The program committee co-chairs, Joy Kasson, David Leverenz, and Bruce Tucker, thank the committee members who worked together to make the conference a success: Jonathan Holloway, Isabelle Lehuu, Katherine Manthorne, Linda Maram, Carol Miller, James Miller, Jose Muñoz, Irene de Sousa Santos, Rinaldo Walcott, and Priscilla Walton. ASA president Mary Kelley provided the vision for the program and also worked tirelessly with us in the trenches. We are grateful to John Stephens and the ASA office staff, especially Cathy Eisenhower, convention coordinator, who supported us through the whole process of program preparation and made the conference itself flow smoothly. Thanks also go to the Local Arrangements Committee: Isabelle Lehuu, Robert Martin, Nicola Nixon, and Gwendolen Owens, who did so much to help us enjoy the city of Montréal.
The call for papers announced our intention to make this conference as inclusive as possible, avoiding an intellectual or theoretical monoculture and reaching out both to traditional fields and approaches and to newer, previously under-represented areas. The theme “Crossing Borders/Crossing Centuries” indicated our desire to “celebrate the tradition that has always distinguished American Studies scholarship: its willingness to cross disciplinary borders and to venture outside conventional definitions of scholarly practice.” Such a broad call for papers produced, naturally, a rich collection of submissions, and this program committee also committed itself to working as a group of generalists selecting a varied program, not a set of specialists lobbying for particular fields. On the whole, our attempt was a success. We especially set out to attract sessions in areas that have been somewhat neglected recently, including visual arts and visual culture, international perspectives, religious studies, early American fields, and Native American studies. We also sought to include performances of various kinds, and were delighted with the success of the five performers—Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Hellmut Gottschild, Jerry Longboat, Holly Hughes, and Carmelita Tropicana—and of the excellent reading by Thomas King. Our own featured sessions included the American Studies Association President’s Forum and the Canadian Association for American Studies President’s Forum as well as a panel on adjunct faculty in the academy and a paper by a visiting Cuban scholar. Range and breadth characterized the accepted submissions, with sessions on jazz, photography, drama, queer citizenship, abortion politics, mestizo history, the slave trade, Chicano/Latino film, Asian-American literature, racial biology, the Filipino diaspora, and writing for larger audiences. As always, the individual paper submissions were wide-ranging, and the subcommittee on individual papers did a wonderful job of constructing new sessions from these disparate parts.
The hotel’s ability to provide over two hundred session slots meant that we were able to mount a large, diverse program, with approximately 1600 people in attendance. Despite some complications arising from doing business in Canada, the book exhibit was reasonably comprehensive. There were 48 booths rented, including four combined book exhibits, representing about 60 publishers.
Each program committee encounters problems from which later groups can learn. In our case, we discovered that our emphasis on performance brought up some thorny questions about compensation for performers. We charged a nominal admission fee for some performances, while others were free. Future committees may need to think about how to balance the need to pay for higher-priced performers with the need to keep the sessions open and accessible to all. Furthermore, we encountered some unanticipated issues about payment for performers, including requests that were beyond the mandate of the Committee’s discretionary fund. We chose against the extra fees that were requested by potential performers, reasoning that assistance to graduate students, for example, was a more compelling use for our limited funds. But future program committees who want to include more performance sessions may have to consider other means of raising funds to do so.
The collaboration between the American Studies Association and the Canadian Association for American Studies also presented some unlooked-for issues. The mingling of scholars who do not normally encounter each other’s work provided opportunities for “real life” border crossings at the conference and the potential for new networks. We learned, however, that managing a collaboration between organizations with different traditions and procedures and of vastly different size and membership raised more problems than we originally envisioned. The Co-Chairs recommend that any future collaborations between the two organizations should be preceded by a carefully worked-out agreement on procedures and expectations.
The meeting ran smoothly, with the usual small number of no-shows, and some stirrings of controversy at various sessions. We received a few complaints from people whose sessions or papers had not been accepted. But on the whole, attendees seemed to enjoy the meeting and to appreciate its breadth and scope. The annual meeting is an important event for the field, especially as it continues to change and evolve. We recommend that future committees continue to promote a diversity of voices at the conferences, including both older and younger members of the profession, geographical and international variety, as well as the dazzling range of scholarly fields that now align themselves with American Studies.