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American Studies Association - 2022

The Roof is on Fire
November 3-6, 2022
Hilton New Orleans Riverside


It’s hot in here.


The temperature is rising and the water is too, the sky is dense, and the ground is giving way. We in the Anthropocene are holding onto our seats and our loved ones, shoulders tight and backs sore from the messy work we’ve inherited and that which we’ve made for ourselves. Something is broken. Whether or not it can be repaired may not be the right question.


It’s hot in here.


We’ve been in this nation’s burning house of integration for two generations and “I can’t breathe.” The fire that encircles us all is higher and hotter here. I’m frightened by how close and how distant we are, terrifyingly familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. Firsts are no marker of progress when the count is all that matters. My limbs are laden by promises and don’t float no more.


It’s hot in here.


On the block, that is. Too many in blue, too many deputized with something or nothing to prove. There are “no humans involved,” after all. Who will ask questions? We broke. We hungry. We newly “we,” though never completely and that may be the best thing we got going.


It’s hot in here.


The roof, the roof, the roof… You know the rest, or you should. The structure will not hold very long. It wasn’t meant for us anyway. Touch the beat, move without instruction, abandon your isolation. We’ve held onto it too long. Take my hand as we lift ourselves from this time of war and into the first 5 minutes and 30 seconds of eternity…


This year’s theme is an homage to the cultures and knowledges too often dismissed or taken, those pieces that prove that our minds and hearts are optimized by laboring in tandem. It is a reminder, if needed, that we come from somewhere, from some people, and it/they are always reinventing, subtly and not so subtly, the terms of our engagements and relation. A reminder that we are keepers of nothing special, even if specialized, for the music is instructive too. “The roof is on fire” invites strategies that draw our attention to and command a multisensory, multiregister engagement with the world as it is and as we want it to be. As a scene of devastation and one of shared, euphoric incantation, the scorched and scorching room in which we will gather holds many possibilities. May all who enter be prepared to let the muthafucka burn.


Like the city of New Orleans in which it will be staged, the 2022 American Studies Association (ASA) conference is an opening. For what and to where is as available as the next sound that grazes the surface of your ear or breeze that crosses your face. What we hope for is time—time to think deeply, struggle, laugh, plot, challenge and be challenged—and presence, together in a place that has long known both things even if fleeting or precarious. What we know is that both are in short supply, the violences are not yet done and are yet undone, and our next steps are tentative for reasons revealed by the many fires. We will come together in this cacophonous conjuncture to pull it apart, piece by piece, in order to continue creation of something else altogether.


The 2022 call for participation urges ASA members to consider forms of engagement that involve creative practitioners and scholars from as many places and political-cultural contexts as possible, including people (formerly) incarcerated or exiled, those working under conditions of occupation and/or apartheid, grass roots and community activists, social movement veterans and elders, radical journalists, survivors, and artists of all kinds. The contributions and leadership of students, contingent faculty, members with disabilities, independent scholars, and scholars from across the globe have long formed a vital part of the ASA’s work, and we support proposals that foreground and critically expand this vital labor. We seek panels, workshops, and experimental forms of collective creativity and engagement that demonstrate a commitment to the principles of disability rights and inclusivity, as well as universal accessibility.


Building on the momentum of previous meetings, the 2022 Program Committee seeks a track of submissions that reflects thoughtful and creative efforts to enhance our collective (and individual) capacities to engage in public-facing scholarly/pedagogical/creative work in support of the ASA’s mission. Such proposals might include skill-sharing/skill-building, critical solidarity making, activist research, artistic exhibition/demonstration/literacy, and other focused organizing efforts as well as experimental forms of engagement. We embrace the work of our organization’s multiple and overlapping intellectual communities and encourage proposals that think within and across Indigenous, Black, feminist, queer, trans*, disability, environmental, settler colonial, postcolonial, transnational American, and (critical) ethnic studies, among other critical interdisciplinary fields.


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