Monday, November 28, 2011

CFP: Capitalism by Gaslight

The Library Company of Philadelphia will host a conference on June 7-8, 2012, to investigate the topic “Capitalism by Gaslight: The Shadow Economies of Nineteenth-Century America.” As the call for papers explains:
    There were many ways in which Americans earned a living through economic transactions beyond the spheres of “legitimate” commerce. Entrepreneurs of this sort included everyone from prostitutes and card sharps to confidence men, mock auctioneers, pickpockets, fences of stolen goods, and many others. Although these shadow economies may have unfolded “off the books,” they were anything but marginal. Instead, they were crucially important parts of the mainstream economy, bound up in the development of commercial and industrial capitalism in nineteenth-century America. The shadow economy’s successful entrepreneurs—women, people of color, and children among them—had to be even more creative, flexible, and adaptive than “respectable” counterparts. The practices, networks, and goods that constituted shadow economies often paralleled and in some instances overlapped with those found in wholesale and retail businesses, calling into question the morality and legitimacy of legal economic transactions.
   The conveners seek paper proposals that explore how shadow economies operated in the nineteenth-century United States and examine the meanings Americans gave to them. To ensure consideration, please send a 2-3- page abstract and CV to both Wendy Woloson at and Brian Luskey at no later than January 15, 2012. A website for the conference is not yet available.