Shawnee Trail Conference on American Politics & Constitutionalism

In the early nineteenth century, the Shawnee Trail conveyed cattle from Texas pasture-lands to Missouri railheads and thence the nation. Drawing on this spirit of regional connections and networks of exchange, the Shawnee Trail Conference was launched in 2015 as a way for scholars throughout the Midwest to share their research on topics related to American politics and constitutionalism with colleagues in a serious but convivial setting. Over time, the conference has outgrown its regional roots to become a national gathering that draws professors and graduate students from both coasts to a location in the middle of the United States for a day of roundtable paper presentations and lively conversation.

Conference organizers are currently accepting paper proposals for the 2022 Shawnee Trail Conference, to be held on Friday, April 29, in Waco, TX. Submissions are open to scholars of all ranks in departments of Political Science, History, Law, and related disciplines, and the conference welcomes papers on all aspects of American politics and constitutionalism, broadly defined to encompass political and constitutional development, political thought, and public law. See the Call-for-Papers link below for more information.

Paper proposals and queries should be sent to Dr. Curt Nichols,, by January 31, 2022. Formal conference invitations will be made in early February, with working papers to be distributed no later than early April.

For everyone who will be attending the conference, a link to reserve a room at the Waco Hilton (254.754.8484) is here.

Conference Logistics

Each year, the Shawnee Trail follows a roundtable format, with papers pre-circulated in the weeks prior to the event. The conference itself consists of four to five thematically-organized panels (typically three panelists per), during which authors provide an overview of their papers, followed by prepared remarks from a designated discussant and open conversation. In the past, the conference has also featured book manuscript and graduate dissertation workshops.

The conference rotates between Columbia, MO, and other locations in and around the Midwest, including Colorado Springs, Austin, TX, and this year’s site, Baylor University in Waco, TX. Conference participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging, and the Kinder Institute will host an informal dinner on the evening before the conference (April 28) for anyone able to attend, in addition to providing lunch and dinner on the day of the conference (April 29).

Past Conference Schedules

To get a sense of the topics that have been addressed in papers presented at past gatherings, see the schedules below for the 2016-2021 Shawnee Trail Conferences.

2016 Shawnee Trail Conference, in Columbia

2017 Shawnee Trail Conference, in Austin (embedded in the annual meeting of the Southwestern Social Science Association)

2018 Shawnee Trail Conference, in Colorado Springs

2019 Shawnee Trail Conference, in Columbia

2020 Shawnee Trail Conference, in Waco

2021 Shawnee Trail Conference, via Zoom (co-sponsored by American Political Thought)