Annual Meeting

Inaugural Meeting of the Society of Americanists

The SOA will be unveiled at a joint conference of the Eastern American Studies Association (EASA) amd the Middle Atlantic Folklife Association on March 31-April 1, 2017 at the impressive setting of the Hilton Harrisburg hotel, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (See here for reservations; special conference rates of $129 available).

Theme: “Milestones, Markers, and Moments: Turning Points in American Experience and Tradition”

Date: March 31-April 1, 2017

Venue: Harrisburg Hilton, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Partner Organizations: Middle Atlantic Folklife Association (MAFA) and Eastern American Studies Association (EASA)

Call for Proposals:

In the upcoming year, Americanists might reflect on several critical moments in the formation of the field that call upon us to consider both how the field has come to be constructed in the present moment, and what turning points may lie ahead.

Ninety years ago, the publication of Vernon Louis Parrington’s Main Currents in American Thought helped to lay down many of the foundational ideas and approaches that would later coalesce into the field of American Studies. But importantly, it also created a longstanding schematic for the Americanist scholar, standing outside the conventional scholarly establishment and focused on an integrative approach to understanding American life. This schematic we see at the heart of the founding of the first American Studies programs eighty years ago at Harvard, George Washington, Western Reserve, Penn, and Union College, and given one of its most concise expressions sixty years ago in Henry Nash Smith’s similarly seminal essay “Can American Studies Develop a Method?”

Fifty years ago, in the spring of 1967, amidst a torrent racial violence in American cities, over 100, 000 people marched on Washington to protest their country’s prosecution of the Vietnam War. Responding to these larger events, the American Studies Association members elected the distinguished African-American scholar John Hope Franklin as its president at its first national convention.  At Penn State Harrisburg that same year, the graduating class included American Studies majors for the first time. Twenty years before that, Franklin & Marshall College had created the first folklore department in the state and a public state folklorist position with an Americanist focus was created.

Twenty years ago, Mary Helen Washington dramatically urged the audience for her presidential address to the ASA to consider “What Happens to American Studies If You Put African American Studies at the Center?” Ten years ago, this call provided ground for Emory Elliot’s critical reappraisal of the “transnational turn” in the field, which touched off a spirited exchange in the pages of American Quarterly.

As part of this history of framing, and re-framing of American Studies in dialogue with contemporary events and trends, institutional developments, and disciplinary formations, the inaugural meeting of a new professional organization, The Society of Americanists, will offer yet another point of departure to interrogate American Studies as a scholarly venture.

Conceived of as “a coalition of persons, organizations, and academic programs devoted to the study of the United States.” The SOA’s purpose is to foster integrated studies of American history, society, arts, and culture in all their aspects, and to promote the profession of scholars and professionals devoted to the study of the United States in a global context.  Its distinctive niche in the organizational landscape of learned, professional societies in American Studies is to represent the discipline and profession of Americanists and advance analytical approaches to the research and interpretation of the United States.

This year, the SOA, in partnership with the Middle Atlantic Folklife Association and the Eastern American Studies Association, invites proposals for papers, panels, forums, and workshops related to the broad theme of markers, moments, and turning points in American history, folklife, education, cultural conservation, heritage, and society.

As part of specially designated SOA-sponsored sessions, the program committee is particularly interested in works that offer perspectives on both past moments and future directions in the American Studies movement, especially in a global context.

The SOA, MAFA, and EASA hope for presentations suggested by the conference theme , but we also welcome panels on topics of significance to scholars engaged in the practice of American Studies that the conference theme otherwise might exclude.

Submission Guidelines:

For Individual Presenters: Send a short abstract (no more than 200 words) and a brief CV or resume (no more than two pages).  Place your name and email address on both documents.

For Pre-formed Panels: Send a cover sheet with the title of the panel, the names of each participant, and the titles of their presentations.  Include a short abstract of each paper (no more than 200 words each) as well as a CV or resume for each panel participant (no longer than two pages).

SOA Designation: Those submitting proposals are free to do so without designation for the general joint conference. However, if you would like your paper, panel, or workshop to be considered for inclusion in the inaugural meeting of the Society of Americanists, please indicate this on your proposal materials. These sessions will receive special designation in the conference program as SOA-sponsored events.

How to Submit: All materials should be sent to Jennifer Drissel before Monday, January 16, 2017.  Graduate students whose proposals are accepted will be encouraged to submit their final papers electronically several weeks prior to the conference to be considered for the Simon J. Bronner Award for the outstanding graduate paper in American Studies.

The conference will also host an Undergraduate Roundtable.  Faculty members interested in having their undergraduate students present research at the conference should contact Dr. Francis Ryan (La Salle University). Roundtable participants will compete for the Francis Ryan Award, awarded annually to the outstanding undergraduate paper.

Any general questions can be directed to John Haddad (Penn State Harrisburg).  For more information, including our downloadable newsletter, see the EASA website.