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 grass roots resistance, revolt expresses a will toward collective being that radically challenges, displaces, and potentially abolishes life-altering, people-and-planet 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 of 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 futures, and generates 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 American studies 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 participation 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, independent scholars, and scholars from across the globe 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 panels, workshops, and experimental forms of collective creativity and engagement 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, activist research, 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:

  • Abolitionist praxis, vision, and movement
  • Histories of revolt within, beyond, and against the United States
  • Undisciplining/undoing as practices of revolt
  • Black radicalism as creative tradition
  • Indigenous resurgence/refusal as practices of revolt
  • Politics and critical contradictions of revolt in social movements and systems of governance
  • Cripping creativity, cripping revolt
  • Aesthetics of revolt in literature, music, film, and other cultural forms
  • Trans/Queer futurity as revolt
  • Bodies in revolt
  • Spatialities and temporalities of revolt
  • Revolt in performance and performance studies
  • Failure in/as creative praxis
  • Revolt in the age of precarity and/or scarcity
  • Undoing Western notions of Man/alternative modes of being (human and beyond)
  • Ecological revolt
  • Creative acts of making community
  • Coalitional praxis and relationality within revolt
  • Creativity, revolt, knowledge production, and the neoliberal university
  • Archives of revolt
  • Freedom dreams and creative speculation
  • Trans-migrations and borderless futures
  • Self-care as collective care; healing justice within community resistance
  • Revolt within religious and/or spiritual practices and communities
  • Violence and/as Creativity (disrupting the violence/nonviolence binary)
  • Revolution and Counter-Revolution
  • Relationships between rebellion, resistance, revolt and revolution
  • Methodologies of Revolt
  • Disrupting justice as revolt (Transformative, Restorative, otherwise)
  • Affective economies of revolt
  • Revolt, disidentification, and worldmaking
  • The mundane, the spectacle, and revolt
  • Body, flesh, and revolt
  • Elder epistemologies as revolt

The 2020 Program Committee enthusiastically invites proposals for experimental approaches to collective participation that depart from the panel, roundtable, and workshop formats. In order to demonstrate its commitment to such collective experimentation, the Program Committee is organizing sessions that reflect the following forms of creative interaction and critical engagement:

  • Multi-Session Seminars. The seminar format is intended to foster extended discussion among an interdisciplinary group of participants. Consisting of 5-8 participants, seminars may gather for one or more sessions, either in consecutive sessions or over two or more days of the conference. Participants should discuss materials that will be pre-circulated at least one month in advance of the conference. Seminars will be open to other conference attendees and pre-circulated materials should be made public.
  • Reading groups. These sessions provide an opportunity for conference participants to collectively engage with a selection of readings, archival materials, films, pieces of art, etc. These materials should be selected based on their relevance to the conference theme and priorities and pre-circulated to the public. Reading group participants should engage with the material beforehand and come prepared to participate in spirited and creative discussion.
  • Videoconferences or pre-recorded sessions: For various reasons, it has been ASA policy to restrict official participation to those able to be present in-person at the Annual Meeting. In order to challenge the systematic forms of intellectual enclosure imposed by carceral, nationalist, and/or ableist geographies, the 2020 Annual Meeting will be piloting an initiative to embrace sessions including participants who will not be in attendance as a result of geographies of exclusion. Creating an accessible conference space in these cases should reflect the intentional and advance planning necessary to negotiate various kinds of distance. Toward this end, session organizers should consider whether prerecorded presentations are necessary for counteracting uncertainties of timing, access to communications technology (especially for incarcerated people), and other factors beyond participants’ control.
  • Community-Engaged Action Research Lab: An experimental new format structured to deepen dialogue between activist-scholars and liberation practitioners for the purpose of strengthening the work of grassroots organizations and/or social/cultural/political movements. Labs should facilitate collaboration across a dynamic group of activists, artists, organizers and scholars to strategize how their collective insights might produce robust research agendas aimed at sustaining/strengthening community-driven campaigns, strategies and/or future goals. The lab is intended to leverage the intellectual and material resources within academia in order to directly support visions and strategies of revolt. Labs should be led by three to five participants with at least one participant representing a grassroots group or movement.
  • Questions-driven sessions: Rather than the thesis- and topic- driven focus of traditional paper panels and roundtables, this format offers room for participants to focus inquiry on breathing life into new questions, or to reanimate and/or reframe questions imagined to have already been solved. Sessions organized under this format may, for instance, offer multiple routes or entry-points into an overarching question, or may assign participants to address multiple different questions that pertain to a given theme. 
  • Off-site sessions: Off-site sessions might take place at local bookstores, bars, or community institutions.
  • Creative Sessions: These are non-paper formats including workshops, discussions, performances, fireside chats, and other non-traditional platforms that will be led by individuals and/or groups from across fields, disciplines or communities. These creative sessions will actively engage participants in ways that will enable them to imagine, practice, learn, and experiment with creative revolt.
  • Author(s) Sessions:  This format is designed to bring one or more authors of new and recent books in American studies together with two or more discussants chosen to provide a variety of viewpoints.
  • Scholarly Skills- and Resource-Sharing Sessions: Organized by a collective approach to building scholarly research capacity (particularly around interdisciplinary, counter-disciplinary, and transdisciplinary work), these sessions may be organized by theme, methodological approach, theoretical tradition, archival conceptualization, or any other rubric that proposers wish to engage in concert with session participants.
  • Artists, Academics, Activists, and Other Creators in Conversation: Cohered by a unifying question or urgent concern, these sessions will intentionally gather practitioners and intellectuals from a variety of fields, with particular attention to fostering conversations that exceed the disciplinary and institutional circuits of the academy and college/university.

The Program Committee encourages proposers to consider these and other experimental formats in their submissions.  (There will be a category in the All Academic submissions portal named “Experimental Sessions.”)

The ASA also welcomes contingent faculty, community-based scholars and artists, unemployed and underemployed scholars, and undergraduate students to submit proposals for the 2020 Annual Meeting and (upon notice of acceptance) consider applying for Solidarity Fund travel grants, which will be available for the Baltimore meeting. To read about the success of the Solidarity Fund in its inaugural year, see http://bit.ly/solidarity-fund-update.

The submission site will open on January 1, 2020. The deadline for proposals of panels and individual papers is February 1, 2020.

Updated policy on duplicate appearances on the conference program: The ASA previously limited attendees’ participation to appearance on one scholarly session and one professional development panel. In order to promote maximum inclusion and access, we now allow attendees to chair, moderate, or comment on one session and present their own original work in a second session.

Questions about the CFP? Contact the president, Dylan Rodríguez, and/or the program committee chairs Erica EdwardsMartha Escobar, or Antonio Tiongson.