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This website provides scholars with a one-stop shop for the latest research published in American studies journals throughout the world. Organized by the International Initiative of the American Studies Association and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this site is the outcome of a collaboration between numerous journal editors around the world.
Published on March 12, 2013 by John F Stephens.
The San Juan ASA Conference represented an important moment to continue thinking deeply about the conceptual and methodological demands of a truly transnational American Studies. The location of the conference was itself a powerful call for reflection—reflection on indigeneity and dispossession; reflection on the course of US empire; reflection on rich histories of resistance; reflection on American Studies as a set of interpretive and pedagogical practices in that zone where Indigenous Studies, Atlantic World, Caribbean Studies, Diaspora Studies, and Pacific Rim all come together. From the outset the Program Committee felt an awesome responsibility to organize sessions and events that would do justice to the significance of this Caribbean locale and its (anti-) colonial history.
The ASA membership responded to the call and the challenges of the conference with terrific energy, innovation, insight, commitment, and with a spirit of true collaboration and intellectual generosity. This was one of the best-attended and most vibrant ASA meetings in recent memory. The program was expanded in order to accommodate as many of the very fine submissions as possible; the final program comprised over 400 panels, round tables, caucus meetings, screenings, readings, lightening rounds, and installations, involving the participation of over 1500 scholars, writers, artists, and activists from 25 countries in North and Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, and Europe. Sessions represented a vast and ingenious array of methods, approaches, and orientations, as well as scholarly and politically committed conversations that ambitiously crossed disciplines, geographic regions, and historical periods. A brief sampling of the interpretive modalities and the intellectual concerns running through the program includes comparative empires, US regions/cities in the context of empire, the Puerto Rican diaspora, empire and migration, political economy, activism and public scholarship, liberalism (in both its broad and narrower meanings), legal structures and juridical discourses, public pedagogy, transnational activism, the carceral state, neoliberalism, militarism and state violence, biopolitics, hegemonic and alternative archives, tourism, commodity chains, settler colonialism, borderlands, cartography, indigeneity and anti-imperialist strategies, digital humanities, consumption and the commercial cultures of empire, religion as oppression and as resistance, oral history, missionaries and explorers, feminist internationalism, environmental justice, sexuality and imperial power, global health, hemispheric solidarities, the politics of water, the global South and the “resource curse,” radical poetics, human rights discourse, photography as a technology of empire, modernities and modernisms, museums and curation, sonic landscapes, narco-empire, graphic novels and animation, race and real estate, and trauma.
This was a tremendously rich, varied, and productive program. Among the most meaningful of the many conversations enabled at the meeting were those between colleagues from different parts of the world, between Puerto Rican scholars and activists and their colleagues from the US, between scholars in the humanities and in the social sciences, and between early Americanists and their colleagues who work on later periods. The program committee worked especially hard to raise the profile of early America in the conference and to invigorate the conversations across the temporal spectrum from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first.
The committee likewise assembled a slate of extracurricular exhibits, screenings, and events meant to augment and anchor the anti-imperialist spirit of the conference agenda and to provide routes into San Juan and its history quite distinct from those laid out by the normal circuitry of tourism. These included tours of the Hacienda La Esperanza Nature Reserve, one of the largest sugar plantations in Puerto Rico in the latter half of the nineteenth century; historical tours of Viejo San Juan, led by Edwin Quiles Rodríguez, author of San Juan Tras la Fachada: Una Mirada Desde Sus Espacios Ocultos (1580-1900); and a tour of the ENLACE Caño Martín Peña Project, whose residents seek to overcome poverty and attain social and environmental justice. Special events also included a reading by Puerto Rican poet and writer Giannina Braschi, whose work explores themes of US-Caribbean relations, the politics of empire and independence, and the migrant’s experience of marginality and liberation; and installations by two artists-in-residence: Nao Bustamante presented her multimedia project, Personal Protection, which activates the tactile and tactical histories of women in wa; and Adál Maldonado presented his multi-media project, Blueprints for a Nation: Construction of an Imaginary State, weaving diverse perspectives on the Puerto Rican Diaspora, the significance of creative expression in fostering new political imaginations, and the subversive tropicalization of new environments. All of these events were heavily attended and enthusiastically received.
Finally, an in-house Anti-Imperialist Film Festival provided continuous screenings of important documentary films. These included Roberto Clemente, followed by a discussion with director Bernardo Ruiz; Aquel Rebaño Azul [The Blue Herd], a historical account of police brutality in Puerto Rico, sponsored by Puerto Rico’s Civil Rights Commission; Más de 800 Razones, on the 2010-2011 University of Puerto Rico student strikes; and a number of films provided by the feminist collective, Women Make Movies. The festival culminated in a screening and director’s discussion of John Sayle’s Amigo, on a Philippine baryo in the crossfire of empire and resistance, and a ragtag but lethal detachment of U.S. soldiers who find themselves halfway around the world walking point for their country’s new imperialist policy in 1899.
The strength, vitality, and rich programming regarding Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, the Caribbean, and the Americas created a larger space from which to theorize, reflect upon, and produce knowledge that advances our understanding of the consequences of empire. The inclusion of local scholars from the Island, the participation of former Puerto Rican political prisoners, and the performances of Bustamante and Maldonado were particularly important. ASA members came away from San Juan having taken serious stock of the voluminous and electrifying interdisciplinary work that has recently been produced on empire, but also with a new, deeper charge to expand on conversations that cross disciplines, national boundaries, and period-specific specializations. Most agreed that this was an energizing and important set of meetings.
Published in News on March 15, 2013 by ASASTAFF.
Introduction. By Simon J. Bronner (Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg)
1. Being an American. By Isabelle Culpepper (The Lovett School, Atlanta, GA)
2. Learning American Studies: An Education Anyone Can Use. By Molly Fay (La Salle University, Philadelphia)
3. Learning What It Means to Be an American. By Brant Ellsworth (Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg)
Although teaching is a component of learning, there is much more discussion on instructional pedagogy than on how students, particularly those in integrated and interdisciplinary studies such as American Studies with goals of “connected learning,” process and apply knowledge. In the theory behind connected learning is a counter-disciplinary premise that presented with problems, students should be taught to find patterns across subjects. In other words, they thematize knowledge and find correspondences in an assortment of evidence to arrive at conclusions, or rather, interpretations taken from different vantages. For American Studies there is also an implication of relevance to contemporary issues apparent in references within learning objectives and goals of many courses to interpret American culture and society, both past and present. The EAS Forum previous to this one (no. 3) was devoted to “Teaching American Studies” and with its professorial contributors, it contained suggestions from the instructor’s side of the classroom that such a thematic or cognitive style constituted a distinction of American Studies pedagogy. But if professors or curators encode knowledge in this style, do their audiences decode it as the teachers intend? The question remains as to how and what people learn, or perceive they have gained, when presented with an “American Studies approach,” whether in the lecture hall, exhibition, seminar, essay, or public program. Another aspect of this inquiry are the institutional settings in which learning occurs and the difference across the life course. In the three essays here, representatives speak to these questions from their seats in high school, undergraduate, and graduate school classrooms. My hope is that this inquiry can be expanded to other venues as American Studies scholars contemplate not only what they know but how they know.
Published on June 6, 2013 by John F Stephens.
The American Studies Association is pleased to announce the scholars participating in its Distinguished Speaker’s Bureau. Speaking on a wide range of topics, the Distinguished Speakers’ Bureau brings leading scholars to your institution.
Speakers listed here are willing to give at least one lecture in the academic year on behalf of the ASA. Speakers donate their time to the ASA in order to participate. Host institutions pay a $1,000 speaker’s fee directly to the ASA, in addition to the speaker’s travel and lodging expenses.
All speakers’ fees are deposited into the ASA’s Community Partnership Fund. The Community Partnership Fund supports a competitive grants program open to members of the American Studies Association. The Fund encourages projects developed in collaboration with community-based organizations, school districts, public libraries, local historical societies, community museums, and other non-profit entities.
Published on October 1, 2013 by John F Stephens.
How should I prepare for graduate work in American Studies?
An undergraduate degree in American Studies is probably the best preparation for graduate study since it builds the foundation for the interdisciplinary research and analysis required to complete a Master’s or Ph.D. degree. But many undergraduates don’t have the opportunity to major in American Studies and others discover an interdisciplinary approach only later in their undergraduate studies. Students who major in more traditional disciplines—literature, history, the social sciences, even the natural sciences—often have the opportunity to take courses outside their major as electives which can improve their interdisciplinary range and strengthen their application to American Studies graduate programs. Students who come to American Studies from the social or natural sciences, or from a humanities field with a non-Americanist focus, can bring fresh perspectives and useful skills. These students find it useful to gain a background in U.S. history on their own (or as a part-time student in a graduate program where they can take one course) before starting graduate-level work in American Studies.
What is the best American Studies graduate program for me?
You should weigh factors such as faculty, professional goals, quality of program, funding opportunities, and geography in choosing where to apply. Applicants should first research American Studies programs to determine which programs have faculty who work specifically in the areas of research that most interest them. In the course of this research, an applicant should try to contact faculty members who share his/her research interests to find out if they currently advise graduate students and to ask more specific questions about their department. Applicants need to find programs that best suit their intellectual interests and this is best determined through direct communication with faculty. While it is crucial to enter a program where you have identified a mentor with whom to work, you shouldn’t plan your entire course of graduate study around one faculty member, as faculty do not always stay at one university throughout their career. Therefore, students should find a program in which there are several faculty members with whom they could potentially study. If applicants are geographically restricted in where they can apply, they will need to determine which programs in their area have faculty available to mentor their work, communicating with faculty to see how flexible they can be in advising students outside their specific research areas. Many department websites have lists of current students and their research interests. Contacting students who are currently enrolled, or recent graduates, is an excellent way to gauge the suitability of the program for your individual interests. Faculty and departmental representatives will be able to provide you with contact information.
Applicants should also consider which programs best suit their professional goals. For example, some American Studies programs are strong in placing their graduate students in jobs in public history or archival work, while other programs are known for helping students find tenure-track teaching jobs and/or others focus on an activist, engaged scholarship. Some programs have special strength in African American studies, whereas others have a concentration of specialists on the Asia-Pacific region and so forth.
The amount and types of funding available for graduate students has a major impact on the time to completion of the degree as well as to the range of teaching and research experiences one will gain while in graduate school. It is important to find out what kind of funding (e.g. teaching assistantships, research assistantships, fellowships, tuition waivers) are available in the program of one’s interest. We think teaching experience is important preparation for all graduate students, no matter their career plans, but too much teaching takes time away from research and writing.
Most graduate programs designate one faculty member to advise graduate students and/or speak with prospective students. You can find this person’s contact information on the website or by phoning or emailing the department office. You should be in touch with this faculty member as well to insure that your interests can be served by the program, to receive suggestions on your application, and to understand the available financial aid and how to apply for it.
Do I need a Masters degree in American Studies before applying to a doctoral program?
Many applicants apply to doctoral study directly from undergraduate work—especially if they have already earned a B.A. degree in American Studies. Nevertheless, if a student applies without much previous background in interdisciplinary study, it can be useful to start with a Master’s program to explore the field of American Studies before making the commitment to doctoral study. Earning an M.A. in American Studies may also be useful to enhance one’s application for, and acceptance into, doctoral programs.
What makes an effective personal statement?
Applicants should describe the academic and other relevant backgrounds that have prepared them for graduate-level work in American Studies. A strong personal statement in an American Studies application offers a concise description of the applicants’ research interests and goals with a particular emphasis on why the interdisciplinary approach of American Studies is the most effective way to pursue those interests and goals. In addition, applicants should make a clear case for why the particular program they are applying to best suits their goals. You should avoid digressions into personal biography, unless there is an appropriate intellectual reason to do so. For instance, a formative experience might be a helpful introduction to your interests, but anecdotal material must have a clear purpose such as helping explain one’s intellectual development. Applicants to doctoral programs need not have a dissertation topic drafted for a personal statement, but they should be able to lucidly describe their general interests and specific fields/subfields, theoretical frameworks, methodologies, scholars, or books that have influenced their intellectual development and interest in American Studies.
What kind of writing sample should I submit?
An effective writing sample for American Studies would be a research paper (15-20 pages in length) that had both a clear argument and provided evidence of the applicant’s ability to do primary and secondary research. Papers that incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to research would also be helpful, but are not required. Depending on the work you have done, and want to do, a shorter piece of writing aimed at a more general audience might also be appropriate.
Who should write my letters of recommendation?
Recommendations from faculty with whom you have taken a class and who know you personally are most helpful. In general, letters from employers or friends are not as effective because they often don’t adequately assess an applicant’s abilities as a researcher or writer.
How important are the GRE scores?
Many programs require applicants to submit their GRE scores and how the scores are weighed in the overall application varies from program to program. Higher scores are certainly better than lower scores; however, in general American Studies programs do not see the GRE scores as the most important factor in the application package. The personal statement, writing sample, recommendation letters, and previous academic records read together can go a long way in making up for lower GRE scores.
For international students, many programs see TOEFL scores as a replacement for GRE scores. Good TOEFL scores not only increase the chances of admission but the language ability they measure is also necessary for actually doing graduate work in American Studies.
What kind of jobs do graduate students in American Studies get after graduation?
Graduate students in American Studies can go into a variety of fields, but most are interested in teaching jobs or museum work. They can also be competitive for jobs at historical societies, archives, state and federal humanities and cultural resource agencies as well as community cultural development organizations.
Published on October 18, 2013 by John F Stephens.
The American Studies Association is proud to recognize the continuing high level of scholarship examining our American cultures. We ask all members of the Association to join in congratulating their fellow members honored at this year’s award ceremony, to be held on Friday, November 22, 2013, at the ASA convention.
The 2013 Constance Rourke Prize
Chair: Franny Nudelman, Carleton University
Rick Baldoz, Oberlin College
Kathleen Donegan, University of California, Berkeley
The Constance Rourke Prize has been awarded annually since 1987 for the best article published in American Quarterly. The winner of this year’s prize is Jana Lipman for her article ” ‘Give us a Ship’: The Vietnamese Repatriate Movement on Guam, 1975,” 64:1 (March 2012).
The 2013 Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize
Chair: Maria Cotera, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Theresa Runstedtler, American University
Gayle Wald, George Washington University
The Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize, established in 1974, has been awarded annually since 1987 by the Association for the best dissertation in American Studies.
The winner of this year’s prize is Maile Arvin (University of California, San Diego - Ethnic Studies) for “Pacifically Possessed: Scientific Production and Native Hawaiian Critique of the “Almost White” Polynesian Race.”
Finalist mention goes to Dara Orenstein (Yale University- American Studies) for her dissertation: “Offshore Onshore: A History of the Free Zone on US Soil.”
The 2013 Gene Wise - Warren Susman Prize
Chair: Magdalena Zaborowska, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Beth Piatote, University of California, Berkeley
Carlo Rotella, Boston College
The Gene Wise - Warren Susman Prize is awarded each year for the best paper to be presented by a graduate student at the annual meeting. The winning paper may deal with any aspect of American history, literature, or culture, but should reflect the breadth, the critical imagination, the intellectual boldness, and the cross-disciplinary perspective so strongly a part of the scholarship of both Gene Wise and Warren Susman.
The 2013 prizewinner is Rabia Belt (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), “What Does Citizenship Mean for People with Mental Disabilities?”
Finalist mention goes to: Chloe Taft (Yale University), “The Postindustrial Factory: Seeking Continuity in Casino Work at a Former Steel Plant.”
The 2013 Yasuo Sakakibara Prize
Chair: Catherine Ceniza Choy, University of California, Berkeley
Christina Klein, Boston College
Jean Pfaelzer, University of Delaware
The Yasuo Sakakibara Prize is awarded annually for the best paper to be presented by an international scholar at the annual meeting. The winning paper may deal with any aspect of American history, culture, or society.
The 2013 prizewinner is Ethan Blue, University of Western Australia, “The Deportation Special: Mobile Carceral Space and the Emergence of Mass Deportation.”
The 2013 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize
Chair: Edward Blum, San Diego State University
Adriane Lentz-Smith, Duke University
Jeffrey Melnick, University of Massachusetts, Boston
The Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize was established in 2002 and is awarded annually for the best-published first book in American Studies that highlights the intersections of race with gender, class, sexuality and/or nation.
The 2013 winner is Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the Nineteenth Century (New York University Press)
Finalist mention goes to:
Adria L Imada, Aloha America: Hula Circuits through the American Empire (Duke University Press)
Brigit Brander Rasmussen, Queequeg’s Coffin: Indigenous Literacies and Early American Literature (Oxford University Press)
Cynthia Wu, Chang and Eng Reconnected: The Original Siamese Twins in American Culture (Temple University Press)
The 2013 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize
Chair: Alex Weheliye, Northwestern University
Margot Canaday, Princeton University
Helen Jun, University of Illinois, Chicago
The John Hope Franklin Publication Prize was established in 1986 and has been awarded annually for the best book published in American Studies.
The 2013 prizewinner is Lisa Marie Cacho, Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected (New York University Press)
Finalist mention goes to:
Kornel S. Chang, Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands (University of California Press)
Mabel O. Wilson, Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (University of California Press)
The 2013 Angela Davis Prize
Chair: Mary Helen Washington, University of Maryland, College Park
Michelle Mitchell, New York University
David Roediger, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Sonia Saldivar-Hull, University of Texas, San Antonio
The Angela Davis Award for Public Scholarship recognizes scholars who have applied or used their scholarship for the “public good.” This includes work that explicitly aims to educate the lay public, influence policies, or in other ways seeks to address inequalities in imaginative, practical, and applicable forms.
The 2013 prizewinner is George Lipsitz, University of California, Santa Barbara.
The 2013 Mary C. Turpie Award
Chair: Eva Cherniavsky, University of Washington
Gary Holcomb, Ohio University
Lois Rudnick, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Annually, the American Studies Association gives the Mary C. Turpie Award, established in 1993, to a person who has demonstrated outstanding abilities and achievement in American Studies teaching, advising, and program development at the local or regional level.
The 2013 prizewinner is Joy Kasson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The 2013 Carl Bode-Norman Holmes Pearson Prize
Chair: Miles Orvell, Temple University
Irene Ramalho Santos, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Cecelia Tichi, Vanderbilt University
The Carl Bode-Norman Holmes Pearson Prize honors lifetime achievement in and contribution to the field of American Studies. Each year’s prize committee is instructed to consider afresh the meaning of a “lifetime contribution to American Studies.” The definitions of terms like “contribution” and even of “American Studies” remain open, healthily contested, and thus renewed.
The 2013 prizewinner is Alfred Hornung, University of Mainz, Germany.
Published on October 22, 2013 by John F Stephens.
ASA National Council Votes Unanimously To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel
One year ago, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus of the American Studies Association (ASA) asked the Executive Committee (EC) to consider a resolution to honor the call from Palestinian civil society to support the academic boycott of Israel. The EC forwarded the resolution to the National Council. Following the deliberative procedures detailed below, the Council unanimously decided to issue a revised version of the resolution, which we now recommend to members of the ASA. Please follow this link to read the resolution.
The Council voted for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions as an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action. It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.
We believe that the ASA’s endorsement of a boycott is warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA.
Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.
The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.
The ASA is a large organization that represents divergent opinions. Anticipating strong and potentially divided feelings on this question, the Council unanimously decided to ask ASA members to endorse the resolution by a vote.
Background on the Resolution
The resolution is the culmination of a long history of discussion and debate in the ASA. In 2006, in response to Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the ASA International Committee (IC), including a former ASA President, discussed the possibility of endorsing a boycott. In 2009, in the wake of Israel’s military assault on Gaza and in response to requests from ASA members, several bodies in the Association again took up the question of a boycott: the IC, the Program Committee for the 2009 convention, and the Executive Committee, which included the current ASA President. The consensus then was that members needed more opportunities to learn about and discuss the issues and so the Program Committee organized two featured panels: “Palestine in Crisis” and “Academic Freedom and the Right to Education: The Question of Palestine.” Scheduled in prime times on Friday and Saturday of the convention, the panels addressed the plight of Palestinian universities and academics and the profound pressures on teaching and research contexts in the U.S. and Palestine where education and intellectual freedom were under attack. The second panel focused in particular on the boycott movement.
In the wake of such discussions, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus (ACAC) met at the 2012 ASA convention to consider a resolution and gather signatures. This resolution was then submitted to the Executive Committee and, in December, posted on the Caucus’ page on the ASA web site. Information about the resolution was also included in the December 2012 ASA Newsletter distributed to all ASA members.
In March of 2013, the Program Committee for the 2013 ASA convention met and discussed ways to create opportunities at the meeting to discuss issues related to calls for boycott. The resulting program included 8 sessions on “Middle East American Studies,” with four focused specifically on United States/Israel/Palestine. At the same time the Ethnic Studies Committee organized two panels about settler colonialism that discussed the Israeli occupation of Palestine, while the ACAC organized a panel called “Boycott as a Non-Violent Strategy of Collective Dissent.”
In May 2013 the Executive Committee met and discussed the proposed resolution submitted by the ACAC at great length. It agreed that it would be in the best interest of the organization to solicit from the membership as many perspectives as possible on the proposed resolution to aid the National Council in its discussions and decision-making. With the past President and a prominent, senior member of the Association serving as moderators, it held an open session during the November National Convention at which the National Council was present to hear directly from the membership. Members were notified of the open discussion well in advance of the convention and it was highlighted as a featured event in both online and print versions of the program. Additionally, members who could not attend the session or the convention were encouraged to contact the EC directly via email, and many did so.
The Saturday November 23rd open discussion was attended by approximately 745 ASA members. Members distributed information about the boycott in advance, and the hall was filled with leaflets representing different views. The moderators carefully and clearly articulated the different actions that could be taken and the process for deliberation. To guarantee an orderly and fair discussion members who wished to speak put their name in a box from which speakers were randomly selected. Speakers were limited to 2 minutes, providing the opportunity to hear from forty-four different speakers during the time allotted for the special session. The discussion was passionate but respectful. Speakers included students, faculty, past Presidents, former members of the National Council, former and current members of the AQ editorial staff, American Studies department chairs, and an ASA member also representing the organization Jewish Voice for Peace. While different opinions were articulated, the overwhelming majority spoke in support of the ASA endorsing an academic boycott.
Remaining in session over the course of 8 days after the open session, Council members spoke and wrote from different perspectives, debated different possibilities, and critically yet generously engaged each other. The resulting resolution reflects, we think, the history and present state of conversations within the ASA, offering a principled position for the Association’s participation in the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions while respecting the unique conditions and diverse positions of our membership on this issue.
In the last several decades, the ASA has welcomed scholarship that critically analyzes the U.S. state, its role domestically and abroad, and that reaches out beyond U.S. borders. Our commitment to cutting-edge and transnational scholarship has been accompanied by the comparative study of borders, migration, and citizenship. The ASA also has a history of critical engagement with the field of Native American and Indigenous studies that has increasingly come to shape and influence the field and the Association, and the Council acknowledged the force of Israeli and U.S. settler colonialism throughout our deliberations. Finally, the resolution is in keeping with the ASA’s continuing commitment to ethical research and the right of scholars to dissent and to take public positions.
The Council believes that the resolution is of particular significance to scholars of American Studies. Together, we endorse it, and recommend that ASA members endorse it as well.
The ASA National Council
Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University
Ann Cvetkovich, University of Texas, Austin
Jeremy Dean. University of Texas, Austin
Lisa Duggan, New York University
Avery Gordon, University of California, Santa Barbara
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University
E. Patrick Johnson, Northwestern University
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University
Marisol LeBrón, New York University
Karen Leong, Arizona State University
Sunaina Maira, University of California, Davis
Martin F. Manalansan IV, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Curtis Marez, University of California, San Diego
Roya Rastegar, Bryn Mawr College
Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle
Juana María Rodríguez, University of California, Berkeley
María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, New York University
Nikhil Pal Singh, New York University
Due to a family emergency, Juri Abe, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan, was not present for the National Council meeting where the resolution was passed.
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Published on December 4, 2013 by ASASTAFF.
The Special Issue: Race, Empire, and the Crisis of the Subprime (Volume 64, Number 3, September 2012) of American Quarterly, edited by Paula Chakravartty and Denise Ferreira da Silva, has won the Best Special Issue Award from the American Council of Learned Editors. The fact that AQ won this award in 2013 and 2009 is referenced in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education story about the association is a clear sign that the ASA remains at the center of the field. Congratulations are due Sarah Banet-Weiser and the rest of the AQ editorial staff.
Published on February 27, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
The American Studies Association publishes an online registry of American Studies and American Ethnic Studies doctoral dissertation abstracts. American Studies and American Ethnic Studies graduate programs and their recent Ph.D.s may submit entries. These abstracts are added to the ASA website on a continuing basis. This list is now comprised of abstracts of doctoral dissertations written in the United States since 1986. Click here to access the abstracts, sorted by author’s last name, or click here to submit your abstract using our online form.
Each year, the ASA conducts a survey of recent Ph.D. recipients’ immediate employment and career plans. Doctoral degree recipients are invited to participate in the survey as well as submit abstracts of their dissertations. This survey has been recorded since 1996-1997, and encompasses sources of funding received, time taken to completion, short-term and long-term employment and career plans. For past survey reports, please visit the following web page, or click here to submit your survey response using our online form.
Published on March 3, 2014 by John F Stephens.
The voting in the ASA Election is now completed. The following members have been elected to three-year terms that shall last from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2017.
David Roediger, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Laura Briggs, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Jodi Byrd, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Kandice Chuh, CUNY Graduate Center
Christina Hanhardt, University of Maryland, College Park
Council International Representative:
Hsinya Huang, National Sun Yat-sen University Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Council K-12 Representative:
Natalie Havlin, LaGuardia Community College at CUNY
Genevieve Clutario, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Jodi Kim, University of California, Riverside
Shana Redmond, University of Southern California
The Council extends its appreciation to all those who agreed to run for office, congratulates the new leaders of the Association, and wishes them success in their undertakings over the next three years.
The Council also extends its gratitude to those who are completing their term of service. The councilors whose terms expire on June 30, 2014 include:
Juri Abe, international councilor, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan
Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University
Jeremy Dean, secondary schools councilor, University of Texas, Austin
Avery Gordon, University of California, Santa Barbara
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University, president
Roya Rastegar, student councilor, University of California, Santa Cruz
Maria Josefina Saldana-Portillo, New York University
Nikhil Pal Singh, New York University
David Kazanjian, University of Pennsylvania
Deborah Vargas, University of California, Irvine
Published in News on March 3, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
The members of the American Studies Association have endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in the organization’s history, 66.05% of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% of voters voted no and 3.43% abstained. The election was a response to the ASA National Council’s announcement on December 4 that it supported the academic boycott and, in an unprecedented action to ensure a democratic process, asked its membership for their approval.
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Eric Cheyfitz, Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters, Cornell University
Office: (607) 255-3546
I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. It is worth noting in this respect that just as the myth of American exceptionalism seeks to erase the genocide and ongoing settler colonialism of Indigenous peoples here in the United States so the myth of Israeli exceptionalism seeks to erase Israeli colonialism in Palestine and claim original rights to Palestinian lands. It is from these personal and professional positions that I applaud the decision of the NC to support the Academic boycott of Israel, which I support, and urge ASA members to affirm that support with their votes.
Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, UC Santa Cruz
Office: 831-459-5332, 831-459-1924
The similarities between historical Jim Crow practices and contemporary regimes of segregation in Occupied Palestine make this resolution an ethical imperative for the ASA. If we have learned the most important lesson promulgated by Dr. Martin Luther King—that justice is always indivisible—it should be clear that a mass movement in solidarity with Palestinian freedom is long overdue
Ashley Dawson, Professor, College of Staten Island; editor, AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom
I am in favor of the boycott. As someone born in South Africa during the darkest days of apartheid, I simply cannot cleave to an abstract notion of academic freedom that ignores the material inequalities that structure people’s rights to speak and to be heard. As Robin D. G. Kelley and Erica Lorraine Williams remind us in their eloquent commemoration of Nelson Mandela, Israel’s settler colonial policies have created conditions for Palestinians that bear close comparison with those meted out by the apartheid regime in my homeland. These conditions directly impinge on the academic freedom, as well as the life possibilities, of Palestinian intellectuals. From Editor’s closing Statement, AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, 2013.
Robin D.G. Kelley, Gary B. Nash Professor of American History, UCLA
The ASA Resolution supporting a boycott of Israeli academic institutions has been grossly mischaracterized as an assault on academic freedom. On the contrary, it is one of the most significant affirmative acts any scholarly organization has proposed in defense of academic freedom since the anti-apartheid movement. Palestinian students and faculty living under occupation do not enjoy academic freedom, let alone the full range of basic human rights. Even the critics of the Resolution recognize this fact and are quick to proclaim their concern over Israel’s occupation and the plight of Palestinians. However, they argue that the boycott would, in turn, punish Israeli academics unfairly. But the truth is, Israeli scholars also suffer under the current status quo. They are denied genuine collaborative relationships with intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Gaza, and Israeli intellectuals critical of the regime’s policies—most famously historian Ilan Pappe—have been harassed, censored, and in some cases forced into exile. Much like the academic boycott of South Africa during the apartheid era, the point of the resolution is to pressure academic institutions and the state, complicit in the policies of occupation, dispossession, and segregation to comply with international law and make real academic freedom possible. The lessons from South Africa are very clear: boycott forced complacent academics to rethink their personal and institutional relationship to apartheid, to talk to each other across the color line, and to better understand how their own work relates to social justice. If adopted, the ASA Resolution will create the conditions for genuine intellectual exchange, free of the state’s political imperative to legitimize the occupation, and grounded in a politics of inclusion, justice, and equality.
David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English, UC Riverside
Office: (951) 827-5301
—The significance of this stand for justice for Palestinians
The resolution that ASA has endorsed responds to the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions made by the great majority of Palestinian civil society organizations. It represents the ASA’s recognition that in any act of global solidarity, we should follow the initiative of those who are oppressed, much as US civil society did in following the lead of the ANC in opposing South African Apartheid. The ASA is proud to be the second US academic organization to pass such a resolution and believes that in doing so it has significantly furthered the awareness that, no less than any other group, Palestinians scholars and students are fully entitled to enjoy the fundamental rights of academic and other universally recognized freedoms.
—The charge of anti-semitism and the charge that boycott violates academic freedom (actually, I think that these are fundamentally the same charge)
The boycott targets institutions, not individual scholars. It leaves individuals free to enjoy the benefits of academic freedom, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or religion, and seeks to extend those benefits to all scholars without condition. The boycott thus extends academic freedom to Palestinian scholars without denying it to Jewish scholars, Israeli or otherwise. It targets institutions on the basis of what they do not what they are: it does not target them because they are Jewish or Israeli, but because of their complicity in Israel’s systemic and ongoing violations of human rights and international law. These are practices, and therefore capable of termination or modification. What would be truly anti-semitic would be to accept that all Jews are de facto identified with a single state and its policies.
—The claim that Americanists have no stake in Israel/Palestine
By definition, the study of America includes both the study of its own colonial and imperial past and the study of its international relations. No state has benefited more in recent decades from US material and political support than Israel and perhaps no people has been more continuously impacted by US global interests than the Palestinians. The US relation to Israel/Palestine is therefore not only a relevant but a pressing object of analysis for American Studies. The boycott resolution is in keeping with the Association’s long-standing ethical commitment to translating analysis into morally informed action (from condemnation of the war on Iraq to support for hotel workers).
—The claim that academic organizations have no business taking political stands
The ASA’s members have learnt and taught that every substantial advance in real and material freedom for people subject to racism, colonization and discrimination has come through intellectual analysis that finds expression in practice and in the alliance with social movements working for justice. No more than political freedom is academic freedom the private possession of the privileged. It has meaning only if it is translated into action and only if we are not afraid to translate our understanding into collective action for justice. The boycott is in fundamental agreement with these principle and therefore with those that inform the ASA.
Lisa Lowe, Professor, Tufts University
The collective practice of non-cooperation with institutions has a long distinguished international history, and the ASA resolution on the academic boycott of Israel situates itself squarely in this tradition. Moreover, it is a mode of engaging both U.S. and Israeli publics to discuss, deliberate, and grapple with responsibility and complicity in the ongoing conditions suffered by Palestinian people in the occupied territories. By putting the resolution to a vote now, the ASA expresses its view that it is no longer possible for academics of conscience to stand on the sidelines. The vote on the resolution calls on us to reckon with our implication in the unjust treatment of this people, and of the many people, dispossessed and dehumanized by military occupation.
Alex Lubin, Associate Professor of American Studies, American University of Beirut and on-leave, University of New Mexico
Academic freedom means very little when it takes place in a context of segregation and apartheid. Change came to the Jim Crow South not through academic dialogue, but through protest and, in some cases, through boycotts of the institutions that fostered segregation. Change came to South Africa’s apartheid system not through academic dialogue, but through protest, resistance, and an international boycott. Those of us who value academic freedom must always struggle to ensure that the world surrounding academia provides the basic human rights that enable academic life. Published in the Nation, December 13, 2013.
The boycott resolution is intended to address a profound case of discrimination against Palestinians and is consistent with the ASA’s previous endorsement of anti-racist positions in other areas. The resolution does not target Israelis, Jews, or any individuals; indeed, the ASA’s support for the boycott affirms its opposition to all forms of racial discrimination, including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The boycott targets Israeli State institutions that violate Palestinian academic freedom. The resolution very clearly does not infringe on individuals’ academic or other freedoms. Israeli and Palestinian scholars will not only be welcome at future ASA conference, they will also be recruited. In this way, the ASA will make clear in words and deeds that while it will ask its members to not travel to, nor to establish institutional affiliations with, Israeli institutions the boycott is not against individuals.
This has been a clarifying moment for the American Studies Association; indeed, it is a profound example of what the American Studies scholar, Gene Wise, once called a “paradigm drama.” Long-time ASA members and recent ones, graduate students and emeriti faculty, could be found on either side of this issue. While I feel strongly that the ASA made the right decision to support the boycott resolution, I recognize that many colleagues disagree. In no way should the passage of this resolution exclude or marginalize ASA members who opposed it. The boycott resolution is not about severing intellectual connections or shutting down conversation; it is about extending academic freedom and enabling free speech.
David Palumbo Liu, Louise Hewitt Nixon Professor, Stanford University
Office: 650 725 4915
People who truly believe in academic freedom would realize protesting the blatant and systemic denial of academic freedom to Palestinians, which is coupled with material deprivation of a staggering scale, far outweighs concerns we in the West might have about our own rather privileged academic freedoms.
There is no restriction whatsoever of individuals’ academic freedom—this is a boycott by an academic organization against academic institutions in Israel. Individual ASA members are to follow their consciences; both Israeli and Palestinian scholars are invited to participate in ASA events.
Fred Moten, Professor, University of California, Riverside
Phone: (951) 827-5301
If, by academic freedom, we mean the unfettered exercise and exchange of speech, thought and research by every member of the global academic community, including both Israelis and Palestinians, then the ASA’s endorsement of the call for boycott and sanctions of Israeli academic institutions complicit in the administration of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands is a significant advance in our assertion and protection of it. The responsibility of intellectuals is not only to exercise academic freedom but also to theorize and work to enact the conditions that make it possible, meaningful and universal. Thought is irreducibly social, irreducibly public, irreducibly human. When we callously accede to the exclusion of so many from the conditions that foster its free exercise we violate our own commitment to fulfill its responsibilities. The global history of settler colonialism is the history of the administration of such exclusion. Those of us who study the history and culture of the United States of America know that it has played and continues to play a major part in this tragic and brutal history, both within its own borders and everywhere it seeks to extend, consolidate and instrumentalize its power. In endorsing the call for boycott that first emanated from Palestinian civil society but is increasingly echoed by Israeli activists and intellectuals concerned with the moral and political sustainability of their country, we recognize that what it is to be a friend of the state of Israel and what it is to insist upon the right of the Jewish people to live and thrive in a just world are two entirely different things. There is and can be no such world in the absence of the Palestinians’ right to live and thrive as well. Israeli intellectuals Adi Ophir’s and Ariella Azoulay’s description of the occupation and its administration as a practice of incorporative exclusion is apt not only with regard to Israeli policy but with regard to American policy as well. My support of the ASA’s position is animated by the hope that this endorsement refreshes our capacity to think, speak and act against the structures and effects of incorporative exclusion that viciously shape and define the modern world.
Barbara Ransby, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
Professional organizations and individual scholars not only have the right but the obligation to speak out against what we deem to be unethical practices by our institutions and the Academy in general. Moreover, it would be a gross violation of academic freedom to punish any individual professor for expressing his or her political views or critical analysis on a controversial issue. During the McCarthy era intellectuals were persecuted and blacklisted for their left wing views. In the Jim Crow South faculty members lost their jobs for supporting the Civil Rights Movement and opposing racism and segregation. Censorship and political intimidation was wrong then and it is wrong now. Today many academics, after much reading, research, debate and deliberation, have decided to support BDS as a nonviolent response to the unjust treatment of our colleagues and counterparts, students and others living under Israeli Occupation in Palestine. I applaud and support The American Studies Association in its ethical stance on this issue, an issue which in the final analysis, is not mainly about Jews or Palestinians, but about justice.
John Carlos Rowe, Professor, University of Southern California
Phone: (213) 821-5594
I realize this is a controversial resolution, but it is in keeping with our activist history. It is not directed at individual citizens and academics in Israel, but at academic institutions that have been demonstrated time and again their complicity with state policies intended to discriminate against the Palestinian people. During the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, we attempted and in some cases successfully closed American colleges and universities because they were part of the military-industrial complex. This resolution does the same kind of work. During the Divestment campaign to prevent retirement (and other) funds from being invested in companies doing business with Apartheid South Africa, we recognized the importance of what was at the time termed “symbolic action.” (In fact, divestment resulted in real economic consequences for South Africa). This resolution does the same work.
Neferti X. M. Tadiar, Professor, Barnard College
The overwhelming support for this resolution heralds a new era of anti-racist, anti-colonial solidarity. It signals an American Studies unafraid to challenge some of the most hallowed underpinnings of global empire, including the imperative to uphold formal freedoms regardless of the dispossession and violence on which those freedoms depend. It is evident that the resolution’s passing has already generated a level of intellectual inquiry, engagement and exchange that is invigorating not only for the academic field but also for the broader arenas of public debate and political action.
Robert Warrior, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Office: (217) 265-9870
This resolution achieves the clarity of balance that Edward Said, who was one of my teachers in graduate school, modeled at the intersection of scholarship and imperialism. I am proud to have the leaders of our association not only endorse the Palestinian call to academic and cultural boycott, but to advance our understanding of how to do so through a long, clear, and democratic process that has invited broad and lively participation.
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Published on March 3, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
The 2013 meeting in Washington DC, “Beyond the Logic of Debt: Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent,” brought our focus on the ramifications of “debt” - financial, social, political, environmental, affective - to the nation’s capitol. It was a richly productive program that engaged “debt” in manifold ways. From the home foreclosures of the subprime mortgage crisis to the financialization of social life, from the debts incurred by histories of slavery, racial capitalism and anti-blackness to those of settler colonialism, native dispossession, and military occupation - the conference program reflected on the nation’s past, present, and future. Sessions explored debt in relation to the restructuring of education, the prison industry, and national sovereignty, while others mined the logic of debt as obligation, inheritance, pedagogy, and responsibility. A broad variety of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields were represented: history, sociology, political science, anthropology, literary and cultural studies, music, and art history, as well as critical race and ethnic studies, indigenous studies, Black studies, Latino studies, feminist and queer studies, and disability studies. Sessions included a suggestive, original mix of methods, approaches, and orientations, as well as engagements and conversations that crossed disciplines, generations, geographies, and historical periods. A brief sampling of the intellectually provocative interpretations of debt threaded through the program includes: the “American dream” deferred, food justice and sustainability, debt and diasporas, military colonial debts, sex work and trafficking, memory work and borrowed time, present destruction and the unpaid future, the “balance sheet” of racial struggle, the afterlives of civil rights, debt and U.S. Cold War “liberation.” Yet other discussions explored the question of the “ethics of collective dissent” to such debt regimes, and imagined a range of alternatives to debt that includes: nonpayment and refusing debts, deficits and “failures,” being in the “red,” returning debt, spectacularizing debt, and the creation of new attachments, commons, and accumulations.
The location of the conference was itself significant, and the program committee assembled various site-specific panels that were organized not only to familiarize members with Washington D.C.‘s rich history but also to retheorize that history in relation to the theme of debt. For instance, there were presentations on how activists responded and continue to respond to the policing of sex in the district, how gentrification has reshaped neighborhoods and communities within D.C., and how the foreclosure crisis has become a site of mobilization and contestation among D.C. residents. With site-specific panels such as these, the 2013 program provided a model of how to use an “economic” theme to recast local histories of race, sexuality, and gender.
In addition, the conference became fertile ground for contemplating debt in relation to histories of devaluation and dispossession. For instance, the three-part panel series on “Economies of Dispossession” used the theme to consider the different effects and agendas of racial capitalism—from how financialization operates as a system of valuation and devaluation for social groups, determining which communities are racialized for the expansion of life and opportunity and which groups are racialized in the service of that expansion and in the direction of social death. As a reflection on racial capitalism’s links to settler colonialism, the panel also analyzed how histories of land dispossession and the resulting disfranchisement of indigenous communities produces genealogies of debt for and to those communities.
Exploring debt as an invocation of intellectual genealogy, the panel “The Burden of Our Genealogies: Intellection, Indebtedness, and American Studies” brought together American Studies scholars in African American, Asian American, Latino, Performance, Gender, and Native American Studies to address the intellectual formations, traditions, and genealogies to which the present ASA is indebted. As a theoretical exercise the panel was a way to clarify the critical foundations that make up the association’s current diversity. Panelists invoked “debt” as a mode of subjection and agency, a sense that American Studies scholarship represents a negotiation with the disabling and enabling legacies of critical formations around race, gender, sexuality, and indigeneity.
In pursuit of artistic representations of debt, the ASA artist in residence was Ricardo Dominguez, one of the co-founders of the Electronic Disturbance Theater and a theorist and practitioner of “virtual sit ins.” For the convention he organized the Disturbance Research Lab (DRL), providing training on how to create an “electronic disturbance,” launching Debt Strike, a digital exhibition of net art projects focused on data-driven manifestations and the question of debt, and presented Unexpected Interfaces, a techno-event that fell between “flash crash” cultures and the promissory algorithms of past social debts unmet.
In his presidential address “Seeing in the Red: Looking at Student Debt,” Curtis Marez oriented our critical attentions to the contemporary “university of debt,” framing it as “a form of racialized and gendered settler colonial capitalism” based on the exploitation of land and labor. In doing so, he outlined an “American Studies version of Critical University Studies” that synthesized approaches from critical ethnic studies, indigenous studies, gender and sexuality studies, and visual studies, among other constituencies. Through an “analytic of debt,” Marez critiqued the material conditions of exploitation endemic to the business of the university today, from the staggering levels of student debt that disproportionately entrap students of color to the devaluation of women and young people of color as cheap labor. At the same time, he exposed debt itself as a form of pedagogy, which ensures student “fidelity to the normative,” limits time for critical thinking and experimentation, and teaches that capitalist rationalities are implacable, natural and benign. Attending closely to dissent on college campuses, from mass student protests against budget cuts to social movements protesting militarism and the Israeli occupation, Marez concluded that what is at stake in all these cases - and in the regime of university debt itself - is the “right to education, or more broadly, what Harney and Moten call ‘study’, a practice of collective thought and social activity irreducible to and, in fact, antagonistic to market logics.” Marez concluded with suggestive examples of how film and visual media provide tools for honing our critical gaze on debt education and its consequences, capacitating critical thinking and action across class and national borders. In particular, he drew “speculative visions of debt abolition” from Alex Rivera’s film “Sleep Dealer” and Alberto Ledesma’s drawing “Berkeley Dreamers,” offering them as critical projections of paths through new forms of social solidarity to different and better worlds beyond debt.
One of the most provocative sessions from the 2013 meeting was the “ASA Town Hall: The United States and Israel/Palestine,” a town hall designed to inform the membership about one of the iterations of debt—that is, the Israeli nation-state’s indebtedness to U.S. foreign and military aid, an indebtedness that produces conditions of devaluation and social death for Palestinians, in particular. The town hall panel was made up of some of the keenest commentators and scholars of the U.S.‘s relationship to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Alex Lubin of the University of New Mexico and the American University in Beirut discussed the ways in which the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords allowed the U.S. and Israel to implement systems of neoliberal governance—rather than overt colonialism—in the West Bank and Gaza. Angela Davis, emeritus professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz, offered a critical assessment of how the Israeli occupation is assisted not only by the U.S. nation-state but by corporations such as Caterpillar, Inc. Another panelist, Ahmad H. Sa’di, professor in the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of Negev in Israel, presented archival and historical research that demonstrated the Israeli government’s attempt to manage Palestinian populations during the first two decades of Israel’s founding.
The “ASA Open Discussion: The Israeli Occupation of Palestine,” an event organized by the ASA executive committee, allowed members who were present to discuss a resolution to support the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. There were spirited remarks on both sides of the issue, and the moderators Avery Gordon and Matthew Frye Jacobson concluded the session by congratulating the audience and participants for being able to engage what is a difficult issue for many within and outside the association.
In sum, the 2013 conference was a truly historic one. The theme of “debt” was one of the first times that the association addressed head-on a category and formation that one typically associates with the field of economics, in particular, and the social sciences in general. Inasmuch as the theme allowed the association to address the transnational expressions and ramifications of debt, the conference can be read as an outgrowth of the association’s long engagement with global processes concerning race, empire, and capital. The meeting was also historic as it occasioned the most sustained deliberation that the association has had on one of the contemporary expressions of race, capital, and empire—that is, the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Ultimately, this deliberation helped to create the conditions for the ASA’s historic resolution calling for the observance of the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. In doing so, this meeting—perhaps like no meeting before it—has allowed the association to promote and broadcast its interest in and commitments to social justice, not only to people within this country but also to people across the globe.
Published on March 26, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
Published on April 7, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
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May 8, 2014
In the wake of the American Studies Association’s December 2013 endorsement of a Palestinian civil society call for an academic boycott of Israel - and as two efforts to legislate against academic boycotts fail to move forward in the Illinois and Maryland state legislatures - the ASA has gained new members and support. Over the past several months, the ASA has welcomed more than 800 new individual members, as well as 9 new institutional members. The ASA has also collected more membership revenue in the past four months than in any other four-month period over the past quarter-century and its ongoing “Stand with the ASA” grassroots fundraising campaign has exceeded the association’s expectations thus far (reaching the half-way mark in less than a month).
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, released a statement in support of the ASA’s boycott efforts. In it, he states that: “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. ...The [anti-boycott] legislation being proposed in the United States would have made participation in a movement like the one that ended Apartheid in South Africa extremely difficult.” The day before his statement was released, an Illinois State Senate Committee rejected a resolution condemning academic boycotts. A bill to defund universities that subsidize faculty associations with organizations supporting boycotts was also scuttled in Maryland, where non-binding condemnatory language was instead inserted into the budget bill.
ASA President Curtis Marez stated, “Despite the backlash of the last few months, the ASA is thriving. The boycott vote is consistent with our longstanding support for human rights and opposition to war and militarism. Many Americans are now for the first time hearing about their government’s support for the occupation and discriminatory laws against Palestinians. I’m proud that the ASA helped open up discussion about BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) and the difference it can make.” Commentary by ASA leaders, members and supporters was published in the Los Angeles Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post, New York Times, CNN.com, and the Chicago Tribune, among other news outlets.
In response to the legislative threats from politicians, threatened legal action, and physical threats from others, veteran attorneys have stepped forward to assist the ASA in responding to such legal bullying for taking a principled stand in support of Palestinian human rights. The ASA is not the only organization to face such bullying; in 2013 alone, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, an initiative built in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights, documented more than 100 cases of legal and other intimidation against Palestinian rights activists on U.S. campuses.
Incoming ASA president Lisa Duggan noted, “We are looking forward to our upcoming annual meeting in November, which will feature a wealth of panels and events presenting first-rate American Studies scholarship on topics ranging from the politics of settler colonialism and transnational Black studies to popular culture and contemporary performance art. We will be welcoming Palestinian and Israeli scholars along with large contingents of other international ASA members poised to continue addressing matters of global concern affecting all of us.”
Academic Boycott and Related News
From ASA President “Stand with the ASA Campaign”
Broad Coalition Stops Anti-Boycott Bill in Illinois
New York Times: Looking for America Beyond Its Borders
Video: A Review of the Issues Behind the ASA Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions at the Middle East Dialogue Conference
Published on May 8, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
The ASA invites nominations for the Angela Y. Davis Prize for Public Scholarship. The members of the prize committee are: Chair: Mary Helen Washington, Michelle Mitchell, David Roediger, and Sonia Saldivar-Hull.
This award recognizes scholars who have applied or used their scholarship for the “public good.” This includes work that explicitly aims to educate the public, influence policies, or in other ways seeks to address inequalities in imaginative, practical, and applicable forms. Eligible projects include but are not limited to public art, exhibits, films, performances, books, collaborations with community-based organizations, and engaging students in community-based projects.
The prize is awarded periodically at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association and includes lifetime membership in the ASA for the recipient. The prizewinner must be a member of the Association. The prize winner will be announced at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association, Friday, November 7, 2014.
All nomination materials should be assembled by the nominator(s) and transmitted to the prize committee electronically in the form of a single PDF.
Nomination materials might include:
1. A statement describing the nominee’s career in American Studies, noting special achievements and contributions in research and scholarship; service to the ASA; other public service and teaching; collaborations with community-based organizations; and examples of work that helped to educate the public, influence policies, or in other ways addressed inequalities in imaginative, practical, and applicable forms. A copy of the nominee’s CV.
2. Supporting letters from collaborators, colleagues, and mentored students. These letters can be individually authored, but nominators might consider soliciting a smaller set of collectively authored letters with multiple signatories.
3. URLs for any relevant websites.
One set of nominating materials must be submitted to the prize committee no later than August 1, 2014 (extended deadline).
Published on July 6, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
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August 4, 2014
The ASA Executive Committee condemns Israel’s attacks on Palestinian universities, including the June 2014 invasion of Birzeit University, and the recent decimation of the Islamic University in Gaza City
Israel’s continued attacks on identifiable academic institutions are part of its campaign of collective punishment that has already claimed more than 1,650 lives. This goes well beyond the denial of academic freedom to further escalate Israel’s long-standing practice of denying an entire people the basic necessitates of life and freedom. We call upon the United States to withdraw political, financial, and military support from the state of Israel. As long as government support continues the U.S. is complicit in the ongoing siege of Gaza, Israeli war crimes, and Palestinian suffering.
Published on August 4, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
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August 16, 2014
The Executive Committee of the American Studies Association, which represents over 5000 scholars of American Studies around the world, protests the decision of University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise to rescind the offer of a tenured faculty position in American Indian Studies to highly regarded ASA member Professor Steven Salaita.
Professor Salaita was offered the position in October 2013 following a national search and evaluation of his scholarship based on its merit and contributions to comparative indigenous studies. The administration’s action in rescinding the offer in August 2014, after Prof. Salaita had resigned his tenured position at Virginia Tech, and just days before his classes were set to begin at UIUC, sets a dangerous precedent. This last minute top down decision with no faculty consultation and no reason provided violates the tenets of faculty governance. Alarmingly, these actions constitute as well a de facto assault against the Program in American Indian Studies at UIUC despite its carefully earned status as one of the leading intellectual programs nationally in its field. This decision if not overturned is sure to erode the confidence of scholars and students of American Indian and Indigenous Studies that UIUC is an open and welcoming institution that values equally their social, cultural and intellectual contributions. Additionally, if, as reported, the offer was rescinded based on Prof. Salaita’s twitter feed and opposition to the Israeli invasion of Gaza, the university’s actions constitute a clear violation of the principles of academic freedom, contravene the University’s self-proclaimed valuing of diversity, and suggest an intolerable anti-Arab bias.
We call upon you to restore faculty governance, to respect the Department of American Indian Studies and the faculty peer review process in evaluating faculty for tenured positions, and to begin to rebuild the UIUC’s reputation as an institution of academic excellence by restoring Professor Steven Salaita as a tenured associate professor of American Indian Studies at UIUC.
The Center for Constitutional Rights provides background on the case.
Open Letters from Scholarly Associations on the Salaita Case
American Anthropological Association (AAA)
American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA)
American Historical Association (AHA)
American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
American Political Science Association (APSA)
American Studies Association (ASA)
California Scholars For Academic Freedom
Cultural Studies Association (CSA)
Middle Eastern Studies Association of North America (MESA)
Modern Language Association (MLA)
National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)
Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA)
Society of American Law Teachers (SALT)
Petition: In Defense of Academic Freedom: A Call to People of Conscience not to speak at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign until Chancellor Wise honors the contract to hire Professor Steven Salaita
Published on September 2, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
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September 5, 2014
American Studies Scholars Endorse Demands for Justice and Change in Policing of Communities of Color
The American Studies Association represents over 5000 scholars of American Studies around the world, a number of whom focus on the long history of anti-black violence and racism as constitutive of the U.S. state and “American” national experience. The killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this summer is a profoundly troubling event. Far from isolated or exceptional, it reflects a long history of police violence against African Americans that is also represented in the recent deaths of Ezell Ford (Los Angeles, Calif.), Eric Garner (Staten Island, N.Y.) and John Crawford (Beavercreek, Ohio), as well as in the beating of Marlene Pinnock (Los Angeles, Calif.) by a California Highway Patrol officer to name only some recent cases. In company with Sociologists for Justice (http://sociologistsforjustice.org/public-statement/) and many others, we are troubled by the excessive show of force and militarized response to protesters who rightfully seek justice and demand a change in the treatment of people of color by law enforcement. As educators we oppose the militarization of police power and support investments in free education. We urge law enforcement, policymakers, media and the nation to consider decades of research in the field of American Studies about the systemic state violence that takes place against bodies marked by race, the repeated prioritization of property rights over the rights of people, and the long history of “legal” killing of black people in the name of private or communal self-defense. The current national focus on Ferguson reinforces the commitment of the association to promote American Studies scholarship that can inform the necessary conversations and solutions about the systemic conditions revealed by the events in Ferguson.
We at the ASA stand with all those calling for a full, transparent and timely investigation of the events that led to the death of Michael Brown. We also call for an assurance of the civil liberties of protestors and full respect for the civil rights of all, for independent investigation of all instances of police violence, and for concerted, coordinated, local, regional, national and international action to end racism in law enforcement.
Published on September 5, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
The (Re)production of Misery and the Ways of Resistance, October 8-11, 2015, Toronto, Canada
Published on October 16, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
“The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain In the Post-American Century, November 6-9, 2014: Westin Bonaventure, Los Angeles, CA
The call for proposals for the 2014 ASA convention in Los Angeles invited fun and fury, critiques of the good life, alternative realities, queer utopias and nothing short of a “new dialectics of pain and pleasure.” It also encouraged participants to think about how to present their work differently in order to engage the pleasures of writing, intellectual exchange, oratory and learning. The material we received met those challenges, going above and beyond the alliterative connection between fun and fury to deliver passionate, ecstatic, intense, practical and whimsical responses to what some digital media scholars call the era of whatever. We were also pleased to have received a higher than average number of submissions: 743 total, almost evenly divided between panel proposals and individual entries.
Covering enormous ground (“From Furious Orientals to Funny Arabs,” for example), engaging the serious (“Matters of Life and Death”) and the flippant (“Eat Me: Consuming Urban Cultures”), not to mention the filthy (“The Filth and the Fury: The Cultural Politics of Waste in America”), the program represents this newly disorganized dialectic of pleasure and pain and spends considerable time outlining how and when and where a definition of pleasure for some might open out onto an experience of pain for others. Some papers clearly address the class politics of pleasure and others attend to the vexed issues of racial pain and the voyeuristic pleasures it provokes. A special roundtable on Steve McQueen’s controversial film, 12 Years A Slave (2013), investigates the ways in which slavery has been transformed into visual (dis)pleasure and considers the function of spectacle within the film.
The program also works overtime to give us the opportunity to think collectively about recent political events of importance to American Studies. A special roundtable takes the SCOTUS’s recent decision to uphold Michigan’s ban on affirmative action as an occasion to reflect on the so-called “national dialogue” cited by SCOTUS: “the decision by Michigan voters [to ban affirmative action] reflects the ongoing national dialogue about such practices.” Voter-based maneuvers, political disfranchisement by fiat, stand your ground laws, exonerated killing—what, in this dialogue, is speech? Who can speak? Who is heard? By whom? How? And to what end?
The Program Committee and the Site Resource Committee have designed a special series of panels and events that will help bring into sharper relief the vibrant interaction of fun and fury in relation to local and global contexts. Of particular interest in the program will be the wide-ranging responses to the ASA membership’s vote to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. We have created a pair of special panels—“Scholars Under Attack” and “Students Under Attack”—to address the vexed issue of academic freedom in an era of neoliberal management of dissent. The featured panel “I Want My ASA” will address the generational and political differences within our association, some of which were highlighted during the boycott debates. And “Black Radicalism, Insurgency in Israel/Palestine and the Idea of Solidarity” traces the history and the future of this important set of collaborations.
The events sponsored by the hard-working Site Resources Committee offer conference participants a wealth of cultural opportunities ranging from “An Intimate Concert with Artist, Dorian Wood” (Thursday), to “Fun and Fury with the Empty Orchestra: Karaoke Protest, Karaoke Pleasure” (Friday), to “#Not1More: Art, Music, and Immigration Reform in 21st Century America” (Saturday). These off-site events (all held at Human Resources Los Angeles) are complemented by film screenings at the Bonaventure hotel including a special screening of John Akomfrah’s The Stuart Hall Project (2013). This screening will also serve as a memorial for Hall and will be followed by a panel discussion.
As most ASA participants will surely know by now, the theme of “The Fun and the Fury” has taken on a bittersweet inflection after the tragic death of program committee co-chair and beloved colleague José E. Muñoz last year. Given how much our theme reflects and was inspired by Muñoz’s punk sensibilities and his unique, utopian scholarly inclinations, the whole conference serves as a memorial to Muñoz and to his scholarly legacy. Nonetheless, we have also chosen to memorialize Muñoz on Saturday with three special consecutive events: “Queer Horizons: The Fun and the Fury of José E. Muñoz”; a reception in his honor; and a staged reading of the play, Puto, written by one of his long-time collaborators, Ricardo Bracho, and directed by Ela Troyano, with a talk back facilitated by Richard T. Rodríguez. In addition, two other events are directly related to honoring Muñoz’s lifework: the panel “Uncontrolled Substances/Altered States” (Friday morning); and the Minority Scholar’s Coalition breakfast on Saturday morning, at which Muñoz will posthumously receive this year’s Richard A. Yarborough Mentoring Award to honor a scholar who, like Richard Yarborough, demonstrates dedication to and excellence in mentoring underrepresented faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and/or college, university or high school students.
The spirit of Muñoz will also be evident in the interactive performance event, “Soapbox Manifestos.” Manifestos are those declarations, platforms, long-held wishes, demands, pronouncements, and utopian longings that enact both a critique of the present and a casting of possibilities. Imagined as an opportunity to occupy the public commons with inspired oratory, the space outside the book exhibit will serve as the venue for the reading of manifestos, book passages, testimonios, poems, cherished quotes and other bursts of prose meant to rattle, provoke, commemorate and seduce. In addition to scheduled speakers, all conference participants are invited to bring and share their own prepared passages of 1-3 minutes.
The “Soapbox Manifestos” represents the effort we made this year to disrupt and alter the ways in which ideas circulate in an academic context. While there is nothing wrong with the three papers and a respondent format, there is also nothing right about it - in other words, there are many other ways of presenting work, engaging others, debating controversial topics and contesting intellectual traditions. It is unclear whether the conference program as a whole will represent a noticeable shift in the performance protocols of academic presentation, but we have found ways to, literally, manifest the new modes of presentation that we would like to promote.
In addition to the “Soapbox Manifestos” and plenary sessions on topics like “New Work on Slavery and Empire,” then, we are also hosting a Typhoon Haiyan memorial event; a session on sex industries featuring sex workers alongside academics titled “Sex is…Sex Ain’t: Working at the Critical Edge of Sex, Politics, Art, and Industry” and various sessions on food, drugs, and anarchy.
We also will feature a semi-serious session titled “Kill That Keyword.” The title here tells you all you really need to know, but the session itself is not designed simply to critique. Rather, in the spirit of Raymond Williams’s Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, “Kill That Keyword” recognizes how and why certain academic terminologies are overused and undertheorized, or overtheorized and underused, producing the effect of jargon. Jargon is not, as is commonly assumed, the use of unnecessarily technical language. It represents instead an inevitable reliance within critical theory on certain words that gradually lose their meaning. The event organizers ask us to consider: Does “neoliberalism” still mean something, or has it been so overused as to be evacuated of any specificity? How about “precarity” or “affect” or “crisis”? This session is designed to ask, both playfully and seriously, should certain terms be allowed (or compelled) to fall out of usage? What kind of work do the commonplace keywords of current American studies projects do? (How) Can critical leverage, incisive edge, be returned to commonplace terms or to the ideas to which they refer? What terms have fallen out of favor that might be reanimated in the face of the demise of others? Audience members will be invited to nominate terms for comment by the roundtable panelists and by other session attendees.
Ultimately, “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain in the Post American Century” serves as a venue for the reimagining and restaging of academic participation itself. Along these lines, we recognize the technological development in recent years of new modes of presentation that are enhanced, supplemented and extended by powerpoint, keynote and prezi style projections. Accordingly, beginning this year, ASA will feature wireless connectivity in all meeting rooms—there will even be a conference app! Gone are the days where techno-challenged academics fumble for 30 minutes over projection equipment before lining up a few poorly produced video clips. And say goodbye to the clumsy last minute assembly of screens and projectors or the massive wheeled-in equipment carts blocking the entire front row. At this year’s ASA, to better facilitate the fast and ferocious delivery of fun and fury, all rooms will include a Digital Equipment Package. Included in this package are: LCD/multimedia data projector with speakers; laptop (MS Powerpoint, CD, & DVD capable, PC but MAC compatible); screen, wireless internet, and on-site technical support.
So the challenge has been issued, the proposals have been made, and the venues chosen. In order to best prepare yourself for fun and fury we recommend the following: pay your ASA dues and register ahead of time; pick a fun hotel if the conference hotel is sold out - there are many options in downtown Los Angeles; plan to explore what revitalized downtown LA has to offer (new restaurants and cafés, galleries and bookstores) while attending appropriate panels on gentrification and urban capital; leave the conference every now and then and explore the city by bus, metro, bike or even car; go to the ocean at least once while in Los Angeles - you can swim in Venice, Santa Monica or Malibu, and you can eat fresh seafood up and down PCH; eat in a mini mall; spot a movie star; pretend to be unimpressed by the movie stars you see; take a run in Griffith Park or Elysian Park; visit Eso Won Bookstore in Leimert Park, The Last Bookstore in downtown, or the Downtown Public Library; take the Blue line metro to Watts Towers; take a bus to Judy Baca’s mural: The Great Wall of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley; go to a farmer’s market; stay cool, relax, have fun, feel the fury!
We are deeply grateful to the hardworking and fun loving members of the Program Committee and the Site Resource Committee: Kandice Chuh, Eric Lott, Mireille Miller-Young, José Quiroga, Juana Maria Rodriguez, Sarita See, Riley Snorton, Shane Vogel, Jennifer Doyle, Josh Kun and Karen Tongson. Big thanks as well to crucial John Stephens, without whom the convention could never happen. Finally, thanks to T’Sey-Haye Preaster. She is a wonder of congenial efficiency.
See you all in Los Angeles in November!
J. Jack Halberstam, Fred Moten, Sandra K. Soto
2014 Program Co-Chairs
Published on October 17, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
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October 21, 2014
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American Studies Association Responds to False Accusations of Discrimination at Upcoming Conference
In recent days, several erroneous reports have circulated claiming that the American Studies Association (ASA), the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, will bar Israeli academics from participating at our upcoming annual conference in Los Angeles, November 6-9. This allegation is false. There will not be discrimination of any sort against anyone. We welcome Israeli academics to attend, and in fact several are already scheduled to participate in the conference program (see here for more information on the program).
Subsequent reports also stated, erroneously, that the ASA had changed our policy regarding support for the academic boycott. We have not. Last year, after careful consideration by its membership, the ASA overwhelmingly endorsed an academic boycott to call attention to the violations of academic freedoms and human rights of Palestinian scholars and students by Israel. This limited action means simply that the ASA on an institutional level will not engage in collaborative projects with Israeli research institutions, and will not speak at Israeli academic institutions.
The ASA has a longstanding commitment to social justice and believes in the power of nonviolent strategies, such as boycotts and divestment movements, as a tool to effect political, social and economic change. The United States Supreme Court has upheld boycotts against human rights violations to be constitutionally protected under the First Amendment.
“We recognize that the boycott issue has been controversial, even among our own members, and in the spirit of openness and transparency, we have scheduled a panel discussion on precisely this topic,” said ASA President Lisa Duggan. “However, the ASA annual conference is a broad and inclusive event. It’s an opportunity to explore and celebrate the diversity of issues, views and scholarship that falls under the umbrella of American Studies. We look forward to the upcoming participation of our members, invited guests and registered attendees in Los Angeles.”
1.Hank Reichman of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) comments on ACLJ’s unsupported claim: “California’s Unruh Act does indeed bar discrimination in hotel accommodations and does permit an institution to be considered a “person” suffering discrimination and hence eligible to bring a lawsuit. But such a legal claim requires actual incidents of discrimination, and apparently the ACLJ has as yet identified neither an individual nor an institution that can be said to have been a victim of the alleged discriminatory behavior.” He adds, “Moreover, ACLJ’s claim that the ASA boycott is anti-Semitic rings hollow, since not all Jews—indeed, not all Israelis—support the policies the boycott purports to resist.”
2. For more information about the American Center for Law and Justice, read this piece from the Electronic Intifada which explains that, “Founded by the far-right Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson in 1990, ACLJ’s docket has been dominated by opposing same-sex marriage, outlawing abortion and evangelizing its anti-homosexual agenda in Africa.”
3. In January 2013, Shurat HaDin - The Israel Law Center sent the ASA a “cease and desist” letter threatening a lawsuit against it if it did not immediately end its academic boycott. Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and the Center for Constitutional Rights responded to Shurat HaDin’s threat. The following excerpt from the statement can also be applied to the latest false claim, this time from the ACLJ.
ASA’s boycott resolution could not be considered discrimination, let alone discrimination based on animus toward the religion, race or national origin of any individual or institution; ASA’s actions are undertaken because of the policies of politically-accountable leaders in the Israeli government. Moreover, boycott and divestment strategies and the ASA position are grounded in the same anti-discrimination principles as other historical divestment and boycott strategies used to protest repressive state practices, including those employed against the South Africa apartheid regime and racial segregation in the United States. It is precisely these kinds of boycott, which aim to effect “political, social and economic change,” that the United States Supreme Court has held to be constitutionally protected speech activities.
Published on October 21, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
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