The 2017 HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference took place on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at Sidney Sussex College at the University of Cambridge. Continuing the organisation’s commitment to its postgraduate members and following on from its successful postgraduate conference at Northumbria University in 2016, this year’s event committed to offering postgraduate attendees with a number of opportunities for professional development. Thirty-six attendees from fourteen universities across the UK participated in the conference. Building upon the long history of social movements engaging with conceptions of power in the United States, this event addressed the renegotiation of boundaries of free speech, minority representation, and populist/nationalist fervour across the world. The conference began with four panels of conference attendees presenting their research on rights, justice, and dissent within American society and politics in the twentieth century. With presentations on the politics of sexuality and gender, foreign policy debates and the media, cultural and political challenges to the New Right, and literary and visual representations of power, the postgraduate papers demonstrated the breadth of research in American history in the UK and fostered engaging conversation.
The afternoon conference events focussed on career development for postgraduates in American history, featuring an academic roundtable and a workshop on CVs and cover letters. As established academics in the field, Professor Gary Gerstle (University of Cambridge), Dr Emma Long (University of East Anglia), and Dr Nick Witham (University College London) reflected on their careers, on the decisions they made along the way, and offered advice for postgraduates considering their futures in academia. Then, Dr Seth Archer (University of Cambridge) ran a session on how to write an eye-catching cover letter and streamlined CV. Using examples from his experience applying for jobs in the UK and the US, Seth took questions and concerns from the audience and structured the discussion around those points. The conference concluded with an outstanding keynote presentation by Dr Kerry Pimblott (University of Manchester) on the major themes of her monograph, Faith in Black Power: Religion, Race, and Resistance in Cairo, Illinois, published this year by University Press of Kentucky.
The generous financial support from BAAS allowed us to offer six substantial travel bursaries for postgraduate presenters. We were pleased to advertise this sponsorship in our call for papers, event announcements, and conference programme, and a flier for BAAS was included in the conference packs. Alongside BAAS, other conference sponsors included the Mellon Professorial Fund and the George Macaulay Trevelyan Fund through the Cambridge Faculty of History, the University Press of Kentucky, and Adam Matthew Digital.
Kate Ballantyne is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge