Call for Papers: Public Health & the Common Good

The Utah State Historical Society announces the focus of its 69th annual conference to be held September 20-24, 2021. Beginning January 1 we are accepting proposals for papers, sessions, and panels to be presented at the conference.

This year Utah and the world have been gripped by a deadly pandemic. By the end of 2020, some 1,788,000 people worldwide have died from COVID-19. This is a sobering number that alone does not explain the toll of the pandemic on individuals, families, and communities. In recognition of the trauma and disruption of the past year, the 2021 conference will focus on public health. Beyond medicine and health outcomes, this theme also raises questions and assumptions about our medical, psychological, and religious understanding of bodily wellness; health-related policies and practices; racial, gender, and class inequalities; our democratic and political systems; and impacts on social cohesion.

Integral to public health is the notion of the common good, a concept with deep philosophical and religious roots that seems to have less currency today. The common good is often dismissed or considered antithetical to a society organized around the individual. Yet in the age of COVID-19, as personal resistance to state mask mandates and debates over who should get vaccinated first reveal, the relationship of the individual to the body politic (and vice versa) seems to be a renewed conversation in the making.

We invite the public, scholars, students, policymakers, and organizations to consider proposals on this theme. We encourage proposals that explore such topics as disease and sanitation, health and the human body, therapeutic and preventative measures, threats to physical and mental health, alternative health and folk medicine, “professional” medical care, questions of segregation and unequal medical access among ethnic and racial groups, and the role of geography in determining health outcomes. We also urge presenters to think about the structures, systems, and networks that undergird public health.

We welcome other interpretations of public health and the common good, as they pertain to Utah history, to encourage a broad understanding of the topic. Submissions on other aspects of Utah history will also be considered.

The conference will primarily be held virtually. Speakers must  be willing to pre-record their presentations or to participate via live teleconferencing. We welcome a range of formats, from the traditional panels and sessions to more innovative offerings compatible with a virtual conference, including podcast recordings, short videos, or slideshow presentations. We encourage full session or panel submissions, although we will make every effort to match single paper proposals with other panels and papers. 

Click the links below to submit proposals.

Session or panel submission:
Individual submission:

The 2021 Conference details are starting to take shape. Check back frequently as information will be added when it becomes available.

The deadline for proposals has been extended to May 1, 2021. Queries may be directed to Jedediah Rogers or Holly George, 2021 program co-chairs, at