The Roof is on Fire

November 3-6 - New Orleans, Louisiana

It’s hot in here.

The temperature is rising and the water is too, the sky is dense, and the ground is giving way. We in the Anthropocene are holding onto our seats and our loved ones, shoulders tight and backs sore from the messy work we’ve inherited and that which we’ve made for ourselves. Something is broken. Whether or not it can be repaired may not be the right question.

It’s hot in here.

We’ve been in this nation’s burning house of integration for two generations and “I can’t breathe.” The fire that encircles us all is higher and hotter here. I’m frightened by how close and how distant we are, terrifyingly familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. Firsts are no marker of progress when the count is all that matters. My limbs are laden by promises and don’t float no more.

It’s hot in here.

On the block, that is. Too many in blue, too many deputized with something or nothing to prove. There are “no humans involved,” after all. Who will ask questions? We broke. We hungry. We newly “we,” though never completely and that may be the best thing we got going.

It’s hot in here.

The roof, the roof, the roof… You know the rest, or you should. The structure will not hold very long. It wasn’t meant for us anyway. Touch the beat, move without instruction, abandon your isolation. We’ve held onto it too long. Take my hand as we lift ourselves from this time of war and into the first 5 minutes and 30 seconds of eternity…

This year’s theme is an homage to the cultures and knowledges too often dismissed or taken, those pieces that prove that our minds and hearts are optimized by laboring in tandem. It is a reminder, if needed, that we come from somewhere, from some people, and it/they are always reinventing, subtly and not so subtly, the terms of our engagements and relation. A reminder that we are keepers of nothing special, even if specialized, for the music is instructive too. “The roof is on fire” invites strategies that draw our attention to and command a multisensory, multiregister engagement with the world as it is and as we want it to be. As a scene of devastation and one of shared, euphoric incantation, the scorched and scorching room in which we will gather holds many possibilities. May all who enter be prepared to let the muthafucka burn.

Like the city of New Orleans in which it will be staged, the 2022 American Studies Association (ASA) conference is an opening. For what and to where is as available as the next sound that grazes the surface of your ear or breeze that crosses your face. What we hope for is time—time to think deeply, struggle, laugh, plot, challenge and be challenged—and presence, together in a place that has long known both things even if fleeting or precarious. What we know is that both are in short supply, the violences are not yet done and are yet undone, and our next steps are tentative for reasons revealed by the many fires. We will come together in this cacophonous conjuncture to pull it apart, piece by piece, in order to continue creation of something else altogether.

The 2022 call for participation urges ASA members to consider forms of engagement 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 previous meetings, the 2022 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 as well as experimental forms of engagement. 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.

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 2022 Annual Meeting:

  • Party/party cultures
  • Land(s) and/as urtext
  • Inheritance and memory
  • Housing insecurity
  • University security
  • Sweat and other excretions from bodies in movement
  • Kitchens, laundries, and other sites of poesis
  • Dungeon economies
  • Sounds and textures of improvisational life and living
  • Acoustics of labor(ing)
  • Engine #9 and other means of migration
  • Impossibility
  • Age(ing) and technology
  • Poisons, toxins, and other agendas
  • Affirmation and/as style
  • The Right to Work
  • Post-work philosophies and cultures
  • Jook joints, clubs, discos, and block parties
  • Dis/ability and eroticism
  • Counter- and infra-intelligences
  • Mysticisms and forms of the afterlife
  • Desire as political praxis
  • Waters, edges, and methods of being

Following in the creative access developed over the last two years, the 2022 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 2022 Annual Meeting will continue to advance 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. If you organize a videoconference or pre-recorded session, it must be close-captioned to make sure it is accessible.
  • 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.
  • 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.”) Proposals of individual papers are also invited.

The ASA also welcomes contingent faculty, community-based scholars and artists, unemployed and underemployed scholars, and undergraduate students to submit proposals for the 2022 Annual Meeting and (upon notice of acceptance) consider applying for Solidarity Fund travel grants, which will be available for the New Orleans meeting. Read about the success of the Solidarity Fund in its inaugural year.

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 on a second session.

Questions about the CFP? Contact President-Elect Shana L. Redmond.

(*The verse here is inspired by and/or drawn from the language of Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three, Eric Garner & George Floyd & many unnamed, Sylvia Wynter, Martin Luther King, Jr., and previous conference theme authors.)