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Bow River Conference

What is the Bow River Conference?

The conference is hosted by the History Graduate Student Union, the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta

The Bow River Graduate History Conference is a graduate student conference organized by the University of Calgary History Graduate Student Union and held at the University of Calgary, in Calgary, Alberta. The Conference aims to bring together all areas, time periods and disciplines that deal with the past and give graduate students, particularly those in the first years of their program, the opportunity to present a paper in a friendly and scholarly environment. From 2015, the first year the conference took place, it has continued to be a success for graduate students from both Calgary and the rest of the graduate student community.

Call for proposals 2020:

The University of Calgary History Graduate Student Union, in partnership with the Strategic Studies Student Consortium and the Latin American Research Centre, is pleased to invite all graduate students to present at the Bow River Conference. The Bow River Conference aims to bring together all areas, time periods and disciplines that deal with the past, and give students the opportunity to present a paper in a friendly and scholarly environment. The conference will be held at the University of Calgary, March 13-14. The theme of this year’s conference, “History of Power,” seeks to explore the impact of events, figures, relationships, and presentations of power in a historical and interdisciplinary manner.

2020 marks the 500th anniversary of the Mexican conquest, an event of contact, conflict and exchange that set the pattern for Spanish expansion in the Americas and ushered in a new period of European imperialism worldwide. The meeting of Moctezuma with Hernan Cortés months earlier has become symbolic of the repeating interplay between exchange, merging, resistance and domination that defined imperialism in the Americas. These events highlight the paradox between the positive and negative consequences of power, and their ongoing reverberations through time—reverberations that spread beyond the Americas and throughout the history of European colonialism and speak to interconnectedness within the nature of power itself. If we follow Foucault’s description of power as being dispersed and all-pervasive, we can understand power to have been present in the experiences of all people, of all times and all places. The academic is not outside this extension, as the very nature of our work belies an inherent exercise of power. As historians it is worth asking questions about which stories are told and who should be responsible for telling those stories. These questions need to inform and shape the work we do as much as the analysis of power relations in history itself.

With this in mind, we welcome original research, dissertation chapters-in-progress, research projects, course papers, or any other relevant work, in addition to papers dealing with an interdisciplinary approach to history. We invite both MA and PhD students (and senior undergrad students) in History or any related field to submit a 300-word abstract by January 5, 2020. Abstracts must include a title and explain the context of your research, your research question(s), methodology, sources, and the historical significance of your research. In addition, please include a brief biography or CV and your contact information. While submissions that discuss our theme are encouraged, we equally welcome submissions that focus on other historical topics.

Please direct submissions to Feel free to contact the committee with any questions.

Bow River Conference 2019

Bow River Conference 2018


Open call for proposals by graduate students working on ANY historical theme or question. Proposals can but are NOT AT ALL required to take up the proposed theme of the conference:

“History of Borderlands—Borderlands of History”

From the Berlin Wall to the “travel ban” in recent US history, from contested waterways and mountain ranges to cultural stereotypes and discriminatory laws, and from nation-states exerting a real or imagined type of control on potential immigrants to refugees crossing borders in a so-called “illegal” manner, discussions around borders are constantly in the news. Borders can be crossed, avoided, appreciated, attacked, circumvented (often a dangerous endeavour), or they can be endured as a painful necessity. Why do humans build borders in the first place?What are borders beyond their physical reality? Has the existence of borders through history always been justified in similar ways? What factors contributed to the downfall or diminished importance of borders in some times and places? How have people living in borderlands dealt with the implications of being close to the real or imagined “other”?

At the same time, the field of history today is stretching far beyond its traditionally national or celebratory narratives. Historians have made great efforts to open new frames of analysis as well as research questions to bring anonymous or marginalized people to the spotlight. History is also at the heart of interdisciplinary work. At the University of Calgary, for example, this exchange happens with Military Studies, Philosophy, Education, Medicine and Science, Sociology, Political Science, but many more are possible. What problems arise from this and how are they solved? What are the advantages of working “on the edge”? Who determines what is the periphery and why?

Please submit a 250 to 300-word proposal and a CV to You should plan to give a 15-minute presentation, followed by a 5-minute Q&A period. Deadline is January 8th, 2018. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the same address.


Bow River Conference 2017

April 7th, 2017 at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta

The theme of this year's conference theme is "Home Fronts and War Fronts." The 150th anniversary of Confederation and the continuing centenary of the First World War reminds us that conflict and stability manifest themselves in diverse ways throughout history. Our theme aims to explore not only the experiences of those who fought and those who remained behind, but also how times of conflict and stability have affected the political, economic, social, cultural, religious, and literary growth of different communities across space and time. We are, therefore, interested in papers that address these changes from all areas, time periods, and disciplines that deal with the past.

Bow River Conference 2016

February 18-19, 2016 at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta

The Bow River Conference's theme this year is "The Past in the Present." Located on the Bow River and at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Calgary has always been a cultural meeting pace. The legacy of cultural interactions have profoundly shaped this city and this region. Historical events and developments are not isolated in the past; rather they create legacies that continue into the present, shaping politics and society, culture and gender, the military and the environment. The Bow River Conference aims to bring together all areas, time periods and disciplines that deal with the past and give both senior undergraduate and graduate students, particularly those in the first years of their program, the opportunity to present a paper in a friendly and scholarly environment.

This year's Bow River Conference was a resounding success!

Thursday night opened the conference with a panel on the Practice of Public History. This featured Dr. Karen Routledge (Historian, Parks Canada), Mr. Kevin Allen (Lead Historian, Calgary Gay History Project), Dr. Christine Leppard (Historical Specialist, Calgary Stampede), and moderator Dr. Joe Anderson (Mount Royal University). This fascinating talk addressed career alternatives to traditional academics, with each panelist explaining their role in public history, challenges faced by public (and academic) historians, and the benefits of public history.

Friday dawned bright and early with the first panel, Rethinking Agency: Animals in History. This was followed by Individual Stories and the World Wars, Creating a Cultural Environment, and ending with Reactions, Revolutions and Resistance. After fantastic presentations by panelists and excellent questions put forward by attendees, the conference re-convened for dinner with keynote speaker Dr. Joe Anderson (Mount Royal University), who gave a thought-provoking and humorous presentation entitled, 'America's Racial Past in the "Post Racial" Present: Notes from an Unsettled Historian.'

Thank you again to our organizers, Scott Dumonceaux, Rebecca Ralph, and Kesia Kvill for their time and effort in providing a smooth-running and wonderful conference. Thank you to the History Graduate Students' Union, The Department of History, The History Graduate Studies Program, The Faculty of Arts, and The Provost's Office for helping make this conference possible. Finally, thank you to all the panelists, chairs, attendees, and especially to our speakers. 

Bow River Conference 2015

January, 2015 at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta

January 2015 Conference Keynote Speakers

Matthew Evenden, Associate Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia and co-author of The River Returns: An Environmental History of the Bow

James Daschuk, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina and author of Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life

The conference included a meet and greet as well as a dinner where our keynote speakers lectured. There was a variety of panels, including The Stoney Nakoda First Nation, the Bow River, and the Canadian Government; Influences on Political Discourse in Canada, Britain, and the United States; Schooling the Marginalized: Institutional and Personal Perspectives; The World Wars: Studies in Culture and Media; Global Perspectives on Indigenous Assimilation and Colonial Understanding; Transnational and Colonial Perspectives in India, Labrador, and Alaska; and, finally, The Mongols and Their World. 

We were joined from a variety of graduate students from across Canada.