Groups marching to demand climate and racial justice. (Photo by: Steve Sanchez)



The African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)’s Eighth Annual Conference

Conference Theme:

“We Can’t Breathe”: Crisis, Catastrophe and
Sustaining Community in (Un)livable Spaces

Hosted by University of North Carolina, Charlotte
March 9-11, 2023 

Call for Papers

Black people can’t breathe. This is because these are crisis ridden times. Crisis and catastrophe wrought by mass incarceration, inadequate housing, climate change, environmental degradation, police brutality, war and the stress upon our everyday lives. Historically, Black communities globally have been made subject to horrific circumstances from involuntary migration, to enforced servitude, Jim Crow segregation, mass incarceration, police brutality and now coupled with a pandemic and climate change. This is as juxtaposed with a multiplicity of environmental conditions including inadequate access to healthy food, toxic waste, unclean water and pollution. Black communities have disproportionately experienced the impact of environmental waste, pollution, climate change and lack of access to healthy food resources and equitable healthcare services. This has also more recently meant involuntary migration illustrated with the rise of Black climate refugees worldwide. Statistics indicate that Black people in the U.S. are 75 percent more likely to live close to oil and gas refineries, have disproportionately high rates of asthma, due to environmental factors, and are more frequently made subject to pollution and toxic waste. Our conference this year specifically focuses on the theme of crisis, catastrophe and sustaining community. We are particularly interested here in the ways that the Black community has responded to these circumstances over time in thought and action.

This conference seeks to bring together scholars, activists, public intellectuals and community stakeholders interested in presenting on the theme of crisis, catastrophe and sustaining community in relation to the history and culture of African Diaspora communities. What are the major points of crisis and catastrophe that have faced African Diaspora communities over time and space? In what ways have Black Diaspora communities over time thought about (and implemented) securing adequate housing, equitable access to education, abolitionism, healthy food, clean water, and equitable environmental conditions? What roles have Black women played in mitigating crisis in the community? What efforts continue at the present? Who are the Black intellectual pioneers of environmental justice? What is the genealogy of these ideas? For this conference, we seek papers specifically on our stated theme of crisis, catastrophe and community in Black history and African Diaspora Studies. We especially would like to see some individuals, groups and community organizations engaged in social justice work and environmental action participate in this conference. This might include individual/organizations involved in environmental clean-up work, community sustainability actions, food resource and distribution programs, including agricultural cooperatives and those engaged in other social justice initiatives.

Papers related to (but not limited to) these topics might be ideal:

    • Abolitionism (then and now)
    • Enslavement and Everyday Resistance
    • Mass Incarceration
    • Education Pedagogies and Resistance
    • Housing and Homelessness
    • Rent Exploitation and the Housing Crisis
    • Health disparities over time and space
    • Healthy Food Cooperatives and Programs
    • Food deserts and Black Mobilization
    • Clean Water Actions
    • Police Brutality and Black Resistance
    • Black Women and the Global Green Movement
    • Black Children and Environmentalism
    • Black Women and Eco-feminist Praxis

AAIHS welcomes individual and panel proposals for abbreviated presentations (10-12 minutes) that consider the conference theme as linked to a variety of perspectives, including, but not limited to, gender, sexuality, public policy, indigeneity, politics, class, in art and popular culture, and in literature. Papers on Black women and social justice in a global context are encouraged. Proposals will be considered for inclusion in one of the featured conference sessions, which will tentatively be scheduled for an in-person conference (with the possibility of limited hybrid options) on March 9 to March 11, 2023, at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

We encourage the submission of both individual papers and full panels. The conference committee, in consultation with the AAIHS board, will select proposals to include on featured panels. AAIHS invites scholars at various ranks and affiliations (from graduate students to senior faculty and independent scholars) to submit proposals for consideration. Each proposal should include a title and approximately 300 words. Your proposal should clearly explain the paper’s argument; methods and methodologies; interventions; and engagement with the conference theme. The best papers selected from conference proceedings may be considered for an edited volume related to the conference theme. This volume will be grounded in the discipline of Black intellectual history but interdisciplinary in scope.  Submissions should also include a short CV (1-2 pages in length), highlighting previous publications and presentations, if applicable. 

Deadline for Submissions: September 1, 2022.


Conference Committee:

Co-Chairs: LaShawn Harris, Michigan State University and Crystal Eddins, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Tyler Parry, University of Nevada, Los Vegas
Adam McNeil, Rutgers University
Grace D. Gipson, Virginia Commonwealth University
Oscar de la Torre, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

For more information write to the committee at:

Note: The goal is to have an in-person conference but this is subject to change given the current pandemic. Hybrid options may be available as we are an organization that does take seriously inclusivity of all interested in participating in this timely event. Masks will be required and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test (24 hours before attending) must be provided to the organization before attending.


Previous Conference Programs

AAIHS 2022 (Las Vegas, Nevada)

AAIHS 2021 (Los Angeles, California)

AAIHS 2020 (Austin, Texas)

AAIHS 2019 (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

AAIHS 2018 (Waltham, Massachusetts)

AAIHS 2017 (Nashville, Tennessee)

AAIHS 2016 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)