CFP: Empty Spaces – Conference at the Institute of Historical Research

April 10, 2015, Institute of Historical Research, London

Call for papers

If nature abhors a vacuum, cultural attitudes to emptiness are more complex. Vacant places have been constructed and sustained by a variety of actors, from colonial powers to cartographers, city planners to scientists. This one day colloquium asks how and why empty spaces have been important to travelers, empires, anthropologists, artists, archivists, photographers, and the historians who study them. How is emptiness made? What tools, materials, and agents does it involve, and what cultural, physical, and natural work goes into maintaining nothingness? Have empty spaces been particularly important at specific points in history? What cross-cultural continuities are there in how they have been made and understood? How have historians perceived and created ‘gaps in the literature’? What ideological functions does emptiness serve?

We invite proposals that consider the construction and maintenance of any kind of ‘empty space’ in history. These might include, but are not limited to:

  • Deserts
  • Wastelands
  • Steppes
  • Ruins
  • Oceans
  • The heavens
  • Deep space
  • Textual absences
  • Missing archives
  • We encourage proposals that interpret both physical and metaphorical spaces.

Dr. Matt Houlbrook (Birmingham) will give a plenary lecture on historians and empty spaces.

300 word proposals for 20 minute papers should be sent with a one page CV attached to Courtney J. Campbell, Allegra Giovine, Jennifer Keating, and Will Pooley at by 1st February 2015.

Please note that small bursaries to support conference travel for postgraduate students are available from the Historical Geography Research Group.  Please indicate if you would like to be considered for this support in your submission.

For more information, please visit

Deadline: February 1, 2015

Posted: January 21, 2015