‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past,’ William Faulkner wrote in 1951. In the twenty-first century, it remains impossible to understand the American present and inform the future without exploring the nation’s history. Sometimes, as in the summer of 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the killing of George Floyd, the need for historical perspective – to illuminate antecedents, causes, meanings and implications – becomes particularly urgent. For that reason, HOTCUS has launched a series of ‘Seminars in the Urgent Past’, to allow its members to swiftly engage with and learn from each other at moments when the past seems to be pulling with concerted force on the contemporary American present.

The HOTCUS committee therefore encourages submissions from members for future online events. Such seminars should be driven by issues that our members feel to be timely and significant, and while members of the HOTCUS committee will provide organisational support and the technology to host and promote events online, we envisage that members would shape the agenda and format, as well as proposing speakers.

Our inaugural session, ‘Race, Brutality, and Protest in the United States’ (June 19, 2020), featured speakers from the UK and US, and was well-attended by scholars, students, and members of the public, offering a model for wider engagement. Several scholars from our international panel are now working with the event organiser, Megan Hunt, to produce a special issue of the journal Comparative American Studies, highlighting the expertise and timeliness of discussions that emerged during the event.

Possible topics for future seminars could be inspired by current events, significant anniversaries, or other relevant factors such as public holidays, elections, or dedicated history months (e.g. Black History Month, Disability History Month). Our first seminar was hosted via Zoom and featured five-minute presentations from multiple speakers, but suggestions for alternative formats are welcome.

If you have a proposal, any questions, or want to discuss a potential idea, get in touch with our committee secretary, Tom Tunstall Allcock, at: thomas.tunstallallcock@manchester.ac.uk

Previous Events

Race, Brutality, and Protest in the United States

19 June 2020, 13.00-15.00, BST. Further information and readings suggested by our participants can be found here