CFP: Rutgers American Studies Grad Conference


Call for Papers: American Studies Graduate Student Conference 2013

Rutgers-Newark Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Newark, New Jersey

Friday, April 26, 2013

“Following Heidegger’s suggestion that in modernity the world has come to be grasped and conceived as a ‘picture,’ we may say that in the wake of the atomic bombs the world has come to be grasped and conceived as a target–to be destroyed as soon as it can be made visible.”
–Rey Chow, The Age of the World Target

“It is the province of the historian to find out, not what was, but what is. Where a battle has been fought, you will find nothing but the bones of men and beasts; where a battle is being fought, there are hearts beating.”
–Henry David Thoreau, A Week on Concord and Merrimack Rivers

The Rutgers University American Studies Graduate Program seeks papers for its upcoming conference “Battlegrounds.” Even as “battlegrounds” implies a divisive undertaking––a material or rhetorical cleavage, or even an academic violence between fields, ideas and scholars––we encourage subverting oppositions that only serve to reify the modes of oppression they challenge. Thus, we embrace intersectionality, affect theory, post-humanism, borderlands studies, and other realms of interdisciplinary inquiry. To limit this conference and conversation to a single discipline or intellectual approach would be to undermine the very nature of “the battleground” as a multi-ocular and multi-modal space.

Interested graduate students should submit a 300-400 word abstract by January 7th, 2013 along with your name and department. Please send submissions as a PDF attachment to We will inform selected presenters by January 31st, 2013.

This conference will approach battlegrounds in the following contexts:

Cities: Post-industrial and global cities are battleground spaces. The geographic home of this conference, Newark, has long been made visible as a battleground. Both the events of 1967 and the histories of industrial pollution have marked Newark as such. The project of neoliberal urban renewal of which Newark is today a fragile example now reorganizes and sublates that history through a new securitization of the city, a total collapse of public and private logics of “development,” a deployment of superpanoptic technologies of surveillance, policing, and imprisonment, and state-sponsored gentrification.

Weather: Recent weather-related events such as Hurricane Sandy, the Colorado Wildfires, and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami remind us that issues of “climate change” and “climate science” are often contextualized through the rhetoric of “battle.” What are the ramifications of couching terms like “climate” and “weather” within the discourse of “battle?” How have battles related to climate, weather, and the “ecological” been waged in physical space? How have they been made manifest in political, social, economic ideology and policy?

Digital Culture: Physical “battlegrounds” are still hallowed ground to some in our country–– commemorations are held, souvenirs are sold.  The technoscientific invitations of a digital age, however, radically reconfigure what counts as “cultural production” altogether.  How are today’s culture wars fought on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? Are the Culture Wars over? Is using that term even appropriate? Or, are the Cultural Wars entering a new phase that is related to digital technology? What is to be done when divergent, battling groups see their “culture” as increasingly dominant precisely because of their choice of media? The technoscientific innovations of the digital age have seemingly calcified divergent “cultural” groups into even more oppositional categories. Groups of varying political persuasions are able to mobilize using the cultural edifices of sites such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. Yet older technologies like TV and Radio still garner frenzied listeners as well. How might “cultural production” be re-conceived so that we may at once classify the divergent groups by both their physical and electronic presence?

Gender &  Sexuality: The presidential election cycle is a reminder of the ways in which the bodies of women are made available for circulation between male subjects in a phallocentric political structure.  The “battle” over access to birth control and abortion rights is being reformed along new tactical lines as the administrative state takes an increased regulatory role in a healthcare system whose growth remains one of the largest reliable engines of the economy. At the same time, other bodies become differently a battleground: transgender youth deploy their own counter-tactics to survive schools in the shadow of the newly protected white, gay male body of the teen bullying and suicide “epidemics” of the United States.

Race: In the twilight of the first-term of a presidency in a so-called “post-racial” era the call to examine the battlegrounds constitutive of and constituted by race and racialization becomes ever more urgent.  Certain contemporary battlegrounds are explicitly marked as racialized: mass incarceration, the erosion of affirmative action, new technologies of immigration, surveillance, detention and deportation; yet, others are not: the obesity “epidemic,” the dismantling of the welfare state, and the State promotion of gay marriage.

Transnationalism, the State, & Globality: America’s hegemonic positions in flows of transnational violence, war and capital, are more complicated than ever.  Where does the threshold between a “foreign” and “domestic” conflict begin and end? At the deployment of occupying armies and bases around the world? At the racialization of sexuality through the regulation of the bodies of Black and Latina women in domestic welfare reform? At the new frontier of NGO-governance funded by the United States to replace the postcolonial state? What is the structure of American discourses of battle and struggle on the contemporary international scale?

Keywords include (but are not limited to):

– Art & Architecture
– Urban Studies
– Ecology & Environmental Studies
– Biopolitics
– Queer Theory
– Digital and Social Media
– Neoliberalism, Late Liberalism, Late Capitalism
– Feminist Theory
– Critical Race Theories
– Transnational American Studies
– Public Feelings and Political Emotions
– Cultural Memory and Forgetting
– Mass Incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex
– Cultural Studies
-Agency & Subjectivity
-Military Occupations
-Education Policy
-Public Health
-Housing Policy

To learn more about our program, see here:

About Steve Mentz 1265 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.