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C19 2022: Reconstructions

Seminar Descriptions 

Latina/o Reconstructions


Carmen E. Lamas, Assistant Professor of English and American Studies, University of Virginia

José Aranda, Professor of Chicanx & American Literature, Rice University


The US Civil War is typically conceived as a stand-alone event because of its scale, its referendum on slavery, its economic consequences that favored industrialized capitalism, and its eminent place in the US national and racial imagination. Yet, as Jesse Alemán has argued, when we center race, labor and settler land appropriations, this “civil war” shares hallmarks with a myriad of other independence movements and civil wars throughout the Americas, from the Haitian Revolution to the Apache Wars and the Spanish American War. In this context, the US Reconstruction period echoes and augurs other reconstructions that have occurred throughout the Americas but have been erased from the historical record, for example the fundamental acknowledgement that there would have been no Civil War had it not been for the Mexican American War.


An absence of an official reckoning of Latinidad and Reconstruction begs whether the lack of presence of Latina/os and other marginalized groups in the official record is just as constructed as those narratives that became sanctioned by the nation state. As such, this seminar invites papers that address the what, where, why, and how people and communities we now understand as Latinx were affected by Reconstruction. What do these erasures and recoveries pose for mapping a 19th-century Latina/o and US history, literature, and culture of this period? What policies, laws, and events are attributable to this period of Reconstruction that impacted Latina/o communities at that time and whose impact is felt up to the present moment?


Submissions could also address other events that caused Latina/o communities to experience reconstructions of their own during the nineteenth century, e.g. the Louisiana Purchase; the Adam-Onís Treaty; the Texas Revolution; the California Land Act of 1851; railroad expansion into New Mexico; the Chisholm Trail; Indian wars of the Reconstruction era; the incorporation of the Northwest territories, et al. Thus begging the question of how recuperating historical and archival erasures might prompt scholars today to rethink the US-centric concept of Reconstruction. How does the erasure of Latina/os from the reconstruction histories of the US and the Americas in the nineteenth century signal the erasure of Afro-Latinx and indigenous peoples from African American, Latinx and Latin American studies today? How are the palpable effects of colonial and settler wars, reconstructions, and erasures still present in contemporary realities?


Black & Indigenous Ecologies    


Tiffany King, Associate Professor of African-American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Georgia State University

Karyn Recollet, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies, University of Toronto


During this seminar we invite you to (re)consider the monument and the act of monumentalizing. Thinking with and through acts of care, being with, celebrating, healing, tarrying with; what might monuments look like through the lens of Indigenous, Native and Black ecologies? Many 19C and 20C western monuments designed to venerate conquest, colonialism, slavery, white supremacy, and domination were felled across the world in the summer of 2020. These necessary contestations of history and the attempt to violently order public space, our ecologies and reality itself have produced counter-monuments or acts of monumentalization on very different terms. 


These acts of counter-monumentalization (memorialization, celebration, resurgence) often happen through art, ceremony, rebellion, and gathering that takes place on radically reimagined terms that affirm our interspecies experiences and recenter the ecological in their expressions. We open up this space to think alongside obelisks, meteorites, stones and other material/ kin forms that gather us into relation with speculative architectures, and perhaps as ideas waiting to be whispered, shouted, and danced. These worlding practices include sonic choreographies, gestures, and movements as monumental forms of land-ing in relation. 


We invite paper proposals, creative writing, and other examples of Indigenous and/or Black monument-making that attend to generative relationally, decolonization, abolition and rewriting human experiences as an interspecies relationship. Scholars whose work addresses Indigenous/Native and or Black ecologies and geographies are encouraged to submit work.


Wayward Archives             


Christopher Freeburg, John A. and Grace W. Nicholson Professor of English, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Allyson Hobbs, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, Stanford University


This seminar is inspired by Saidiya Hartman’s book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019) and recent publications that emphasize counterlife, fugitivity, and other ways that people and art objects slip beyond traditional approaches to archival research. We seek scholars working in the nineteenth-century Americas who are preoccupied with critical objects, subjects, and things that exceed the boundaries of our current critical praxis. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) gives voice to the spirit of this when the protagonist asks, “. . . we who write no novels, histories or other books. what about us?” This seminar not only wants to focus on the “us” in art and social life, but the seminar will address the frustrating challenge of finding rubrics, lexicons, and sets of questions for troubling and enigmatic objects of analysis—objects and peoples hiding in plain sight or on the edges of social oblivion.  In this vein, we are looking for seminar contributors that embrace the spirit of both terms “wayward” and “archive” in the hopes of encouraging innovative scholarship on the nineteenth-century Americas. We welcome submissions from a variety of methodological perspectives, including but not limited to Indigenous Studies; Print culture studies; Critical Race Studies; Gender, Sexuality, and Trans Studies; Black Studies; Latinx Studies; Ethnic Studies; Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies; and Disability Studies. 


Mutual Aid and Collective Care: Blueprints from the Long Nineteenth Century


Tyesha Maddox, Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies, Fordham University

Britt Rusert, Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In the wake of an ongoing public health crisis, the intensification of policing and state violence, the seemingly endless devaluation of care and caregiving under racial capitalism, and a manufactured culture of scarcity and deprivation, talk of mutual aid appears to be everywhere. Commentators have rightly pointed out that this kind of work – which prioritizes meeting people’s needs directly, without harmful intervention masked as aid from the state – has a history of its own and that communities have been already doing this work for decades. But students and scholars of the long nineteenth century know that the history of mutual aid goes even further back and that the period is full of examples of people who worked together to meet survival needs while at the same time criticizing, making demands on, or seeking to wholly abolish a slaveholding settler state.


This seminar invites papers that will allow us, as a group, to explore nineteenth-century blueprints of mutual aid and experiments in collective care. We are especially interested in proposals that attend to BIPOC and queer/feminist collectives and histories; center disability; take transnational approaches; are attentive to the racial and gendered politics of care as well as inequalities in the division of labor even among groups that imagine themselves to be radical; illuminate networks of care, kinship, and interdependence that elude organizational histories and traditional archives. How do conversations about mutual aid change when we center spaces like the plantation, the reservation, or the tenement? How does mutual aid turn our attention to experiences of poverty in the period, as well as the capture of radicalism and radicals themselves in institutions of asylum, reform, and charity? Does the popular uptake of mutual aid obscure or do violence to Black and Indigenous practices of survival, joy, and everyday ways of life? In addition to seeking C19 blueprints for mutual aid work today, we will use contemporary examples and writing on mutual aid as an invitation to revisit texts and genealogies from the long nineteenth century that have been neglected or criticized for being insufficiently radical. In other words, beginning from the question of mutual aid will require us to recalibrate what or whose work counts as political.


C19 Sonic Reconstructions


​Paul Fess, Assistant Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

Kristin Moriah, Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature, Queens University


Researchers working in the interdisciplinary field of Sound Studies have made compelling arguments about how sound encultures the ways we listen (Vazquez 2013; Stoever 2017; Eidsheim 2020).  In their estimation it is the listener who produces the political and social meaning of sound and voice. This insight, through the paradigm of sound, has led to deeper understandings of the power dynamics and formations that have circumscribed marginalized populations as well as new attention to listening as a set of constructive and reconstructive practices that have enabled these populations to thrive.


Rooted in this critical perspective, this seminar explores listening as a politically charged method that shapes our engagements with marginalized peoples, communities, and cultural movements. What individual and social forces exploit conditions enabled by cultural definitions of “acceptable” and “unacceptable” sounds?  How do sound productions expand and foreclose conditions of possibility? What is the relationship between listening and agency? And, how does attending to listening practices influence identity formations? We are interested in participants who examine intersections of sound and racial formations as well as those who work through a variety of other perspectives including, but not limited to, Indigenous Studies; Gender, Sexuality, Trans Studies, and Queer Studies; Black Studies; Latinx Studies; Ethnic Studies; Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies; and Disability Studies.


Additionally, we hope to discuss how theorizing listening informs our scholarly practices. We welcome scholars who use listening as a research and writing method for reconstructing marginalized stories from the nineteenth century’s seemingly quiet archive. How does attending to the ways we listen shape our engagement  with archival material in novel ways? How do our visual and listening experiences with primary sources structure our readings of nineteenth-century culture in interdependent and/or contradictory ways? In what ways does listening as a method of analysis yield a new purchase on our work and enhance our critical inquiries into new kinds of nineteenth-century subjects? When we consider listening as an active process bound up in dynamics of power, how do descriptions of sonic experiences reveal those dynamics in new ways?


C19 Genealogies of Age and Aging


Sari Edelstein, Associate Professor of English, University of Massachusetts Boston

Habiba Ibrahim, Associate Professor of English, University of Washington 


The particular convergence of social crises in 2020 - though they have most clearly been racial and medical - have in some sense played out on the terrain of age: The Covid-19 pandemic has starkly exposed age-based vulnerabilities and revealed the unequal distribution of care labor; the BLM movement has simultaneously forced a long overdue reckoning with life-span inequality and the status of childhood itself as a privilege. C19 scholars have much to contribute to conversations about who gets to grow old or be young, and who takes care of people at either end of the age spectrum. The nineteenth century was the seedbed for the answers to many of these questions as it gave rise to the core contemporary conceptions of age and institutions for its management, including the field of geriatrics, age-graded schooling, age-based suffrage, and chattel slavery’s simultaneous denial and exploitation of Black life stages.


This seminar invites participants to consider how material, biological conditions coincide with cultural, political discourses to make age a lived reality. How can we understand the instantiation of age as a biopolitical construction key to modern social organization?  How do the stages of life (from childhood to old age) operate in conjunction with gender and race, and how are those stages determined by the imperatives of capitalism and nationalism? How did nineteenth-century culture produce the age imaginaries that persist in the twenty-first century? 


We welcome work that interrogates the operations of age in relation to disability and debility; in conjunction with projects of settler colonialism and racial domination; in concert with notions of sexual non/normativity; and in relation to narrative and generic categories throughout the long nineteenth century.  Papers might also consider representations of intergenerational activism and affiliation; spectacular or queer forms of aging; caregiving and dependency; age in performance and exhibitions, elderliness and youth in enslavement; age in sentimental and feminine culture; and discourses of maturity in relation to colonial progress narratives.  


Performance as/at the Crossroads


Laura Mielke, Dean’s Professor of English, University of Kansas 

Caroline Yang, Associate Professor of English, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Recognizing both the theoretical influence of Performance Studies within C19 literary studies (Judith Butler, Diana Taylor, Fred Moten, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, etc.) and the perpetual dominance of textuality in the field, this seminar takes up the generative trope of the crossroads as a way to characterize and foster new work on performance. We seek to convene scholars from a wide range of disciplines (Theater Studies, Indigenous Studies, African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Latinx Studies, Rhetoric, Music History, Religious Studies, and American Studies, to name a few) at work on new narratives concerning the embodied lives of nineteenth-century peoples with special attention to dance, oratory, theater, ritual, athletics, and music.


We invite papers that work at the crossroads of peoples, performance genres, disciplinary methods, historical periods, and theoretical frameworks. What are the intersections—innovative, appropriative, assimilative, resistant, deadly, life-giving—between Indigenous, Black, Asian American, European American, and white performance practices across the long nineteenth century? To what extent does interperformativity challenge our notions of genre, identity, cultural history, and time itself? How might the challenges of studying performance repertoires inform critical archive studies? How did print culture draw on performance culture and vice versa? Further, we invite papers that consider performance as a crossroads for community creation, cultural innovation, and ideological formations. Who constituted the circles, choirs, companies, congregations, troupes, and street-corner assemblies whose embodied performances sustained community? Who composed their audiences, and how did these impromptu publics behave and understand themselves? How did performance serve as a loaded site for the intersection of identities, be they grounded in class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, profession, faith, or politics? Finally, we wish to ask, how does standing at the crossroads of C19 performances change our perspective on the period—and on periodization more broadly? How does the very concept of repertoire challenge the historical boundaries of the field? How is our contemporary moment haunted (ala Marvin Carlson) by nineteenth century repertoires (e.g. melodrama, blackface minstrelsy, the lyceum)?

Pacific Roots/Asian Routes in the Long Nineteenth Century


Hsuan Hsu, Professor of English, University of California Davis 

Xine Yao, Lecturer in American Literature to 1900, University College London

In 1898 the United States annexed the Kingdom of Hawai’i after a coup d’etat led by foreigners against Queen Liliʻuokalani a few years prior; in the same year Spain ceded the Philippines to the US after losing the Spanish-American War. Although these events are landmarks of US imperialism and expansionism into the region, the peoples of the Pacific both then and now continued to resist the legacies of American militarism and cultural imperialism. Native Hawaiian feminist Maile Arvin looks to the nineteenth century to articulate the construction of “Polynesian” as a gendered possession of settler colonial whiteness disciplined by antiblackness and occluded by Orientalism. From the 1820s onward Asians and Pacific Islanders worked and formed communities in the western US and circulated and settled across Oceania. Ships, ports, and work camps functioned as labor-atories of racial formation, connecting race to labor and resource extraction within the expanding networks of missions, garrisons, consulates, and plantations of nascent empires. The figures of the Polynesian girl portrayed by Melville and the Asian sex worker portrayed by Sui Sin Far attest to the heteropatriarchal biopolitics of US expansionism and xenophobia. This seminar aims to foster conversations about the literatures, cultures, sciences, epistemologies, cosmologies, and histories of and by peoples now grouped under umbrella terms like “Indigenous Pacific Islander,” “Asian,” or “Asian Pacific Islander.” We are especially interested in relational dimensions of Indigeneity and Asianness through the rootedness and routes of what Tongan and Fijian writer Epeli Hau’ofa poetically calls “our sea of islands,” better known by the name designated by modern geopolitics and global markets as the “Asia-Pacific.”

In this seminar, we aspire to bring together research on “American Pacificism” as termed by Paul Lyons and “transpacific imaginations” as articulated by Yunte Huang. How might the archives and poetics of the long nineteenth century through these lenses offer insights into the Kānaka Maoli fight to protect Mauna Kea as well as anti-Asian COVID-19 hate today? What are the ways in which the entanglements of these geographies and peoples influence, subvert, and produce the global schemas of racialization, mindful of the Brown Pacific (Damon Salesa) or the Black Pacific (Robbie Shilliam)? We welcome work that will enrich and expand our understandings, methods, and frameworks of “Asian” and “Indigenous Pacific Islander” as distinct, but also intertwined categories in relation to fields including but not limited to critical race and ethnic studies, Indigenous studies, ecocriticism, abolition, new materialism, affect theory, feminism, queer and trans theory.



Carceral Pasts, Abolitionist Futures


Jodi Schorb, Associate Professor of English, University of Florida

Keith Green, Associate Professor of English, Rutgers University-Camden

This workshop seeks to explore underexamined nineteenth-century carceral formations and to facilitate new work in nineteenth-century prison studies. Recent scholarship emphasizes how the prison reform movement and penitentiary system developed alongside and in relation to the expansion of slavery, empire, and ongoing debates over legal personhood and citizenship. New work has also centered writing by prisoners—petitions, diaries, memoirs, testimonies, legal cases, poetry—expanding our understanding about ways prisoners sought to influence policy or advocate on behalf of themselves and others. Yet in many ways “prison studies” remains adjacent but not in full conversation with nineteenth-century studies. This workshop desires to bridge that gap.

Work that attends to any of the following are especially welcome:

Recenterings: Texts, authors, or genres that haven’t been adequately considered as relevant to carceral studies, prison reform, or histories of captivity. This can include the more multifaceted accounts of African American bondage documented by black subjects, or scenes of incarceration or imprisonment in literature that have not generated sufficient attention. What does expanding our understanding of captivity offer?

Reforming Reformists: What is missing in how scholarship tells the story of prison reform and the sites that dominate the narrative of prison reform (namely, Philadelphia and New York)? What do other/underexamined sites reveal about the role of the “the carceral” in prison literature, history, or nineteenth-century reform discourse? What motivated prison reform in the nineteenth century and what were the limitations of that discourse? What forms of collective resistance or collective imagining emerged from 19th-century incarceration, workhouses, work camps, penitentiaries? In what ways does the prison offer a space of collective consciousness or utopian imagination?

Realignments: What does reconsideration of one literary category or genre (children’s literature, slave narratives, utopian fiction) alongside the expansion of the penitentiary, the development of the prison reform movement, or the wider role of prisons and policing in American life reveal? What is at stake in the notion of “nineteenth-century prison studies” and its disentanglement from more recognizable organizations of analysis, discourse, and experience?

Presentist provocations: The workshop is especially open to projects that situate nineteenth-century texts in conversation with the contemporary prison abolition movement, contemporary critical prison studies, and/or contemporary critical race theory. This cross pollination can go a number of ways: what does an understanding of nineteenth-century captivity/carcerality/utopian world-making offer the contemporary prison abolition movement? Who was doing prison abolitionist work in the nineteenth century —and what do you mean by this? What abolitionist and contemporary prison visionaries should 19th century scholars be reading and why? What might a mode of “comparative abolitionisms” offer?

Overall, this workshop seeks to hone emerging scholarship and elevate the carceral as an important category of nineteenth-century knowledge formation, self-representation, and theoretical exploration.

Image: Photograph of José Martí receiving a warm welcome among Cuban patriots at the Key West home of Teodoro Perez, during travels in southern Florida focused on advancing the cause of Cuban independence, 1893.

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