This is NEPCA's official website, containing both information about the organization and the latest news about the profession.

2017 NEPCA Conference

NEPCA's 2017 Fall Conference will be held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Details will appear soon.

Peter C. Rollins Book Prize

The deadline for publishers to submit nominations for the 2016 Rollins Prize is July 1, 2017. This prize will honor the best book written by a scholar working in New England or New York on a topic pertaining to popular or/and American culture during the year 2016.

Important Dates

This space will be updated soon.

NEPCA’s 2017 Fall Conference

TNEPCA’s 2017 conference will take place on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst  on Friday October 27 and Saturday October 28, 2017.

Periodic updates and information will be made on this site and can be viewed by clicking on the Fall Conference tab above. 

NEPCA Conference a Smashing Success!!!

Thanks to the approximately 150 participants of last weekend’s conference. (We’re still doing all the numbers.) The conference was, by all measures, a smashing success (though no pumpkins were harmed in the process). Congratulations to Karen Honeycutt for her organizational efforts and thanks to Keene State College for its hospitality.

Keep watching this space for updates.


Weather Forecast for NEPCA Conference

Here is the early forecast for this weekend: morning showers on Friday with a high of 65 and a low of 51. Saturday will be cooler: 58/38 with some showers floating around.

Advice for those visiting from outside the region: New England weather has a well-deserved reputation for being changeable, so don’t presume that this forecast is cast in stone. The best wardrobe for autumn in New England is a layered ensemble, and, as a rule, New Englanders trend toward the casual end of the scale.  New Englanders are fond of saying that you will experience several seasons in a single day. Pack a warm sweater (preferably cotton or wool, not acrylic. Synthetics have very low R-ratings for warmth. Pack a jacket: evening temps often approach freezing this time of the year. There should be plenty of foliage still around, so tuck a camera into your luggage.

War and the Urban Context Conference

CFP: War and the Urban Context
Scenes of Aleppo’s war-torn streets may be shocking to the world’s majority urban population, but such destruction would be familiar to urban dwellers as early as the third millennium BCE.  While war is often narrated as a clash of empires, nation-states, and ‘civilizations,’ cities have been the strategic targets of military campaigns, to be conquered, destroyed, or occupied.  Cities have likewise been shaped by war, through the transformation of urban space for the purposes of military production, the post-conflict reconstruction of streets, buildings, and public space, as well as sites for remembering the costs of war.  This conference seeks to understand this critical intersection between war and urban society, culture, and the built environment, and welcomes interdisciplinary scholarship on the subject.  Topics may include, but are not limited to:
  • Cities as warzones
  • Military occupation of cities
  • Cities as sites of military production
  • Cities and memorialization of war
  • Postwar urban reconstruction
  • War refugees and cities

The conference will be held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, at 365 Fifth Avenue in New York City on May 19, 2017. The intent is to assemble a program without chronological, methodological, or regional limits. Proposals (around 300 words) and a short CV should be sent to Tim Keogh ( and Sarah Danielsson ( no later than December 15, 2016. A selection of submissions will also be assembled into an edited volume to be published in 2018.

Contact Info:

Tim Keogh, PhD

Assistant Professor of History

Queensborough Community College, City University of New York

222-05 56th Avenue

Bayside, NY 11364

Contact Email:

Theo Bikel: Revisiting the American Folk Music Revival


While I’m Here

Red House 286


imgres-9-59-37-amTheo Bikel’s While I’m Here is a magical trip down Memory Lane. If this name rings no bells, your cultural/musical education contains a gap that this double-CD can bridge. Bikel (1924-2015) was a seminal figure in the middle period of the Folk Revival (1947-1965).

Bikel was born in Vienna, fled to Palestine during the Nazi years, moved to London to become an actor, immigrated to the United States in 1954, and became a citizen in 1961. His contributions to the Folk Revival notwithstanding, he was even better known for his acting chops. How many folk singers do you know that have been nominated for Academy Awards and Tony Awards, served as president of Actors’ Equity, and played Worf’s father on Star Trek? His is the record-holder for portraying Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof), and the role of Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music was invented for Bikel to display his vocal prowess. Ever hear the song “Edelweiss?” Of course you have; it was penned by Oscar Hammerstein especially for Bikel

If it strikes you as odd that Bikel also picked up an acoustic guitar and sang at folk clubs, another short history lesson. During the Folk Revival, stories were as important as the songs, and no music devotee dreamt of yelling out, “Shut up and sing!” Who better than an actor to spin good yarns? To mention a few others who went a similar route, Alan Arkin was one-third of The Tarriers, who had several best-selling records; and most of The Clancy Brothers hit the boards before they hit the charts. (Contemporary actors such as Steve Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Creed Bratton, and Kevin Bacon tread in these footsteps in reverse, and tons of actors rock or rap.)

Bikel hit the USA at time during the Folk Revival when Americans were discovering the world: Alan Lomax trotted across the planet to record international folk music, Pete Seeger whistled both traditional and revolutionary Chinese ditties, and country singers discovered that “Appalachian” music had English or Scottish roots. Bikel fit in well—he was the genuine article, a Jew with an inherited trove of Yiddish and Hebrew songs, facility with 21 languages, and a born shanachie. The first CD of While I’m Here is entirely storytelling—most of it autobiographical in content but spellbinding in nature. Imagine a Yiddish Garrison Keillor and you begin to conjure the worlds Bikel recreates. One could teach an awful lot of immigration history through Bikel’s words—especially the lure of America in the post-World War Two years.

Some listeners may find Bikel’s songs too mannered. This too was common during the Folk Revival, with Bikel fitting the mold of other “stagey” singers such as John Jacob Niles. He was not a songwriter; Bikel interpreted the compositions of others, including the album’s title track, penned by Phil Ochs. One of his signature songs, “The Lady is Waiting,” came from Paul Williams, and Bikel wasn’t particular about original sources, as long as he liked the song. Another favorite was “Pourquoi Je Chante,” from Egyptian-French-Italian-Greek composer Giuseppe Mustacchi. Bikel also fashioned sets that contained Yiddish songs, contemporary international folk, and show tunes. He cofounded the Newport Folk Festival (1959) and inspired such next-wave Folk Revivalists as Judy Collins, Peter Yarrow, and some guy named Dylan, as well as Jac Holzman, who went on to produce everyone from The Doors to The Stooges.

Bikel belonged to the generation of folkies defiant of the 1950s Red Scare and 1960s reactionaries. He was an unapologetic Zionist and remained an activist even when it passed from fashion (which is more than can be said of Dylan). The second CD opens with “Wasn’t That a Mighty Day?” which Bikel reworked to protest the ill treatment of Hurricane Katrina survivors. Bikel was a lifelong civil rights activist; hence the collection also contains “Oh Freedom.”

In brief, Theo Bikel was an important figure—an icon of artistic achievement, creativity force, and humanitarianism. Bikel passed last year, but continues to inspire folks such as Cathy Fink, who co-produced this retrospective, and Judy Collins, who wrote a loving tribute. If you already know about Bikel, spread the word; if not, time to complete your education, friend.

Rob Weir

PS: I’d recommend buying the CD, not a download, because the 24-page liner booklet is an education in its own right.

PCAACA Deadline October 1

October 1 is the deadline to submit a proposal for upcoming PCA conference. Details can be be found at this link.

Racism and Discrimination in Sports CFP

Racism and Discrimination in the Sporting World – An interdisciplinary volume to be edited by Professor of French and Fulbright Scholar Eileen M. Angelini, Ph.D., Canisius College

What is it about culture and society that creates an environment in which an athlete is able to excel or fail in his/her respective sport?  Which factors, such as racism, discrimination, financial advantage or hardship, propel or hinder an athlete’s achievements?  This volume seeks to explore how the world of sports is often a microcosm of the real world and the many ways in which it uniquely reflects cultural and societal issues.  Abstracts are welcomed from all disciplines.

Abstract Due Dates: Preference will be given to abstracts received by October 15, 2016 and should be no longer than 300 words.  Please also include a brief biographical statement and a CV.

Final manuscripts (no longer than 15,000 words, including Works Cited) should be submitted in MLA style, by December 15, 2016.

Send inquires and abstracts to:

The volume is scheduled for publication in February 2017 by Universitas Press, Montreal

Baseball & American Society: Ground-Rule Double

Baseball & American Society: How a Game Reflects the American Experience. By Charles DeMotte. Cognella, 199 pages, 2014.


fd7bb563027f93aad4ed23b9165078c3SUNY Cortland professor Charles DeMotte set a daunting task for himself: present an overview of American history, juxtapose it with the development and evolution of baseball from the late 18th century to the present, and wrap up the project in under 200 pages. That’s asking a lot—too much actually, though Baseball & American Society has value for the proper audiences.

DeMotte seeks to fuse a chronological approach with an assortment of themes and tropes such as freedom, liberty, American exceptionalism, individualism, and communitarianism. Throughout the book he employs a layman’s understanding of “myth” to highlight the gap between ideals and practices. In chapter one, for instance, he raises the question of whether mythical understandings of the founding of the American republic parallel the (now soundly discredited) Cooperstown tall tale of baseball’s origins. Later he ponders whether Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech is, somehow, linked to baseball and the effort to unify Americans during a time of economic collapse and world conflict. Both thoughts intrigue, but are rather prodigious leaps of logic perhaps better suited for conferences or journal articles than in a breezy text. In chapter fourteen, DeMotte seeks to connect baseball to the first Gulf war, the Clinton years, the Balkans conflict, the computer revolution, the culture wars, the election of 2000, 9/11, the emergence of the national security state, the housing bubble crisis, and the Obama presidency—in 12 pages. It has the feel of grasping at straws.

DeMotte is more convincing when he sticks to better-established topics: the connection between the professionalization of baseball and the rise of industrial society, the parallels between Progressivism and major league baseball reforms in the wake of calumny such as the 1919 Black Sox scandal, and the use of the game as an arm of American cultural might during the age of imperialism. His strongest chapter connects baseball to the 1920s age of ballyhoo, the period that reified the American obsession with celebrity and immortalized names such as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. Also admirable is DeMotte’s effort at linking baseball’s infamous color line—broken by Jackie Robinson in 1947—to the nation’s ongoing search for racial and ethnic justice. The latter will seem overly simplistic and incomplete to scholars and activists, but this brings me to what I see as the major audience for this book: high school students.

DeMotte’s book is too short on detail to work as a U.S. history survey text, as it would be for anyone teaching a sports or cultural history course on the college level. It certainly will not satisfy diehard sports fans seeking new insights or juicy locker room tales. The book’s short length and unorthodox approach could, however, work nicely as a supplemental text for a high school class—just as it would be a valuable study guide for someone seeking to jog their memory for an advanced placement U.S. history exam. In short, DeMotte neither strikes out nor homers in Baseball & American Society. Call it a ground rule double.

Robert E. Weir

University of Massachusetts Amherst