It is with pleasure that we submit this final report of the 2011 Program Committee. Entitled “Imagination, Reparation, Transformation,” the Baltimore, Maryland meeting succeeded in bringing together scholars from a wide array of disciplines and perspectives, using diverse methodologies and focusing on a range of topics. is meeting ranked among the most well attended meetings in ASA history. ere were 1900 registrants for the 2011 meeting: a 17% increase over the 2010 meeting in San Antonio, Texas (1575 registrants), yet somewhat less than the 2009 meeting in Washington, DC (1975 registrants).
As we reported last June, scholars in the ASA community responded to this “key word” themed meeting with utmost creativity. is enthusiastic response resulted in an excellent, dynamic meeting that reflected both the longstanding commitments and emergent interests of our membership. Running through and across these panels were analyses of race and racism, ethnicity, and gender and sexuality, in their multiple permutations. It is clear from the strong showing of panels in these areas that issues of pedagogy and university politics remain important in the field. Continuing a precedent set in recent years, the meeting’s formats were diverse and included traditional paper presentations as well as film screenings, local tours, roundtables, workshops, and performances.
As in the recent past, many panels addressed issues of diaspora, citizenship, migration and immigration, labor and working class studies, aesthetics and the arts, genre, the archive, mass and popular culture and religious studies. “The Roots and Routes of Black Feminist Criticism” and “Black Visual Culture: Visuality, Blackness, and the Arts” had standing room only audiences. Also very well attended were the Early Americanist sessions (e.g., “Early American Biopolitics,” “Media Transformation in Early America,” and “Race and Creolization in the Early American Archive”); these streams of panels for a period that is often represented at the meeting were scheduled so that they would not con ict. In keeping with a longstanding ASA tradition, an assortment of presentations took the meeting’s location as a source of inspiration, including “Through the Wire’: A Roundtable, A Post-Mortem,” “Musical Lives and Imaginaries in B’more and the Chocolate City,” and “Baltimore City as Laboratory: Transformations of Urban Neighborhoods through Public History Programming.”
A number of panels took up urgent social and political issues; of note were critical perspectives on US military expansion, American empire, and hyper-incarceration. Notably, many of these sessions brought new perspectives to well established concerns of the ASA community including “Security Practices: War, Torture and Surveillance in the Global Circuits of US Exceptionalism,” “War and the Intimate: Deployments of Gender in the US Military,” and “War and the Environment.” Carrying forward a focus of the 2010 meeting, panels examining the prison-industrial complex were well represented and robustly attended. ese included a stream of four panels organized by the Critical Prison Studies Caucus that focused primarily on the US as well as panels that took an international view to mass incarceration such as “Prisons and Palestine.” e strong presence of work on visual culture and environmental studies reflected the successful community- building of these respective caucuses and the fact that these interests are moving into the center of American Studies scholarship.
In addition to attending to contemporary debates, some of the panels also pointed to burgeoning interests among ASA scholars, including the digital humanities, the arts, science and technology studies, sociology, anthropology, environmental justice, sonic and auditory cultures, political science and policy, and critical legal studies. Exciting new areas of focus were also evident at the 2011 meeting in panels such as “The Intersection of Queer and Indigenous Studies,” “Afrofuturism,” “The Labor of Digital Production,” “Queer Transnational Intimacies and Imaginaries,” and “Academic and Community Activism” that look at longstanding concerns of the field through novel prisms. This was also the case with Priscilla Wald’s stellar presidential address. In her reading of the experiences of Henrietta Lacks, she seamlessly brought together fields not often imbricated— including literary studies, the health sciences, and social theory—demonstrating the rigorous interdisciplinarity that is the hallmark of American Studies scholarship. Wald’s lecture was a clarion call for a critical humanism that put the tools of feminist analysis, ethnic studies and bioethics in the service of agency, liberty and transformation.
In conclusion, we wish to express our profuse thanks to the 2011 Program Committee for their dedication and collegiality: Shona Jackson, Melani McAlister, Leigh Raiford, Mark Rifkin, Julie Sze, Gregory Tomso, Penny von Eschen, Priscilla Wald, and Elliott Young. We thank Gerry Canavan, Amy Noelle, Rogers Hays, Luke Jackson, and Gabriel Peoples for their exceptional organizational skills, hard work and good spirit; Zita Nunes, chair, and the rest of the members of the site resource committee for their rich, creative program and for their hard work in making it all happen, and of course the incomparable John Stephens, the Executive Director and guiding spirit of the ASA.