‘Civilizing Processes,’ ‘Habitus,’ ‘Outsider,’ and ‘Figuration’ are key concepts from a body of cultural theories hardly known in American Studies on either side of the Atlantic. They refer to an examination of human figurations in history, a socio-historical approach as practiced by Norbert Elias, Pierre Bourdieu, and more recently, Loïc Wacquant. We invite scholars in the fields of American Studies, Literature, Sociology, History or Political Science interested in applying an approach based on figurational sociology to phenomena in the US. Possible contributions may address, but are not limited to, the following topics and questions:
The Formation of the State and of Individuals
The formation of the American state as conquering territory, nature, and people lasted well into the 19th century, when these processes had largely come to an end in Europe. This may be used to reformulate Crèvecœur’s famous question, “What, then, is an American?” as: What, then, is the specific relation of state formation and habitus in America? Contributions may look at the development of manners, at the role of sports, at concepts such as wilderness or frontier with their particular relation to violence, or at figurations such as established and outsiders.
Challenges to the Civilizing Process
In the eyes of contemporaries – in the 18th as well as in the 21st century – slavery and torture, war and displacement were recognized and deplored as threats to a civilized and democratic way of life while they were also tacitly accepted as inevitable aspects of securing the achievements of the American Revolution. While all nations face challenges to civilizing processes, there is a particular awareness of the tensions between the ideal self-image as a beacon of civilization and democracy and the realities of violent conflicts in the U.S. that has characterized its intellectual discourse in a marked way. We invite papers on or within this tradition.
Civilizing Projects? Religion, Literature, and the Arts
Religion, literature, and the arts have long been seen as civilizing projects – a view that persists in hopes to find sites of subversion and resistance at least in the latter two. What is the relation of these fields to larger social, political, and economic processes? Contributions might examine interrelations between these fields, the attitude towards violence in them, economic and legal questions such as patronage or copyright, the formation of a specifically American religious field, the role of ‘schools’ or single powerful figures within figurations.
Please signal your general interest till December 15, 2006 and send a one-page proposal till January 15, 2007 to firstname.lastname@example.org and a.franke@em.
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