Call for Papers

All Deliberate Speed: Politics of Equality and Discourses of Difference

We invite contributions to the Mid-America American Studies Association’s annual meeting, to be held February 28–March 2, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will co-host this year’s conference. Jennifer L. Pierce, Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota will deliver the keynote lecture, “Racing for Innocence: Whiteness, Corporate Culture, and the Backlash Against Affirmative Action.”

“Equality” has been a central concept in US life. Long before the nation’s founding documents invoked the phrase “all men are created equal,” settlers imagined the colonies as a refuge from hierarchical political and social orders of Europe, and as a laboratory for new experiments in equality and meritocracy. However, the US has been the site of innovation of another sort — developing and adapting conceptions of difference. These discourses of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion (to name a few) would set explicit and implicit limits on equality.

2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. These landmarks of the modern Civil Rights Movement have not ended debate about the meaning of equality and difference. Recent controversies regarding racial profiling, the mass incarceration of black and brown youth, violent crime, educational access, and the financial crisis, as well as contentious Supreme Court decisions about sexual discrimination in the workplace, affirmative action, the prerogatives of religious organizations, gay marriage, and racial discrimination in voting practices suggest these arguments are far from settled. We ask conference presenters to consider how American Studies scholarship can intervene in these debates.

We invite scholars to consider the following and related questions from a variety of inter-disciplinary and anti-disciplinary approaches: How have ideas about equality and difference circulated in the past? What formations are shaping contemporary struggles? How has difference been articulated and challenged, and how have those struggles influenced U.S. culture? What have these struggles looked like in Mid-America, and how have they shaped the U.S. in a global context? What does it mean to imagine a future where difference is respected and equality is a reality?

Proposals are due on or before December 15, 2013. Proposals for complete panels/discussions are preferred over individual submissions. Panel proposals should include 1) session title, 2) session abstract (250 words or less), 3) titles of individual papers, 4) abstracts of individual papers (250 words or less), and 5) information for each participant (name, contact information, affiliation, 1-page CV). Proposals for roundtable discussions, creative presentations, or projects in the digital humanities should include 1) session title, 2) session abstract (500 words or less), and 3) information for each participant (name, contact information, affiliation, 1-page CV). Proposals should be submitted electronically as a single Word document to emailmaasa@gmail.com.