Friday, January 16, 2009

CFP: "Practices of Citizenship, Sustainability And Belonging"

So it definitely feels like the last ASA just happened, but the deadline for the next meeting is coming up on January 26, 2009. Unfortunately, I won't be presenting, but I will be attending since its in D.C. Check out the CFP and get those proposals in...

Call for Proposals: ASA Convention
"Practices of Citizenship, Sustainability And Belonging," November 5-8, 2009, Washington D.C.

The 2009 ASA Program Committee invites colleagues in American Studies and all related disciplines to submit proposals for individual papers, entire sessions, presentations, performances, films, roundtables, workshops, conversations, or alternative formats described below on any topic dealing with American cultures, including topics in disciplines that have been under-represented in American Studies research and teaching.

The ASA Annual Meeting is open to anyone having an interdisciplinary interest in the study of American cultures.

Proposals must be submitted through the ASA's online submission system, which can be found at The online submission site is now closed. The online submission site will open on December 1, 2008. Deadline for submissions is 11:59 (Pacific) on January 26, 2009.

Meeting Theme

The theme for the 2009 ASA Annual Meeting, to be held in Washington D.C., is "Practices of Citizenship, Sustainability, and Belonging."

Questions of citizenship, belonging and sustainability have for some time been at the heart of much Americans Studies scholarship. Historically, categories of citizenship, traditions of belonging, and concepts of sustainability have been constructed and sustained through specific practices -- of state and society, individuals and communities. They have been subject to profound redefinition, in response to changing national and geopolitical realities. This has always been so. But today, in a time of global and domestic crises, practices of citizenship, sustainability, and belonging demand reflection and debate informed by the ASA's distinct mode of scholarly and civic engagement. Whatever the outcome of the 2008 election, these themes are timely and compelling particularly for the upcoming meeting to be held in the nation's capitol. What better time and place to pose these and related questions: What are the practices that define us as citizens? What are the practices that have sustained and can sustain human communities and the planet? What are the practices that create a sense of belonging in our lives? At the same time, we must ask about the practices that delimit those communities. What costs are exacted by specific constructions of belonging and citizenship? What is sustained, and how is power enacted, in the rituals and practices of individuals and institutions?

A robust tradition of work in American Studies has often emphasized that citizenship is not given. Contrary to conventional wisdom, citizenship is not an abstract attribute, intrinsically available to all native-born and naturalized American citizens. Rather, the issue of who is a citizen, and thus able to claim, following Hannah Arendt, "the right to have rights," has been a deeply contingent and contested matter since the founding of the American nation. In the past and present, the lived experience of citizenship in practice, whether defined from above, by the state, or from below, by persons and groups, has been understood as a double-edged process of inclusion and exclusion. As such, citizenship would seem to be enough for one ASA conference. But in pairing the theme of citizenship with sustainability, we acknowledge the growing interest the latter concept has had in the field of American studies, and its increased influence in national and international public discourse. Notions of sustainability, also marked by debate and contestation, have transformed the theory and practice of citizenship for people in the United States, which in turn, often has global consequences. Notions of sustainability have informed the pursuit of ideas of health, security, justice and well-being in the public arena, ranging from the personal to the planetary, through myriad forms of civic engagement, including the rise of the environmental justice movement, consumer lifestyle choices and boycotts, movements for nuclear disarmament, taxpayer revolts, public health advocacy, HIV-AIDS activism, etc.

Our interest in sustainability, however, extends well beyond the present moment. We believe this keyword can prompt serious inquiry into questions of political economy and citizenship in the past. For example, Thomas Jefferson could only imagine a particular kind of sustainable political economy, one that expanded democracy through increasing the population of landowning white males. To him, this was sustainable, but at what costs to others outside this charmed circle? When have concerns about economic sustainability precluded issues of social change, and when have they been the catalyst for such change? The use of and control over such natural resources as land, water, forests, oil, coal, uranium and other minerals have profoundly shaped national borders, citizenship boundaries and foreign relations. At times, visions of expanded citizenship have relied upon assumptions of economic expansion, while struggles for the expansion of rights frequently have been tied to national and international crises, including global wars. We welcome explorations of these anxious intersections, as well as studies that examine practices that have sought to combine economic stability and increasing equality. We envision a wide range of possible projects, including a re-examination of some utopian communities of the nineteenth century, as well as historical and contemporary examinations of religious practices, social movements, and cultural products. And we seek to encourage ongoing research in all periods, including work by Americanists in environmental studies and Native American studies, scholars of public policy, urban studies, and the social, natural, and behavioral sciences.

We propose the additional keyword, belonging, to invite examinations of the practices by which communities are formed-as sites of political engagement cultural production, and social transformation, from the local to the global. The concept of belonging enables projects that examine formulations of nationalism, as well as those imagined communities that function as alternatives to the modern nation-state, or which simply exist alongside and across its borders. The concept of belonging is crucial for the conference theme because it invites work on religion, which has been integral to the formation of communities, and on media and technology, which have variously transformed the conceptual possibilities and modalities through which belonging is enacted. We welcome inquiry into the full range of media, from the role of print and popular culture since the early Republic, to the rise of "new media," including cable television and the internet, in the construction of new ways of belonging. The term also opens up questions about the construction of family and gender, as well as examinations of foreign policy, transnational organizations, and globalization. As with the other keywords of the theme, we envision the most expansive approach to issues of belonging. That includes us, as American Studies scholars and practitioners. The conference offers an opportunity to consider the theoretical models that scholars in our interdiscipline have drawn on to constitute our intellectual communities, and to assess the success of those models in bridging the many (and growing) subfields and disciplines within American Studies. What models, what types of questions, and which intellectual practices are appropriate to an engaged American Studies that is interested in furthering sustainable practices and states committed to upholding human rights?

Our program committee seeks panels and individual papers that, in examining past and present practices of citizenship, sustainability and belonging, will also further the ASA's commitment to forging an inclusive community of participants from the arts, policy makers, journalists, community organizers and activists, K-16 educators, and international scholars. The conference theme provides a platform, from the nation's capitol, no less, for enhancing the ASA's public profile in a consequential way. In addition to fostering collaboration with communities, both in the DC region and nationally, we also hope that the theme will attract a wider range of scholars, not only from the humanities, cultural studies, and visual culture fields that have been mainstays at ASA meetings, but also Americanists working in the social science disciplines, including economists, demographers, legal scholars and advocates, scholars and practitioners in urban design and planning, geographers, and scholars in such fields as material culture, policy studies, and public health and psychology. We welcome proposals from scholars working in the pre-twentieth century fields, including the colonial era, the early Republic, and the nineteenth century.

An engagement with citizenship as enacted through various modes of practice opens the door to explorations of the concept from multiple perspectives and locations, including but not limited to: the historical and contemporary politics of immigration and deportation, voting rights, Native American sovereignty, practices of belonging or exclusion enacted through music, literature, or media; the history and legacy of social movements from the 18th to the 21st centuries, discourses of human rights and challenges to our understandings of the human, or projects historicizing U.S. racial practices and/or analyzing processes of racialization and constructions of religious identity in the post 9-11 world. Other key issues might include the role of market relations -- corporations, unions, finance, and consumer culture -- in shaping and redefining notions of citizenship and civic belonging; the making of global cities or pastoral dreams; contestations over citizenship through struggles over representation in artistic, literary and cultural production; histories of sex, practices of gender, and the debates over same-sex marriage; the impact of wars and revolutions on categories of belonging; systems of labor, work, and inequality and their ideological justifications; issues of academic freedom, past and present; the relation between religious practice and political behavior; the political dimensions of disease (mental and physical), disasters, and epidemics; politics of the body and constructions of disability; environmental justice; legal and constitutional studies, both nationally and internationally; science and technological studies; access to public spaces, spheres, and resources; internal and expansionist empires, and so on.

By no means do we wish to create the impression that proposals must literally integrate or incorporate all three pillars of our tripartite theme. Rather, we seek proposals of panels, individual papers, and roundtable sessions that foreground at least one of those admittedly big ideas, ideally while placing them in a sort of dialogue with the others. We seek papers and panels that examine issues related to one (perhaps more) of these three concepts in depth, which strikes us as preferable to proposals that attempt to cover all three concepts referenced in the theme. As with citizenship, we thus propose ideas of sustainability and belonging as somewhat free-standing and in themselves expansive rubrics for scholarship.

We feel that such an ambitious theme is warranted by the strong tradition of critically engaged scholarship in American Studies, and more importantly, by the crises--political, constitutional, economic, military, and diplomatic--faced by the United States and the world. Washington D.C., is a fitting place to examine the relationship of the United States., with its growing extremes of wealth and poverty, and its outsized use of the world's energy and water resources, to the poverty and numerous challenges to health, governance, and survival faced by many citizens in the global south. With its national monuments, numerous heritage sites, and government buildings, the District attracts tourists from all over the United States and the world, and its cultural institutions have been at the center of national discussions, occasionally contentious ones, of heritage, historic preservation, and commemoration of the nation's past. At the same time, like most cities of its size, it faces its own chronic problems of inequality and exclusion, and an ongoing struggle waged by District residents for home rule and full citizenship and representation. We look forward to working with the Site Resources committee to draw on the rich cultural resources of Washington DC, and involve local constituencies and scholars seeking to address the concerns particular to residents in the District.

Modest travel, lodging and per diem funds may be available for non-academic participants but limited by the Program Committee's "discretionary" budget. Those participants may request funds during April 2009, and the Program Committee may honor a limited number of such requests. Although the Program Committee may accept proposals that include non-academic participants, it does not thereby obligate itself to provide them with grants. Indicate alternative actions should the program committee not be able to grant your request. Please mail formal, written requests for funding, post-marked in April, to: Convention Director, American Studies Association, 1120 19th St. NW Suite 301, Washington, D.C. 20036.

For more information consult the ASA website:

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