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OI Coffeehouse Applications

Tuesday March 1

Is it finally time to get back to some of the research and writing you have had to put aside in these past few chaotic years, #VastEarlyAmerica? Let us help inspire you and keep you on track with a round of Summer 2023 OI Coffeehouses.

We are accepting applications to host tables until JUNE 1, 2023. To apply, simply email us at oieahc@wm.edu with a 1-page description, a title, your proposed day and time to meet, and an abbreviated c.v. for each proposed host. Past tables are listed below.


Applications for seats will be taken until JUNE 19.

TABLES WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON FRIDAY, JUNE 26 and will meet for six weeks from the week of July 3 through the week of August 7.


Spring 2022 

Mondays, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm ET

“Language as Archive and Method” with Kathryn de Luna (Georgetown University)

Have you come across an African or Native American word, oath, chant, or lexicon you’re not sure how to mine beyond translation (or not sure how to translate in the first place)? This table invites scholars to ‘think with’ language evidence as both an archive and a method for accessing the intellectual worlds of the enslaved African and Indigenous communities of the early Americas. Historians have long used language evidence to identify cultures of origin. The New Philology of Latin Americanists pushed further, opening conceptual histories that balanced Indigenous and European worldviews, however unequal the terms of interaction. Similarly, Africanists’ methods reconstruct multilingual, multiscalar intellectual histories of enslaved Africans in the Americas. At this table, we’ll bat around different approaches to language evidence and workshop short excerpts of our work. The table may serve as a launch point for work reconvened at the “Language as Archive and Method in Vast Early America” workshop (Georgetown, Fall 2023).

Thursdays, 11:00-12:30 pm ET

“Separatist and Secessionist Identities” with Kenneth Owen (University of Illinois-Springfield)

Throughout early America, communities sought to organize themselves into movements and governments that broke away from the official polities of which they were a part. This table will provide an opportunity for scholars working on separatist and secession movements to discuss the commonalities and differences between these different movements. Some questions that participants might wish to explore include: what were the motives for breaking away? What factors led to the construction of new identities among participants in these movements? What specific political or economic grievances caused dissatisfaction? How did these movements organize and mobilize to try and actualize new polities?

Thursdays, 1:00-2:30 pm ET

“Across America, 1776: Public Scholarship for the 250th” with Joseph Adelman (Framingham State University and the Omohundro Institute)

The 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence is now less than five years away. Between now and 2026, scholars, museums, archives, other organizations, and members of the public will all take up the opportunity to think anew about the American Revolution and the Founding Era. This coffeehouse will bring together scholars who want to contribute to that conversation by bringing their research insights to a broad reading public. We will discuss pathways to publications, strategies for pitching pieces and drafting with public audiences in mind, and workshop drafts based on scholars’ interests. Scholars at all levels and in any field who believe they have something to say about the American founding or the 250th anniversary commemorations are welcome.

Fridays 10:30 am to 12:00 pm ET

“Writing about Labor, Laboring to Write” with Frances Bell (William & Mary) and Dyani Johns Taff (Colby College)

This table will focus on the theme of labor and working conditions, with an emphasis on both the past and the present. When we study the histories and cultures of laboring people, we are ourselves laboring within a profession undermined by staff and faculty cuts, contingency, and COVID policies which put university finances before the needs of workers. We seek a broad range of scholars engaged in projects on any aspect of labor in the premodern world. Possible topics include but are not limited to forced labor; work inside or outside of houses; tradework; “women’s work”; reproductive labor; work that contributes to or alleviates ecological damage; performances, representations, or conduct literature about labor or laboring; and labor in relation to class, race, gender, and ability. We also invite scholars engaged in projects on labor in academia, including contingency, collective organizing, emotional and unofficial or invisible labor, academic labor during a pandemic, and other matters pertaining to scholarly working conditions. 

This Coffeehouse Table will be structured as a writing group, with time also devoted to discussing short, pre-circulated drafts by participants. We aim to create a space in which all participants can learn from and support each other in making progress on our projects. We hope that our eight meetings will also spark discussions and potential actions for improving working conditions for all university workers.

Frances Bell and Dyani Johns Taff each received a Folger-OI short-term fellowship. Folger-OI fellowships support researchers—from advanced graduate students to senior scholars—with strong interests in Atlantic history, colonial history, literary studies, performance history, and material culture. Fellows receive $3,500 for four continuous weeks of work. Frances Bell was awarded the fellowship in 2020 to continue work on her dissertation project, tentatively titled “In a State of Flight: The Struggle for Freedom in the Haitian Diaspora, 1791-1830.” Dyani Johns Taff was awarded the fellowship in 2021 to continue work on her project “Gendered Seascapes and Monarchy in Early Modern English Culture.”

Fridays 11:00 am to 1:00 pm ET

“Writing Histories of Slavery Using Spatial Analysis” with Andrea C. Mosterman (University of New Orleans) and Whitney Stewart (University of Texas at Dallas)

Developments in mapping, cartography, and GIS have encouraged research that looks at slavery from a spatial perspective. The fields of archeology, architectural history, urban history, and women and gender studies have played a similarly important role in advancing spatial analysis to obtain new insights into the histories of slavery.

This table will bring together scholars who use some form of spatial analysis—including considerations of the built environment, architectural history, mapping, cartography, and space/place theory—to research slavery and the lives of the enslaved. We will combine short writing sessions with discussions of works in progress. More importantly, this will be an opportunity to connect weekly with others who are in some way considering space when researching slavery.

February 2021

Imagining Lost Lives: Archival Silences and the Challenge of Writing Histories of the Enslaved With Frances Bell (William & Mary) and Simon P. Newman (University of Glasgow, emeritus)

We welcome scholars who are hoping to complete writing focused on enslaved people who have left few archival traces. Generations of historians have struggled with the challenge of doing justice to the enslaved individuals who figure in their scholarly writing, and a slew of recent scholarship has underlined what is at stake in our dependence upon masters’ records imbued with the violence of slavery. We seek as broad a range of participants as possible, including junior, mid-career and senior scholars and others as we confront the challenge of historical writing given that we “have irretrievably lost the thoughts, desires, fears, and perspectives of many whose enslavement shaped every aspect of their lives.”[1] [1] Brian Connolly and Marisa Fuentes, “Introduction: From Archives of Slavery to Liberated Futures?” History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History, 6, 2 (2016), 105.

Six Degrees of Phillis Wheatley Tara Bynum (University of Iowa)

This table will gather us together to talk and write about how early African American communities made themselves within a revolutionary era and early Republic context.

The Liberal Arts College Table Cate Denial (Knox College)

Come and create community with other liberal arts professors, as we navigate the ins and outs of research and writing as scholars with demanding teaching loads. Adjunct faculty are welcome!

Rethinking Historical Narratives: Slavery and Memory in the Atlantic  Michael Dickinson (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Dexter Gabriel (University of Connecticut-Storrs)

This table will consider how societies throughout the Atlantic have worked to reconcile and remember the histories of black bondage. In light of contemporary discussions in the United States surrounding the legacies of slavery, we believe that discourses across geographic boundaries have much to contribute as we work to move forward as a society. Therefore, we would like to invite participants to use this opportunity to generatively consider the human project of illuminating past oppression and acknowledging present continuities in order to heal historical injustices.

Indigenous Mapmaking and Mapmakers Jenny Marie Forsythe (Western Washington University) and Heesoo Cho (Washington University in St. Louis)

Indigenous people have always made maps. The work of Lisa Brooks, Margaret Pearce, Annita Hetoevéhotohke’e Lucchesi, and many others powerfully contests the false notion that cartography is exclusively a colonial technology or a Western science. This table will be a mix of coffee date, reading group, and work-in-progress group; a space to learn more about Indigenous histories and practices of mapping Vast Early America.

Archival Fragments, Experimental Modes Sara E. Johnson (University of California, San Diego) and Sarah Knott (Indiana University)

This table will bring together scholars interested in exploring the methods and forms in which we write when confronted by the limits of the archive. As scholars of vast early America, we can draw particular inspiration from women’s, indigenous and enslaved histories. We are also inspired by recent developments in scholarly modes from across the Humanities. These might include critical fabulation; the history of the present; what Maggie Nelson calls “presencing” (in which the writer is present in the text); or other styles, methods, and genres brought by group members.

New Wine in Old Bottles: De-Dadding Dad History Tyson Reeder (University of Virginia)

With Alexis Coe’s memorable description of the “thigh men of dad history” ping-ponging around our brains, those of us who write about well-known figures and events in early America may question whether we are just retracing the lines of old portraits in slightly different hues. We want to present important topics to wide audiences without falling into caricature, or we may struggle with the line between revision and polemics. This table will help us sort through new frameworks and diversify our approaches to prominent subjects, while still reaching broad audiences.

Childhood and Youth in Early America Crystal Lynn Webster (University of Texas at San Antonio)

This group is designed for scholars researching broadly on the concept of childhood and/or doing history that centers children as historical subjects. Relevant topics include child-labor, race & childhood, children and criminal/carceral studies, and more. The group intends to hold space for writing together, as well as workshop works-in-progress.

Enslaved.org: Public Scholarship, Project Management, and Ethics in Digital Slavery Studies Daryle Williams (University of California Riverside and Co-Principal Investigator, Enslaved.org) and Kristina Poznan (Editoral Associate, Enslaved.org)

This table will use Enslaved.org: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade as a case study and “sandbox” for exploring the various opportunities and challenges of engaging in data-driven public scholarship, humanistic research, and humanities careers. Each session will consist of an introductory overview on the week’s topic, led by the co-hosts and invited guests, followed by breakouts for discussion and collaboration. We welcome scholars, students, and public humanities professionals actively working in slavery studies, data-driven historical research, and/or digital projects at any stage to join.

Just Write Karin Wulf (Omohundro Institute)

Join our table for company and accountability as you … just write. We check in at the beginning of the session, state our goals for that day’s meeting, and get to work. At the end of the session we report back. The Just Write table proved very helpful to participants in the last round and we are eager to resume it.

May 2021

Mobility, Emplacement, and Homelands Denise I. Bossy (University of North Florida) and S. Max Edelson (University of Virginia)

This coffee table will be a place to consider different forms of movement and settlement across the spaces of vast early America. We are especially interested in fostering cross-disciplinary dialogues and welcome scholars working on Indigenous, African, or colonial settler communities. Through readings and chats we will explore different constructs and methodologies – shatter zone, diaspora, emplacement, cartography and the spatial turn, colonial settlement, among others – while also providing space for scholars to think together and share their own work.

The Disaffected and the American Revolution Rebecca Brannon (James Madison University)

The American Revolution was a minority project—one that the majority of people living in British North America did not want.  How can we write the history of the era of the American Revolution in the light of the incredible diversity of ideas and actions captured by the study of dissenters, pacifists, disaffected, Loyalists, prisoners, enslaved people, and Native Americans before, during, and after the American Revolution?  Join this table and get support in our quest to write the Revolution in all its complexity.

Slavery, Law, and Power in early America and the British Empire Holly Brewer (University of Maryland)

This table will focus on connections between slavery, law, and power in early America and the British empire – that is, what we might call structural racism and larger structures of power (including imperial structures) in the differential growth of slavery in colonies primarily in the British empire. It assumes that enslaved people are also, on some level, political actors, even though less powerful. Scholars who study other empires/colonial spaces, who want to engage in comparative conversation, are welcome. We also encourage scholars interested in documentary editing and digital humanities to apply. Participants will be encouraged to share their work, and potentially to contribute edited documents to a beta website (supported by the NHPRC) that will launch in November 2021 (with authorial credit).

Race, Images, Objects, and Identity in #VastEarlyAmerica Cynthia Chin (University of Glasgow) and Philippe Halbert (Yale University)

Come join us to hone and expand your understanding of #VastEarlyAmerica through images and objects, which often bear witness to the lives and identities not always featured in the traditional archival record. This table will support scholars of all levels wishing to engage with objects and a wide spectrum of related methodological approaches by encouraging object-focused discussions of race and identity in early America 1450-1830, including North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. We welcome everyone — no prior experience or work in material culture is required to participate!

Women and Gender in Early America Sara Damiano (Texas State University)

This table will connect researchers working within the expansive fields of women’s and gender history. It welcomes scholars studying Black, Native, and European-descended women, as well as those studying the histories of masculinity and femininity. The group will offer space for writing, informal conversation, and workshopping of short excerpts from works-in-progress.

From Dissertation to Manuscript: De-Mystifying the Process (and Doing It!) Alexi Garrett (Iona College) and Robert Colby (Christopher Newport University)

As graduate students finish their studies, they confront an assumption that they will immediately publish their dissertation as a book. But they often face this next stage armed only with limited, vague, dated, or even contradictory advice. This table is for anyone who wants to learn about and advance in the dissertation-to-book process: end-stage grad students, early career scholars, independent historians who want to pick up their dissertation again after the odd fifteen years, those with editors, those without, and more. Together, we will seek to demystify this process. We will discuss how and why the dissertation is different from the book; consider diss-to-book timelines; examine writing a book proposal/pitching your work; finding an editor; determining the best “fit” with a press; and understanding what types of changes editors want to see in the final product. We will also conduct manuscript workshops for participants. While we will work with participants to see how this group will most benefit them, we envision a mix of guest speakers (including editors and recently-published authors) and participants sharing their personal experiences and advice, as well as workshopping works-in-progress.

Putting the Latin America into Vast Early America Catherine Goode (The Americas Research Network)

This is a table for anyone working on the Portuguese and Spanish occupied regions of the Americas.  Take the opportunity to write with scholars who work on regions as diverse as the northern borderlands of Mexico and the U.S. southwest, through the Caribbean and south to the Rio de la Plata, including Indigenous, African and African-descended, Asian, mestiza, and European historical actors.  Join us to share your work and have dedicated writing time on early modern Latin America. Independent scholars, contingent faculty, and graduate students are encouraged to participate!

The Dutch Atlantic World Deborah Hamer (Gotham Blog for New York City History) and Jared Hardesty (Western Washington University)

This table will be a supportive place to share works in progress that deal with the Dutch Atlantic in its broadest sense. We welcome participants who focus on any aspect of the Dutch experience in the Atlantic world as well as those who study interimperial or intercultural entanglements that involve the Dutch.  Building connections across imperial historiographies will be a central part of this table’s goals.

Archives Based Open Data Projects in Early America Molly O’Hagan Hardy (National Endowment for the Humanities) and Kyle Roberts (Loyola University Chicago)

Open Data initiatives – such as the ones at the Magazine of Early American Datasets (https://repository.upenn.edu/mead/), American Antiquarian Society https://www.americanantiquarian.org/resourcesRemoteaccess), and the American Philosophical Society (https://diglib.amphilsoc.org/data) – have transformed valuable data in hard-to-re-use analog formats into easier-to-analyze tabular data. The goal of such initiatives is not only to produce datasets, but also to encourage their use in scholarship and teaching. This table brings together DH practitioners, scholars working in libraries and academia, and educators to explore the data sets that have been produced and to the discuss ethical, practical, technical, professional, and intellectual opportunities and obstacles they present.

History Happened Here: Teaching and Research with Historic Sites Erin Holmes (American Philosophical Society) and Kristina Poznan (Enslaved.org)

This table will explore methods and opportunities for site-based teaching and research in early American history, including how to create and manage opportunities/spaces/occasions for student research and digital and public engagement. The table will be hosted by two public historians who got their start at W&M’s National Institute of American History and Democracy. We will explore topics including historic sites as primary sources, the benefits of various types of sites (not only museums and historic homes but also less-visited sites like cemeteries), archaeology and architecture for history education, why physical field trips are worth the hassle (and how to pull it off), digital alternatives and supplements to field trips, critical assessment of historic sites through writing reviews, and involving students in site advocacy and preservation. Particular attention will be paid to the opportunities at historic sites to tell diverse, inclusive histories, how to tell those stories even when the site does not, and how to turn silences into teachable moments. Guests from various historic sites will join us to share their expertise and perspectives. Individuals from all aspects of history education are encouraged to apply, from secondary teachers to university instructors to museum professionals and beyond. Those interested in undergraduate education through public history are especially encouraged to apply.

Just Write Karin Wulf (Omohundro Institute)

Join our table for company and accountability as you … just write. We check in at the beginning of the session, state our goals for that day’s meeting, and get to work. At the end of the session we report back. The Just Write table proved very helpful to participants in the last round and we are eager to resume it.

July 2021

Reconsidering Credit Debt and Early National Life, 1700-1840s Elbra David

This table will focus on the connections between Americans’ lived experience with debt and credit in the aftermath of the American Revolution. From Alice Hanson Jones’s study of probates to historian Claire Priest’s work on credit in early America and international policy (2020), historians continue to apply fresh new methodologies to the economy of credit and debt. The panel welcomes scholars focused on any aspect of debt and credit including institutions (i.e., banking and mercantile law), slavery, and markets that lay beyond the borders of the United States during the seventeenth- to nineteenth- centuries. Scholars who study other empires/colonial spaces, as well as Digital Humanities scholars who want to engage in comparative conversation are welcome. The goal is to bring practitioners together to discuss both the opportunities and obstacles of individual work.  Meetings will be divided between writing time and discussion with possible guest speakers for interested participants.

Dusting off the Puritans Annie Powell

This coffeehouse table will take one of the most traditional topics in early American history Puritan New England and reconsider it in light of new scholarship, frameworks, and methods. Scholars of all levels with a variety of interests in fields related to seventeenth century “Puritan” New England (theology, race, gender, political economy, environmentalism, settler colonialism, etc.) will be welcomed as we look to find new methods to approach this subject. The coffeehouse table will provide a collaborative space to discuss recent literature, share pieces of our own works-in-progress, and talk more generally about the process of “re-discovering” a well-worn topic.

Thinking Around Treaties Charles Prior

This table aims to begin a conversation about treaties, as part of a wider project to re-assess their place as historical documents that are also living agreements. Early American history still in search of an analytical framework that balances settler colonialism and Indigenous power, is Continental in scope, connects the local to the international, and illuminates the web of interactions that defined common worlds. Treaties between Indigenous sovereigns and colonial / imperial governments have the potential to provide that framework. Standard studies (Jones, Calloway, Glover) present treaties as mechanisms of imperial domination or as part of the legal architecture of ‘perfect’ settler jurisdiction. Each approach closes off opportunities to move beyond treaties as events and to situate them as part of processes that shaped and constrained power. This took a variety of forms: the regulation of movement, commerce, and alliance; the definition of territoriality; processes of state-formation; the development of commensurate languages and norms of international relations; the articulation of Indigenous epistemologies and cultural expressions of sovereignty through kinship, gender, and place. This table will provide a space to address these issues through shared reading, collaborative discussion, and shared work.

The Non-Human in Human History Strother Roberts and Whitney Barlow Robles

This table will explore the role that the non-human has played In human history. For decades, environmental historians have argued that the physical landscape is more than merely the stage upon which humans enact history and that nature whether flora, fauna, weather, etc. has an agency all its own. But writing histories that effectively re-center nonhuman agency can be a challenging endeavor. Historians are, after all, only human, so how can we expand our critical imaginations to, for example, think like a river (as Donald Worster once urged)? This table will consider such methodological questions through the discussion of shared readings and by providing a space to workshop works-in progress.

Foodways and Food Cultures in Early America Rachel Winchcombe

This table will connect researchers working on foodways and food cultures in early America (broadly defined). The group will support scholars at all levels of their career, and will welcome scholars studying Indigenous, Black, and European communities and their food cultures. The table aims to foster crossdisciplinary collaboration by exploring foodways from historical, archaeological, and anthropological perspectives. Participants will be invited to discuss a range of readings, both thematic and methodological, and to consider how different disciplinary approaches can help radially shift our understanding of colonial expansion, Indigenous and Black resistance, and imperial identities and their connection to complex and capacious trans-national food systems and cultures.

Just Write

Join our table for company and accountability as you … just write. We check in at the beginning of the session, state our goals for that day’s meeting, and get to work. At the end of the session we report back. The Just Write table proved very helpful to participants in the last round and we are eager to resume it.

October 2021

Disability History and Historical Thinking in the Vast Early Americas Laurel Daen (Univ. of Notre Dame) and Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy (Univ. of New Brunswick).

This table gathers together scholars interested in the history of disability—as a concept, category, and lived experience—in North America, the Caribbean, and Latin America from the pre-Columbian period to the early nineteenth century. We welcome people in any stage of research on these or related topics as well as those who simply want to learn more. Based on the preferences of our tablemates, we may hold this space for writing, conversation, or sharing works in progress. Most of all, we are excited to connect with one another and support research in this growing field.

What’s new in Vast Early American environmental history? Mary S. Draper (Midwestern State Univ.), Jacqueline C. Reynoso (California State Univ. Channel Islands), and Erin B. Kramer (Trinity Univ.).

This coffeehouse will bring together scholars working on environmental history, broadly conceived. The field has expanded and transformed over the past two decades to encompass spatial and climate histories, environmental racism, the roles of non-human actors, and so much more. In this table, we will take stock of these developments and discuss how to apply these methodologies to our own research. Join us for seminar-style discussions of common readings as well as workshops for works-in-progress. We welcome all scholars, from those who are beginning new projects related to environmental history to those who are already well-established in the field.

Archival Fragments, Experimental Modes—continued (This table is closed to further applications.)
Sara E. Johnson (Univ. of California, San Diego) and Sarah Knott (Indiana Univ.).

First convened in February 2021, this table brings together scholars interested in exploring the methods and forms in which we write when confronted by the limits of the archive. As scholars of vast early America, we can draw particular inspiration from women’s, indigenous and enslaved histories. We are also inspired by recent developments in scholarly modes from across the Humanities. These might include critical fabulation; the history of the present; what Maggie Nelson calls “presencing” (in which the writer is present in the text); or other styles, methods, and genres brought by group members.

Stuff in Vast Early America Morgan McCullough (Omohundro Institute).

If objects get your analytical brain whirling, this coffeehouse table is for you. This table will explore the field of material culture. As a group we will set a schedule for friendly and supportive discussions of published scholarship, object studies, and works in progress.  This table will create a space to improve how we think and write about stuff in vast early America.

Connecting North America and Australasia in an Imperial Age, 1750-1850 Annemarie McLaren (Univ. of Notre Dame, Australia) and Kate Fullagar (Australian Catholic Univ.).

We welcome scholars engaged in the connections between North America and the Australasian world zone during the age of escalating imperialism, 1750-1850. Histories of North America, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific during this critical era still tend to look inwards or at most to their nearest region. We seek to develop emerging interests in the connections between northern American and southern Pacific sites in order to define more clearly the global imperial context shaping each zone. Topics may include connections in the modes of Indigenous resistance; in the meanings of ‘chieftainship’; in the experience of imperial governors; in understandings of revolutionary settlerism; in the forms of material diplomacy (especially medallions and breastplates); in legal arrangements regarding sovereignty (treaties or the lack thereof); or in types of artistic practice (notably portraiture).  Our foremost goal is to work towards a Special Issue on this topic, possibly a co-publication between an American and Australian journal. We also encourage, though, any scholar trying to complete a piece on a related topic. Our meetings will involve a combination of reading recent published work, discussing works-in-progress, and outlining a potential Special Issue.


Tuesday, March 1

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