Distant Communications Conference – deadline 30 April 2021

Date / time
Date(s) - 22 July
9:30 am - 6:00 pm


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reassess how we communicate with each other at a distance. Seminars and lectures have moved to online platforms and video chat has become the default communication for seeing relatives. Yet, people have always been separated, kept apart by geography, war, work and opportunity. From the letter to the text, the telegraph to the video chat, individuals have reestablished intimacies at a distance. Others have used distant communication to exchange information, business dealings and practical communications. Are there differences in how these distant communications work compared to those sent for affection and friendship?

This project is particularly timely as it will ruminate on these challenges to communication and social interaction posed by COVID-19, as well as the strategies being developed to cope with these disruptions to social and family relationships and community engagement. In light of this present moment, we think it is important to revisit the theme of communication, bringing scholars together for an interdisciplinary conversation about the histories of communicating, the advancement of communication technologies, and the impacts of travel, migration and mobility on cultures of communication.

The project seeks to promote the study of the social and cultural history of communication from local and global perspectives, and within a broad chronological framework as we believe that a fuller understanding of communicating across distance is needed. We think the current restrictions we are all facing around day to day contact due to COVID-19 need to be fully historicised and integrated into a longer timeline of social and cultural communication. This might include, for instance, studies of the telegram in wartime Britain, letter-writing in white settler colonies, or graffiti of the early modern period, to name a few areas of interest here.

Proposals for 20-minute papers are invited for this interdisciplinary conference for any historical period or geographical location. PGT/PGR students are also able to submit 3-minute lightening talks for consideration as well as full papers. Proposals could be on some of the following themes as long as they engage with mediums for distant communication:

• Modes of communication (letters, telegraph, phone calls, texts, video chats, objects etc.)
• Emotions and distance
• Race and ethnicity
• Gender
• Class
• Material culture
• Literature
• War
• Business
• Relationships and Family
• Identity
• Culture

Abstracts of up to 300 words should be submitted by 30th April 2021. All submissions should be accompanied with a short author bio and university affiliation (if applicable). We especially welcome submissions from groups that are underrepresented in Higher Education. This conference will take place on Zoom.

The intention is to create an edited volume or a special journal issue from this conference. If you are interested in this opportunity, please indicate this in your submission.

For more details and where to send abstracts, please email distantcommunications2021@gmail.com

Image credit: Phone communications, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.