Call for Papers - 2021 SHAFR Conference

Arlington, VA, June 17-20, 2021

"Variations on a Theme"

The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) invites members to register for the first-ever “virtual” SHAFR conference.

After consulting in January, SHAFR council has decided to pivot to an all-virtual format for the upcoming SHAFR annual meeting. This decision followed a lengthy examination of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the unforeseen costs of a hybrid event.

The June meeting will still be organized around themes. Each theme will feature traditional panels as well as a signature roundtable and a networking exercise that brings graduate students and junior scholars into dialogue with senior and mid-career scholars. The objective will be to bring participants into a sustained, multidirectional conversation about topics of shared importance among U.S. foreign relations historians. We hope to apply the best practices from remote learning to the conference.

The 2021 meeting will highlight themes drawn from recent conference programs, exploring U.S. foreign and/or international relations through a diverse array of prisms:

  • Borders
  • Capitalism
  • Decolonization
  • Development
  • Domestic Politics
  • Empire
  • Environment
  • Gender & Sexuality
  • Ideas
  • Immigration
  • Law
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Rights
  • Science & Technology
  • Security
  • Strategy
  • War & the Military.

In addition to inviting proposals that speak to these themes, the program will feature other presentations, such as sessions of professional interest, plenaries, and keynote addresses. The virtual format will celebrate SHAFR in all its diversity and showcase a broad range of methodological, temporal, and geographic approaches.

The deadline for proposals was December 1, 2020.

The original call for papers continued below:


SHAFR is committed to inclusion and diversity. We encourage proposals from members of groups historically under-represented within SHAFR, particularly from women, scholars of color, colleagues residing outside of the United States, and scholars working in other disciplines. Graduate students, international scholars, and scholars whose participation might expand the organization’s breadth are encouraged to apply for SHAFR grants that subsidize the cost of attending the conference.

For planning purposes, each paper and panel submission will be invited to self-associate with the conference themes that best resonate with their research agenda. Panels selected for the program will be associated with one of their chosen themes. There will also be time each day devoted to panels that take up alternative organizing principles and work beyond the conference themes.

Each panel will last approximately 75-minutes. Speakers will have the opportunity to pre-circulate papers up to 12 pages in length. All panels are generally expected to include a chair, commentator, and up to three speakers, regardless of whether they meet in a hotel conference room or in an online meeting space. During the conference, participants will have an opportunity to participate in common roundtables and network informally with scholars who share their thematic interests.

Given these adjustments, participants should not plan to simply read their 12-page papers aloud. Because of the hybrid approach, the program committee encourages alternative kinds of presentations, especially those that can articulate well within hybrid spaces. These might include:

  • Methodological Panels: discussions might include questions and debates about approaches to archives and history writing.
  • Pedagogical Panels: discussions might include lessons learned for teaching under the banner of this theme in a residential or remote learning environment.
  • Primary Source Panels: discussions might be framed around close readings and contextualization of single artifacts such as speeches, memos, and cultural products that crystallize key debates, stakes, or insights in a field.
  • Social Media Panels: social media events that work to organize scholarly activity around an intellectual project, such as generating Wikipedia page entries, hashtags, etc.
  • Interview Panels: dialogues between colleagues in the field.
  • Archival Databases: compilations of documents from archives across borders to help facilitate knowledge exchanges and mitigate challenges of access.
  • Reading Groups: studied dialogues about a pivotal text, engaging platforms that allow participants to contribute and view marginal comments.

Individual paper proposals, especially those that articulate a connection to the designated conference themes, are also encouraged. Those seeking to create or fill out a panel should do so with the themed sessions in mind and Tweet #SHAFR2021 and tag both @SHAFRhistorians and @SHAFRconference. Further assistance in brainstorming SHAFR members who might be a good fit can be obtained by emailing the SHAFR Executive Director at [email protected]

The program committee hopes to develop a pool of potential commentators/chairs for panels constructed from individual proposals. The volunteer application form will be available online closer to the application deadline.


All proposals and funding applications should be submitted online: Applicants requiring alternative submission means should contact the program co-chairs. Although it is difficult to anticipate conditions related to travel in the context of COVID-19, for planning purposes applicants will be asked to indicate their likelihood of attending the event in person. Onsite programming will be tailored to meet the needs of socially distancing, whatever they may be in June 2021. The hybrid format offers onsite flexibility, as well as an infrastructure if circumstances force SHAFR to eventually adopt an all-virtual model.

Each participant may serve once in any single capacity on the program (for example as a presenter or commentator) and not more than twice during the conference.

Generally, annual membership in SHAFR is required for those participating in the 2021 meeting. The president and program committee may grant some exceptions to scholars whose specializations are outside the field. Enrollment instructions will be included with notification of accepted proposals.

If you are not a current SHAFR member and are submitting a panel or paper proposal, please simply sign-in as a “New User.”


Divine Graduate Student Travel Grants

SHAFR will award several Robert A. and Barbara Divine Graduate Student Travel Grants to assist graduate students presenting papers at the 2021 conference. The following stipulations apply:

  • no award will exceed $300;
  • priority will be given to graduate students who receive no or limited funds from their home institutions; and
  • expenses will be reimbursed by the SHAFR Business Office upon submission of receipts at or after the conference.

The program committee will make decisions regarding awards. A graduate student requesting travel funds must make a request when submitting the paper/panel proposal.

Applications for the Divine Graduate Student Travel Grants should include:

  • a copy of your individual paper proposal;
  • a 1-page letter from the applicant; and
  • a reference letter from the graduate advisor that confirms the unavailability of departmental travel funds (this will be submitted separately:

These three items should be submitted online: Funding requests will have no bearing on the committee’s decisions on panels/papers, but funds will not be awarded unless the applicant’s submission is accepted by the program committee in a separate decision. Application deadline: December 1, 2020.

SHAFR Global Scholars and Diversity Grants

SHAFR also awards Global Scholars and Diversity Grants to help defray travel and lodging expenses for the 2021 conference. These grants are aimed at scholars whose participation in the annual meeting helps to diversity the organization. Preference will be given to those who have not previously presented at SHAFR annual meetings. The awards are intended for scholars who represent groups historically under-represented at SHAFR, scholars who offer diverse and complementary intellectual approaches, and scholars from outside the United States. “Scholars” include faculty, graduate students, and independent researchers. To further integrate grant winners into SHAFR, awards include one-year membership that includes subscriptions to Diplomatic History and Passport.

Applicants should submit a copy of their individual paper proposal along with a short cv (2-page maximum) and a 2-3 paragraph essay addressing the grant criteria (including data on previous SHAFR meetings attended and funding received) and their financial need (budget). Please submit your application via Funding requests will have no bearing on the committee’s decisions on panels/papers, but funds will not be awarded unless the applicant’s submission is accepted by the program committee in a separate decision. Application deadline: December 1, 2020.

Other Conference Events

The 2021 conference will continue SHAFR’s commitment to graduate student and newly minted PhD professionalization in anticipation of the job market through innovative, themed networking sessions that will allow students an opportunity to receive individualized feedback on their projects from experienced faculty members. The program will also create space for teaching workshops, including those oriented to best practices and syllabus design.

Those interested in participating in either or both workshops can indicate this on the conference registration form, which will be available in Spring 2021.

For more details about the conference please visit the main conference webpage.

We look forward to seeing you next June in Arlington and online!

SHAFR 2021 Program Committee co-chairs,

Megan Black and Ryan Irwin