Significance of the Frontier in an Age of Transnational History (Conference)







































Dear Colleagues:


It is our pleasure to invite you to a symposium to be held on Saturday, February 25th  at The Huntington Library entitled The Significance of The Frontier in An Age of Transnational History.   This interdisciplinary symposium will be a discussion between leading scholars in fields across the humanities about the concept of the frontier in its global contexts.  All roundtables and lectures are free and open to the public. Please see the statement and schedule below for a complete list of participants and a more information.  A catered lunch with the symposium participants is available for 10 dollars for graduate students, and 20 dollars for faculty and the public.   Lunches must be reserved before Monday, February 20th


To RSVP, reserve a lunch, or request additional information, please contact us at





Symposium Organizers:


Erik Altenbernd, UC Irvine History

Alex Young, USC English


Organizing Committee:


Seth Archer, UC Riverside History

Hoest Heap-of-Birds, USC Sociology

Jessica Kim, USC History

Dan Lynch, UCLA History

Jen Staver, UC Irvine History

Eric Steiger, UC Irvine History

Symposium Statement

Nearly twenty-five years after the interventions of New Western History, a
brief survey of recent scholarship on the American West displays a
diversity of approaches to the concept of the frontier. In a moment in
which scholarship across the humanities continues to seek frames of
reference beyond that of the nation-state, scholars of U.S. imperialism
utilize the frontier as a concept that describes not only contact between
cultures and environments, but as a site (both real and imagined) of
community formation and nation building.  Borderlands scholars, for
instance, have broadened considerably our understandings of La Frontera

and its significance in the history of North America.  In the world of

critical race theory, scholars of settler colonialism have fruitfully

reintroduced frontier binaries into their transnational analyses.  Critics

working in literary and film studies have likewise focused on how these

mediums have borrowed from as well as pushed back against the powerful
national narratives articulated by Turnerian historiography.

This symposium aims to put some of these diverse views of historical
frontiers into conversation with one another and assess the current state
of frontier studies.  Have historians of the American West, through the
synthesis of transnational, borderlands, and environmental history (among
other fields), returned, in the words of Kerwin Lee Klein, to telling “big
frontier tales” and in the process become “postwestern?”  Does Turnerian
historiography remain an important object of study for scholars who want

to challenge dominant narratives of American power, or has the

implementation of transnational and postnational perspectives set aside
the decidedly national concerns of Turner and New Western History?  If we
understand the frontier purely as a myth, how and why does the frontier
myth continue to be invoked in such a broad range of political rhetoric

and cultural productions?  If, as scholars of settler colonialism argue,
the frontier is a narrative structure rather than an historical event, and
the binaries between settlers and indigenous peoples are central to the
production of power in settler colonies and states, how can the study of
frontier historiography inform our understanding of Native Americans’
ongoing struggles tribal sovereignty?  Lastly, have these various critical
appraisals of the mythologies of colonial settler frontiers–a body of
scholarship to which Frederick Jackson Turner and New Western History both
belong–had any effect on contemporary popular productions, or do they
continue to reside primarily within academic discourses?

Sponsors: Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West; USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute; Research Division, The Huntington; Salvatori Fund, USC Dornsife College of Arts and Letters; Department of English, USC; The University of California Multi-Campus Research Unit in World History; Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, USC






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