

Program Committee Co-Chairs for 2009 Conference:
Cedric de Leon, Providence College (Sociology)
Dylan Riley, University of California, Berkeley (Sociology)
Kerry Ward, Rice University (History)