Call for Proposals

2019 National Humanities Conference
Honolulu, Hawai‘i
Thursday, November 7, 2019 - Sunday, November 10, 2019

Roots & Routes: Navigation, Migration, and Exchange in the 21st Century

Deadline for submitting proposals: February 22, 2019

The Federation of State Humanities Councils and the National Humanities Alliance are excited to announce the 2019 National Humanities Conference, which will be held in Honolulu, Hawai’i. This annual conference brings together representatives from colleges, universities, state humanities councils, museums, libraries, and historical societies to explore approaches to deepening the public’s engagement with the humanities. 

In 2019, the conference will take place outside the continental US for the first time offering the chance to gather among a constellation of communities, each of which employs unique cultural knowledge and traditions, to map their historical and future voyages.

We can think of no better place to explore the concept of roots and routes: who we are and its relation to where we are than in the Pacific Islands. Sailing in large double-hulled canoes from the Marquesas Islands in the south, Native Hawaiians settled the islands over a thousand years ago. Today, Honolulu reflects both the continued movement and connectedness of the Oceanic peoples as well as the arrival of colonial settler communities, including Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, and Korean Americans. Taking the Pacific Islands’ communities and cultures as our inspiration, we invite reflections on the movement of people across oceans, continents, and borders, and how the humanities – the stories we tell and the histories we make – can bind us rather than divide us through shared experiences and common pasts. Issues of identity, migration, and belonging resonate just as strongly across the continental U.S. as they do in the Pacific Islands.

Among the questions to explore are the following:

  • Is who we are defined by where we are?
  • How is a sense of place created in new homes away from home?
  • How do we, as public humanists and scholars, explore the core elements that bind different communities of people in the places we call “home”?
  • How do we integrate newcomers into our own communities, and what can we learn from each other?
  • What tensions are created by differing notions of place?
  • How do we best explore notions of “home” and “belonging” in Pacific islands that are simultaneously isolated and connected, local in their focus yet global in their relationships, small in mass but large in strategic importance, and part of but also neglected by “big” history?

We also welcome proposals that share best practices of humanities organizations and examine ways to build capacity through:

  • Communication strategies
  • Audience cultivation
  • Effective administration (strategic planning, team building, and budgeting)
  • Advocacy and case-making
  • Evaluating impact
  • Leadership development, and fundraising.

We especially encourage sessions that knit together the perspectives of academic and public humanities practitioners and appeal to both audiences. See examples from the 2018 conference here.



The National Humanities Conference is an opportunity for lively, thoughtful, and action-oriented discussion to strengthen the network of humanities practitioners working in both the public and academic fields. To that end, we strongly encourage:

  • Sessions that model great public humanities program design: dynamic, inclusive, and participatory or hands-on.
  • Presentations that are concise and employ accessible language. We encourage moderators to ensure that presentations conform to the predetermined limits: at least half of each session should involve audience participation. Session formats, unless indicated, are based on a 60 minute time slot.
  • Actionable takeaways that others can apply to their own practice and organization.
  • Sessions built around a problem, tension, or challenge in our work, with time for reflection and solutions-oriented discussion.


Session Formats

Experiential Humanities Program: These sessions engage conference attendees in actual humanities programming, modeled on successful programs carried out throughout the year. Examples from the 2018 program can be found here. Sessions that draw on the city or surrounding area and/or convey a sense of place are especially encouraged. Given the importance of storytelling and oral histories to Pacific Island societies, we also welcome sessions that engage participants in a storytelling experience, including narratives, chants, poetry, and performance.

Roundtable: Roundtables consist of a group of experts discussing a topic in front of an audience, rather than each presenting discrete remarks. A moderator leads the discussion and poses questions, but all participants speak equally about the topic. These sessions will be limited to four discussants and one moderator.

Facilitated Discussion: One to two facilitators drive a conversation on a topic with a group of conference participants. Conversations can broach themes of common interest, common challenges, or points of tension within the humanities community. Topics for facilitated discussions should appeal to a wide range of conference participants so as to bring diverse voices to the conversation.

Interview: These sessions feature free-form dialogues between a humanities professional and an interviewer.

Traditional Panel Presentation: This traditional format includes a moderator and no more than three presenters. Presentations are limited to five minutes each, followed by moderator questions and audience discussion.



A hands-on program that can extend longer than a traditional session to teach a particular skill set associated with program development, communications, cross-sector collaboration, assessment, digital engagement, grant-writing, cultivating new audiences, or any aspect of humanities programming. Lengthy workshops will run 1.5-6 hours and participants will leave with take-home resources.


Working Groups

The National Humanities Conference provides space for working groups to meet and continue an ongoing conversation. Conference working groups are seminar-like conversations of at least eight people that explore, in-depth, a subject of shared interest. Working groups will be accepted even if they do not yet have eight participants, but additional participants will need to be recruited after the session is accepted. The working group convenes for a session at the conference, but also converses before the conference and develops a product after. Each working group will have a facilitator, responsible for organizing the pre- and post-conference exchanges and facilitating the conversation at the conference itself.  Working groups can open up for audience observers or confine participation to the members of the group. More detailed guidelines for working groups can be found here.


Individual Proposals

For those interested in submitting an individual presentation, we welcome proposals for lightning talks, or 2-3 minute presentations, with up to 3 slides, followed by a question and answer period. The planning committee will group accepted proposals into thematic sessions.


To submit a proposal:

Please submit a session, workshop, or working group proposal via the online form here. Please submit an individual proposal to be placed in a lightning talk via the online form here.  The deadline for proposal submission is Friday, February 22nd, 2019.  For questions regarding the online submission form, please contact [email protected].


The Federation of State Humanities Councils

The Federation of State Humanities Councils, founded in 1977, is the membership association of 56 state and territorial councils. Through its conferences, collaborative projects, information services, and communications to members, legislators and others on issues of public interest, the Federation supports the state humanities councils and creates greater awareness of the humanities in public and private life.

State humanities councils are independent, nonprofit organizations that support grassroots humanities programs and community-based activities in each state and US territory. Created by Congress in the early 1970s, councils receive an annual Congressional appropriation through the National Endowment for the Humanities, which for most councils is supplemented by state and private funding. Councils are run by small staffs and governed by volunteer boards drawn from academia and the public.

The National Humanities Alliance

The National Humanities Alliance (NHA) is a nationwide coalition of organizations advocating for the humanities on campuses, in communities, and on Capitol Hill. Founded in 1981, NHA is supported by over 200 member organizations, including: colleges, universities, libraries, museums, cultural organizations, state humanities councils, and scholarly, professional, and higher education associations. It is the only organization that brings together the US humanities community as a whole.