Undergraduate History Conference 2017
April 3, 2017 Leave a comment
This year I was very lucky to organise the Undergraduate Conference in St Andrews that took place on the 4th February 2017. As a society, it is one of our bigger events and we believe that it is an important way to engage those students interested in continuing with a career in academia. Thus, allowing them to present a research paper in a proper setting as well as having their papers published in a journal.
This year’s theme was “Identity in History”, which generated a lot of interest with applications and attendees to the conference. Considering the geopolitical affairs of 2016, the notion of identity had been prominent in most minds and was partly a reason to pick such an intriguing topic. However, identity has been present throughout history and one that continues to be debated in various contexts. Therefore, it became somewhat of an easy choice and we decided that this was an important topic to explore in the Undergraduate History Conference.
Overall, the day was a great success and an interesting experience for all those involved. I would like to thank the speakers again for their hard work and contributions as well as the generosity of the History Department of St. Andrews for their funding contributions.
My presentation at the History Conference focused on the oxymoron of female identity that was created and sustained in 1950s America by the American media. In the tumultuous aftermath of war, and in a desire to restore patriarchal stability, a restrictive image of a white, middle-class housewife became the female ideal, and forged an essential component of modern female identity. This idea inherently domesticated woman soon became popularised through the mass consumerism of the 1950s, and as such, the original white, middle-class women felt they lost their own individuality in the process. From this feeling of helplessness, the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s was forged, pioneered by Friedan, the archetypal white-middle class freedom fighter. In my paper, I therefore argued that the inherent problem of female identity in the 1950s was its failure to reconcile the individual with the mass, and the mass with the individual.
This was my first time presenting at a History conference, so naturally I was a bit anxious, but the inclusive and accepting atmosphere put me at ease. Everyone seemed to really engage with the topic that I presented, particularly in light of the current feminist uproar in the US, and asked lots of pertinent questions. I left the day with a greater understanding of a wide range of diverse topics, and felt empowered to go on to complete further historical research. After my undergraduate degree, I hope to pursue a postgraduate degree in gender history, focusing in particular on the role of women in the Ancien Régime in France. I would strongly encourage anyone thinking about pursuing further historical studies to take part in the Conference, as it is a fantastic public speaking opportunity and reaffirmed my desire to pursue the academic profession.
At the Undergraduate History Conference, I spoke about the transient radical identity which was assumed by the Sans-Culottes during the French Revolution. This topic is of particular interest to me, as the French Revolution presented the politically and economically precarious conditions from which a robust, culturally unique Sans-Culotte subculture could emerge. In our current situation of global economic and social uncertainty, one cannot help but notice the emergence of radical groups, the members of which choose to adopt the social and ideological characteristics of their beliefs as the core, defining traits of their individual existences. It would be interesting to further investigate the psychology which drives identity-building, as well as the societal conditions which make it possible for such groups as the Sans-Culottes to thrive and continue to self-define.
In addition to this, I would like to expand my research into the topic of scientific empiricism. How has the pursuit of scientific inquiry and data-gathering been approached throughout the ages? What ideologies and technological advancements warranted the development of a universal scientific method? These are some of the questions which I seek to explore next in my research.