CfP: Special Issue: The Continuity of Change? New Perspectives on U.S. Reform Movements

Call for papers, deadline 31 July 2020

The recent Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. and around the world once again remind us to acknowledge and address the systemic injustice based on racism that has deep historic roots. A long tradition of protest and demands for reform loom up behind the activists of today – a legacy that endows the movement with an arsenal of references but at the same time augments the frustration at the perceived lack of real change.

Reforms perpetually seek to redefine and renegotiate citizenship, freedom, (social) justice, and equality. Throughout U.S. history, reform movements were shaped by and simultaneously further contributed to a rhetoric, culture, and ideology of “progress” and of constant improvement. They took aim at “social ills” (e. g. poverty), political structures (e. g. taxes), belief systems (moral and/or religious), ideologies (e. g. white supremacy), body regimes (e. g. health), institutions (e. g. the military), or even entire nations and/or supra-national organizations. Some movements were more encompassing, tackling a number of these areas, like for example the Civil Rights Movement, others were more selective focusing on a single issue like for example the Pure Foods Movement.

Pursuing new perspectives on this ‘continuity of change’, the special issue conceptualizes reform (movements) beyond established dichotomies of progressive vs. reactionary, liberal vs. conservative, and radical vs. moderate. Moreover, the issue aims to tie together rather established fields in the study of progressive reform movements (like gender equality, social and racial justice, or environmental protection) with strands and areas, that so far have received less attention and that are usually considered “conservative” or even “anti-progressive” (for instance, the Nixon administration, the military, or the American housewife). This also entails going beyond ‘classical’ reform periods such as the Progressive Era or the 1960s as well as highlighting the heterogeneity of U.S. reform movements, chronologically and thematically.

In doing so, the special issue addresses two questions in particular: (1) How have reformers ‘imagined’ or ‘constructed’ the social and/or racial ‘other’ and how did that impact their particular reform efforts? (2) How does intersectionality and identity construction feature in reform (movements)? We believe these questions are inextricably linked, and we look for contributions that interrogate this connection further.

We invite proposals for articles dealing with reform movements as outlined above. The proposal should include a 250-word description of the article and a one-page CV. The editors appreciate a heterogeneity of scholarly perspectives. The deadline for submission of the proposal is July 31, 2020. Please send your proposals to: