"American Studies in the World/The World in American Studies," Annual Meeting of the American Studies Association, October 12-15, 2000, Marriott Renaissance Center Hotel, Detroit, Michigan.
The Program Committee found that the session proposals embraced the conference theme in a multitude of creative ways, some offering versions and inversions of the title ("Performance in Everyday Life/Everyday Life in Performance"), several stressing forms and varieties of border-crossing between cultures, roles,
identities, forms of discourse, races, genders, ethnicities, languages. Material and visual cultures, colonial and post-colonial studies, ethnic studies, popular culture and media studies, literary studies, performance studies, and a gamut of panels dealing with gender, race, sociopolitics, and economics will be represented in Detroit. Several panels explore the intersections between the local and the global ("Environmental Justice and the World," "The Art of Trauma," and "Music of the Americas."), while others focus on Michigan and Detroit history and link local issues to the wider world ("The Legacy of Vincent Chin," "Race and Class in Detroit," "Detroit's Renaissance Center, Or the Joys and Sorrows of Modernist Architecture and Urban Planning"). This conference will be especially grounded in the local culture, as the impressive number of sessions, roundtables, and performances that feature local activists, academics, and artists attest.
The broad-based response to our Call for Papers reflects the range and variety of our interdisciplinary field and the inclusion, for the first time in significant numbers, of non-academics on our panels. It was also noteworthy to observe a possible paradigm shift: a sizeable
proportion of the proposals that could be considered "race studies" featured interethnic panels. (Here we may hope that American Studies is ahead of the times!)
The American Studies Association is one of the few professional organizations that accepts independent proposals, which often come from graduate students and assistant professors as well as others new to American Studies. This commitment to "IPs" reflects our democratic impulse: you shouldn't have to be "networked" to appear in an ASA program.
The Independent Proposals subcommittee found the submissions of very high caliber and was able to accept over three-fourths of them, weaving together sessions that juxtaposed papers from different disciplines or methodologies to create forty-three exciting panels, among them "Sites of Memory," "Social Justice, Social Action," "Revolutionary Religions," and "Social Construction of Illness and the Body." We were delighted to receive several proposals from often under-represented fields like visual studies, material culture, and pre-twentieth century studies, allowing us to offer sessions like "Reading Race in Nineteenth-Century America," "Medical Science and the Nineteenth-Century Body," "Power and Display: Museum/House/Installation," "Reframing Early American Literatures." Several panels explore issues of passing, race, and whiteness; public monuments, public media, and public memory; ethnic identities and
performance; the social construction of gender; social justice and activism; cultural and historical diasporas; queer studies; and music and cultural politics.
Individual topics include Japanese-American home movies, embalming and photography in 19th America, the marketing of candy, African American sorority step dancing, Oprah Winfrey, American Indians within the Christian Right, Anita Bryant and gay rights, anti-Mormon fiction in the 19th century, the lesbian police procedural, fat and dieting, the cultural politics of adoption, the social history of depression, and a cultural analysis of Nehru jackets.
This Program Committee was committed to creating links between the conference and the community and to highlighting the connections between art and social change. Signifying this commitment will be a new concept for the Annual Meeting: an artist-in-residence. We are fortunate to have Jawole Willa Joe Zollar join us in this role. As founder, choreographer, and Artistic Director of the movement-theater-dance ensemble Urban Bush Women, Zollar is internationally renowned for stage performance and community residencies. Her residency will take three forms: She will lead a group of ASA attendees (and local activists) in a Thursday morning pre-convention collaboration (PCC), a workshop designed to guide educators and academic professionals in movement-based work for classroom application or community outreach. (Participants who need not have a dance background! will also commit to the follow-up session on Friday.) She will lead a second open workshop on Friday. Any conference-goer may attend as an observer. The workshop will be followed by a roundtable discussion. She will give a solo performance on Saturday night at the Charles Wright Museum as part of an hour-long concert that will include readings by Detroit poets.
Our goal in this residency is to challenge a number of binary oppositions and to cross boundaries that can isolate academics: How can we bridge the gap between "us" and "them," between academia and community, between professor and student, between our heads and our bodies? How can we learn and teach how to move both bodies and minds in humane, respectful, and expansive ways? What might it mean for us to "walk the walk" of our beliefs and questions, literally as well as figuratively? Jawole Zollar's residency is part of a larger vision of community outreach catalyzed by President-Elect Michael Frisch and implemented by our stellar and hard-working Local Arrangements Committee.
Noting that the tours traditionally organized by the LAC have been under-subscribed in recent years (those intended for Montreal were cancelled) and interested in challenging the boundary between the tourist and the site, we will be offering something new for ASA: pre-convention collaborations that will allow conference-goers to work with community groups in meaningful ways, thus making a real and vital connection to the residents of the place where we are meeting.
ASA Convention Manager
120 19th Street, NW, Suite #301
Washington, DC 20036
TEL (202) 467-4783
FAX (202) 467-4786
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