Below are frequently asked questions for preparing your proposal.

  1. Do I have to be a member to submit a proposal?
  2. Where can I connect with other members to collaborate on a session proposal?
  3. What kind of proposals am I allowed to submit?
  4. What happens if my name appears on more than one scholarly proposal as presenter? How many scholarly sessions may I participate in?
  5. What are professional development panels? Do they count toward a member’s two scholarly sessions (one as presenter and one as chair, moderator, or commentator)?
  6. What are the responsibilities of session organizers and participants?
  7. What guidelines are in place for chairing or commenting on a session?
  8. What alternative formats will be accepted for the 2020 Annual Meeting?
  9. Who makes the decision to accept proposals?
  10. What criteria are used in reviewing and accepting proposals?
  11. How are individual paper proposals integrated into the program?
  12. What general tips help in putting together a session panel that gets accepted?
  13. When will I be notified whether my proposal was accepted?
  14. If my proposal is not accepted, can I still be involved in the annual meeting?
  15. If my proposal is not accepted, can I withdraw my membership?
  16. Whom should I contact if I have further questions?

1. Do I have to be a member to submit a proposal?

Yes, everyone who submits a proposal as the session organizer must be a current member of the ASA (or an affiliated international American studies association). If your department or program is looking to purchase an institutional membership to support 10 students and contingent faculty who may want to submit proposals for the annual meeting, your application must be completed on or before January 1, to allow processing time for the February 1 proposal deadline. Affiliated international scholars who are not ASA members must contact the Office of the Executive Director by January 24 to receive a guest account that will allow them to log in and submit a proposal.

Additionally, all participants listed in your proposal must likewise be current members of the ASA (or an affiliated international American studies association). At the discretion of the executive director, waivers of the membership requirement may be granted for non-scholars (e.g., medical doctors, visual artists, activists, etc.) and scholars who work in disciplines other than the humanities and social sciences. The request for a waiver of membership must be made by the session organizer and must be submitted to the Office of the Executive Director by the February 1 deadline to participate in the session.

Panelists who receive a waiver on membership dues do not receive a waiver when it comes to registering for the conference.  They are expected to pre-register for the conference in the appropriate category and by the appropriate deadline.

Read more about the benefits of membership in the ASA, including income-based annual dues.

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2. Where can I connect with other members to collaborate on a session proposal?

The ASA website hosts working topics for collaboration and coordination among members. To read abstracts that have been posted for the upcoming annual meeting, visit the Collaborate page. To post an abstract that you'd like to share and develop with other members, select "submit a topic" on the Collaborate page. Please note: you will need to be logged into the site to submit your topic. 

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3. What kind of proposals am I allowed to submit? 

Members are invited to submit proposals addressing the conference theme. There are two primary submission types: individual papers and session proposals. Session proposals may be submitted for sessions with alternative formats, including sessions with papers and sessions without papers. Members are also invited to review special formats that are part of the Call for Proposals.

Proposals for sessions with papers, including traditional paper sessions as well as those in talk, online, or exhibit formats, require:

  • Session title (maximum of 15 words)
  • Session abstract (maximum of 500 words)
  • Session keywords
  • Special requests
  • Individual paper or presentation titles from each session participant (maximum of 15 words per title)
  • Paper abstract from each session participant (maximum of 500 words per abstract)
  • A 350-word (or less) biographical statement for each participant

Abstracts for sessions without papers, such as workshops, roundtables (dialogues), and performances, should indicate the session subject/s and the proposed format. Additionally, the abstracts should include:

  • Session title (maximum of 15 words)
  • Session theme (maximum of 500 words)
  • Session keywords
  • Special requests
  • Contact and short bio from each session participant including: first name, last name, affiliation, e-mail address, and a 350-word (or less) biographical statement for each participant. They need not include individual presenter abstracts.

Abstracts for experimental sessions, such as seminars, reading groups, question-oriented sessions, pre-recorded sessions, and research labs should indicate the session subject/s and the proposed format. Additionally, the abstracts should include:

  • Session title (maximum of 15 words)
  • Session theme (maximum of 500 words)
  • Session keywords
  • Details regarding format
  • Special requests
  • Contact and short bio from each session participant including: first name, last name, affiliation, e-mail address, and a 350-word (or less) biographical statement for each participant. They need not include individual presenter abstracts.

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4. What happens if my name appears on more than one scholarly proposal as presenter? How many scholarly sessions may I participate in?

The ASA previously limited attendees’ participation to appearance on one scholarly session, regardless of role, and one professional development panel. Some institutions do not provide financial support if an individual scholar is not listed as a presenter; thus, for the 2020 ASA Meeting, participants can chair, moderate, or comment on one scholarly session, present their own original work in a second session, and participate in a professional development panel.

Members may also appear on presidential sessions, or, at the discretion of the program committee, on sessions organized outside of the regular timeline of programming, e.g., to address emergent issues or conditions, or in relation to site-specific events.  Participation in these kinds of sessions are considered exempt from the usual appearance rules.

Your proposals will be eliminated from consideration if your name appears on more than one scholarly proposal as presenter (exceptions to this rule include participating as chair, moderator, or commentator). Failure to comply with this rule will adversely impact other members listed on each proposal.

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5. What are professional development panels? Do they count toward a member’s two scholarly sessions (one as presenter and one as chair, moderator, or commentator)?

The National Council has charged caucuses and committees with organizing professional development panels. Though these panels are considered distinct from scholarly sessions, they do require an abstract.

In addition to one professional development panel, a caucus or standing committee may officially sponsor two scholarly sessions. These sponsored sessions are often a good way for members to become involved in the association, as caucuses and committees in particular may publish an open call for proposals before deciding on sponsored sessions. Participation in a professional development panel is distinct from scholarly sessions and do not count toward a member’s scholarly session(s).

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6. What are the responsibilities of session organizers and participants?

All participants share a professional responsibility to support the organization with their membership dues and conference registration fees.

Once accepted to the annual meeting program, each participant also has a professional and ethical obligation to appear, or locate suitable replacements in the event of an unavoidable withdraw. If participants who withdraw do not communicate their absence or make alternative arrangements, they will be considered "no-shows," a designation that will make it difficult for the panelist to participate at future meetings.

Session organizers should inform their proposal’s participants of these requirements before submitting a proposal. The session organizer is also responsible for ensuring that their panelists promptly comply with these requirements.

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7. What guidelines are in place for chairing or commenting on a session?

Every session proposal should be submitted with a chair. If a proposal is submitted “without” a pre-designated chair, that does not automatically disqualify it. Members who are not submitting individual proposals or do not appear on panel proposals may also indicate their willingness to act as chair or commentator on a session that may be constructed from individual proposal submissions.

The following guidelines apply to chairs and commentators:

  • You (or a fellow participant) may chair and comment on the same session, if your proposal is for a session type without traditional papers—for example, a workshop or dialogue.
  • However, if your proposal is for a traditional panel with papers, you may not chair or comment in addition to presenting your paper.
  • Lastly, if a panel has a commentator, he or she should not be the dissertation adviser of any member of the panel.

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8. What alternative formats will be accepted for the 2020 Annual Meeting?

Drawing upon the conference theme of “Creativity Within Revolt,” the 2020 Program Committee believes we cannot think about new, powerful connections between the academy and the world if we use only conventional academic forms. The Committee has proposed, therefore, several different formats that disrupt the conventional "three people reading papers" format. The Program Committee invites proposals in three broad categories of non-traditional formats that fall under: a) sessions with papers, b) sessions without papers, and c) experimental sessions.

A. Sessions with Papers

Although these resemble conventional sessions in having a chair, presentation of papers to an audience, and commentary, papers in these sessions will not be read aloud, allowing more time for informed, informal, and engaged discussion. These sessions require an abstract.

  • "Talk" format. Presenters will write papers, as usual, and distribute them to the chair, commentator, and other panelists by the deadline. But in the session they will "talk" their paper from notes, speaking directly to the audience rather than reading line-by-line.
  • Online format. Presenters will post their papers on the Internet one month before the meeting. These sessions will be prominently marked in the program as intended primarily for an audience that has read the papers in advance and followed whatever online discussion they may have generated. The session will be devoted to formal commentary and group discussion. The panel will set up the website on their own server, post the online papers, and provide the forum for discussion. The ASA will publicize the online sessions and include links in the online program to the panel's website and discussion blog.
  • Exhibit format. Presenters will post their materials on a large bulletin board that can accommodate text pages in large type, graphics, primary source extracts, etc. Video and audio clips can also be used. These sessions will feature three or four such presentations grouped around a common theme. The first half of the session gives the audience time to read and discuss each exhibit with the presenters. The second half encourages group discussion, facilitated by a chair and commentators.

B. Sessions without Papers

In past meetings, the ASA has already sponsored many kinds of alternative sessions: roundtables, conversations, performances, multi-media presentations, readings of creative work, workshops involving audience participation, and presentations linked to the community outside the hotel (community centers, museums, secondary schools, prisons, etc.). These formats will experiment with creative forms of expression, performance, and dialogue that represent a significant departure to conventional presentations of papers. These sessions require an abstract.

  • Performative format. Presenters will perform their work. This could range from artistic performing arts (dance, music, drama, spoken word, performance art) to multi-media presentations (video, film, audio, digital media) and readings of creative fiction and non-fiction.
  • Dialogue format (Roundtables). Presenters will engage in dialogues with each other and the audience. Possible formats could include roundtables of academics; forums with scholars, community activists, mass or alternative media-makers and public officials; conversations between performing and/or visual artists, curators, and educators about aesthetic and expressive innovations or the challenges of developing public cultures in diverse communities. This format might be particularly well suited to creating linkages with the communities outside the hotel (community centers, performing arts centers, museums, secondary schools, prisons, libraries, and other public sites).
  • Workshop format. Presenters will create venues to verbally and physically interact with the audience. Educators, artists, and curators, for example, could lead these workshops or teach-ins to emphasize the interactive challenges and possibilities of interdisciplinarity and American studies.

C. Experimental Sessions

These sessions also require an abstract.

  • 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.

We are excited about the possibilities for Baltimore, 2020. We hope you will join us in making this a stimulating, conversational, and useful conference for the American Studies Association and its members.

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9. Who makes the decision to accept proposals?

The Program Committee reviews all proposals and selects the sessions to be held at the upcoming annual meeting. The committee consists of 12 members appointed by the president-elect with approval of the Executive Committee. These 12 members are divided into three subcommittees: two subcommittees are responsible for evaluating session proposals; the third subcommittee is responsible for evaluating and constructing panels out of individual submissions.

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10. What criteria are used in reviewing and accepting proposals?

The Program Committee approves proposals on the basis of their quality in relation to the others submitted.

The committee will also: attempt to include sessions on a wide variety of subjects and approaches, including scholarly, pedagogical, and professional subjects; consciously support the inclusion of panels focused on topics of concern to different minority groups; strive to balance its selections between topics of continuing interest and new topics to which little or no attention has been paid; look for sessions in which scholars in different fields engage one another on a common topic; and try to span different time periods and subject matters in sessions constructed from individual papers. Room will be given for specialized sessions on particular subjects.

The committee makes every effort to assure diverse representation through the inclusion of minorities, women, graduate students, and international colleagues, and will seek to reflect the regional and disciplinary diversity of the association's membership.

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11. How are individual paper proposals integrated into the program?

The Program Committee organizes sessions from accepted individual paper proposals and, on occasion, will combine individual papers with proposed full sessions. Individuals are also invited to work with ASA caucuses and committees who often organize professional development panels or sessions with a special focus.

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12. What general tips help in putting together a session that gets accepted?

Session organizers are advised to diversify their panel. They should seek a mix of junior and senior panelists, as well as a mix of institutions represented by faculty and graduate student panelists.

This approach to institutional and professional diversity is reflected through the prescription that the Program Committee avoid favoritism by not overloading sessions with faculty and graduate students from institutions represented by members of the committee. This does not, however, disallow members of the committee from presenting papers.

Sessions organizers, especially for alternative formats, should consider a broad definition of who is identified as an expert in the session’s theme to include practitioners, scholar-activists, artists, etc. 

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13. When will I be notified whether my proposal was accepted?

Session organizers will be notified by email and the online submission site’s message center by March 29th. Session organizers are responsible for notifying the members of the proposed panel of the Program Committee's decision. If you do not receive an official e-mail by April 15th, it may be because you did not complete the submission process properly, your email address may be listed incorrectly, or your email may have blocked the automated message. Please e-mail the conference director at annualmeeting@theasa.net.

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14. If my proposal is not accepted, can I still be involved in the annual meeting?

The ASA welcomes all participants to the annual meeting, whether they are presenters or not. If your paper or panel is not accepted, the Program Committee may call upon you to play an alternative role at the meeting as a chair or commentator.

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15. If my proposal is not accepted, can I withdraw my membership?

If, after hearing that your proposal was not accepted, you wish to withdraw your membership (which was required for proposal submission), you may contact the ASA’s dedicated customer service representative at asasupport@press.jhu.edu to request a refund.

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16. Whom should I contact if I have further questions?

For further information, you may contact the president-elect, Dylan Rodriguez, and/or the program committee chairs Erica Edwards, Martha Escobar, or Antonio Tiongson

We also invite you to read more on using the proposal submission site or planning for your panel

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