2022 Conference Seminar Descriptions
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.
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)?
Laura Fisher, Associate Professor of English, Ryerson University
Alisha Knight, Associate Professor of English, Washington College
The nineteenth century witnessed the rise of cultural institutions including publishing houses, museums, public libraries, and research universities, to name only a few, which shaped the way diverse communities encountered literature and culture across the United States. The post-Reconstruction period was a particularly fertile time for rebuilding and re-envisioning literary institutions, and for the efflorescence of literary projects, such as literary clubs and periodicals, within larger political and civic organizations. How did institutions shape literature and culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and what happens when we put institutions at the center of Americanist scholarship? How did communities find empowerment through their encounters with these institutions?
In this seminar we will think together about how institutions produced and mediated literature, and how, in turn, literature and print media more broadly addressed the cultural institutions that increasingly dominated American life across the long nineteenth century. We welcome participants who approach the topic of institutions from a variety of methodological and disciplinary approaches. Papers might take the form of a case study of a specific 19th century literary institution; they might consider the role institutions played in an author’s career or in the circulation of a text or genre; or they might bring our attention to under-explored institutional archives. Papers might also engage the politics of C19 literary institutions by thinking through concepts such as social control, carcerality, infrastructure, mutual aid, collectivity, dissemination, and more.
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.