Call for Papers: “Speculative Endeavors: Cultures of Knowledge and Capital in the Long 19th Century”, University of Bayreuth, October 21–23, 2021


Organizers: Katrin Horn, Karin Hoepker, Selina Foltinek

By 1900, the US had emerged as “the land of speculation” (Stäheli), marked by the increasing incorporation of America and the experience of widespread economic volatility. Influential publications such as Thorstein Veblen’s A Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Women and Economics (1898) furthermore bear witness to the commodification of the supposedly private sphere, in which personal information and confidential communication are intricately tied to economic concerns.

Speculative Endeavors conference seeks to investigate these shifts and entanglements through the hitherto neglected lens of a variety of illicit, tacit, oral, or subjugated knowledges. These might be marginalized by their association with racial and gendered minorities or they may find expression as innuendo, rumors, gossip, and other ‘speculative’ or supposedly ‘baseless’ modes of transaction and information. The conference aims to facilitate a discussion of how such “inofficial” modes of knowledge relate to new forms of economic transactions and economic thinking (e.g. speculation).

The conference is designed to foster an interdisciplinary debate among scholars in the fields of American studies, literary studies, history of knowledge, economy, history, gender studies, and critical race studies. Papers are invited to explore the following key aspects:

  • Methodology:

How do different scholarly disciplines address knowledge production and its epistemic shifts as a result of both private and public practices? What source material offers insight for inquiries into the complex relationship between capital and unofficial forms of knowledge?

  • Theories and Case Studies:

How do notions of (informal, non-explicit, illicit) “information” become established as currency and how do they claim credibility? How is knowledge as (cultural) capital classed, gendered, and racialized? How do fictional representations allow us to access productions of knowledge and capital? How do new economic models shape US culture and literature?

Please send an abstract of 250–300 words as well as a short CV by November 22, 2019 to Pending further funding, participants’ travel and accommodation costs may be covered. For more information, please visit

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Professor Peter Knight (U of Manchester), Professor Lori Merish (Georgetown U, Washington D.C.)