The deadline for paper proposals for the workshop on the globalization of African American business and consumer culture is this Friday, December 2. Please send a paper title, a one-page abstract, and a CV to Joshua Clark Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org). The GHI will cover presenters' expenses for travel to Washington (economy class) and accommodations.
The Globalization of African-American Business and Consumer Culture
Call for Papers
Convener: Joshua Clark Davis (GHI)
German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.
February 24-25, 2012
In recent decades, the historical topics of both the development of American consumer culture and the U.S.’s interactions with the wider world have gained substantial attention from scholars. In the process some historians have combined these approaches to produce the small but growing body of work on the globalization of U.S. business and consumer culture. Roughly coinciding with rise of the U.S.’s global military empire, the behemoths of American business such as Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and the United Fruit Company are said to have spread American consumer culture around the world in the twentieth century. To a large degree, the globalization of U.S. business and consumer culture has been understood as the campaign of white American businesspeople to shape the world’s economies and market cultures into their own image. Yet this workshop will move beyond perspectives that explain the globalization of American consumer culture in such narrow terms.
Instead, this workshop will investigate the global impact of African-American businesses and consumer cultures. A range of the questions that this workshop seeks to address include but are not limited to the following. Simply put, how have African Americans exported their products, goods and culture beyond U.S. borders? How have African-American businesses and consumer cultures, when exported abroad, shaped global perceptions both of black Americans, and of the United States more generally? How have white American businesses marketed and repackaged African-American products for global audiences? Can African-American consumer cultures, when exported abroad, undermine, challenge and alter dominant conceptions of the American marketplace as the exclusive province of white elites? How did the civil rights and black power movements shape global markets for African American businesses and products?
Just as important, how have African-American consumers participated in the global economy? What impact have non-American business and products had on African-American consumer culture? How have immigrant businesses, especially from Asia, the Caribbean and Africa, shaped black American consumer culture? How have African Americans participated in the global tourist trade, not only as travelers, but also as hosts, as seen in the rise of international civil rights and music tourism in the U.S.? In what ways have international businesses reinterpreted black consumer cultures for their own purposes, sometimes even importing those adaptations back into the United States?
In addition, this workshop will investigate the globalization of African American popular and youth cultures, not simply as entertainment that spreads through electronic media, but as commodities that are bought and sold in the world marketplace. To mention just one example, the famed record label Motown Industries, once the largest black business in America, earned about 40 percent of its revenues outside the U.S. by the 1970s. How have black businesses, as well as white companies, sold black cultural products like music film, and literature around the world? How do the trades in rhythm and blues or hip hop—musical cultures that have often but not always challenged dominant American hierarchies of race, class and political authority—exert a profound effect on global perceptions of the United States?
In the process of addressing these and other questions, this workshop hopes to attract a broad range of scholars who wish to contribute to the ongoing historical discourse on the global dimensions of the African American experience.
Potential topics include, but are not limited to
* The marketing and selling of African-American culture (e.g. music, film, literature) around the globe
* African-American consumers and the global economy (e.g. import products)
*African-American businesses and businesspeople around the world
*Non-American cultural products (e.g. music, film, literature) and African-American consumers
*African-American international tourists and international tourists visiting African-American sites
*African-American consumers and immigrant businesses
*The international trade in the black freedom struggle’s legacy (e.g. The Black Power Mixtape)
Dr. Joshua Clark Davis
Fellow in the History of Consumption
German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009-2562
(919) 949-0725 Email: email@example.com
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