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Imagination, Reparation, Transformation
Baltimore, Maryland, October 2011
The 2011 ASA conference theme, Imagination, Reparation, Transformation, elicited a wide and varied response in the form of panel and individual paper submissions that reflected the commitments and creativity of our membership. The program committee worked hard to select from among the many, many exceptional proposals, and we are excited about the program that we have put together for the Baltimore convention. Out of a total of 382 outstanding submissions from individual members, we selected 172 with great difficulty. From a total of 320 promising panel proposals, our committee selected 227 for inclusion in the 2011 program, again with great difficulty.
The program committee was thrilled to see strong trends continue from past years, including a wide assortment of panels featuring queer politics, diasporas, and aesthetics; labor and class studies; humor, popular culture and material culture; music and sound; religion, religious embodiment, and the politics of religion; race/ethnicities and gender/sexuality in their multiple permutations. We are also happy to report that the Call For Papers also sparked a robust response in areas that are not always well represented, including the arts and the health sciences, as well as the social sciences and critical legal studies. Some highlights from these fields: "Mapping Biomedicalization: 'Health,' Identities, and Power in the Contemporary United States" and "The Politics of Imagining a Religious Nation, From Eighteenth- Century Republicans to Twenty-First-Century Pluralists." Environmental studies and visual culture are especially strong this year as well, reflecting the growing interest that caucuses in those areas have inspired. Similarly, there is a strong showing on the program of pedagogy and K-12 education, with insightful and innovative papers and panels on how conference themes might be integrated into education. As the site of the 2011 ASA conference, Baltimore, MD elicited a number of panels in urban studies and in cultural studies, including "Baltimore City as Laboratory: Transformations of Urban Neighborhoods Through Public History Programming" and "Through 'The Wire': A Roundtable, A Post-Mortem." The program committee was pleased to see continued critical attention paid to the continuing U.S. wars abroad. A number of panels reflect on the import of conference themes to U.S. military expansion and military aggression. Others intersect with well-established fields of interest within the ASA in new and exciting ways: "War and the Intimate: Deployments of Gender in the U.S. Military;" "War and the Environment;" and "Security Practices: War, Torture and Surveillance in the Global Circuits of US Exceptionalism." Presenters this year include visual, performing and literary artists, medical and legal professionals, and activists in a variety of areas as well as academics from a wide range of fields.
Established ASA fields came together in new ways in this year's conference, trail blazing exciting paths for the future of our organization, in panels such as "The Intersection of Queer and Indigenous Studies: Contextualizing the Work of Janice Gould;" "The Labor of Digital Production: Race, Identity, and the New Social Networks;" "Caucus on Academic and Community Activism: The Present/ Absent of Palestine: American Studies, Academic Freedom, and the Last Taboo;" and "Queer Transnational Intimacies and Imaginaries." In an effort to continue the ASA's commitment to transnationalize the organization and broaden the "American" in ASA, the program committee organized a special two-part panel of Mexican feminist activists and scholars who collectively reflect on the new forms of indigenous dispossession taking place under the guise of protecting Mexican biodiversity. The two- part panel "Mexican Biodiversity, Green Imperialism and Indigenous Feminist Responses" brings together environmental activists, economists, anthropologists, and indigenous legal scholars from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Mexico City to discuss territoriality, autonomy, and the response of women indigenous leaders in the face of dispossession, offering our members a unique opportunity to think "America" from the perspective of the global south. We also organized a related panel of experts on food sustainability, entitled "Food Matters: The World Food Crisis and the Struggle for Security and Sustainability," that brings together agricultural historians, food sustainability activists and representatives of NGOs, who will discuss the increase that global consumption of modern food places on indigenous territoriality, and the sustainable responses to this increase in modern food production.
For our presidential and plenary sessions, the program committee features work that engages the conference themes, brings American Studies into conversation with emerging forms of art, digital technology, and activism, and, most importantly, that engages with the history of Baltimore. Every year, the American Studies Association strives to link the critical practices of its members with the communities in which it meets. This year's presidential panel continues this tradition using a comparative geographic and interdisciplinary critical framework that brings together academics and practitioners around the issues of urban development, race and labor in New Orleans, Detroit, and Baltimore. The goal of the panel is to bring discrete urban spaces together in an imagined "third space" for comparative and potentially reparative critique. The first Presidential Panel "Arrested Development: Race and Urban Space in Baltimore, Detroit, and New Orleans" will take place at 6pm on Thursday. Our second presidential panel takes place at 2 pm on Friday, the Presidential Panel, "Transforming Higher Education for the Digital Age," will feature three scholars who are pioneering the study of new media and its transformative role in education, politics, and social life. These scholars will discuss the shaping of "thetechnological imagination" and offer insight into how the brain science of attention challenges us to rethink contemporary institutional structures, especially in the area of education. Nicely complementing this panel is one of the American Quarterly's themed sessions, entitled "Reconstructing Higher Education: Now What Do We Do?" Our Plenary Panel, "Reimagining Democracy Through Art," taking place on Saturday at 6 pm. It features three of the most insightful and influential artists of our time, who are working at the intersection of activism and art (also called "artivism"): Ricardo Dominguez is part of Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 that has developed the "Transborder Immigrant Tool," a cell phone designed to offer poetry and locative information to help migrants find water-caches in the southern California desert.; Natalie Jeremijenko and her "feral robotic dog packs" that investigate environmental hazards; and Chris Csikszentmihalyi who presents his "Freedom Flies Project,"
producing UAVs to surveille vigilante groups patrolling the US-Mexico border.
We would like to thank the insightful and hard-working program committee members who were essential to putting together this program: Shona Jackson, Melani McAlister, Leigh Raiford, Mark Rifkin, Julie Sze, Gregory Tomso, Penny von Eschen, Priscilla Wald, and Elliott Young. ASA President Priscilla Wald deserves special thanks not only for inspiring us with her characteristic energy and verve, but also for her vision. She was the catalyst for all of the extraordinary panels added to the program on art, activism, and the environment. We would also like to thank John Stephens, the spirit and backbone of ASA in so many ways, and to the outstanding Gabriel Peoples, master of coordination.
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Brown University, Alondra Nelson, Columbia University, and Maria Josefina Saldana-Portillo, New York University
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