Seminars

Seminar Submission Instructions

For our 2020 gathering, the C19 conference will offer ten seminars that emphasize conversation and interactive dialogue as an alternative to traditional paper and roundtable formats. Seminars will provide participants the opportunity to have a collaborative conversation around a particular topic. Seminars will be capped at 15 participants and will be run by facilitators with expertise in the topics. Each participant will submit a five-page position paper or before the conference to be read in advance by the other participants so that seminar time can be reserved for discussion. Seminar participants will be listed in the program.

Seminars will convene for two hours at the conference. Confirmed participants will pre-circulate 5-page papers to fellow seminar members in advance of the seminar.

  • To apply for a seminar, submit a title and an abstract of no more than 250 words describing the 5-page paper you propose to pre-circulate to the seminar. Please note that you should not submit the 5-page paper itself when applying to the conference.
  • Seminars are open to members of all ranks. Graduate students and junior faculty may apply to two seminars in a ranked system available through Ex Ordo with participation limited to one. Advanced scholars may apply to one seminar only.
  • The relevant seminar leaders will select participants from these proposals with assistance from the Program Committee if necessary.
  • The due date for the 5-page papers will be determined by seminar leaders; when seminar leaders have requirements that differ from the standard terms, they will indicate so in their description or in correspondence with participants.

Conference participants are limited to one appearance on the program in a substantive role (presenter, roundtable participant, or respondent), and one appearance as a session organizer, chair, seminar participant, or speaker/facilitator on a professional support session. Any questions about the seminars should be directed to the Program Chair.

Seminar Descriptions

1. Asian North American Culture during the Long Nineteenth Century

Julia H. Lee, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, University of California, Irvine

Josephine Lee, Professor of English and Asian American Studies, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

This seminar invites participants interested in Asian American and Asian Canadian literature (such as fiction, essays, poetry, journalism, letters, or plays) and cultural representations (such as performances, films, or images) from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While most people probably think of Asian North American literature as developing in the mid-twentieth century, this early period is crucial to understanding Asian American and Asian Canadian identities as national and transnational formations. How did cultural production by and about Asians in the Americas produced in this period manifest the complex and dynamic nature of Asian American and Asian Canadian identities: as excluded aliens, as subjects of empire, as racialized labor, as gendered and sexualized bodies? This seminar seeks to expand our understanding of this early period beyond late-twentieth-century assumptions of “Asian American” or “Asian Canadian” identity by considering new approaches and frameworks for situating the experiences, representations, and histories of Asians in the Americas. We welcome work that interrogates the periodization of Asian North American literary history; explores its comparative, transnational, diasporic, and/or settler-colonial dimensions; and reveals new aspects of writing and culture from the mid-nineteenth century to the Great Depression.

2. Citizenship Beyond the State: Sovereignty, Personhood, Community

Derrick R. Spires, Associate Professor of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Carrie Hyde, Associate Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles

This seminar takes citizenship as a flashpoint for theorizing the dynamic ways people have shaped and imagined the ideas, practices, and aesthetics of community. We will examine the practices and traditions of citizenship that flourished outside of the state, paying special attention to how unofficial and extralegal cultures of citizenship influenced and contested state-based formulations. Thinking about citizenship beyond the state challenges deterministic accounts of legal history; it also brings into view the histories, media, and voices that narratives of legal victory often marginalize. Theorizing citizenship in this way illuminates possibilities for sovereignty, personhood, and community that U.S. law and state-centered thinking tend to foreclose.

This seminar welcomes papers that examine citizenship through a variety of methodological perspectives, including but not limited to Indigenous Studies; Critical Race Studies; Gender, Sexuality, and Trans Studies; Black Studies; Latinx Studies; Ethnic Studies; Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies; and Disability Studies. Participants are invited to attend to the unique meanings citizenship obtained relative to a host of other frameworks for conceiving membership and rights including personhood, subjecthood, sovereignty, and residency. Understanding citizenship in tandem with these frameworks brings into relief citizenship’s longstanding cultural and political allure as well as its limitations.

Questions might include: how was citizenship shaped by nineteenth-century literature, art, print culture, intellectual history, and material practices? What happens to our understandings of citizenship when we think about it from the priorities and perspectives of those the state attempts to exclude? What models of belonging and community did nineteenth-century writers develop as alternatives to state-based formulations? How might the nineteenth century help us orient or destabilize current debates around immigration, documentation, labor, mass incarceration, and police power?

3. C19 Caribbean: Region and Circulation 

Tim Watson, Professor of English, University of Miami, Coral Gables

Gretchen Woertendyke, Associate Professor of English, University of South Carolina

Caribbean connections were central to nineteenth-century US social, political, economic, and cultural life. The Haitian Revolution and US imperial rule over Cuba and Puerto Rico began and ended the century, while the transatlantic and pan-American slave trade and the slave regimes of both the Caribbean and the US South were dominant factors throughout the nineteenth century, before and after the US Civil War. US cities such as New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston were shaped fundamentally by Caribbean commerce and people; so too, after the construction of the Panama railway, were San Francisco and the US West. Other 19C US-Caribbean connections include African American emigration; various US annexation schemes; military and diplomatic conflict, including the War of 1812; and a host of ongoing economic, cultural, personal, and literary forces.

Rodrigo Lazo, Marlene Daut, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Michael Drexler, Faith Smith, Sibylle Fischer, C.L.R. James, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Raphael Dalleo, among many others have been interrogating the intersections between the Caribbean and the United States across a range of archives in the 19th-20th centuries. We invite participants in this seminar to engage in what Edouard Glissant names “the poetics of relation” in the long 19th-century Caribbean and US. From Spanish- and French-language newspapers, travel narratives, French and Cuban émigrés, to African American emigrants and US expatriates residing across the territories of the Caribbean, we want to think about various forms of circulation and, in particular, how these Caribbean-focused forms of circulation influenced how 19th-century US readers and writers imagined regions and regional relations more generally.

4. Presentism

Jeffrey Insko, Associate Professor of English, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan

Dana Luciano, Associate Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Owing, perhaps, to the felt intensities of our current political moment— the resurgence of white supremacist, anti-immigrant and pro-settler sentiments; the need for pressing action to address climate change; increasing attention to sexual violence—C19 scholarship seems to have become increasingly present-minded. We invite submissions that explore the recent revitalization of presentism as a critical method for examining C19 literature and culture. What are presentist methods and approaches? How might we theorize the “present” of presentism? Does the desire to advance a contemporary politics require one to be presentist? What are the promises and dangers of presentist approaches for public-facing C19 scholarship? Does the ascendancy of presentism necessarily mean the decline of historicism? Have current events made presentists of us all?

5. Racial Colonialism and Environmentalism

Priscilla Wald, Professor of English, Duke University

Monique Allewaert, Associate Professor of English, University of Wisconsin, Madison

This seminar grows out of our conviction that environmentalism in a variety of forms has always been a central feature of resistance to racism and critiques of settler colonialism and responds to the groundbreaking scholarly work both in and beyond the university which rethinks relations among ecology, race, and settler colonialism. We invite papers that allow us to investigate how approaching environmentalism through these and cognate analytics transforms scholars’, activists,’ and artists’ understanding of American environmentalisms and that contribute to these rapidly expanding conversations.

What happens, for example, when we approach environmentalism from the plantation, through the frame of settler colonialism, as a problem first theorized by indigenous and enslaved peoples, or as a problem of food and food sovereignty? How might the values and ethics that drive environmentalism change if we think of environmentalism as it emerged not from efforts to safeguard an imagined wilderness but from plantation economies or (post)plantation gardens, from the praying town or the reservation, from urban infrastructures or carceral spaces?  How did a range of relations to the land and to the non-human world in the long C19 find expression in an aesthetics and a politics of environmentalism that has been occluded by a predominant focus in the academy on the settlers and their descendants? What temporalities and rhythms inform indigenous and diasporic communities’ environmentalisms, and how might these and other non-dominant environmentalisms be brought into productive relation? How do environmentalisms of the built landscape shift if we prioritize the architectural and community-planning projects of historically marginalized groups? What archives are central to C19 decolonial environmentalisms, and how might they change dominant modes of approaching environmental challenges in the contemporary U.S.? What analytic tools do these archives require? How might these approaches generally change the vocabulary of “environmentalism” and with what consequences?

6. Racialized Genders

Riley Snorton, Director of Studies for the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago

Sarah Haley, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Women and Associate Professor of Gender Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Not only is race critical to how gender or sexuality is perceived, but also to its construction and cohesion. In this seminar, participants will engage gender and sexuality as racial arrangements. The nineteenth century provides numerous examples that illustrate and trace how race provides a grammar for articulating gender and sexuality whether in print media or through archival accounts of plantation medicine or prisons. There are also—and perhaps in equal measure— opportunities to read for dissent, or what Harriet Jacobs termed a “loophole of retreat,” so as to describe a range of acts and locations available within confinement.

We welcome papers that employ black feminist, queer, trans and decolonial approaches to the study of racialized genders, dissent, resistance, or reinforcement in the long nineteenth century. As the narratives of racialized genders and sexualities are steeped in colonial violence, this seminar is also a space for thinking carefully about the relationships between method and ethics.

7. Sex and the Archives

Greta LaFleur, Associate Professor of American Studies, Yale University

Jordan Alexander Stein, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Fordham University

How can we have sex in the archives? This seminar gathers investigations that attempt to answer this question from a number of directions.

First is the matter of evidence. Histories of sexuality have typically been constructed through medical or juridical archives, but what other possibilities exist? Where does sexuality appear in racial, colonial, domestic, economic, scientific, performance, or other archives? What is or isn’t sexuality?

Second is the matter of the materiality of archives themselves.  Our ability to reconstruct the past at all depends in part on historical societies and antiquarian collections that are in turn indebted to family histories, private papers, and often gendered vicissitudes of capital––indebted, in other words, to things that might count as sexuality. How can we understand the material infrastructures of knowledge as part of the history of sexuality?

Finally, there is the matter of theoretical framing. Foucault’s History of Sexuality represents a consensus in the field for how to undertake the study of sexuality in the nineteenth century.  Yet this text emphasizes discourse without much attention to the ways that discourses are materially produced, stored, and transmitted. What other theoretical frameworks might refine, supplement, or challenge Foucault’s? Are there other genealogies of sexuality that might be instructive for thinking through these issues at a methodological level?

Seminar participants are invited to take these questions, as well as any overlaps among them, as points of departure. We’re especially excited to engage with papers that approach sex and archives intersectionally, that pursue research in languages other than English, and that aim to advance social justice in scholarship and to decolonize knowledge practices.

8. Survivance: New Approaches to Indigenous Voices in 19th Century America

Kiara Vigil, Assistant Professor of American Studies, Amherst College

Christine DeLucia, Associate Professor of History, Mount Holyoke College

Building on the theme of “dissent,” this seminar invites participants to engage with and unpack Anishinaabe writer and scholar Gerald Vizenor’s intentionally opaque and provocative term: “survivance.”  If stories of survivance are “renunciations of dominance, tragedy, and victimry” created and circulated by Indigenous people, in what ways do Native and non-Native people turn to story and story-ing in the nineteenth century to move beyond “mere survival” and towards assertions of resistance, resilience, and enduring sovereignties?  What are some productive connections and tensions that we might be able to consider based on the different modes and purposes for storytelling that emerge during the nineteenth century?  How might we turn to these historical examples for guidance in navigating our current situation, given the ongoing challenges faced by not only Indigenous individuals and communities in the United States but other groups as well?

We invite participants to propose innovative critical re-readings of key texts, to bring forward new archives or constellations of sources (both textual and non-textual), and to actively link Indigenous pasts, presents, and futures. We welcome work and think-pieces that engage many different geographies, temporalities, and methodologies.

9. Translation and Resistance

Rodrigo Lazo, Professor of English, University of California, Irvine

Susan Gillman, Distinguished Professor of Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz

Translation studies, currently preoccupied with problems of untranslatability, gives us an opportunity to explore various forms of resistance to and with translation across the multiple languages of the hemispheric Americas. The seminar will bring together scholarship on the role of translation in and around sites of conflict, including colonial subjection, processes of removal, revolutionary movements, and various forms of subjugation. How do various figures deploy translation and provide examples of that work’s potential and limitations? How do specific geo-historical contexts inform translation work? We’re especially interested in thinking with current keywords from scholars who want to move beyond the fidelity/betrayal model: Anna Brickhouse’s “motivated mistranslation,” Rebecca Walkowitz’s “born translated,” and Gayle Rogers’s “incomparable” translations.  Considering all the different linguistic possibilities produced by the entangled hemispheric histories of empires, nations, and coeval colonial worlds, this seminar invites work across any of the languages of the Americas, European, Indigenous, or fusional, including creoles and others.

Submissions could consider questions of literary translation (evaluation), mistranslation, race in translation, text-network, and most broadly, inter-semiotic translation across a long nineteenth century that moves back into the colonial period and forward toward the twentieth century.

10. Utopian Radicalism: Texts, Movements, and the Social Justice Imaginary

Holly Jackson, Associate Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston

How did nineteenth-century social movements define liberation, and what has become of the futures they imagined?  Waves of mobilization in the past decade have returned protest to mainstream attention, and although innovative tactics and new terrains of struggle have come to the fore, the nineteenth-century roots of intersectional social justice agitation echo powerfully: the women’s marches and movements for black lives long before the suffrage amendments, calls for disarmament before nukes, sex radicalism before sexual identity, veganism before factory farms, and anti-capitalist critiques of the “one-percent” while industrialization was still underway. Although the social transformations they sought were almost universally regarded as dangerous, outlandish, and impossible in their time, these activists are now defanged as “reformers” if they achieved them, or “failures” if they did not. The time is right to reevaluate their contributions.

This seminar welcomes scholars working to expand our knowledge of social radicalism in the nineteenth-century Americas, especially as it relates to utopian thought and collective politics. Papers might recover neglected figures, movements, projects, and texts related to communitarianism, antislavery, feminisms, black radicalism, free love and marriage abolition, prison abolition, pacifism, disability rights, labor agitation, religious free thought and other genealogies of protest. They might also present new approaches to more familiar texts and objects that draw on frameworks for the study of resistance or utopianism from queer, feminist, Marxist, African American studies, Latin American and Indigenous studies.

Participants might address experimental and speculative aesthetics; radical periodicals and other protests in print; understudied radical intellectual traditions; transatlantic activist networks; visions or rejections of the future; fantasies of perfection and plentitude or negativity and disentanglement; the abandonment of radical horizons for pragmatic reforms; debates over the role of violence; coalitions across difference; the politics of prefiguration; theories and tactics developed by workers, fugitives, citizens, consumers, worshippers, soldiers, artists, and so on. Our discussion might consider how revolutionary desires for social transformation relate to the utopian discourses that drove conservative mainstream agendas, such as manifest destiny, American exceptionalism, evangelical Christianity, individualism, African colonization, and eugenics.