Call for Papers: Lost Alternatives of the Long 1960s

Logo for 'Lost Alternatives of the Long 1960s: Reflections on the Ideas of the Counterculture' + Call for Papers

In the story of America in the late 1960s, the “counterculture” is often seen as a cultural aberration focused on sex, drugs, and rock and roll.1 Yet, the “counterculture” was much more, spanning a range of alternative ideas, lifestyles and approaches to business and commerce, health and wellness, consumption and the environment, structures, spaces, and architecture, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, education and expertise, religion and spirituality, and politics and governance.

One striking example of the counterculture was Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, first published in the fall of 1968, which presented a deeply-researched and innovatively presented collection of an extraordinarily wide array of “goods for sale” by independent producers, combined with informative how-to articles. Several years later, Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet (1971) also challenged mainstream ideas about consumption in ways distinct from Brand, yet overlapping. Diet for a Small Planet pleaded with readers to eat more responsibly and sustainably, and to live a life that mattered. For some, it became a rallying cry for responsible food consumption, environmentalism, and recycling. Meanwhile, in Somerville, Massachusetts, a group who would become known as the “Our Bodies, Ourselves Collective,” published a pamphlet entitled Women and Their Bodies (1970), which questioned the idea of absolute professional authority, challenged the dominance of men in the health professions, encouraged the cultivation of local knowledge, promoted a do-it-yourself ethos, and gave women the tools to make independent decisions about their health and bodies.

Brand, Lappé, and the Our Bodies, Ourselves Collective were three examples among many in a generation that looked in new directions for spiritual fulfillment, redefined their aspirations, pushed back against established practices, and offered tools for living which fell outside of mainstream social and political organizations. The “counterculture” (defined broadly) was a formidable site of intellectual production and political debate, and an important part of the larger and longer history of twentieth-century American intellectual and political life.

We seek to bring together scholars with diverse interests and from a variety of disciplines for a two-day conference in September of 2019 (12:30 p.m., Friday, September 27 to 6:00 p.m., Saturday, September 28, 2019) focusing on the ideas and legacy of the “counterculture.” While we are especially interested in papers that address the three core texts — The Whole Earth Catalog, Diet for a Small Planet, and Our Bodies, Ourselves — or the themes framed by them, there is no requirement that the papers specifically address those texts.

We seek paper proposals on a range of topics focused on the “counterculture”: capitalism, poverty, wealth, distribution and consumerism; race and ethnicity; gender and sexuality; the environment; medicine and pharmacology; health and wellness; spaces and architecture; education, expertise, and epistemology; spirituality and religion; and politics, institutions, and governance. What did the “counterculture” seek to make or remake, and how? What did it mean to be a “participant” in the counterculture, how did “participants” see themselves and what they were doing, how was their sense of self and mission captured in the production and presentation of their books and pamphlets, and how did other parts of society see them? Were the ideas and movements of the “counterculture” a culmination or something new? What was the legacy of the ideas of the “counterculture”? How can contextualizing the “counterculture” in the social, political, and economic moment of 1968 lead to fresh scholarly interpretations?

In addition to reexamining well-known events, persons, and movements, the conference also seeks to explore topics and themes long-forgotten, never discovered, or obfuscated in the larger historical narrative. We welcome methodological approaches that transcend, blend, or complicate distinct historical, social, and economic categorization.

Submission Guidelines: Please submit (A) An abstract of no more than 500 words; (B) A biography of no longer than 100 words; (C) A CV.

Please submit in Word or .pdf (we are not responsible for submissions that can’t be opened).

Proposals are due by March 4, 2019. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance status by the third week of March, 2019.

Please direct questions to Dov or Dirk at

1 “Counterculture” can be a problematic term. We are broadly interested in those ideas, movements, and politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s which fell outside of mainstream thinking, and the aspirations and expectations that grew out of them.

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