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The (Re)production of Misery and the Ways of Resistance
October 8-11, 2015, Toronto, Canada
The theme of this year's annual meeting, "The Reproduction of Misery and the Ways of Resistance," provided ASA members multiple paths for proposing panels and papers and engaging in the work of the Association. The submissions help to realize what we as Co-Chairs of this year's Program Committee have seen as an especially rich opportunity to consider the systemic and ideological sources of the suffering that seems to spread more and more even as evidence of a gathering movement of change in the streets and on campuses becomes harder to ignore.
As of now, the Toronto meeting is slated to feature 1,638 participants in over 350 sessions, including 297 that were proposed as sessions and 48 that the committee created from individual paper submissions. Along with accepting the 297 sessions, the committee rejected 49, an acceptance rate of 86 per cent. We received 344 individual paper proposals, of which we accepted 189 and turned down 155, an acceptance rate of 55 per cent. This acceptance of individual paper proposals is somewhat higher than recent years.
Though some might not imagine "misery" a contender alongside the intellectual vibrancy generated by last year's theme of pain and pleasure, the ASA's membership has given pleasure a run for its money. For instance, we can look forward to "The Miseries of Marriage: What Do Queers Lose When We "Win?"," which will bring together Susan Stryker, Lisa Duggan, Chandan Reddy, and others in an up-to-the-minute assessment of how marriage law affects other queer movements and their fights for economic, racial, and social justice that transcend the politics of homonormativity. Although so much of the discourse surrounding marriage victories focuses on narratives of progress, this panel examines what gets lost after winning marriage.
Marking anniversaries is once again an important part of the program. Contributors to an American Studies special issue on Ralph Ellison, whose centennial was in 2014, will explore facets of his personal relationship with language, writing, notions of race, public intellectual life, and American culture writ large. James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son is fifty this year and one catalyst for the panel "American Studies and the Theoretical Legacies of James Baldwin." This year is also the 60th anniversary of the 1955 Afro-Asian Conference of Non-Aligned States in Bandung, Indonesia. The panel "Non-Aligned" focuses on Bandung as a way to theorize and strategize responses to standing forms of dispossession and empire. By the time of the annual meeting, of course, the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri will be upon us. Among other sessions and papers, we will have an advance screening of Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory, followed by a question and answer session with filmmaker Orlando de Guzman and St. Louis area attorney Brendan Roediger, who has been involved in uncovering much of the evidence used in making the documentary.
We are also looking forward to some special events, including additional film screenings and a performance by Australian-Bengali comedian Aamer Rahman. A law school graduate and former political organizer, Rahman's standup has been described by the National (Abu Dhabi) as "incisive, cutting and controversial observations about society's ills, sprinkled with sardonic humour and pop-culture references." A walking history tour of sites important to the Indigenous present and past, a staged reading of Lisa B. Thompson's "Undergound," and various arts projects are among those creative efforts that assist us in understanding and imagining beyond miserable times.
It is precisely those types of visions that motivated much of our planning for the 2015 conference. Small wonder, then, that in the collaborative space of the Program Committee meetings some equally compelling and exciting topics arose with wonderful scholars, writers, and artists agreeing to participate. We have a panel of Canadian authors -- featuring Dionne Brand, Thomas King, and Shyam Selvadurai -- who will read from their work; a roundtable to engage literary scholar Lisa Lowe's forthcoming The Intimacies of Four Continents; a number of distinguished scholars in discussion of "Misery and Resistance in the Great Recession"; and a multi-panel series on race and violence. These excavations are, for us, critically significant for the work of a transnational and vigorous American Studies practice that brings light to conditions of dispossession but also highlights the strategies of resistance and performances of solidarity that animate our histories and present.
The work of the Program Committee is among the most rewarding service available to members of the association, but it is also a lot of work and requires an intense amount of concentration and dedication. Thus, we are indebted to Jean O'Brien, Michael Innes-Jiménez, Gayatri Gopinath, Jeanette Jones, Christina Sharpe, Jason Ruiz, and Nadine Suleiman Naber. We additionally thank site committee coordinator Katherine McKittrick and her team of volunteers. No program committee could hope to complete its work without the expertise of ASA Executive Director John Stephens, as well as Ilyas Abukar, who works with John in the national office. We are both delighted and grateful to Dave Roediger for the honor of entrusting us with this responsibility. Lastly, we appreciate the vibrancy of the ASA's membership, your innovative ideas, and the renewed hope you have brought to us through your submissions.
See you in Toronto!
Jennifer Pierce (co-chair), University of Minnesota
Shana L. Redmond (co-chair), University of Southern California
Robert Warrior (co-chair) University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign