Creativity within Revolt 

November 12-15, 2020 // Baltimore, Maryland

Revolt is a condition of being in “America” for those who refuse to (or simply cannot) tolerate its normalized domestic and global productions of state and extra-state violence. Beyond notions of social justice, progressive electoral and policy change, or funded and publicly recognized grassroots resistance, revolt expresses a will toward collective being that radically challenges, displaces, and potentially abolishes life-altering and people-destroying relations of dominance. Revolt is thus a collective historical imperative, involuntarily inherited by many and humbly embraced by some, though always enacted as a dynamic and creative act of community under long and immediate conditions of duress. As an insurgent, shared labor that is animated by desires for freedom, escape, beauty, community, and thriving sociality, revolt suggests an assumption of risk and politicization of systemic vulnerability that expresses a radical relationality and connectedness, inducing an intimacy with the protracted labor of abolishing the America that creates and reproduces the frontier, the border, the plantation, the carceral cage, the sanctioned bodily and spiritual violation, and the policed normativity of gender, sexuality, and (biological and social) reproduction, among so many other forms of systemic violence.

The 2020 Annual Meeting takes place during a historical period of revolt that is both intensive and widespread (contagious), traversing almost every form of historical and interpersonal power imaginable. Communities of people, both long-formed and in-the-making, are drawing from multiple legacies of rebellion, protest, survival, and revolution to confront logics of dehumanization and ecological degradation that are foundational to American sociality and statecraft. Such a dense, complex, dynamic moment of flourishing disruption requires an honoring and critical engagement with revolt as a form and site of creativity—that is, as a gathering of generative and productive power that rethinks political horizons, reimagines collective futurities, and fashions cultural practices that echo while extending insurgent peoples’ traditions.

The theme for the 2020 Annual Meeting encourages a rigorously critical conceptualization of both “creativity” and “revolt,” as well as an interrogation of what it might mean to inhabit the “within” of revolt. What imaginative and practical possibilities are (simultaneously) opened when people move against seemingly immovable systems of violent domination? How might revolt itself be conceptualized as a creative and artistic form, catalyzing as it actively produces new ways of interacting with what Sylvia Wynter calls the “praxis of human being?” By extension, what might be gained by a radically creative interpretation of revolt that considers the breadth and particularity of different peoples’ vulnerabilities to the American Civilizational project, and thus expands the (living) archive of radical and liberationist texts, movements, artistic productions, pedagogies, and infrastructures addressed (and often constituted) by ASA scholars? What might it mean to both apprehend and respond to the creative acts of people in revolt, and how might such creativity enable other ways of envisioning and making sociality, community, bodily and spiritual integrity, and radical futurity?

“Creativity Within Revolt” will convene the ASA in Baltimore, MD, 155 years after the obliteration of the Mason-Dixon Line and five years since the police killing of Freddie Gray. Black Baltimore has responded to Gray’s untimely death with unrelenting activity, demystifying the continuities of gendered racist state violence across geographies and generations. The settler colonial history of Baltimore and the surrounding area provides further vital context for this gathering, not only because the city occupies the ancestral land of the Algonquian tribes, but also because it is home to urban communities of Lumbee, Piscataway, Cherokee, Susquehannock, and other Indigenous peoples. As one of the cities targeted by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids, Baltimore is a major site of organizing, mobilization, and critical labor in defense of racially criminalized (im)migrant communities struggling to survive the damage of the contemporary hemispheric “American” hegemony of the United States. Deepening the genealogy of revolt that defines Baltimore and the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia) is the city’s historical centrality to Black LGBTQ activism, performance, and community building. Our meeting site thus represents a particular intersection of the histories and geographies of both oppressive power and collective creative genius. Just miles away from the White House and occurring mere days after the 2020 election, the Annual Meeting will provide an appropriate venue for considering how the ASA’s scholarship can continue to play a role in shaping the changing conditions of revolt.

There may be no scholarly organization better positioned to embrace the intellectual and political risks of thinking, teaching, writing, and critically engaging “Creativity Within Revolt” than the American Studies Association. In continuity with recent meeting themes, we embrace the work of our organization’s multiple and overlapping intellectual communities and encourage proposals that think within and across Indigenous, Black, feminist, queer, trans*, disability, environmental, settler colonial, postcolonial, transnational American, and (critical) ethnic studies, among other critical interdisciplinary fields.

The 2020 call for participation urges ASA members to consider forms of presentation that involve creative practitioners and scholars from as many places and political-cultural contexts as possible, including people (formerly) incarcerated or exiled, those working under conditions of occupation and/or apartheid, grass roots and community activists, social movement veterans and elders, radical journalists, survivors, and artists of all kinds. The contributions and leadership of students, contingent faculty, members with disabilities, and independent scholars have long formed a vital part of the ASA’s work, and we support proposals that foreground and critically expand this vital labor.  We seek prospective panels and workshops that demonstrate a commitment to the principles of disability rights and inclusivity, as well as universal accessibility. 

Building on the momentum of the 2019 ASA Annual Meeting (“Build As We Fight”), the 2020 Program Committee seeks a track of submissions that reflects thoughtful and creative efforts to enhance our collective (and individual) capacities to engage in public-facing scholarly/pedagogical/creative work in support of the ASA’s mission.  Such proposals might include skill-sharing/skill-building, critical solidarity making, artistic exhibition/demonstration/literacy, and other focused organizing efforts.

We encourage proposers to think within, beyond and perhaps against the following themes as they consider the shape and content of their prospective participation in the 2020 Annual Meeting:

  • Undisciplining/undoing, resurgence/refusal as practices of revolt
  • Politics and critical contradictions of revolt in social movements and systems of governance
  • Cripping creativity, cripping revolt
  • Histories of revolt within, beyond, and against the United States
  • Aesthetics of revolt in literature, music, film, and other cultural forms
  • Trans*, Indigenous, Black, and queer futurities
  • Spatialities and temporalities of revolt
  • Revolt in performance and performance studies
  • Failure as creative praxis
  • Revolt in the age of precarity
  • Visions and movements of abolition
  • Undoing Western notions of Man/alternative modes of being (human and beyond)
  • Ecological revolt
  • Creative acts of making community
  • Creativity, revolt, knowledge production, and the neoliberal university
  • Archives of revolt
  • Freedom dreams and creative speculation
  • Trans-migrations and borderless futures
  • Self-care as community resistance
  • Revolt within religious and/or spiritual practices and communities

The ASA website will be open for submission on January 1, 2020. The hard deadline for submitting proposals is 11:59 pm (Pacific time) on February 1, 2020. Contingent faculty, un/under-employed members, community-based scholars and activists, and undergraduate students are encouraged to submit proposals and apply for funding through the ASA Solidarity Fund. Members are invited to donate to support these organizing efforts to ensure precarious members have access to all of the professional and intellectual opportunities available through the ASA.

Please direct any questions about the 2020 Annual Meeting to President-Elect Dylan Rodríguez and/or the 2020 Program Committee Chairs, Erica R. Edwards, Martha Escobar, and Antonio (Ton) Tiongson, Jr.