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From the Editors

Reflections on the Annual Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico, November, 2012 (Click)

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.

Council Statement on the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

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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American Quarterly Wins Best Special Issue Award

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.

Reflections on the Annual Meeting, November 2013 (Click)

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.

ASA Increases Membership and Support in Wake of Academic Boycott of Israel Endorsement

May 8, 2014
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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.”

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ASA Executive Committee Condemns Israel’s Attacks on Palestinian Universities

August 4, 2014
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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.

ASA Executive Committee Statement on the Salaita Case

August 16, 2014
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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.

Prof Salaita and His Attorneys Respond to University of Illinois Trustee Vote to Terminate His Tenured Position Over Gaza Tweets

Board of Trustees Officially Votes Against Salaita, and Salaita Responds

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)

Letter from Constitutional Law Professors Regarding Revocation of Appointment of Professor Steven Salaita to the University of Illinois Faculty (August 15, 2014)

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

ASA Executive Committee Statement on Ferguson

September 5, 2014
American Studies Scholars Endorse Demands for Justice and Change in Policing of Communities of Color
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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.

ASA Responds to False Accusations of Possible Discrimination at 2014 Conference

October 21, 2014

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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.”


Chronicle of Higher Education: 2014 Influence List
They changed the debate about sanctions against Israel.
“We got into the mainstream press and triggered a number of conversations not visible before about Israel-Palestine,” says the ASA’s president, Lisa Duggan, a professor at New York University. “In that sense we had done what we wanted to do.”

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 2014, 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.

4. Curtis Marez op-ed in U-T San Diego: Group’s academic boycott honors civil rights tradition

The ASA’s commitment to boycotting formal collaborations with Israeli institutions honors a long-standing American civil rights tradition. We are not deterred by baseless legal accusations, and we are not distracted by false reports that we are denying entry to our public conference. We look forward to a broad and vigorous academic discussion at our upcoming meeting, with scholars from a wide range of academic fields and national origins—including Israelis—on issues like transnational violence, indigenous rights, and, of course, the ASA academic boycott.

5. David Palumbo-Liu in the Huffington Post: This Is How an Academic Boycott of Israel Actually Works

This points to an inability, and perhaps unwillingness, of the mainstream media to treat the issue of the academic boycott of Israel in a fair-handed manner…

Lisa Duggan and Mary Danico, representing two organizations that have endorsed the academic boycott of Israel, have it exactly right when they say that one of the very positive effects of the boycott is to put this issue (the absolute silencing of Palestinian voices in mainstream media) before people’s eyes. That is no small feat, given the reluctance of major news venues to treat this issue fairly, impartially, and accurately…

The academic boycott of Israel is not a matter of “piggybacking” or leaping on bandwagons. It is a matter of outrage at injustice and an emphatic act of conscience.

6. Lisa Duggan op-ed in the LA Times: Academic boycott of Israel gives voice to peaceful protest

To dispute the relevance of Israel to American studies is to ignore how intertwined Israel is with America. The story of Israel includes the story of Harry Truman, who fretted deeply over the endless war he foresaw as the consequence of his 1948 decision to recognize Israel.

America’s story includes Israeli leaders like Golda Meir, Moshe Arens and Benjamin Netanyahu, who lived or grew up here. Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., and his predecessor Michael Oren were products of the influential American Zionist movement—itself a topic worthy of study. Baruch Goldstein, the mass-murdering settler who killed 29 Palestinians at prayer in Hebron, had been an American Zionist too.

As Dahlia Scheindlin wrote on the Israeli site +972, “It is America’s U.N. veto, America’s enormous global weight, American financial and military aid that props up Israel’s standing and policies.” On November 9, at the Washington Hilton, political mega-donor Sheldon Adelson told Israeli American Council conferees, “Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state—so what?”

(Just two weeks later, a controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people was approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character. Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.)

7. Associations Now: Academic Group Looks Beyond Israel Boycott

Duggan emphasized that ASA’s academic boycott of Israel is part of a larger existing tradition for the organization, one that includes protests against the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

“The effort here is about putting into context the boycott vote with all of the other kinds of social justice work we do,” Duggan told Inside Higher Ed of the endeavor. “There’s a very long list. The boycott is not the only thing about us.”

8. Jim Downs in the Huffington Post: Back to the Future: American Studies’ Noble Dreams

The scholarly profession needs a cutting edge, politically radical, mildly indecipherable group of intellectuals to continue to push us to dare more. We need to remember that the ASA has been at the future of the scholarly profession for the last half-century. We need to go back to the future. We all need to go back to ASA.

9. Corey Robin: Israel, Palestine, and the “Myth and Symbol” of American Studies

My sense of American Studies—admittedly from outside the field—is that it always has derived a great deal of its animating energy and intellectual purpose from the international arena (otherwise known as other countries). As Lisa’s interlocutor himself acknowledges, the early years of American Studies were shaped by the imperatives of the Cold War, and then in the 1960s and 1970s the field was reshaped by the Vietnam War, producing such canonical works as…Richard Slotkin’s learned and literate trilogy about the long and terrible career of American violence.

In order to reconcile this past of the discipline with the complaints of its contemporary critics, you have to make one of two assumptions: either that the field has another, completely different past or that Israel is not part of the foreign policy of the United States. Either way, you’re living in a fantasy land.

Once upon a time American Studies’s elders took apart the “myth and symbol” of America; now they’ve turned their field into one.

10. Lisa Duggan op-ed in the Providence Journal: Israel boycott has not hurt us

The (2014) conference, drawing 2,300 scholars, was the first to follow our resolution last December supporting the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The boycott is a form of nonviolent resistance that proved its value during the successful fight against South African apartheid… with 1,000 new members (net gain) since the resolution passed, record fundraising and robust conference attendance, it’s hard to argue our association has suffered.

Because we support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions as a nonviolent means to secure Palestinian rights and freedom, we too find ourselves under attack. But the critics’ complaint that our stand is unfair to academicians who don’t agree with it is a recipe for never doing anything that might draw opposition.

11.  Middle East Studies Association affirms members’ right to boycott Israeli academic institutions

Uri Blau reporting for Haaretz mentioned MESA’s status in the field of Middle East studies as being considered “the most important” and that Israeli academics are calling this both “unprecedented” and a “game changer”.  Blau went on to acknowledge the growing strength of the BDS movement. “Even if for now the significance of the resolution is mostly symbolic, the debate over a boycott of Israel is gradually moving into the center of the academic sphere and is no longer on the margins,” he wrote.

12. Civil rights organizations warn universities: there is no “civility” exception to First Amendment

Universities cannot restrict student (or faculty) speech because they are nervous about views that challenge state violence, or express anger about Palestinian suffering.  Debate, disagreement, and free expression, including protests, demonstrations, and other expressive activities, embody the highest values of a free university and a democratic society.

13. American Anthropological Association soundly defeats a proposed resolution opposing the academic boycott of Israel

Advocates of the movement to boycott Israeli universities see it as a way that foreign academics can stand in solidarity with Palestinians and put moral pressure on Israel’s government to change its policies…virtually all anthropologists who work in the Palestinian territories support the boycott, having “come to this decision through years of research and a realization that supporting the boycott is part of their ethical practice as anthropologists.”

Under the boycott, Israelis would still be permitted to participate in AAA meetings and publish in its journals. Zareena Grewal of Yale University reminded the audience that the American Studies Association’s support for the boycott did not prevent numerous Israelis from attending that group’s recent annual meeting.

14.  US student workers’ union backs Israel boycott in landslide vote

UAW 2865, a labor union representing over 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors, and other student-workers at the University of California, has become the first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote responding to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination. The vote passed, with 65% (almost 2/3) of voting members in support. The measure calls on: 1) the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid; 2) the UAW International to divest from these same entities; 3) the US government to end military aid to Israel. 4) 53 % of voting members also pledged not to “take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel” until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.

ASA Launches Nationwide Initiative to Document Assaults on Academic Freedom and Higher Education

November 7, 2014

Media Contact:

Stephanie Willerton
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Los Angeles, CA - The American Studies Association (ASA), one of the leading scholarly communities supporting social change, today announced at its annual conference a nationwide effort to document and publicize instances of assaults on academic freedom, faculty profiling, widespread dismantling of academic programs in American Studies (as well as Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ethnic Studies, and other allied programs), access to education, and hostile environments on many campuses for faculty and student labor organizing and protest.

“Against a backdrop of rapidly changing economics in higher education, it’s clear that university scholars and students in America are increasingly under attack,” said ASA President Lisa Duggan of New York University. “From elimination of tenure, to the expansion of a precarious class of adjuncts and instructors with neither the benefit of academic freedom nor the basic dignity of a living wage, to a burgeoning cohort of students drowning in debt, these assaults on higher education are part and parcel of political and economic privatization efforts that will have devastating long-term effects.”

The effort, called Scholars Under Attack, will document examples of assaults on academic freedom, program cuts, labor organizing and political protests, and instances of faculty profiling. The following examples have occurred just in the past few months:

* In August 2014, Steven Salaita, a former tenured professor at Virginia Technical Institute whose tenured job from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) was rescinded when UIUC decided statements he made on Twitter about Israel and Palestine were “uncivil” and made him inappropriate for the classroom.

* In Spring 2014, University of Southern Maine announced a plan to cut dozens of tenured and untenured faculty and staff, as well as several masters and undergraduate programs. Faculty members disputed the university president’s claim that the cuts were financially necessary. The Board of Trustees approved the elimination of 50 faculty members, which made up almost 20 percent of its total, and a number of departments, including American and New England Studies. English, philosophy and history departments would be collapsed into a single humanities department.

* In October 2014, Utah State University received an email threatening a mass killing if the school did not cancel Anita Sarkeesian’s lecture.  Although Sarkeesian, a video game critic and feminist, requested metal detectors and pat downs, she was forced to cancel the event because it is illegal to restrict the possession or use of firearms in Utah.

“In addition to methodically documenting and raising awareness, it is our goal with Scholars Under Attack to build a more systemic response to these issues and moving forward begin to reverse these trends for the sake of America’s scholars, students and renowned system of higher education.”

About the ASA

Chartered in 1951, the American Studies Association has 5,000 members dedicated to promoting meaningful dialogue about the United States, throughout the U.S. and across the globe. Our purpose is to support scholars and scholarship committed to original research, critical thinking, and public discussion and debate. We hold in common the desire to view US history and culture from multiple perspectives. In addition to being the oldest and largest scholarly association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history in a global context, we are also one of the leading scholarly communities supporting social change.

See further, the Los Angeles Review of Books, LARB Senior Humanities Editor Sarah Mesle interviews Lisa Duggan

“American Studies” is necessarily engaged in the study of US policies and their impact; there’s no way we can really remain aloof from policy debates… American Studies is a site where the engagement with politics is part of what the field does.

FAQS: Applying to American Studies Graduate Programs

Prepared by the Graduate Education Committee, ASA
November 2012
Download Grad Ed FAQs.pdf
Statement on Standards in Graduate Education

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.

American Studies Journals: A Directory of Worldwide Resources


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.

Reflections on the Annual Meeting, November 2014

The 2014 annual meeting in Los Angeles, “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain in the Post-American Century,” was an attempt to come together around other terms, to place even the existing terms by which most of us organize ourselves and our work under the kind of pressure that would let us see how much or how little those terms are really ours. The pressure was experimental and was driven by a desire for pleasure, even in the face of the things that oppress and infuriate us, precisely because a general opening and cultivation of our capacity to please and to be pleased is what we want. We put pressure on these terms by using and, sometimes, abusing them, critically, but also with a sense of abandon and even, sometimes, with the intent to abandon them. Even unguarded usage of terms such as “we” and “ours” was encouraged if only so that they could be more brought more sharply and insistently into critical relief. If everything “we” hope for is, in some sense, grounded in an assumption of a shared generality the only way to protect that ground is by digging into it, investigating as furiously as possible the very foundations and possibility of “our” collectivity.

There could have been no more appropriate place than Los Angeles, which bears the historical traces of U.S. imperial expansion and new internationalization marked as much by the transgression as by the proliferation of borders, to explore the production of desire, the experience of abundance and deprivation, the affective, discursive and material structures subtending both oppression and the joy and pain that attend the resistance to oppression. “The Fun and the Fury” was a vast collective experiment in new forms and modalities of collective study and Los Angeles was the laboratory for analyzing and experiencing the constant disruptions and innovations of the striated totality of American social, political, economic and cultural life. Rather than L.A. standing for all that is inimical to the making and dispersal of casual, random and intense sociality, L.A. was in fact a space that upheld the communities that formed under the various conference headings and created more. ASA this year was home to theater productions, conventional panels, rants, raves, elegies and soliloquies. People rose to the challenge, took the bait, drank and made merry.

The conference organizers and, especially, the site-resource committee forged lines of dispersal throughout the city, making contact with Los Angeles’ diverse range of artistic, activist and intellectual communities, while inside the Bonaventure Hotel itself new structures of academic and counter-academic address were conceived and attempted, some renewing the most basic forms of good old fashioned social contact, others taking full, and hopefully subversive advantage of new technological capacities to gather virtually, all in the interest of forging a range of new orientations within that famously disorienting space.

In the production and performance of “soap-box manifestos,” in the murder and resuscitation of key words, in a Presidential Address that made use of a “silly archive” and put queer feelings front and center, in a proliferation of non-traditional presentations that aggressively attempted to blur the lines between panelists and audience, the conference was bent on refreshing our collectivity by putting pressure on the assumptions that undergird it. This was especially emphatic and appropriate at the culmination of a year that had brought grossly premature pronouncements of the death of the ASA in the wake of its decision, after spirited debate at the 2013 annual meeting in Washington D.C., to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions complicit in the occupation of Palestine. Last year’s conference continued that debate with a series of panels featuring scholars from all over the world addressing the global history of colonial practice and attempting to refine and extend anti-colonial theory and activism.

If controversy over the proper place and modality of academic activism constituted a major part of what animated the 2014 annual meeting, mourning the loss of José Esteban Muñoz and celebrating his life and brilliance were also essential to what animated the conference. As Lisa Duggan eloquently put it in her presidential address, “The fun and the fury of mourning José, celebrating his work and each other as well as raging at mortality, did come to overlap with the fun and the fury of responding to both the enormous joy that created the boycott vote, as well as with the considerable dissent and rage over that vote in multiple arenas.” Despite his untimely passing in December 2013, Muñoz was the conference’s presiding spirit. There is no more auspicious meeting of fun and fury than in his body of work. Muñoz was co-chair of the planning committee for this conference and his brilliant enthusiasm and ideas, as well as all the rich lessons in innovative intellectual practice gleaned from ASA annual meetings over the past two decades were the impetus for a range of attempts to form a different kind of atmosphere, one built on his firm belief that “‘our current situation is not enough, that something is indeed missing and we cannot live without it’” (qtd. in Lisa Duggan, Presidential Address).

—-Fred Moten, Jack Halberstam, Sandra K. Soto

ASA Executive Committee Condemns the UAE’s Travel Ban on Researchers

March 20, 2015

Media Contact:
John F. Stephens, Executive Director
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The American Studies Association (ASA) Executive Committee is gravely concerned that the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently banned entry to New York University (NYU) professor and ASA member Andrew Ross.  Professor Ross, who is a researcher and critic of the systematic abuse of migrant labor in the Emirates and other Gulf states, was prevented from boarding a flight to Abu Dhabi for supposed “security reasons.”

In opening its Abu Dhabi campus, substantially funded by the UAE government, the NYU administration assured worried faculty and students that academic freedom would be protected there.  But the ban on travel for research by an NYU professor constitutes a flagrant breach of this principle.  The ASA calls on the NYU administration and our sister academic organizations to denounce this and other government interferences in travel for research.

The ASA is an academic organization consisting of over 5000 members from the United States and around the world.  We are the oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history in a global context, supporting scholars, teachers, administrators, writers, critical thinkers and activists around the world. In pursuit of these goals over the decades, the ASA has evolved into one of the leading scholarly organizations known for taking action in the worlds of politics and policy to create and defend conditions for open debate and the pursuit of meaningful, engaged scholarship and teaching.  Given the ASA’s commitment to social justice and history of solidarity with labor, the Executive Committee of the ASA strongly condemns the UAE’s ban on travel for researchers critical of their labor practices.

AAUP:  Denial of Entry to Professor Troubling

ASA Executive Committee Condemns So-Called “Religious Freedom Restoration” Acts

March 20, 2015

Media Contact:
John F. Stephens, Executive Director
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In response to the Georgia legislature’s consideration of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB129), the American Studies Association (ASA) is suspending its bid to hold our 2018 annual meeting in Atlanta.  Should the legislation pass, the ASA will not meet in Georgia.

Georgia’s SB 129 would allow individuals and corporations to discriminate against marginalized groups on the basis of religious beliefs.  In the name of religious freedom, this legislation would justify the refusal of services to Muslim and LGBT communities and their members. As critics have pointed out, this legislation could also be mobilized to defend those who inflict violence and abuse upon family members or community members by suggesting these actions reflect their deeply held religious beliefs.  Former Georgia attorney general Mike Bowers notes, “Obvious targets for discrimination based on a supposed burden on religious exercise are members of the LGBT community and religious minorities. But more insidiously, this legislation will allow state and local government employees to refuse services to citizens.” (Mike Bowers memorandum, quoted at http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/mike-bowers-calls-for-a-swift-death-to-georgia-religious-fre#.yl4az4MMm)

The American Studies Association (ASA) is an academic organization consisting of over 5000 members from the United States and around the world.  We are the oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history in a global context, supporting scholars, teachers, administrators, writers, critical thinkers and activists around the world. In pursuit of these goals over the decades, the ASA has evolved into one of the leading scholarly organizations known for taking action in the worlds of politics and policy to create and defend conditions for open debate and the pursuit of meaningful, engaged scholarship and teaching.  Given the ASA’s commitment to social justice, the Executive Committee of the ASA strongly condemns the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 129).

By suspending its bid to hold the 2018 annual meeting in Atlanta, the ASA also is withholding the potential infusion of $1.4 million into Georgia’s economy, the amount ASA members spend on airfare, hotels, food, and other services when attending the meeting.  We call on other professional and scholarly organizations opposed to state supported discrimination to cancel their annual meetings, and reconsider their bids to meet in the state of Georgia if SB 129 is passed and signed into law.

American Studies Association Executive Committee Demands Washington Redskins Change Their Name

May 2, 2015

Media Contact:
John F. Stephens, Executive Director
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The American Studies Association (ASA) joins the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association, the Linguistic Society of America, the Organization of American Historians, and many native organizations, institutions, and individuals in calling for the Washington Redskins to immediately change the team’s racist logo and name. The decision came by a unanimous vote of the ASA executive committee on May 2, 2015. The ASA, as a leading site of scholarship on indigeniety, on racism, on settler colonialism, and on sport, and as an organization based in Washington, D.C. deplores the continuation the harmful nickname and images associated with the team.

Academic Freedom

AAUP Censures* the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Southern Maine (June 13, 2015).

Scholarly Associations Defend Tenure and Academic Freedom in Wisconsin (June 11, 2015)

AAUP formally recommends censure of the University of Illinois for its handling of the Steven Salaita case. (May 2015)

AAUP formally condemns the University of Southern Maine for eliminating multiple academic programs, including American and New England Studies, without consulting the faculty (May 2015)

*Censure by the AAUP informs the academic community that the administration of an institution has not adhered to generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure.

White Papers for American Studies Programs, Departments, and Centers

Media Contact: John F. Stephens, Executive Director
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The American Studies Association is pleased to announce the online publication of a series of white papers on the following topics.

What is American Studies?

The Nature and Meaning of Research in American Studies

Some Best Practices for Recruiting Students to American Studies Programs

Some Thoughts on Creating Goals and Outcomes for American Studies Programs

How to Position American Studies as Vital to Your Institution of Higher Education

Strategies for Programs, Departments, and Centers under The Threat of Budget Cuts

Writing Mission Statements for American Studies Departments and Programs

We encourage chairs, program heads, directors and coordinators to make use of these white papers as part of the important work to create, understand, articulate, position and sustain American Studies within the current landscape of higher education in the US and globally. The papers are designed to meet the needs of programs with undergraduate and graduate students alike and in the context of not only major courses of study but concentrations and minors as well.

Additional Resources

Guide for Reviewing American Studies Programs
FAQS: Applying to American Studies Graduate Programs
Statement on Standards in Graduate Education

The Reproduction of Misery and the Ways of Resistance

The theme of this year’s annual meeting, “The Reproduction of Misery and the Ways of Resistance,” provided ASA members multiple paths for proposing panels and papers and engaging in the work of the Association. The submissions help to realize what we as Co-Chairs of this year’s Program Committee have seen as an especially rich opportunity to consider the systemic and ideological sources of the suffering that seems to spread more and more even as evidence of a gathering movement of change in the streets and on campuses becomes harder to ignore.

As of now, the Toronto meeting is slated to feature 1,638 participants in over 350 sessions, including 297 that were proposed as sessions and 48 that the committee created from individual paper submissions. Along with accepting the 297 sessions, the committee rejected 49, an acceptance rate of 86 per cent.  We received 344 individual paper proposals, of which we accepted 189 and turned down 155, an acceptance rate of 55 per cent. This acceptance of individual paper proposals is somewhat higher than recent years.

Though some might not imagine “misery” a contender alongside the intellectual vibrancy generated by last year’s theme of pain and pleasure, the ASA’s membership has given pleasure a run for its money. For instance, we can look forward to “The Miseries of Marriage: What Do Queers Lose When We “Win?”,” which will bring together Susan Stryker, Lisa Duggan, Chandan Reddy, and others in an up-to-the-minute assessment of how marriage law affects other queer movements and their fights for economic, racial, and social justice that transcend the politics of homonormativity.  Although so much of the discourse surrounding marriage victories focuses on narratives of progress, this panel examines what gets lost after winning marriage. 

Marking anniversaries is once again an important part of the program. Contributors to an American Studies special issue on Ralph Ellison, whose centennial was in 2014, will explore facets of his personal relationship with language, writing, notions of race, public intellectual life, and American culture writ large. James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son is fifty this year and one catalyst for the panel “American Studies and the Theoretical Legacies of James Baldwin.” This year is also the 60th anniversary of the 1955 Afro-Asian Conference of Non-Aligned States in Bandung, Indonesia. The panel “Non-Aligned” focuses on Bandung as a way to theorize and strategize responses to standing forms of dispossession and empire. By the time of the annual meeting, of course, the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri will be upon us. Among other sessions and papers, we will have an advance screening of Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory, followed by a question and answer session with filmmaker Orlando de Guzman and St. Louis area attorney Brendan Roediger, who has been involved in uncovering much of the evidence used in making the documentary.

We are also looking forward to some special events, including additional film screenings and a performance by Australian-Bengali comedian Aamer Rahman. A law school graduate and former political organizer, Rahman’s standup has been described by the National (Abu Dhabi) as “incisive, cutting and controversial observations about society’s ills, sprinkled with sardonic humour and pop-culture references.” A walking history tour of sites important to the Indigenous present and past, a staged reading of Lisa B. Thompson’s “Undergound,” and various arts projects are among those creative efforts that assist us in understanding and imagining beyond miserable times.

It is precisely those types of visions that motivated much of our planning for the 2015 conference. Small wonder, then, that in the collaborative space of the Program Committee meetings some equally compelling and exciting topics arose with wonderful scholars, writers, and artists agreeing to participate.  We have a panel of Canadian authors—featuring Dionne Brand, Thomas King, and Shyam Selvadurai—who will read from their work; a roundtable to engage literary scholar Lisa Lowe’s forthcoming The Intimacies of Four Continents; a number of distinguished scholars in discussion of “Misery and Resistance in the Great Recession”; and a multi-panel series on race and violence. These excavations are, for us, critically significant for the work of a transnational and vigorous American Studies practice that brings light to conditions of dispossession but also highlights the strategies of resistance and performances of solidarity that animate our histories and present.

The work of the Program Committee is among the most rewarding service available to members of the association, but it is also a lot of work and requires an intense amount of concentration and dedication. Thus, we are indebted to Jean O’Brien, Michael Innes-Jiménez, Gayatri Gopinath, Jeannette Eileen Jones, Christina Sharpe, Jason Ruiz, and Nadine Suleiman Naber. We additionally thank site committee coordinator Katherine McKittrick and her team of volunteers. No program committee could hope to complete its work without the expertise of ASA Executive Director John Stephens, as well as Ilyas Abukar, who works with John in the national office. We are both delighted and grateful to Dave Roediger for the honor of entrusting us with this responsibility. Lastly, we appreciate the vibrancy of the ASA’s membership, your innovative ideas, and the renewed hope you have brought to us through your submissions.

See you in Toronto!

Jennifer Pierce (co-chair), University of Minnesota
Shana L. Redmond (co-chair), University of Southern California
Robert Warrior (co-chair), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

View the Online Program
Program Book for the 2015 Annual Meeting
Register here to begin an ASA membership and for the annual meeting.
General Information
Exploring Toronto
Visiting Canada

American Studies Association Awards Ceremony (2015)

September 22, 2015

Press Contact: Stephanie Willerton, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

All requests for interviews should be submitted by email to the press contact

For additional information about the ASA Awards Program, click here

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 to be honored at this year’s award ceremony at our annual meeting in Toronto, Canada.

For additional information about the annual meeting, click here

The Awards Ceremony will be held on Friday, October 9, 7:00 to 8:00pm, Sheraton Centre, Civic Ballroom Foyer (Waterfall Garden) with champagne and non-alcoholic beverages available to toast and cheer this year’s fantastic award winners! We hope to see you there!

The 2015 Constance M. Rourke Prize
Chair: Dayo Gore, University of California, San Diego
Laura Briggs, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Lisa Marie Cacho, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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 Monica Muñoz Martinez, “Recuperating Histories of Violence in the Americas: Vernacular History-Making on the US-Mexico Border,” American Quarterly 66, no. 3 (2014): 661-689.

Finalist mention goes to Christina Heatherton, “University of Radicalism: Ricardo Flores Magón and Leavenworth Penitentiary” American Quarterly 66, no. 3 (2014): 557-581.

The 2015 Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize
Chair: Alyosha Goldstein, University of New Mexico
Lisa Hajjar, University of California, Santa Barbara
Karen Shimakawa, New York 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 2015 prizewinner is Erin Durban-Albrecht (University of Arizona) for her dissertation “Postcolonial Homophobia: United States Imperialism in Haiti and the Transnational Circulation of Anti-Gay Sexual Politics.” 

The committee also selected two finalists: Megan Black (George Washington University) for “The Global Interior: Imagining and Extracting Minerals in the Postwar Expansion of American Capitalism” and Stuart Schrader (New York University) for “American Streets, Foreign Territory: How Counterinsurgent Police Waged War on Crime.”

The 2015 Gene Wise - Warren Susman Prize
Chair: Lisa Kahaleole Hall, Wells College
Jayna Brown, University of California, Riverside
Robert McRuer, George Washington University

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 2015 prizewinner is Patrick McKelvey for his paper “Disemploying Prosthetics.”  Finalist mention goes to Heather Berg for her paper “Porn Work, Post Work.”

The 2015 Yasuo Sakakibara Prize
Chair: Ira Dworkin, Texas A&M University
Paul Amar, University of California, Santa Barbara
Jasbir Puar, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

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 2015 prizewinner is Kirsty Robertson for her paper “Oil Futures/Petro-Fabrics.”  Finalist mention goes to Jeffrey Severs for his paper “Love in the Time of Financialization: Other Halves, Currency in Crisis, and Wallace’s Brief Interviews.”

The 2015 Comparative Ethnic Studies Essay Prize

The Comparative Ethnic Studies Essay Prize is awarded by the Committee on Ethnic Studies for the best paper to be presented at the annual meeting in critical ethnic studies in comparative, transnational and global contexts.

The 2015 prizewinner is Stanley Thangaraj for his paper “White and Islam: Contradictory Racial Logics in Kurdish America.”  Finalist mention goes to Christina Owens for her paper “Traveling Yellow Peril and Other Miseries of Neoliberal Globalization.”

The 2015 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize
Chair: Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Pomona College
Ricardo L. Ortíz, Georgetown University
Steven Salaita, American University of Beruit (Lebanon)

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 2015 winner is Audra Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press).

Finalist mention goes to: Elizabeth Anker, Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom (Duke University Press); Brian Hochman, Savage Preservation: The Ethnographic Origins of Modern Media Technology (University of Minnesota Press); and Vincent Woodard, ‎Justin A. Joyce, ‎and Dwight A. McBride, The Delectable Negro: Human Consumption and Homoeroticism Within US Slave Culture (New York University Press).

The 2015 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize
Chair: Bethany Moreton, Dartmouth College
Eric Lott, City University of New York Graduate Center
Rinaldo Walcott, University of Toronto (Canada)

The John Hope Franklin Publication Prize was established in 1986 and has been awarded annually for the best book published in American Studies.

The 2015 prizewinner is Mireille Miller-Young for A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography (Duke University Press).

Finalist mention goes to: Anna Brickhouse, The Unsettlement of America: Translation, Interpretation, and the Story of Don Luis de Velasco, 1560-1945 (Oxford University Press) and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, for New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649-1849 (Duke University Press).

The 2015 Gloria E. Anzaldua Prize

The ASA’s Committee on Gender and Sexuality Studies awards the Gloria E. Anzaldua Prize to an independent scholar and/or contingent or community college faculty member who demonstrates an affinity with Anzaldua’s oeuvre, vision, or political commitments and who addresses connections among some or all of the following categories:  race, ethnicity, citizenship, class, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability. 

The 2015 prizewinner is Santiago Andres Garcia, Rio Hondo College (CA).  Finalist mention goes to Virginia Grise, Playwright (NY).

The 2015 Richard A. Yarborough Mentoring Award

The ASA Minority Scholars Committee awards the 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 2015 prizewinner is Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University (NC).  According to the committee, Mark has cultivated a large audience that exists both within and outside of the academy, and he shares this audience with early-career (and often women of color) scholars and activists by making his social media sites, blog, and web series, Left of Black, a platform for their work.

The 2015 Angela Y. Davis Prize
Chair:  Mary Helen Washington, University of Maryland, College Park
Michelle Mitchell, New York University
David Roediger, University of Kansas
Sonia Saldivar-Hull, University of Texas, San Antonio

The Angela Y. 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 2015 prizewinner is Robin Davis Gibran Kelley, University of California, Los Angeles (CA). The committee noted: “The spirit, passion, exactitude, fight, and imagination that characterizes Robin’s work and his person has made him a uniquely powerful resource for scholars, activists, and artists around the world, educating and influencing a broad public about structural inequality and the power of radical collectivity.”

The 2015 Carl Bode-Norman Holmes Pearson Prize
Chair: Michael Cowan, University of California, Santa Cruz
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Janice A. Radway, Northwestern 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 2015 prizewinner is Mary Helen Washington, University of Maryland, College Park (MD). “Mary Helen embodies the very best of the ASA - a sustained body of critical and impactful scholarship, a life of service to colleagues, students, and community, and an enduring commitment to social justice and equality,” the committee said.

The 2015 Mary C. Turpie Prize

Chair: Lucy Maddox, Georgetown University
Bruce Burgett, University of Washington, Bothell
Mark Metzler Sawin, Eastern Mennonite University

Annually, the American Studies Association gives the Mary C. Turpie Prize, 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.

There is no award for calendar year 2015.

ASA Calls for Racial Justice, Strengthened Solidarity among Activists and Scholars



TORONTO (October 9, 2015) - The American Studies Association called today at its annual meeting in Toronto for a renewed focus on racial justice following more than a year of high-profile deaths of people of color by increasingly militarized American law enforcement. In his address to the 5,000-member organization, ASA President and Foundation Professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas historian David Roediger also appealed for a continued strengthening of solidarity among those at the forefront of social change.

As Roediger argues in his 2015 Byron Caldwell Smith Award book Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All, there are often important and unrecognized connections between the struggles of the oppressed. After Emancipation, unexpected solidarities developed between slave liberation activists and the struggles of Northern laborers and feminists. Similarly, after the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, new connections have been fostered between the Black Lives Matter movement, immigrant rights organizations, LGBT groups and Palestinian activists

“The impressive solidarities that emerged and matured in and beyond Ferguson among a diverse group of activists are to be commended,” Roediger said. “However, history shows us that these solidarities do not come easily and must be deeply interrogated and struggled over in a continual search for new insights into better ways to support social justice movements.”

Roediger reminded the audience of the words of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass: “All good causes are mutually helpful.”

Finally, Roediger acknowledged the work of the two past ASA presidents Lisa Duggan and Curtis Marez on academic freedom and the academic boycott of Israel respectively, noting: “Recent events concerning the University of California Board of Regents, as well as a report released last week by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal remind us that serious threats to freedom of speech and academic freedom for students and professors at American universities have become even more urgent in the past few years. Moving forward, we renew our commitment to actively speak out and engage our members and the public on these issues.”

About the ASA
Chartered in 1951, the American Studies Association has 5,000 members dedicated to promoting meaningful dialogue about the United States, throughout the U.S. and across the globe. Our purpose is to support scholars and scholarship committed to original research, critical thinking, and public discussion and debate. We hold in common the desire to view U.S. history and culture from multiple perspectives. In addition to being the oldest and largest scholarly association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. culture and history in a global context, we are also one of the leading scholarly communities supporting social change.

ASA President David Roediger’s speech will be livestreamed on the Periscope app at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, October 9, 2015. Follow the ASA on Twitter and Periscope: @amerstudiesassn.

LARB Interview with David Roediger, Miserablism and Resistance at the American Studies Association

For information, interviews and Toronto press passes contact:
Stephanie Willerton, ASA Communications: 646-775-1041; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


American Scholarly Societies Joint Statement on Campus Carry Legislation


Washington, DC (November 30, 2015). The American Studies Association joins our colleagues in 29 other scholarly societies in opposing legislation designed to facilitate the carrying of guns on college campuses.  We encourage our members in any state considering such legislation to bring the perspective of American studies scholars, teachers, writers, administrators and activists to the debate.

American Scholarly Societies Joint Statement on “Campus Carry” Legislation

The undersigned learned societies are deeply concerned about the impact of Texas’s new Campus Carry law on freedom of expression in Texas universities. The law, which was passed earlier this year and takes effect in 2016, allows licensed handgun carriers to bring concealed handguns into buildings on Texas campuses. Our societies are concerned that the Campus Carry law and similar laws in other states introduce serious safety threats on college campuses with a resulting harmful effect on students and professors.

American Academy of Religion
American Anthropological Association
American Antiquarian Society
American Association for the History of Medicine
American Folklore Society
American Historical Association
American Musicological Society
American Philosophical Association
American Political Science Association
American Studies Association
American Society for Aesthetics
American Society for Environmental History 
American Sociological Association
Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Association of American Geographers
College Art Association
Latin American Studies Association
Law and Society Association
Medieval Academy of America
Middle East Studies Association
Modern Language Association
National Communication Association
National Council on Public History
Oral History Association
Society for American Music
Society of Architectural Historians
Society of Biblical Literature
Society for Ethnomusicology
World History Association

AAUP Opposes Campus Carry Laws

In a recent statement, the AAUP, American Federation of Teachers, Association of American Colleges and Universities, and Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, also “strongly support efforts to make college campuses as safe and weapon-free as possible for students, faculty, staff, parents, and community members. We oppose efforts to enact “campus carry” laws and call for their repeal where they already exist. We encourage colleges and universities to embrace critical incident planning that includes faculty and staff and to advise all faculty and staff of these plans. We further call on these institutions to rely on trained and equipped professional law-enforcement personnel to respond to emergency incidents. State legislative bodies must refrain from interfering with decisions that are properly the responsibility of the academic community.”

ASA Statement of Concern about Censorship of Educational Material Pertaining to Racial Inequality

February 17, 2016

Media Contact:
John F. Stephens, Executive Director
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The Executive Committee of the American Studies Association (ASA) deplores the apparent decision of the Board of Education in Henrico County, Virginia to ban the valuable short video Unequal Opportunity Race. We express our support for the joint statement of the African American Policy Forum, which created the video, and the National Association for Ethnic Studies confronting this act of censorship. That statement is found here http://www.aapf.org/2016/statement-from-aapf-and-naes. The video, shown by Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Ravi K. Perry as an invited guest at Henrico County’s Glen Allen High School, has contributed to productive debates in classrooms since 2010. Nevertheless Henrico County has capitulated to a conservative campaign to falsely brand the grounded discussion of structural racism in Unequal Opportunity Race as illegitimately playing upon white guilt. The facts of past and present impacts of racist practices cannot be placed beyond the limits of permissible discussion in our classrooms. As an organization of 5000 educators, including K-12 teachers, studying the United States, the ASA encourages the Board of Education in Henrico County to make clear that it will not prevent the showing of Unequal Opportunity Race.

Executive Committee of the American Studies Association

President: David Roediger, University of Kansas
President-elect: Robert Warrior, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Immediate Past President: Lisa Duggan, New York University
Councilor: Jodi Byrd, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Councilor: Christina Hanhardt, University of Maryland, College Park
Councilor: Sharon Holland, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Past Presidents of the American Studies Association

Kevin K. Gaines, 2009-2010
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, 2010-2011
Priscilla Wald, 2011-2012
Matthew Frye Jacobson, 2012-2013
Curtis Marez, 2013-2014

Applications for Standing and Prize Committees

The Executive Committee of the American Studies Association invites applications and nominations for the committee positions listed below. Candidates must be association members and should possess expertise appropriate to the committee’s work.

Applications should include a brief statement outlining one’s qualifications and experience, letter(s) of reference relating the applicant’s experience to the committee’s work , and the applicant’s two-page (maximum) vita, or link to the applicant’s online biography.

Nominations should relate the candidate’s experience to the committee’s work and include each candidate’s brief statement outlining his or her qualifications and experience, and the nominee’s (maximum) two-page vita, or link to the applicant’s online biography.

The materials should not exceed six pages in length. Do not submit academic resumes. Emailed, faxed, scanned, or posted applications will NOT be accepted.

All application materials should be assembled by the submitter(s) and transmitted to the ASA electronically in the form of a single PDF on or before April 1, 2016 via the online submission form here: Online Submission Form.  You may also ship the application PDF via Dropbox to (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

Standing Committees:

Committee on American Studies Programs and Centers: Keeps the Council and the association’s membership informed of the current interests, needs, and professional concerns of American Studies departments and programs, and has the responsibility for special tasks involving the association’s institutional membership. Two positions, three-year terms.

Committee on Critical Ethnic Studies: Keeps the Council and the association’s membership informed of the current activities, interests, and professional concerns affecting Ethnic Studies programs, departments, and scholars; to act as a liaison among association standing committees; to be responsible for liaison with other ethnic studies organizations, and to have responsibility for special tasks involving Critical Ethnic Studies scholars and scholarship. Two positions, three-year terms.

Committee on Gender and Sexuality Studies Keeps the Council and the association’s membership informed of the issues affecting women, queer and transgender peoples in the profession and has responsibility for special tasks involving these communities in the membership.Two positions, three-year terms.

Committee on Graduate Education: Keeps the Council and the association’s membership informed of the current issues affecting graduate education in American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and other interdisciplinary graduate-level instruction; to act as a liaison between the association and national organizations concerning graduate education in the field, such as, but not limited to, the National Research Council; to act as a liaison among association standing committees on issues concerning graduate education; and shall have responsibility for special tasks involving the association’s institutional members that have Ph.D. and M.A. degree granting programs concerning graduate education. Two positions, three year terms.

Committee on K-16 Collaboration: Keeps the Council and the association’s membership informed of the current interests, needs, and professional orientations of K-16 educators involved with American Studies programs or curricula. Two positions, three-year terms.

International Committee: Keeps the Council and the association’s membership informed of the issues affecting international scholars and students in the profession and has responsibility for special tasks involving international scholars and students in the membership. International members of the ASA especially are encouraged to apply. Three positions, three-year terms.

Minority Scholars’ Committee: Keeps the Council and the association’s membership informed of the issues affecting minority scholars in the profession and has responsibility for special tasks involving minority scholars in the membership. Two positions, three-year terms.

Students’ Committee: Keeps the Council and the association’s membership informed of the current interests, needs, and orientations of American Studies students. Two positions, three-year terms.

Prize Committees (2017):

The Prize Committees for 2017 start work during the fall of the 2016-2017 academic year and complete their work by September 2017.

The John Hope Franklin Publication Prize Committee selects the best-published book in American Studies submitted each year to the Committee by authors and publishers. Three positions, one-year term.

The Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize Committee: selects a person for the best-published first book in American Studies that highlights the intersections of race with gender, class, sexuality and/or nation. Three positions, one-year term.

The Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize Committee selects the best completed dissertation in American Studies submitted to the committee by graduate programs in American Studies, American ethnic studies, and American women’s studies. Three positions, one-year term.

The Constance M. Rourke Prize Committee selects the best article published each year in American Quarterly. Three positions, two-year terms.

The Gene Wise - Warren Susman Prize Committee selects the best paper presented by a graduate student at the annual meeting. Three positions, two-year terms.

The Yasuo Sakakibara Prize Committee selects the best paper presented by an international scholar at the annual meeting. Three positions, two-year terms.

Carl Bode - Norman Holmes Pearson Prize Committee selects a person for outstanding, life-time contributions to American Studies. Three positions, three-year terms.

Mary C. Turpie Prize Committee selects a person for outstanding contributions to teaching, advising, and program development in American Studies at the local or regional level. Three positions, three -year terms.

Election Results 2016

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, 2016, to June 30, 2019.

Kandice Chuh, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Miranda Joseph, University of Arizona
Laura Kang, University of California, Irvine
Eng-beng Lim, Dartmouth College
Michelle Stephens, Rutgers University
Shirley Thompson, University of Texas, Austin

Student Councilor
Rosie Uyola, Rutgers University

Nominating Committee
Mishuana Goeman, University of California, Los Angeles
Ernesto Javier Martínez, University of Oregon

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 and nominating committee members whose terms expire on June 30, 2016 include:


Ann Cvetkovich, University of Texas, Austin
Lisa Duggan, immediate past president, New York University
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University
Marisol LeBrón, student councilor, Dickinson College
Sunaina Maira, University of California, Davis
Martin Manalansan, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Juana María Rodríguez, University of California, Berkeley

Nominating Committee

Judy Wu, University of California, Irvine
Siobhan Somerville, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The current roster of board and committee members is available here.

Ratification of revised Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws

The revised Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws were ratified by a favorable vote of 97% of the members voting.

Reflections on the Annual Meeting, October 2015

Our gathering in Toronto for the 2015 ASA was born of a deep acknowledgment of ongoing violences as well as the long traditions and new innovations that move a world in struggle. We came to this year’s conference possessed of the knowledge of Black teenager Michael Brown, an Indigenous movement known as Idle No More, and the stakes of the claim “Soy Dominicano.” The conference theme, “The (Re)Production of Misery and the Ways of Resistance,” provided various angles and ports of entry for us as American Studies scholars to consider the ways in which chronic conditions of injustice can and do give rise to fighting back and breaking through within and beyond the Americas. Across four days and scores of sessions, the ASA investigated, interrogated, finessed, and critiqued these conditions as products of social and political economies, reminding us that misery remains a product of our social, political, and economic world.

Interrogations of the theme naturally took aim at the exposition and critique of the structures and methods that enforce widespread dispossession, alienation, and death. Entrenched definitions of genocide, for example, were troubled through examinations that extended its application into the practices of policing, incarceration, and aid. Evaluations of contemporary global settler colonialism, appropriative labor, and biopolitics oriented our sightlines and methods of investigation into the darker and poorer populations of the world and illuminated the ways in which these people grow darker and poorer with every coming administration, war, and disaster. In addition to these miserable conditions, critical questions were brought to bear on the organizing themes and keywords of our sociopolitical past, present, and futures. In his presidential address David Roediger compelled the audience to consider what and whom “solidarity” leaves out and whose absence it is premised upon. This challenge to the very nature of what we know of our progressive movement past or present is not the undermining of them but rather the necessary concern that must animate any steps toward a collective future.

The seriousness of the aforementioned realities did not calcify or stifle the types of engagements had amongst conference participants. It is telling that, even within the framework of misery, so much joy was experienced and expressed this year. Indeed, this too is resistance. We laughed at the sardonic brilliance of comedian Aamer Rahman, reveled in the creations of Erykah Badu, and entered wide-eyed into the speculative worlds of fiction. We heard, saw (and, dare we, felt?) the suciedad of queer socialities, imagined new methods of interaction and identification outside of the state, and boldly encountered the calculated risk involved in the creation of new pedagogies. We celebrated together—the authors, the mentors, students, and colleagues without whom we would not think as we think or know as we know. We lovingly (re)animated some of the many thinkers gone, including James Baldwin, whose wisdom inspired more than one session. And, perhaps most importantly, we dreamed of new conditions and projects, the ends of which we expect to see in the not too distant future.

Toronto was an excellent site for the meeting, providing not only a delectable mix of peoples but also cuisines, histories, and points of entry and exit. Toronto is a hangout in a way no big city in the United States can boast, but that vibe is part of a productive, serious space too close to U.S. borders to elude juxtaposition. For many of us traveling from the States, its sameness and difference provide a respite from the onslaught of the branded America that is our quotidian reality. A worldly city of old and new immigrants, Toronto is also an ancient redoubt of Indigenous presence and African refuge. Our investment in engaging in meaningful exchanges beyond the conference site was made possible through the exceptional work of our local colleagues. The Site Resources Committee connected us to the city in astoundingly thoughtful ways. Their events focused on how the themes of misery and resistance, together, inform the historically present spaces of Toronto. ASA members were introduced to Black and Indigenous geographies, sonic walks, the city’s green spaces, collaborative events with activists, local union members, and graduate students, and a range of creative works at galleries and museums. Far from auxiliary, these events served to ground us in a moment and at the place from which we might imagine anew our relationship to the world in which we live, love, work, and play.

As a bellwether of American Studies scholarship, we recognize the American Studies Association as not simply an intellectual formation but also an opportunity. We as Program Committee co-chairs were incredibly gratified at the program’s range of ideas, analyses, registers, and methodologies. We’re proud of the work accomplished and thank you for your commitment to sharing with us in this urgent project.

Jennifer L. Pierce, Shana L. Redmond, and Robert Warrior

ASA Letter of Concern about Proposed Cuts to the College of Ethnic Studies (SFSU)

March 8, 2016

Office of the President
Academic Affairs and the Office of the Provost
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue, Administration Building 562
San Francisco, CA 94132

Dear President Wong and Provost Rosser:

On behalf of the Executive Council of the American Studies Association, the oldest and largest scholarly association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. cultures and histories in a global context, we are writing to express our grave concern about the proposed cuts to the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University (SFSU). We ask that you take seriously the demands set forth by the faculty, staff, and students invested in preserving the future of the only College of Ethnic Studies in the world.

SFSU’s College of Ethnic Studies is internationally renowned. It began in 1969 with the founding of the first ever Black Studies program in a four-year university; in the decades since, it has grown and expanded to be an intellectual and institutional site for the support of scholarship about and participation of communities of color, indigenous peoples, women of color, LGBTQ people, the working class, and others systematically excluded from access to higher education.

This valuable institution is now faced unprecedented cuts, following a decision-making process lacking in transparency. Austerity measures are devastating public universities all across the country; regardless, this does not justify the top-down slashing of budgets that would essentially destroy programs that not only serve underrepresented peoples at the University, but also sustain a vibrant and necessary climate of academic freedom - one of the hallmarks of University intellectual life.

The relations of Ethnic Studies scholarship to American Studies are vital to the scholarly work produced in our field - locally and globally. In short, American Studies could not and would not be a viable intellectual enterprise without intellectual contributions which have helped to move the field from its beginnings in the 1950s and its focus on defining itself along its national boundaries to work that connects these concerns with diverse communities on the ground and their connections to peoples across the globe. This turn in American Studies toward scholarly work that reflects our inside and our outside has revitalized the field in the last thirty years and continues to be the touchstone for the proliferation of American Studies programs, departments and institutes in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Any moves to diminish or eliminate Ethnic Studies strike at the heart of American Studies and we urge you to come to the table with concerned students, faculty, and community members to reach a plan for moving forward that recognizes the invaluable presence of Ethnic Studies both at the University itself, and in the work of American Studies more generally.

Executive Committee of the American Studies Association
President: David Roediger, University of Kansas
President-elect: Robert Warrior, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Immediate Past President: Lisa Duggan, New York University
Councilor: Jodi Byrd, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Councilor: Christina Hanhardt, University of Maryland, College Park
Councilor: Sharon Holland, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

ASA Statement on North Carolina HB2

May 9, 2016

ASA Statement on North Carolina HB2
For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
John F. Stephens, Executive Director
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In March of 2016, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2 (HB2), otherwise known as the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act” which severely limits how cities and counties can protect their residents from a wide range of discrimination, including racial bias in the workplace. HB2 effectively overturns local policies that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people. It bans a city or county from requiring its vendors to provide employees with a living wage and decent benefits and preempts local anti-discrimination policies and enforcement tools that protected everyone regardless of race, national origin, age, disability, gender or religion. In addition, HB2 prohibits a worker who is the target of racial, age or other discrimination from going to any state court for relief. 

While the Governor’s attempt to construe the bill as solely about safety and security - in short, the protection of children and families from LGBT people -  people of conscience around the US and around the world have condemned HB2 and its attempt to use hatred and fear to legislate discrimination in place of federal protections.

Among the many protections active and available to all people in the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has declared that Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination requires that covered employees (including those of public universities) must be permitted to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Second, the Department of Education has declared that Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination requires that students in universities receiving federal financial assistance must be able to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.  

In the wake of the passage of HB2, corporations, performers and professional organizations have cancelled events, prohibited travel to the state and halted planned expansions into the state. As elected leaders of an academic association with members across the state, we, the Executive Committee of the American Studies Association, join with others around the world in condemning HB2 and calling for its repeal. We are greatly concerned that the flagship University in the state (UNC-CH) and this country’s oldest public University has not taken a stand in opposition to HB2, but has provided mixed messages about the need to comply with the law, while at the same time upholding Title VII and IX protections. Such mixed messages do little to ensure members of the LGBTQI community that the atmosphere in which they work and teach is safe.

Our bylaws, in contrast, give us clear guidance. In seeking sites for our annual meetings, a fundamental criterion is the accessibility and safety of all of our members. HB2 commits the state of North Carolina to exactly the opposite, reinforcing and institutionalizing regimes of exclusion, intimidation, and hate that target people whose dignity and integrity is fundamental to our most basic values.

Therefore, we endorse the actions of those who have joined a boycott of the State of North Carolina until HB2 is fully repealed. Further, we encourage other organizations, including ASA’s regional chapters, to commit to accessibility and safety of all members in deciding where they meet if they have not already done so.

Executive Committee of the American Studies Association
President: David Roediger, University of Kansas
President-elect: Robert Warrior, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Immediate Past President: Lisa Duggan, New York University
Councilor: Jodi Byrd, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Councilor: Christina Hanhardt, University of Maryland, College Park
Councilor: Sharon Holland, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

ASA Awards Community Partnership and Regional Chapter Grants

ASA 2016 Community Partnership Grants

The American Studies Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 ASA Community Partnership Grants to support collaborative interdisciplinary community projects utilizing American Studies pedagogy, curriculum, research, and other resources.

1.  University of Pittsburgh: Art, Social Change, and Neighborhood Identities: Hemispheric Conversations.  (Amount $3,000)

This project will bring artists from Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Leon Guanajuato, Mexico into conversation with Pittsburgh residents and each other. By developing workshops on the history of aerosol art, planning public murals, and holding a pot luck party, and one-day symposium, this project allows for artists and residents to connect shared challenges in post-industrial urban spaces, and to explore public art making as a means of democratically shaping the urban environment. Its goals are educational, professional, oriented towards social change, and future collaboration.

2. University of New Mexico: Promoting Service Learning in American Studies.  (Amount $3,000)

This joint project of the Department of American Studies and the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will establish a number of paid internships for undergraduate and graduate students in American Studies.  Under supervision by the NHCC curatorial staff, interns will conduct primary research, oral interviews, and studio visits.  They will help select artworks to be exhibited, write object and text labels, and develop exhibit-related programming.

ASA 2016 Regional Chapter Grants

The American Studies Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 Regional Chapter Grants to develop programming, in the form of conferences or other projects, that engages both American Studies practitioners and others interested in the field within a specific region in an original and creative manner.

1. Hawai’i American Studies Association:  Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i Workshops and Creative Project. (Amount $3,000)

The project will host two full-day writing workshops for contributors who include academics, activists, artists, and practitioners. It will then host a public forum following the second workshop session. The editors of Detours are committed to allowing the project to unfold as contributors bring their expertise and ideas to it. The book and related materials will address specifically the ways in which communities of practice are working against the harmful effects of the tourism industry, while simultaneously turning the infrastructure of tourism and the genre of tourism writing on its head.

2. New England American Studies Association: NEASA Professional Development Colloquium, Annual Conference, and Liaison Program (NLP).  (Amount $3,000)

The goal of the program is to increase participation in American Studies events and to create a mechanism that will allow NEASA to better represent its broad membership. The colloquium, to be held in fall 2016, will again focus on professionalization concerns for graduate students, faculty, and alternative academics.  The next NEASA conference will be held in spring 2017.  To support these efforts, NEASA will use the ASA funds to help supplement the costs of its upcoming annual programs and NLP, which seek to contribute to the local scholarly communities both inside and beyond the academy.

3. New York Metro American Studies Association: Everything You Wanted to Know About Academic Professionalization—But Were Too Busy Updating Your CV to Ask. (Amount $3,000)

The colloquium will address careers outside academia for PhDs in American Studies and related fields, as well as offer workshops on skills and competencies central to academic professionalization. It will invite editors of major journals in American Studies as well as the editorial staff of university presses to speak about the environment for scholarly publishing today. The colloquium will include a session on grant-writing.  It will also bring in speakers on careers outside of academia, as well as offering short “how-to” sessions on nuts-and-bolts skills like compiling a cv, writing fellowship applications, and composing conference proposals.

4. Southern American Studies Association: Migrations and Circulations (2017 Biennial Conference of the Southern American Studies Association). ($3,000)

The grant will fund two initiatives that align with the mission of the conference and of the SASA. First, support for transportation and subsidized registration will enhance opportunities for educators and students to attend “Migrations and Circulations” and deepen the diversity of perspectives on conference themes. Additionally, funding for a plenary and discussion that engages all attendees in sustained exploration of interdisciplinary work by a prominent scholar will generate conversations about the past and future of our discipline.  The conference expects 150-200 attendees, including from states outside the region and throughout the world.

ASA Member Viet Thanh Nguyen Winner of 2016 Pulitzer Prize

Congratulations to Viet Thanh Nguyen for his remarkable debut novel, The Sympathizer, winner the 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction

A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties. In dialogue with but diametrically opposed to the narratives of the American War in Vietnam that have preceded it, this novel offers an important and unfamiliar new perspective on the war: that of a conflicted communist sympathizer.

It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s astonishing novel takes us inside the mind of this double agent, a man whose lofty ideals necessitate his betrayal of the people closest to him. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the American War in Vietnam in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

—from the publisher

Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. His stories have appeared in Best New American Voices, TriQuarterly, Narrative, and the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002) and the co-editor of Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (University of Hawaii Press, 2014). His next book is Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, forthcoming from Harvard University Press in 2016. He is Associate Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.

AQ Call for Papers: Special Issue

Call for Papers: Special Issues
American Quarterly publishes one special issue per year each September.  Special issues are edited by the guest editors in collaboration with the AQ editors and the AQ Managing Board. They are comprised of a combination of essays that are solicited by the editors and essays that are submitted to a call for papers. The process is subject to editorial but not blind peer review. For more information on special issues and a look back at past special issues, please visit the Special Issues page.

Call for Papers: American Quarterly Special Issue, 2017
The Chinese Factor: Reorienting Global Imaginaries in American Studies

Guest Editors:
Chih-ming Wang, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
Yu-Fang Cho, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

The rise of China, both as a palpable geopolitical force and a contested discursive formation, has centrally occupied US global imaginaries in the most recent decade: from the controversies surrounding the Confucius Institute in the United States to the disputes over territories in South China Sea; from the hypervisibility of “Chinese” capital to the heterogeneous diasporas that contest what constitutes Chineseness; and from China’s “One Belt, One Road” master plan that integrates Central Asia and Southeast Asia to the struggles of democracy in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. As a geopolitical and discursive factor with global implications, the rise of China poses imminent epistemological and political challenges to American studies and its sense of the world.

The 2017 special issue of American Quarterly, “The Chinese Factor: Reorienting Global Imaginaries in American Studies,” will build on critical transpacific studies by complicating and interrogating existing paradigms for comprehending the rise of China discourse vis-à-vis the place of the United States in the world. As a new iteration of the Yellow Peril discourse, such orientalist imagining persistently reproduces and reifies China as a threatening and monolithic alterity. As such, this dominant discourse often erases and obscures heterogeneous genealogies, critical contestations, and translocal formations within and across China, Asia, the Pacific, and beyond. This special issue seeks to unpack the specific workings of this iteration through simultaneous valuation and devaluation, where Chinese market, labor, capital, language, and culture are alternately posited as vital to securing US global power yet highly suspicious and dispensable. How do we understand America’s schizophrenic imaginings of China and their implications, as China has risen from the ashes of the Cold War to this moment of neoliberal precarity as America’s greatest creditor, supplier, and contender for hegemony? How has America’s premier object of love and hate functioned as a historical, material, and cultural force in the US effort to remake itself in response to the shifting world order? What new archives could be activated to create openings onto alternative routes of knowledge, cultural and social formations, and political affiliations within and beyond the orbits of empires? This special issue welcomes critical practices, analyses, and visions that explore historical and contemporary intimacies of race, gender, sexuality, class, and nation in comparative contexts as ways to facilitate self-reflexive dialogues between American studies, critical ethnic studies, and Asian studies.

Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

  • migrations, circuits of flexible accumulation of capital and networks of moving bodies, the expansion of US universities, and the emergence of global studies;
  • valuation and devaluation of racialized, gendered, and sexualized bodies and labor in comparative contexts;
  • critiques of and affinities across overlapping settler colonialism, neocolonialism, and neoliberalism in cultural production and social movement;
  • race, queer belonging, and post/Cold War campaigns for democracy; and
  • Chinese/Taiwanese American cultural and social formations in spaces such as college campuses, garment sweatshops, chop-suey restaurants, and the Silicon Valley.

Submissions are due August 1, 2016. Authors must address the guest editors and clearly indicate in a cover letter that the submission is intended for the special issue. Accepted submissions will appear in American Quarterly, volume 69, issue 3 (Fall 2017). Information about American Quarterly and submission guidelines can be found at http://www.americanquarterly.org.

Statement on Academic Freedom in Turkey

Academic Engagement Network
African Studies Association
American Academy of Religion
American Anthropological Association
American Association of Geographers
Executive Committee of the American Comparative Literature Association
American Council of Learned Societies
American Folklore Society
American Historical Association
American Library Association
American Philosophical Association
American Musicological Society
American Society for Environmental History
American Sociological Association
American Studies Association
Association for Middle East Women’s Studies
Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities
Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present
Association of College & Research Libraries
British International Studies Association
British Society for Middle Eastern Studies
Executive Committee of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom
College Art Association
Economic History Association
European Association for Middle Eastern Studies
European Association of Social Anthropologists
European Network for Cinema and Media Studies (NECS)
Executive Board of the European Society for Translation Studies
German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO)
German Studies Association
Gingko Library
International Center for Medieval Art
International Courtly Literature Society
International Society for Third-Sector Research
Italian American Studies Association
Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies (SeSaMo)
Latin American Studies Association
Law and Society Association
Linguistic Society of America
The Medieval Academy of America
Middle East Studies Association
Modern Language Association
National Communication Association
Organization of American Historians
Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association
Peace and Justice Studies Association
Political Studies Association
Société Française de Littérature Générale et Comparée
Society for Cinema and Media Studies
Society for Classical Studies
Society for Ethnomusicology
Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts
Society of Architectural Historians
Society of Biblical Literature
Southeastern Medieval Association
TESOL International Association
West African Research Association
Western Society of Criminology
World History Association

The above listed organizations collectively note with profound concern the apparent moves to dismantle much of the structure of Turkish higher education through purges, restrictions, and assertions of central control, a process begun earlier this year and accelerating now with alarming speed.

As scholarly associations, we are committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The recent moves in Turkey herald a massive and virtually unprecedented assault on those principles. One of the Middle East region’s leading systems of higher education is under severe threat as a result, as are the careers and livelihoods of many of its faculty members and academic administrators.

Our concern about the situation in Turkish universities has been mounting over the past year, as Turkish authorities have moved to retaliate against academics for expressing their political views—some merely signing an “Academics for Peace” petition criticizing human rights violations.

Yet the threat to academic freedom and higher education has recently worsened in a dramatic fashion. In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of July 15-16, 2016, the Turkish government has moved to purge government officials in the Ministry of Education and has called for the resignation of all university deans across the country’s public and private universities. As of this writing, it appears that more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry have been fired and nearly 1600 deans—1176 from public universities and 401 from private universities—have been asked to resign. In addition, 21,000 private school teachers have had their teaching licenses cancelled. Further, reports suggest that travel restrictions have been imposed on academics at public universities and that Turkish academics abroad were required to return to Turkey. The scale of the travel restrictions, suspension and imposed resignations in the education sector seemingly go much farther than the targeting of individuals who might have had any connection to the attempted coup.

The crackdown on the education sector creates the appearance of a purge of those deemed inadequately loyal to the current government. Moreover, the removal of all of the deans across the country represents a direct assault on the institutional autonomy of Turkey’s universities. The replacement of every university’s administration simultaneously by the executive-controlled Higher Education Council would give the government direct administrative control of all Turkish universities. Such concentration and centralization of power over all universities is clearly inimical to academic freedom. Moreover, the government’s existing record of requiring university administrators’ to undertake sweeping disciplinary actions against perceived opponents—as was the case against the Academics for Peace petition signatories—lends credence to fears that the change in university administrations will be the first step in an even broader purge against academics in Turkey.

Earlier this year, it was already clear that the record of violations by the Turkish government of academic freedom and freedom of expression amassed in a matter of months has been staggering. The aftermath of the attempted coup may have accelerated and widened those attacks on academic freedom in even more alarming ways.

As scholarly organizations, we collectively call for respect for academic freedom—including freedom of expression, opinion, association and travel—and the autonomy of universities in Turkey, offer our support to our Turkish colleagues, second the Middle East Studies Association’s “call for action” of January 15, request that Turkey’s diplomatic interlocutors (both states and international organizations) advocate vigorously for the rights of Turkish scholars and the autonomy of Turkish universities, suggest other scholarly organizations speak forcefully about the threat to the Turkish academy, and alert academic institutions throughout the world that Turkish colleagues are likely to need moral and substantive support in the days ahead.

(note: organizations wishing to be included as signatories on the above statement should contact Amy Newhall at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

Election 2017 Nominations

The Nominating Committee is preparing a ballot for the 2017 annual ASA elections. Members of the American Studies Association are invited to submit recommendations for elected positions. Letters suggesting or recommending a candidate should relate the member’s experience to the association’s work and his or her vitae.

The following positions appear on the 2017 election ballot: president-elect (1 position), member of the council (4 positions), international member of council (1 position), K-12 member of council (1 position), student councilor (1 position), and member of the nominating committee (2 positions).

Please submit your recommendations no later than October 1, 2016, to the Nominating Committee:

Chair:  Shana Redmond, University of Southern California
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Mishuana Goeman, University of California, Los Angeles
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Jodi Kim, University of California, Riverside
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Karen Leong, Arizona State University
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Ernesto Javier Martínez, University of Oregon
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Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, Northwestern University
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The final slate must provide representation of the diversity of the Association’s membership. Those nominated must be current members of ASA in order to serve. All persons elected serve three-year terms and will take office on July 1, 2017.

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

Statement in Support of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation

The American Studies Association stands with the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota people who have come together to protect their waters, bodies, lands, and sacred places from those constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline and others who benefit financially from continued reliance on fossil-fuel extraction, refining, and consumption. This statement is a call for ASA members, American studies departments and programs, and others to support the Standing Rock Lakota Nation and those who have joined them in the Sacred Stone Camp, Red Warrior Camp, and Oceti Sakowin Camp as they fight to stop further construction of the DAPL.

Dakota Access Pipeline LLC intends the new pipeline to stretch 1,100 miles from North Dakota to Illinois and to carry 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Compelling evidence suggests that the effects of these plans on Mni Sose (the Missouri River), which is Standing Rock’s water supply, and the lands, other waterways, and human and non-human persons near the pipeline have not been adequately considered, assessed, or evaluated. If anything, that evidence points to Lakota cultural sites and burial areas already sustaining damage.

The ASA promotes the proliferation of knowledge of the environmental and human impact of such projects as the DAPL. Further, American studies as an academic and scholarly field has developed a growing commitment to understanding US history in the context of Indigenous persistence and the long history of the abrogation of the sovereignty of Indigenous nations by the U.S. nation-state. In light of what we learn and teach as American studies scholars, we join Indigenous organizations, American Indian governments, and other organizations, governments, and institutions around the world in pledging solidarity with and support for the people of Standing Rock.

Thus, we recognize the authority of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation and join their call for an immediate and permanent end to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The people of Standing Rock and their Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota relations in the Oceti Sakowin Oyate have made a stand to protect their land, lives, and water and against these threats to their sovereignty, human rights, and basic dignity.  We join them in their stand, and we ask others to do so as well.

Approved by the Executive Committee, 23 September 2016

HOME/NOT HOME: An American Studies Art Exhibit

Call for Submissions

HOME/NOT HOME: An American Studies Art Exhibit / Denver, Colorado/Colorado Convention Center November 17-20, 2016

HOCH E AYE VI Edgar Heap of Birds and Robert Warrior, Curators

“Nah-kev-ho-eyea-zim.” This Cheyenne language phrase appears on a wall half of a mile from the hotel and convention center in Denver, Colorado where the American Studies Association will hold its annual meeting November 17-20, 2016. That wall stands behind “Wheel,” a 50-foot diameter 2005 sculpture the Denver Art Museum commissioned Cheyenne/Arapaho artist HOCH E AYE VI Edgar Heap of Birds to make. Heap of Birds learned the phrase from his grandmother, Lightning Woman, who used it to refer to the way Cheyenne people find their way back to the places they are from for a reason and with a purpose—“We are always returning home again.”

This short statement about home helps clarify the theme for the 2016 ASA Annual Meeting: Home/Not Home: Centering American Studies Where We Are. Heap of Birds, who will attend the meeting as Artist in Residence, and Robert Warrior, ASA President, are co-curating an art exhibit that will be in an area adjacent to the meeting’s book exhibit. This call for submissions is an invitation to propose art pieces in any media for the exhibit. Along with selections from the submissions, Home/Not Home will feature work by the curators, Norman Akers, and Melanie Yazzie.

Home is a primary category in the Indigenous world, in Native art, and in Native studies, but Home/Not Home is meant to evoke breadth and depth not limited to indigeneity, race, gender, or other cateogories of identification. Home/Not Home is a reminder of those in downtown Denver whose “home” is the streets.  Home/Not Home gives voice to the persistence of violence, absence, rejection, and psychic violation even as it reaches toward peace, balance, respect, and integrity—often through and within each other. Home without Not Home risks romanticized nostalgia, false consciousness, and loss of the context of place and of what home has become and is becoming.

Art undercuts conventionality while sometimes participating in it. “Wheel,” which remembers the Indigenous histories of the Colorado region, sits on a site of Cheyenne and Arapaho removal, a place that was home and is still remembered as such, but which is also at a significant distance from the contemporary homes of most Cheyennes, Arapahos, Osages, Utes, and other Indigenous peoples whose homelands make up the palimpsest upon which the gleaming city of Denver has inscribed itself, framed by what has only relatively recently become the US state of Colorado. A basic premise of this call is that the sculpture’s public utterance about returning home with purpose and for reckoning is an aesthetic intervention linking Indigenous memory, the homeless denizens of Denver’s streets, and the material conditions that make home possible and impossible in the Americas and, thus, in the places where we are when we invoke the American in American studies. Home/Not Home: An American Studies Art Exhibit is an invitation to grapple with Toni Morrison’s searing Nobel Prize lecture supplication, “Tell us…what it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company.”

We invite all artists to respond to this call by submitting electronic images of existing artwork (no more than four artworks) with detailed descriptions of the work and a short statement about what makes them compelling for “Home/Not Home.” The exhibit will utilize easels for display, so we cannot consider submissions that are larger than 48” wide and 36” tall or more than ten (10) pounds unless the pieces are free-standing. Shipping costs for accepted work will be paid by the exhibitors. We will begin considering submissions immediately, and we will give full consideration to all submissions received by October 26, 2016.

Submissions, questions, and other inquiries can be addressed to Robert Warrior at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Home/Not Home: Centering American Studies Where We Are, November 17-20, 2016

We are writing on behalf of the 2016 ASA Program Committee to say how much we hope you are planning to join us November 17-20 in Denver for an annual meeting that will feature compelling sessions on vital topics, including transphobic bathroom laws, Colorado’s ADX Florence supermax prison, the legacies of the Sand Creek Massacre, and more.

The annual meeting is an expression of the collective knowledge and connective analyses of ASA members, and we are grateful to the hundreds of our colleagues from across the globe who submitted proposals this year. The meeting theme, “Home/Not Home: Centering American Studies Where We Are” generated thoughtful, incisive session proposals, including many on indigeneity and place, the politics of homelessness, prisons as not home, and the determinative power of race and migration on defining at-homeness, among many others. The program also features many sessions that do not match the theme but demonstrate the ongoing and emerging agendas of scholars who work in American studies.

The committee was not, of course, able to accept all submissions. The program includes 296 sessions that the committee accepted from the 328 session submissions. The percentage of accepted session submissions is consistent with what has happened in recent years. This year we received an unusually high number of proposals for individual papers (418). In spite of the high volume, the committee accepted a record percentage of proposals for individual papers. Those accepted proposals turned into 71 sessions.

The program committee also developed sessions that highlight the theme and emerging issues, including the proliferation of campus carry laws, the status of queer of color critique, whiteness and indigeneity, and blackness and the precarity of home. Several sessions will mark the enduring impact of figures who died since we last met, including Cedric Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Prince, Grace Lee Boggs, and Patrick Wolfe.

We remember these extraordinary figures in the midst of our annual routine, which somehow becomes more extraordinary every year. Whether ASA is your intellectual home, professional refuge, or your home/not home away from home/not home, we appreciate the opportunity to spend the past year working on your behalf as the association’s members and sustainers.

Robert Warrior
ASA President

Sharon P. Holland
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui
Jean M. O’Brien
Co-Chairs, 2016 ASA Program Committee

Program Book for the 2016 Annual Meeting
View the 2016 Annual Meeting Program (Interactive Version)
View the 2017 Annual Meeting Theme and Planning Committees (PDF)

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