The co-chairs of the 2005 American Studies Annual convention, Philip J. Deloria, Ann Fabian, and Anthony Lee, are pleased to be able to thank everyone who helped make the meetings in Washington, D.C. so successful. We appreciate the work of our colleagues on the program committee: Vickie Adamson, Judith Jackson Fossett, William Hart, John Howard, Shannon Jackson, Rafael Perez-Torres, Judith Richardson, Lois Rudnik, and Kent Ryden. We acknowledge that little would have happened at the conference without the work of ASA executive director John Stephens, convention manager Larry McReynolds, and the ASA staff. We also appreciate the efforts of members of our site resource committee, Vickie Adamson, Theresa Murphy, Kathleen Steeves, and Ann Fabian. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our president Karen Halttunen the meeting brought new attention to the work of scholars who explore issues in American Studies at all educational levels.
And of course we thank all of you who encouraged us to follow Karen’s lead and think in innovative ways about the conference theme, “Groundwork: Space and Place in American Cultures,” by presenting your own work as text or performance, commenting on the work of colleagues, or recognizing the contributions of the senior scholars whose work has shaped fields in American studies. The on-line submission process seems to be working well, at long last, and the committee read though an unprecedented xxx proposals for panels and 506 single paper submissions. Phil Deloria, Karen Halttunen, Kent Ryden, Shannon Jackson, and Judith Jackson Fossett turned those single papers into 51 fine panels. The ASA’s willingness to encourage individual submissions makes work for program committees, but it helps insure participation of scholars at all professional levels and wide participation makes our meetings diverse and dynamic. Approximately 2000 scholars, performers, and activists attended the meetings in Washington. The International Initiative, in its second year, helped assure the presence on the program of scholars from dozens of countries.
“Groundwork: Space and Place in American Cultures” inspired discussions that employed the many disciplinary models and theoretical approaches that have become a hallmark of American Studies scholarship. Several panels built on the work of the 2003 and 2004 conventions, exploring questions of war, empire, and the place of American Studies in the Middle East. This year, we made an effort to include panels on early American history, transnationalism, critical geography, cartography, religion, public scholarship, and environmental studies, and to represent the community-based work of many scholars of American Studies. We were also pleased that several panels brought together scholars and activists interested in the politics and history of Pacific Islands. The conference theme also prompted us to respond to the late summer devastation on the Gulf Coast, and we invited Yi-Fu Tuan, Keith Wailoo, Danile Taylor, Ari Kelman, Joe Trotter, and Farah Griffin to join a special session on “The Geographies of Hurricane Katrina.”
We presented roundtables on the work of Hortense Spillers, Yi-Fu Tuan, Gillian Brown, Alan Trachtenberg, Martin Duberman, and Daniel Horowitz. Participants constructed panels on the 150th anniversary of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and on the 10th anniversary of Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead. There were panels on keywords in the new Southern Studies and in a Chicana/Latina Lexicon. There were workshops at the Library of Congress, the National Portrait Gallery, the Building Museum, and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, and tours of the war memorials on the Mall, the back alleys of Capitol Hill, and the historic sites of African American Washington.
We were especially pleased that the Groundwork theme drew geographers to our meeting as never before. A substantial audience turned out for panels highlighting critical cultural geographies, and spectators enjoyed watching the critical banter of another field, while at the same time engaging its questions and practitioners. The Washington meeting also attracted scholars concerned with civic engagement. Sessions such as Undisciplined Public Practice; Politics, Pedagogy, and Public Practice; Going Public; and American Studies Outside the Classroom reminded us how far our work extends beyond the classroom and the campus.
The K16 collaborative workshops at Ford's Theater, the Frederick Douglass Historic Site, the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the National Museum of the American Indian were all well-attended and intellectually provocative events--in part because a number of distinguished ASA scholars were willing to lend their time to this initiative. And the K16 panels held at the conference hotel drew local as well as national K12 teachers and scholars, with a turn-out that the Secondary Education Committee (which has been renamed the K16 Collaboration Committee) proclaimed our best to date.
While continuing the Association’s engagement with the global and international, the 2005 meeting also reminded us of the power of an engaged scholarship of place. “Get material,” as Karen Halttunen reminded us in her presidential address, was surely one of the important lessons of the meeting, as participants found ample occasion to remember that while the global may sometimes seem “placeless” and abstract, it is also a web of locality, a collection of material locations that requires our attention—analytically, collectively, personally, and pedagogically. We hope the impulse to return to the ground continues to shape the work of American Studies scholars in the years to come.