Scholars, activists, students and literary, performing and visual artists alike are invited to submit proposals for consideration to “Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries,” a conference hosted by Eastern Mennonite University June 22-25, 2017.
Conference participants are encouraged to think creatively and across disciplines about how Anabaptists, Mennonites, Amish and related groups have crossed and continue to cross lines, borders and boundaries.
Applicants should submit a one-page CV and a 250-word abstract describing the paper, presentation, performance or panel/workshop session (with presenters indicated) to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept. 1, 2016.
Maturing field of study
The conference builds on a 21-year-old legacy of a groundbreaking conference on women of Anabaptist traditions in history at Millersville University in 1995. That conference was titled “The Quiet in the Land? Women of Anabaptist Traditions in Historical Perspective.”
The phrase women of Anabaptist traditions has been retained in the new title to highlight the significant contributions to the field made both at Millersville and in the years since then, says planning committee chair Professor Kimberly Schmidt of Eastern Mennonite University.
“Women’s history among Mennonite scholars was definitely in its infancy in 1995,” says Schmidt, professor of history and director of the Washington Community Scholars’ Center in Washington D.C. “There was a group of us who had graduated from American and Canadian universities who wanted to push forward the field, not only for scholars of Mennonite history, but to make sure we were engaging with the broader field of women’s history.”
Significantly, four other members on the 1995 planning committee have joined Schmidt to lead the efforts for the 2017 event. Schmidt returns in her role as chair.
One important objective of the 1995 conference, Schmidt says, was to “to engage in a dialogue with American and Canadian women’s historians who had already made names for themselves to help us all to think about how Mennonite women’s history relates to the broader regional and global women’s histories.”
Major contribution to the field
The mentorship and energy of that conference resulted in several publications, including Strangers At Home: Amish and Mennonite Women in History (Johns Hopkins Press, 2002), co-edited by Schmidt with Diane Zimmerman Umble and Steven D. Reschly. The essay collection features work from leading scholars on the diverse experiences of Amish, Mennonite and other women of Anabaptist traditions, from sixteenth-century Europe to contemporary North America.
Schmidt is looking forward to seeing “new topics, approaches and viewpoints among a wide variety of participants.” Possible themes of boundaries and borders could include “how women have challenged, traversed and negotiated various lines between church and the world; gender lines and constructions; and lines of race, ethnicity and class,” she says.
An overarching question, she adds, is “How does the religious lens that women of Anabaptist traditions have inform their agency?”
Conference organizers hope the event will contribute to “similar mentoring relationships that crossed traditions and disciplines and age groups,” Schmidt said.
She encourages women of color, women of the global South, junior scholars and students to attend and present their work.
The planning committee includes artists and scholars in a variety of academic disciplines, including Mary Sprunger, professor of history, Eastern Mennonite University; Rachel Epp Buller, a feminist art historian, printmaker and professor at Bethel College; poet Julia Spicher Kasdorf, professor of English and women’s studies at Penn State; Marlene Epp, interim dean and professor of history and peace and conflict studies, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo; Kerry Fast, independent scholar; Luann Good Gingerich, professor of social work and scholar-in-residence at the Centre for Refugee Studies, York University; Rachel Waltner Goosen, professor of history, Washburn University; and Jan Bender Shelter, professor of history, Goshen College.