Future Symposia

Indian Cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanism

Call for Papers

A Joint Symposium in 2018-19 Sponsored by New York University and the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University, and convened by Kent Blansett (University of Nebraska-Omaha), Cathleen Cahill (University of New Mexico), and Andrew Needham (New York University).

New York University and the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University solicit proposals for papers that consider American Indians as key participants in urban history.  


Urban history has been, to borrow Philip Deloria’s term, an “unexpected place” to find Indians.   Despite some notable case studies, Native people have been largely excluded from stories of the development and social experience of urban North America.  And yet, Native and First Nations communities have been vital to the making of America’s cities. In colonial New York, Lenape lands underlie the nation’s financial capital and established the path that would become Broadway, while Anishinaabe and Akwesasne ironworkers later built the skyscrapers that become icons of modernity. In Chicago, the Algonquian word for “place where the wild onions grow” gave the city its name, and so many native people migrated for work in the city’s industries that they created what James LeGrand has described as an “Indian Metropolis.” And in the Southwest, Native people have shaped the development of Albuquerque, Tucson, and Los Angeles from missions and presidios to sprawling Sunbelt metropolises. At the same time, urban spaces have been central to key narratives of American Indian history. Cities formed the sites of critical moments in native politics, from the Chicago conference of 1961 to fish-ins on Seattle’s Duwamish River to the American Indian Movement’s founding in Minneapolis to the occupation of Alcatraz. Urban life gave rise to new Intertribal Indian identities. It also encouraged Native people, including Marie Baldwin, D’Arcy McNickle, Tsianina Redfeather, Will Rogers, Richard Oakes, and others, to participate in and transform various cultural forms, from radio broadcasting and film-making to the writing of novels and operas.


"Indian Cities” will explore what it means to consider American Indians as agents of urban history. We call for proposals exploring how Indian people have shaped the built and social environments of urban North America from ancient cities to the present; and, conversely, how urban spaces have shaped Indian identities and social life, both for groups and individuals. We welcome proposals investigating Native people’s participation in urban and suburban property regimes, interactions with municipal governments, organization of urban labor, and the transformation of gender roles, as well as proposals on urban migration (both federally sponsored and otherwise), specific urban cultural groups, and regional and transnational distinctions.

The symposium will occur in two stages and in two places. The first meeting will be in October 2018 at SMU’s campus in Taos, NM, where there will be a private workshop for participants. The scholars will gather to workshop again and hold a public symposium at New York University in the spring of 2019. Each Clements Center symposium follows a similar model and each has resulted in a book published by a prominent academic press. Scholars chosen to participate will have all travel and accommodation expenses covered by SMU and NYU.

We welcome submissions from scholars of any rank, from graduate students to full professors. Please email a c.v. and a proposal of no more than 250 words by September 30, 2017 to: Kent Blansett (kblansett@unomaha.edu), Cathleen Cahill (cdcahill@psu.edu), and Andrew Needham (tan1@nyu.edu).