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American Studies Association - 2023

Solidarity: What Love Looks Like in Public

November 2-5, 2023 - Montreal, Canada

Le Centre Sheraton Montreal

A well-known scholar once said that justice is what love looks like in public. Our theme for the ASA annual meeting in Montreal opens up questions of connection among “solidarity,” “love,” “justice,” and “public life.” Solidarity (across class, race, indigeneity, gender/sex, ability, nation, or phenotype) emphasizes horizontal networks of care rather than hierarchical ones mandated by the state or made necessary  by common philanthropic giving. By moving away from this structure – which emphasizes shared suffering so that it puts the onus on vulnerable groups to become legible to outsiders, caregivers and not-for-profits – solidarity emphasizes that when we put our stories beside one another and engage in direct action, we grow our communities and enhance our sustained well-being. In homage to this grassroots movement across the globe, this year’s conference theme is centered upon solidarity and all of its permutations within and without the institutional homes we occupy. 

What is solidarity among us? Reterritorialization, reparation, restoration, wealth redistribution, networks of care? What is solidarity’s chief practice? How does it look in public? How does it bend toward or create justice in real time? What is solidarity when tempered by love; what is love when its edges are sharp and occluding? What if our affective lives don’t always bend toward a normative script of respectability, one that is attune to the needs of civil society? In what idea of community does our solidarity live? Is it time to change those currents, move some structures, breach some boundaries?

Love relations are so often ensconced in property. What do they look like without this scaffolding? What does a practice of love look like? Most important for our program committee was that this call invite colleagues – writers, visual artists, and activist scholars – to contemplate radical failure. There is always failure in the gestural, but what happens if we see that failure as part of the practice, part of the work, rather than as crisis? The Program Committee would like our colleagues to think about those times when solidarity and love as central ethics in justice work, on the page and in the streets, fail. The word “public” here is intended as a reminder to us that the public-facing work we do produces that accountability and turns love into a practice of justice. We hope to bring forward proposals from the national body that produce and reflect upon alternative practices, especially from those of us who labor in other ways parallel to or even in contestation with our work in institutional spaces. Solidarity work, especially in historically PWIs and neoliberal spaces, is often dangerous work.

The ASA has always represented a fierce community of critics, scholars, and visionaries who create bold pathways for nurturing and sustaining our collective intellects. As an Association, we have a unique opportunity to think through what institutional intellectual life will look like for our students and colleagues in the very near future as we craft a vision for ourselves out of the still-smoldering fire of multiple pandemics and their consequences. If we provide space for thinking outside the box – for moving from hallowed hallways and closed doors to more equitable and open spaces for “work” itself, for redefining what labor and rest are, we might be able to shape how we work, forging not just an undercommons, but an other common altogether.

Our annual meeting’s location in Montreal presents the perfect opportunity to put some pressure on the meaning of solidarity across a number of communities, modes of engagement, and national boundaries. We invite our colleagues in Canada and the Americas, writ large, as well as those beyond to join us as we think through these engagements. We want to actively participate in building a practice (of love, of solidarity, of justice) in the space of contestation and radical difference. Building on the momentum of previous meetings, the 2023 Program Committee seeks submissions that reflect 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.

We are especially keen to engage community organizers, educators, and scholar-activists who are conducting solidarity work. Proposals from these entities might include skill-sharing, critical solidarity making, activist research, and artistic renderings. We embrace the work of our organization’s multiple and overlapping intellectual communities and encourage proposals that think within and across our multiple communities (including but not limited to Indigenous, Latinx/e, Black, Asian American, Pacific Islander, feminist, queer, trans*, disability, environmental, settler colonial, postcolonial, transnational American, and (critical) ethnic studies, among other critical interdisciplinary fields). We recognize and want as many participants/members at this conference who are from community, K-12, Tribal, First Nations, and historically Black institutions to bring forward proposals on our theme, “Solidarity: What Love Looks Like in Public,” for Montreal.

Please note: While the 2023 conference is currently planned as a primarily in-person event, the ASA will continue to host online sessions through our Freedom Courses and offer accommodations for members with disabilities or medical conditions that preclude travel or in-person attendance. Complete guidelines will be forthcoming.
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