This conference is jointly organized by Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore; Humanities and Social Studies Education, National Institute of Education, Singapore; and the Singapore Heritage Society.
Recent decades have witnessed a remarkable expansion of debates over the content of history textbooks and the ways in which contentious historical issues and topics are being taught in schools. In Asia, the attempts by the Japanese government to whitewash the crimes of Imperial Japan in newly commissioned school textbooks were met with strong protests by civil society organizations and state politicians across the continent. No less cogent and significant were the protracted disputes in the United States over proposed revisions to the Texas social studies curriculum, which were viewed by most Americans as a bold stratagem on the part of a minority religious group to downplay the role of the country's founding fathers and the importance of maintaining a secular society which allows for a diversity of views and beliefs.
One key issue that emerges from these and other similar polemics is that, in an increasingly digitized and globalized world, there is a need for professional historians, students of history and educators to confront rather than ignore or sidestep historical themes and topics that may be viewed as 'controversial' or 'sensitive'. Young people especially need to learn how to adjudicate competing accounts and deal with the range of controversies they are likely to encounter in public life. The teaching of historical controversies can help foster active citizenry and widen our understanding of the past; it can help open up new possibilities for the creation of a knowledge-driven, cosmopolitan and mature society.
Indeed, controversy, debate, and argumentation are central to disciplinary work and participating in academic controversy involves contestation, challenge, and rigorous debate as part of progressive knowledge building and the advancement of fields of study. History writing and teaching, being one of many forms of disciplinary work, involves a continual evaluation of the strength of claims and accounts and consideration of rival as well as competing perspectives. This work is central to citizenship as well.
Bringing together students, teachers and scholars of history, History as Controversy aims to shed light on philosophical, methodological and practical questions concerning the teaching and writing of historical controversies in Asia. The conference takes on a comparative country perspective, seeking to interrogate controversial events, ideologies and personalities that defined the contours of the past and the present in countries across Asia and seeks to mark out differences and commonalities, connections as well as disjunctures between them. Another reason why comparative and global perspectives are pertinent for this workshop is to encourage the audience and presenters to view controversy as something that is addressed differently in different contexts.
Among other themes, papers should address one or more of the following topics concerning historical controversies:
(1) The Nature of Historical Controversies in Asia
What are the factors that resulted in a particular topic to be advertently or otherwise viewed as controversial? Are restrictions and constraints that were put in place by states and governmental bodies crucial in this regard? Or are civil society, non-state bodies and autonomous individuals central in the manufacturing of controversies through historical analogies? To what extent are historical controversies constructed to deal with larger anxieties affecting a given society or were they products of the play of language and images by the media and known writers?
(2) Writing Historical Controversies
How have historical controversies been written and what are forms and language that were employed that have implications upon students and the public sensibilities? What are analytical/interpretive frameworks and historiographical problems that historians and educators should consider or have considered when writing about controversies and the types of different sources they employ to understand a particular controversy in its entirety?
(3) Strategies of Teaching Historical Controversies
What is the value of teaching controversies? How can controversial issues be taught in such a way that would encourage dialogue and empathy? What are various moral and political problems with which educators will be confronted in teaching historical controversies in schools? What are the pedagogical strategies that could be tapped to manage these problems? How can historical controversies be taught in ways that help students understand the role they play in academic work?
SUBMISSION OF PROPOSALS
Academics, teachers, educators, and adjuncts are encouraged to submit paper proposals to the conference. Proposals should include a title, an abstract (300 words max.) and a short bio-note of the author(s) (200 words). Please submit and address all applications and enquiries to Dr Khairudin Aljunied (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr Mark Baildon (email@example.com) by 30 March 2011. Please visit the official webpage for the Paper Proposal Submission Form. Partial funding will be available for presenters from Southeast Asia.
Successful applicants will be notified by 30 April 2011 and will be required to send in a completed paper (5,000-6,000 words) by 15 October 2011. Selected papers will be developed and included in an edited book.
PAYMENT FOR PARTICIPANTS
All participants will be required to pay a conference participation fee of SGD 250. Special discounts/waiver will be given to students upon requests and consideration by the conference committee. Details of payment (credit, cheque or cash) will be provided in due course.
Dr Khairudin Aljunied (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore
Dr Mark Baildon (email@example.com)
Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice and Humanities and Social Studies Education, National Institute of Education, Singapore.
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