THE ARROGANCE OF POWER: Being American After September 11th
September 11th polarized the U.S. and the world in ways still being felt, though it should strike us as curious that there has never even been any pretension to, or place for, neutrality on the subject within the United States. Americans have ranged from vocal, patriotic support for the silent, yet visible, endorsement of the president’s policies to a hand-wringing uncertainty about how to proceed in a world that is, we are told, “fundamentally changed.” By invoking emblems such as Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the Axis of Evil, advocates for a “war on terrorism” have effectively stalled any patient or complex discussion of that day or its significance in forging a national identity. The rhetoric of “national security” has been used to advance the war campaign in Iraq, while civil liberties continue to diminish at home. By virtue of the “Patriot Act” virtually suspended have been basic civil rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution and human rights (combatant and otherwise) secured by The Geneva Convention—most notably, habeas corpus and due process. President Bush has recently requested that Congress extend the term and provisions of the Patriot Act, but the U.S. government is not entirely at fault. If the style of this particular political administration is, as Mikhail Bakhtin would have described it, intensely “monologic,” to what degree does the enthusiastic (and pathic) cooperation of the people of the U.S. contribute to this dynamic? In a three-day conference to be held in the spring of 2005 at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, we want to talk about the intellectual, social, and cultural origins of what “being American” means at the present hour. It is central to our hypothesis that “being American” is different after the Cold War and still more so after September 11th. Whether those differences are merely quantitative or are, in fact, qualitative remains a subject for further discussion.
We invite scholars from all disciplines to submit papers analyzing how various groups in the U.S. have reacted, or not reacted, to the administration’s conduct of foreign and domestic politics after September 11th and how they have responded to the reactions of the international community. The various segments to be examined include: federal and state politicians; the U.S. judiciary; the media’s role in shaping national identity—including radio, television, print journalism, and the Hollywood entertainment industry; the uncharacteristically quiet academic community; etc. Of equal interest to us are the social, intellectual, and cultural origins of “being American,” including, for example, various ideologies—of a revolutionary democracy; of a hegemonic empire perceiving itself as endowed with a sense of manifest destiny; of cultural imperialism; of consumer capitalism; of (evangelical) protestant Christianity; to name but a few.
We are also interested in ways in which “being American” and American power have shaped the U.S. relationship with the international community. How do we measure the effects of the fall of communism, the end of the Cold War, and U.S. foreign policy since then? Have civil liberties expanded world-wide as a result of the proliferation of democracy in what has been called the post-Cold War power vacuum? Is there a perception in the U.S that the threat of “terror” is a sufficient source of common interest to unite the global community? How do Americans perceive the effects of capitalism on the global community, and to what degree is American culture and power embraced or resented worldwide? How do growing divides between races, genders, and socio-economic classes at home contribute to, or result from, this situation? What would it mean for us as Americans to “get our message out” to a world that seems to dislike or, at the very least, resent us? What message would that be, exactly? If we have a full and accurate idea of what “being American” means today, can we say with equal confidence whether it should continue so and, as importantly, why?
The conference will be held the weekend of April 1-3, 2005 on the campus of Mary Washington College (soon to be the University of Mary Washington) in Fredericksburg, VA (one hour south of Washington, D.C.). Presenters will be provided with accommodations and a travel stipend; we also intend to gather a selection of papers for publication in an eponymous volume. The deadline for electronic (or paper) submissions of abstracts is October 17, 2004. Please send all correspondence to me directly by email or regular mail at the address provided below. (We expect to add a means of submitting abstracts electronically through this portal this summer.)
Dr. Joseph Romero
Assistant Professor of Classics
The Department of Classics, Philosophy, & Religion
University of Mary Washington
1301 College Avenue
Fredericksburg, VA 22401-5358 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the website at http://www.mwc.edu/apconference/
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