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The Reproduction of Misery and the Ways of Resistance

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, Jeannette Eileen 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

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Program Book for the 2015 Annual Meeting
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General Information
Visiting Canada

Election 2016 Nominations

The Nominating Committee is preparing a ballot for the 2016 annual ASA elections. Members of the American Studies Association are invited to submit recommendations for elected positions. Letters suggesting or recommending a candidate should relate the member’s experience to the association’s work and his or her vitae.

The following positions appear on the 2016 election ballot: president-elect (one position), member of the council (5 positions), student councilor (1 position), and member of the nominating committee (2 positions).

Please submit your recommendations no later than September 1, 2015, to the Nominating Committee:

Chair:  Judy Wu, University of California. Irvine:
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Jodi Kim, University of California, Riverside
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Karen Leong, Arizona State University
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Shana Redmond, University of Southern California
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Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, Northwestern University
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Siobhan Somerville, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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The final slate must provide representation of the diversity of the Association’s membership. Those nominated must be current members of ASA in order to serve. All persons elected serve three-year terms and will take office on July 1, 2016.

Nominations may also be made by petitions carrying in each case the signatures of at least twenty-five members of the association in good standing and indicating in each case the particular vacancy for which the nomination is intended. The Chair of the Nominating Committee must receive nominations by petition no later than September 1st. The Chair shall ascertain that all candidates nominated by the committee or by petition have consented to stand for election.

More From the Editors


EAS forum on “Exhibiting American Studies”

From Simon J. Bronner:
The EAS Forum, an online publication on the American Studies Association website, invites contributions for its planned 2016 feature on “Exhibiting American Studies.” This theme follows previous forums with multiple authors on “Screening American Studies” (film and video work in American Studies), “Writing American Studies,” and “Teaching American Studies.” See Forum Archives. Each Forum includes three to five brief essays of 500-1000 words on the concepts and practices of producing American Studies work in different media. In “Exhibiting American Studies,” the editor seeks essays before December 15, 2015, on museum and online exhibitions and classroom activities involving American Studies approaches to objects and their interpretation. For more information, write Simon J. Bronner, Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of American Studies, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Want to get started on a digital American studies project?

We may be able to help!

At this year’s American Studies Association annual meeting in Toronto, the Digital Humanities Caucus would like to help you get started on a digital project by offering one-hour consultations with experienced digital humanities practitioners. We’ll hold these consultations from 6 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 10, in the conference hotel.

CFP Framing the “American Century”: Wars, Migrations, Social Justice (Due Sept 15, 2015)

The American Studies Association (ASA) and the Japanese Association for American Studies (JAAS), with support from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission (JUFSC), are pleased to announce a competition open to ASA members (U.S. citizens). We plan to select two ASA delegates (pending funding) for participation in the annual JAAS conference to be held at Prefectural University of Kumamoto on Japan’s Kyushu Island from June 4-5, 2016 . We invite proposals for papers to be presented at the JAAS conference and for the two-day pro-seminars in Japan. The award covers round trip airfare to Japan, housing, and modest daily expenses.

ASA Minority and Indigenous Graduate Student Travel Grant

This award will provide travel reimbursement of $500 to an advanced graduate student who is a member of the ASA and plans to attend the 2015 convention in order to present a paper related to critical ethnic and/or indigenous studies. Graduate students who have no support for convention attendance and are members of an under-represented group are particularly encouraged to apply.

The application should have two parts:  (1) a cover letter of no more than two pages that includes a brief autobiographical description, the title of the applicant’s paper and the session to which it belongs, and confirmation that the applicant will not receive any other financial support from his/her institution; and (2) a curriculum vitae.  Please send your application by Monday, August 24 to Ralina Joseph, chair of the committee, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

ASA Critical Ethnic Studies Prize

The American Studies Association’s Committee on Critical Ethnic Studies calls for submissions for the 2015 Comparative Ethnic Studies Prize, awarded to a participant in the annual meeting of the American Studies Association. Any paper given at the meeting is eligible for consideration, provided that it does not exceed 15 pages, including the notes. The paper should be a work-in-progress.  The author of the winning paper will receive a $500 award at the annual meeting to be held October 8-11 in Toronto, Canada.

Relevant submissions will contrast or connect the process of race-making or the experiences of ethnic communities with similar processes or experiences inside or outside the United States. All essays must be global and/or comparative, focusing on the power of race/ethnicity to shape the lives of diverse groups of people.

Papers should be submitted electronically by Monday, August 24 to Ralina Joseph, chair of the committee, at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  Late submissions will not be accepted.

In His Own Home, a documentary about police racism and militarization

In His Home” is a terrifying film, not merely for its powerful depiction of the near-fatal shooting of Kofi Adu-Brempong by University of Florida police officers, but for unveiling the routine character of racist, militarized violence.  As Malini Schueller so deftly reveals, campus police—armed to the teeth—have become deputies in upholding the “New Jim Crow.”
        Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

I have recently finished In His Own Home, a thirty minute documentary about police racism and campus militarization and hope you will consider using it for your classes.  I was moved to make the documentary after the shooting of Kofi Adu-Brempong, a disabled Ghanaian graduate student who had mental illness issues, by the campus police’s SWAT-like team at the University of Florida in March 2010. The project came out of outrage by a small group of community members committed to seeing social justice happen on a local level. The film asks us to think about the role of race, mental illness, and the militarization of campus and city police forces in contemporary U.S. culture, made highly visible in 2014 and 2015 with police killings of unarmed black men and children in Missouri, New York, and Ohio and large scale grassroots protest.  In His Own Home includes footage from the incident, local news coverage, transcripts of police records, interviews with community activists, as well as coverage of the student protests that led the University to drop fake charges against Adu-Brempong. The film has been made without a voice over so that viewers can draw their own conclusions.

In His Own Home is a useful educational tool in helping students understand questions of systemic racism, racial prejudice, the role of the police, militarization, and grassroots organizing in contemporary U.S. culture. The film is available for streaming at http://www.indiepixfilms.com.  For more information about the film go to http://www.inhisownhome.com

If you would like to use the film in your course please email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I can send you a study guide designed to ask students to think about the above issues and also to consider them in relation to the long history of movements toward racial justice in the US. Indiepix films will also release a DVD with the study guide, additional footage, and a commentary later this year.

Malini Schueller
Department of English
University of Florida