CFP: Rochester and the Mid-Sized American City in the 21st Century

Rochester, NY, often has been at the center of conversations about the distinctive character of mid-sized cities in the United States. In 2002, Rochester Mayor William A. Johnson, Jr. convened the “Rochester Conversation on Mid-Sized Cities” to bring together “mayors, academics, urban policy experts, writers and others” for an examination of the challenges facing urban centers that occupy the poorly understood middle ground between towns and metropolises. Such “Rochester conversations” have an even deeper history: In 1939, Rochester City Historian Blake McKelvey launched the Rochester History journal in partnership with the Rochester Public Library. Neither boosterish nor antiquarian, Rochester History offered a new model of urban history that allowed Rochesterians to reflect on their city’s present and future by more rigorously examining its past.

This 2023 conference reopens the “Rochester Conversation” on mid-sized cities that Johnson inaugurated two decades ago and marks a re-envisioning of Rochester History in partnership with the RIT Press. In both cases, we hope to use this moment to inspire new conversations about the meaning of America’s mid-sized cities now and in the future. What defines a mid-sized city in our time and what changes loom on the horizon for these essential urban environments? How does history frame the various issues faced by America’s mid-sized cities? How are mid-sized cities dealing with critical issues ranging from racial justice to immigration to economic dislocation? How do we teach, archive, and present to the public the diverse history of America’s mid-sized cities? Additional topics might include the significance of political leadership and political organizing; disinvestment and affordable housing; racial segregation; education in both urban and metropolitan con texts; health disparities; the “Meds, Eds, and Arts” economy and a critical appraisal of the role of regionalism in mid-sized cities.

We invite abstracts for papers and full panels on these and other topics on mid-sized cities in (and beyond) the United States. We also invite papers aimed at re-examining Rochester’s history, which may be featured in a special panel and roundtable. Proposals for creative interventions/non-traditional panels are also welcome. Select presenters will be invited to submit longer versions of their presentations for consideration for publication in the journal, Rochester History, or an edited volume on the mid-size city to be published by RIT Press.

The conference will take place at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County in downtown Rochester, New York, April 21–22, 2023. The program will consist of keynote lectures, panels, and moderated discussions.

We are honored and pleased to announce that our keynote speaker is Dr. Joe W. Trotter Jr., Giant Eagle University Professor of History and Social Justice at Carnegie Mellon University and incoming president of the Urban History Association. In addition, the conference will feature a plenary conversation between the Hon. William A. Johnson Jr., former City of Rochester mayor, and the Hon. Malik Evans, current mayor, moderated by Erica Bryant, Associate Director of Writing at the Vera Institute for Justice and former Democrat and Chronicle columnist.

Proposals are due by October 15, 2022, and should include:

  • Title of proposed session and/or paper
    Session description (for full session proposals) (maximum 250 words)

  • Abstract of each individual paper (maximum 500 words each)

  • Biographical information (short CV)

  • Contact information (email, telephone, and postal address)

If you are submitting a proposal with multiple panelists, please include biographical and contact information for each panelist.

Submit a proposal

You will be notified if the paper/panel is accepted by December 1, 2022.


Posted: August 26, 2022
Tagged: Calls for Papers