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Crisis, Chains, and Change: American Studies for the 21st Century

The 2011 ASA submission site will open on December 1, 2010.

November 18-21, 2010, San Antonio, Texas

The program committee was delighted by the wonderful response to the call for papers. A wide range of scholars proposed challenging interpretations -- both metaphorical and material-- of crisis, chains, and change. As a result, the 2010 program will feature disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches that examine periods, people, places, archives, objects, in expressive and explanatory ways. Consider a sampling of session titles: "Early American Eloquence" ; "Christian Material Culture"; "Internationalisms in the Americas" ; "American Imperialism in the Muslim Philippines"; "Ecologies of War" ; "Queer Nation, Queer Empire" , "Race, Class, and Rebellion" ; "Obsolescence: The Economics and Aesthetics of American Wastelands"; "Breaking New Ground: Scholarship, Activism, and Our Current Crisis" ; "Labor and Vulnerability in the Southwest" ; "Race Matters: Teaching Race and Representation in the K-16 Classroom" "Teaching the Change: Art, Civic Culture, and American Studies Pedagogy" "Medicine and Public Health" "Critical Regional and Global Interrogations: Tejanos, Nuevomexicanos, and Theory and Method in American Studies" "The Search for Different Shores: Continuity, Crisis, and Change in Portuguese American Lives and Creativity."

As you can see from the entire preliminary program, many of the new directions ASA has moved in have carried over from previous years. There is a clear engagement with various ways to raise the profile of the ASA -- perhaps most laudably in the panels organized by American Quarterly, which won an award in 2009. There is serious consideration of the possibilities of life after neo-liberalism (the "n" word in the Call for Papers) in terms ranging from literary re-imaginings, to self-determined responses to violence. The work showcases stunning methodological and intellectual diversity. The initiatives to transnationalize and internationalize, to locate in place and time, and to add historical and critical social scientific approaches to American Studies find clear expression in the sessions.

Several exciting screenings and performances will enliven the meetings. These include: "A Screening and Discussion of Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen," "Visions of Abolition: a film screening followed by a roundtable discussion on the politics and practice of abolition," "Doin Time: Through the Visiting Glass," "Mamalogues: A One Woman Show about Race, Gender & Parenting in the Age of Anxiety" and "A Documentary Screening of 'Tulia, Texas'."

Two special sessions on Haiti -- a documentary and a panel of experts -- will investigate the relationship of the recent earthquake with the economic, political, social, and regional dramas that have combined to enforce persistent underdevelopment in the first postcolonial country whose revolution resulted in the abolition of slavery.

The Presidential Plenary "Crisis, Chains, and Change" will feature Vijay Prashad, M. Jacqui Alexander, Christopher Newfield, and Klee Benally. These colleagues -- scholars and activists -- will address the current moment in terms of the military, economic, political, environmental and ideological crises that peoples, countries, regions, institutions, currently confront. What is the role of American Studies in proposing meaningful questions that we can -- and must -- answer in a time of extremes?

A pair of special sessions will focus on skill-building. One will offer training in the exercise of Power Mapping, a practical organizing tactic that can guide the direction of organizing efforts by mapping out various political actors according to their scope of influence and their positions on issues, in order to determine the best way to move forward. Another workshop will show how to read a budget, in order to organize around local, state, federal, university, and other budgets.

Arizona's recent passage of the anti-immigrant law SB 1070 will be the topic of a panel that, as of this writing, is still being organized. The new law brings home the urgency of the related issues to be addressed in November: criminalization, regionalism and transnationalism, segregation, and the overlapping and interlocking geographies and effects of immigrant exclusion and the prison-industrial complex. The Arizona situation also highlights the importance of critical regionality as an important intervention in how we conceptualize area studies -- whether through expressive culture, borders, bodies, economies, racial segregation, internationalist solidarities, hope, despair.

Standing committees and caucuses stepped up and developed many sessions designed to share strategies and scholarship. The International Committee has sponsored the annual talkshop. The K-16 Committee has a provocative selection of panels on pedagogy. Other active ASA formations that organized sessions include the Minority Scholars Committee, the Ethnic Studies Committee, the Visual Studies Caucus, the Material Culture Caucus, The Early American Caucus, and the Humor Studies Caucus.

The composition of the program committee this year made for an extremely enjoyable experience for the co-chairs! The members' scholarly work exemplifies the considered generosity that makes building a program and both celebrating and expanding our field exciting, and their level of community engagement ranges from both within and beyond the academy. Established members worked with scholars newer to the field, and the committee represented faculty of all ranks including adjuncts and those in institutions without tenure. As a result, a broad range of interdisciplinary and disciplinary interests cut across the programming. We offer enormous thanks to each member of the 2010 Program Committee: Avery Gordon (UC Santa Barbara), Zoe Hammer (Prescott College), Sonia Saldívar-Hull (UT San Antonio), Scott Sandage (Carnegie Mellon), Andrea Smith (UC Riverside), Dean Spade (U of Seattle Law School), Priscilla Wald, (Duke) and Alex Weheliye (Northwestern). Of course, deep gratitude also goes to John Stephens, the spirit and backbone of ASA in so many ways, and to the outstanding Gabriel Peoples, master of coordination. We received fantastic help and support also from Luke Jackson and Kristen Linder.

Judging from the submissions, ASA continues to be a competitive program and one we hope is expanding in appeal. Of the 269 session proposals, 204 were accepted. Of 315 individual papers, 126 were organized into 36 additional sessions. There are an additional 14 professional development workshops organized by the ASA standing committees. The program committee organized additional presidential and theme sessions as well. All told, there will be more than 1152 presenters, performers, and other participants this year and undoubtedly, many more participants among attendees.

Beyond the wonderful program, attendees can enjoy beautiful San Antonio -- a river city with an alternative art and music scene, lovely places to walk and reflect, central places such as El Mercado (Market Square) -- the biggest Mexican style market outside of Mexico. There are many dining options from sustainable, organic, locally produced fare to Texas-style barbecue. Ben Olguin is coordinating local arrangements, and Priscilla Ovalle has offered crucial advice as well. The ASA has negotiated the best possible rate for single and double occupancy at the conference hotel, mindful of the difficult economic climate that is affecting everybody. Our allies in labor endorse our hotel choice and express solidarity with all faculty, students, and staff at our workplaces.

See you in San Antonio!

Colleen Lye, University of California, Berkeley
Laura Y. Liu, The New School
Ruthie Gilmore, University of Southern California
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