WLA 2018 Conference Update (and deadline extension)

Dear WLA Members,

We hope summer is treating you well, and we look forward to welcoming you to St. Louis in October! To that end, we want this conference to be open to as many as possible, so we are extending the proposal deadline to July 1, 2018.

Understanding Our Place: Conference Proposals, Conference Theme, Conference Site

St. Louis’s Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was initiated. Along with the Gateway Arch and the Museum of Westward Expansion, the Old Courthouse comprises the Gateway Arch National Park (which, until 2018, was called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial). The linkage of these sites is a reminder of the intricate relations between U.S. imperialism and histories of enslavement.

Please submit proposals for individual papers and complete sessions to ConfTool. Remember that ConfTool accounts don’t carry over from year to year, so if you haven’t created a 2018 account, you must do so before you submit your proposal. Remember that we welcome critical and creative writing proposals on any aspect of literature and culture of the North American West—but we’re also happy to receive submissions that tie to this year’s conference theme: “Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States.”

The Saint Louis Art Museum is housed in the only World’s Fair building—the “Palace of Fine Arts”—designed to be permanent.

The 2018 conference will be held at the historic Chase Park Plaza hotel, constructed in 1922, located in the city’s Central West End neighborhood. The Central West End was home to some of St. Louis’s most well-known writers: T.S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin, and William S. Burroughs, for example, all lived in the neighborhood. Today, it is a walkable area teeming with restaurants and shops, including the independent bookstore Left Bank Books. It is also adjacent to St. Louis’s 1,300-acre Forest Park, the site of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (which popularized the ice cream cone and Dr. Pepper as it celebrated U.S. imperialism), and today the St. Louis Art Museum and the Missouri History Museum.

Chase Hotel (early 1920s), by W.C. Persons. Missouri Historical Society Collections.

As a site for jazz-age partygoing among well-heeled St. Louisans, our conference site was featured on the front page of the New York Times on January 2, 1923, when an article described a riot that ensued when federal agents sent to enforce prohibition law raided the “fashionable Hotel Chase” on New Year’s Eve. A “barrage of chairs, glassware, plates, knives and forks were hurled promiscuously,” the Times noted. “Women became hysterical” while the “rumpus was in swing” until the “officers retreated.” “One woman,” a police sergeant reported, “had me by the collar as we were leaving.”

We can’t promise that level of excitement, but we can promise an exceptional conference line-up that examines the literature and culture of the North American West from creative and challenging angles, asking critical questions about what constitutes region and role it has played in shaping culture, identity, and power.

Looking Forward to the Program: Special Events and Guests

These questions, of course, can be seen animating the work of our Distinguished Achievement Award winners in both creative writing and criticism: Percival Everett and José E. Limón.

Everett’s 2015 short story collection, Half an Inch of Water, based in Wyoming, “paints a vibrant picture of the West that layers itself subtly but assertively over the prevailing mythos of the lonely white cowboy,” according to a review in the Los Angeles Times.

Percival Everett counts among his many accolades two Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction. He is the author of around 30 books, many set in the American West. These include the parodic genre western God’s Country, as well as Suder, Walk Me to the Distance, Watershed, Wounded, Assumption, and the recent short story collection, Half an Inch of Water. No contemporary African American author has represented the black western experience in such extensive, nuanced, and complex ways. Everett is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

José E. Limón’s American Encounters requires we consider—perhaps now more urgently than ever—the following vision: “I wish to imagine the possibilities of a transformation of [the relationship between Greater Mexico and the United States], so that all children who live today along the Texas border can once again enjoy the waters of the Rio Grande—so that all of the children of Greater Mexico and the United States may play along the border and beyond, carrying their Mexico and their United States within them, . . . crossing this frontier at their pleasure, in equality, and in a peaceful and plentitudinous light of day” (José E. Limón, American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture [Boston: Beacon Press, 1999], 6).

José E. Limón is the Notre Dame Foundation Professor of American Literature Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and the Mody C. Boatright Professor of American Literature Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. His interdisciplinary work brings together literature, anthropology, and folklore in studies of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, Greater Mexico, and American regions and nations broadly conceived. Among his books are Dancing with the Devil: Society and Cultural Poetics in Mexican-American South Texas, Mexican Ballads, Chicano Poems: History and Influence in Mexican American Social Poetry, American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture, and Américo Paredes: Culture and Critique. He is currently working on a book titled Neither Friends, Nor Strangers: Mexicans and Anglos in the Literary Making of Texas.

The plenaries by these Distinguished Achievement Award winners, while certainly the centerpiece of our conference, are not the only events of note.

Mural at Ponderosa Steakhouse, W. Florissant Ave., Ferguson, MO. 2014. 6’x8′. Image courtesy of COCA—Center of Creative Arts. Photo © Michael Kilfoy.

On our opening night, we will be screening and discussing the film Whose Streets?, which documents the activism that grew from the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, Jr., in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. This will be followed by a discussion moderated by Jonathan Smith, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at Saint Louis University and a scholar of African American literature.

During the conference, we will hear from Teresa McKenna, a foundational scholar in Chicana feminist studies and Associate Professor Emerita at the University of Southern California, who will read from her memoir.

We will learn about the possibilities of public humanities collaborations from Sara L. Schwebel, Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, who has collaborated with Channel Islands National Park on a digital humanities project for K-12 teaching organized around the children’s book Island of the Blue Dolphins and the indigenous woman, whose isolation due Spanish colonial policies of reducción and trade, inspired it. Professor Schwebel’s talk will lead nicely into presentations by the WLA/Charles Redd Center K-12 Teaching Award winners on Saturday.

 

East St. Louis poet, scholar, and activist Eugene B. Redmon will read from and speak about his work at the 2018 WLA Past-President’s lunch.

We will also engage local borders when we hear from poet, scholar, and activist Eugene B. Redmond during the Past-President’s lunch on Thursday. Dr. Redmond, along with fellow East St. Louisan Katherine Dunham and St. Louisan Maya Angelou, was an architect of the Black Arts Movement in the region. From his earliest poetry, Redmond has been a place-based poet. A poem titled “Carryover,” for example, which he read at East St. Louisan Miles Davis’s funeral, proclaims, “I have been tattooed for life: / A thought called EAST SAINT LOUIS / Is etched on each Island of my Brain.” “EAST SAINT LOUIS will rise!” It “Will rise from the muddy gutty Mississippi. / Will rise disguised as AFRICA” (in Gerald Early, “Ain’t But a Place”: An Anthology of African American Writings about St. Louis [St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1998], 481).

The ancestral Mississippian city of Cahokia is directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Monks Mound, pictured here, is the largest structure on the site and is the largest earthen mound north of Mexico. St. Louis was once nicknamed “Mound City,” but today only one mound within the city limits has escaped destruction: Sugarloaf Mound, which was purchased by the Osage Nation in 2009. The tribe hopes to preserve the mound and develop an interpretive center to teach St. Louisans about their city’s history from an indigenous perspective.

We’re terribly excited for the Friday plenary, “A Reading for the Mound Builders” organized by Chadwick Allen, and featuring writers LeAnne Howe, Phillip Carroll Morgan, and Allison Hedge Coke. This will dovetail with a planned Saturday excursion to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, the center of the largest pre-Columbian civilization north of Mexico.

Candice Ivory, the “Queen of Avant Soul,” will perform at the 2018 WLA banquet.

And we’re delighted to be honoring the WLA’s 2018 award winners at the banquet on Friday night, where the “Queen of Avant Soul,” the fabulous Candice Ivory, will be joining us to perform. Today a St. Louisan, but with roots in Memphis, Tennessee, Ivory is immersed in the gospel, blues, jazz, and soul traditions of both places. We let her know that the WLA likes to dance!

In Closing, In Friendship, In Appreciation

If it wasn’t clear from the above, we are delighted to share this conference with you, our dear colleagues and friends, who have done so much to push our field in new and exciting directions. This is a preview of what’s in store—but there’s even more to come!

Most importantly, of course, is the tremendous compendium of critical and creative work on the North American West by you—the membership. So please do submit any remaining proposals by July 1, 2018. Thank you for all your contributions—we cannot do this conference, and we cannot do our work in western literature, in all its diversity, without you.

Best wishes,

Michael and Emily

Your 2018 WLA Co-Presidents

“The Rider”

My favorite Western of the year thus far has to be The Rider, a film about Native American rodeo performers that takes place in the contemporary western setting of South Dakota’s Lakota-Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation. The film centers on Brady Blackburn, beginning in the aftermath of a head injury suffered in the rodeo ring, and the story is based on the events experienced by rodeo performer Brady Jandreau. Just to underscore the documentary-like elements of the film, not only does Brady the actual rodeo performer play Brady the fictional rodeo performer, but the rest of the Blackburn family is filled out by other Jandreau family members (by Brady’s sister and father).

Among other things, this is a film about recovery from traumatic brain injury. The film is low-key and closely observational of how Brady recovers (and how he doesn’t). In much of the film Brady is by himself, and he’s a compelling screen presence, even as the character is constrained, low-key, quiet. There are several really good scenes of Brady training horses, hanging out with horses, riding horses, or just watching horses. The low-key Brady really comes to life around horses, and the transformation is amazing. His interaction with horses is emotional, psychological, animated, communicative, vibrant.

Without horses, Brady is half a person. Several scenes of Brady stocking shelves in a convenience store contrast sharply with the vibrant scenes involving horses. The risk of further brain injury makes horse riding (and just being around large animals) dangerous. Other side effects of the injury take their toll throughout the film. His friendship with another injured former rodeo performer, Lane Scott (who plays himself in the film), is as therapeutic for Brady as it is for Lane. Still, nothing in Brady’s life brings him to life as much as his time spent with horses (although, in his interactions with Lane, Brady is closer to the person he is when working with horses than he is with any other humans).

The film is written and directed by a Chinese filmmaker, Chloé Zhao, and it actually reminds me of another contemporary Western by a Chinese filmmaker, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. Like that film, The Rider asks: how do you exist when you have to live your life without the thing you love?  can you?

 

Special Issue of WAL (CFP)

CFP for a special issue of Western American Literature on “The Politics of Public Lands in the Contemporary U.S. West.”

October 2016 ended with dramatic irony on the Western political stage:

Bundy family members were acquitted after occupying Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for over a month; simultaneously, unarmed water protectors in South Dakota were treated as rioters, shot with tear gas and water cannons, and arrested for engaging in unarmed political action on behalf of clean water and the protection of indigenous lands. Since then, the Trump administration has sought to shrink several national monuments, undermining the Antiquities Act of 1906 specifically and environmental protections more generally. Debates about how to value, use, and manage public lands in the American West are as high-profile and controversial as ever, and perhaps even more divisive. How has literature responded? What are the roots of these conflicts? What solutions can engaged scholarship help imagine?

The journal Western American Literature seeks original scholarship for a special issue on public lands in the U.S. West. Essays might address:

• indigenous responses to the notion of public lands or to attempts to degrade or colonize native homelands, and unusual political coalitions formed in response to these threats
• affective, legal, cultural, spiritual, recreational, and/or historical claims that literature makes on/for public lands
• masculinity in the West as (re)negotiated in relation to public lands
• recent (re)inventions of the frontier in literature and popular culture
• problems that climate change creates for public land management and potential solutions articulated by environmental justice literature and scholarship
• movements to diversify public land management agencies such as the National Park Service
• movements to decolonize public lands
• historical roots of contemporary conflicts surrounding public lands
• new narrative forms emerging to address public lands in the twenty-first-century West

Please send proposals of 400-500 words to Jennifer Ladino at jladino@uidaho.edu by June 30, 2018. Depending on the number and quality of submissions, this special issue might feature three standard-length (6,000-8,000 word) articles or a larger number of shorter pieces. Full-length essays will be due November 15, 2018.

New book on the writing and music of Willy Vlautin – Under the Western Sky edited by Neil Campbell

 

Under the Western Sky edited by Neil Campbell

 

“Bringing a sophisticated set of contemporary lenses to bear upon the musical and novel-writing career of Willy Vlautin, Under the Western Sky makes a strong case for Vlautin as a resonant voice in a new kind of West a considerable distance from earlier regional mythologies. In fact, Vlautin emerges as not only a representative, but a central figure whose fictions and songs evoke a series of landscapes—urban, rural, desert—characterized by marginalization, failure, and transience in many forms. Vlautin emerges as a literary son of Raymond Carver, but one who writes in his own voice and for whom music forms a profound and intimate complement to the fiction.”

—O. Alan Weltzien, University of Montana Western

This original collection of essays written by experts in the field weave together the first comprehensive examination of Nevada-born Willy Vlautin’s novels and songs, as well as featuring eleven works of art that accompany his albums and books. Brutally honest, raw, gritty, down to earth, compassionate, and affecting, Willy Vlautin’s writing evokes a power in not only theme but in methodology. Vlautin’s novels and songs chart the dispossessed lives of young people struggling to survive in difficult economic times and in regions of the U.S. West and Pacific Northwest traditionally viewed as affluent and abundant. Yet, as his work shows, these areas are actually highly stratified and deprived.

Featuring an interview with Vlautin himself, this edited collection aims to develop the first serious, critical consideration of the important novels and songs of Willy Vlautin by exploring relations between region, music, and writing through the lens of critical regionality and other interdisciplinary, cultural, and theoretical methodologies.

Neil Campbell is emeritus professor of American Studies at the University of Derby, United Kingdom. He has published several books on American Studies and much of his well-known work covers the New West.

For more information or to order, visit unpress.nevada.edu. Receive 20% off when you use code UNP20 at checkout.

Paper | 978-1-943859-58-0 | 264 pages | $34.95

(Also available as an Ebook)

 

International American West Conference

Please find below the CFP for the IV International Conference on the American Literary and Cultural West: The West Travels Beyond Itself: New Spaces, New Voices, New Forms. University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain). 8-10 October 2018.

The IV International Conference on the American Literary and Cultural West, The West Travels Beyond Itself: New Spaces, New Voices, New Forms, organized by the REWEST research group (Research in Western American Literature and Culture, www.ehu.eus/rewest), seeks for papers which expose the contemporary revision and revival of the West and as a literary and cultural form of representation, as well as of its global impact. The Conference will privilege transnational and interdisciplinary approaches aiming to understand the artistic production of  space and a cultural site whose iconography has moved beyond national limits and literary and artistic borders.
The aim of the Conference is to propose a site of debate about the revision and revival of the West as an ideological and cultural concept. We aim at analyzing the new dimensions of the global, multicultural, multicontextual, multidisciplinary 21st century West. In this light, papers can address a variety of issues ranging from (but not only):

– The West travels beyond itself
– The West looks at Europe
– Europe looks at the West
– The influence of the cultural myths of the Old West in the present century
– The new literary voices of the West
– “Other” western narratives
– Environmental literature of the American West
– Reimagining women in the West
– Western masculinities
– Bordercrossing
– Western mythologies
– The American West in popular culture
– The West and its new forms of expression
– New Western music
– New Western cinema
– The West in the arts
– The West and the new digital forms of communication
– The West in television
– The West in comics and graphic novels

……
Papers should not exceed 2.000-3.000 words (approx. a 20 minute delivery). Although English will be the official language of the Conference, papers in Spanish and Basque will also be accepted.

Please submit your proposal (300 words) plus a brief bio-note (200 words) to the Conference organizers by April 30th, 2018. Proposals should be submitted via e-mail to rewest.fac.letras@ehu.es.

2018 Western Literature Association Conference

CALL FOR PAPERS

2018 Western Literature Association Conference

Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States

The 2018 annual conference of the Western Literature Association will take place October 24-27 at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. “Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States” is derived from this location. This region, at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, has been urban for thousands of years. Cahokia, known for its impressive earthen mounds, is directly across the river from today’s St. Louis, and once housed the largest pre-Columbian civilization north of Mexico, a hub for trade, communication, and transportation throughout indigenous North America. Long before St. Louis was known as the “Gateway to the West,” it was nicknamed “Mound City.”

St. Louis is also a borderland, shaped by French, Spanish, and U.S. contact and conquest. With Missouri’s 1821 entry into the nation as a slave state, St. Louis became envisioned as a gateway to western freedom even while it maintained southern bondage. During the Exoduster movement, St. Louis indeed became a gateway to freedom for many African Americans migrating away from postbellum southern oppression. Today St. Louis continues to serve as a microcosm of the United States’s racial histories, and of both stubborn divisions and promising coalitions across lines of race, class, region, and nation. “Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States” is meant to evoke these confluences and crosscurrents.

We welcome proposals on any aspect of the literatures of the North American West, but especially encourage panels and papers that explore the following topics:

St. Louis (or other western places) as Indigenous Hubs, Gateways, or Borderlands

The African American West

Jazz and Blues and the American West

The Art and Literature of Black Lives Matter

St. Louis Freedom Suits

The Work of Distinguished Achievement Award Winner Percival Everett

The Critical Legacy of Distinguished Achievement Award Winner José E. Limón

 

The deadline for submissions is June 15, 2018. Please submit questions to Michael K. Johnson or Emily Lutenski at WLAConference2018@westernlit.org.

For more information, see http://www.westernlit.org/wla-conference-2018/.

Still on Ponderosa

Photo credits: Mural at Ponderosa Steakhouse, W. Florissant Ave., Ferguson, MO. 2014. 6’x8′. Image courtesy of COCA—Center of Creative Arts. Photo © Michael Kilfoy.

Register Now for WLA 2017 Conference

 

6 July 2017

Dear WLA Presenters and Members:

Boozhoo! Hello from the land of 10,000 lakes!

Registration for the WLA 2017 conference in the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis, MN is now open! Early registration ends September 20, 2017, so please try to save yourselves some money!  Note to registrants: guest status means spouse, partner, sibling, grandparent—anyone coming along to be your cheerleader or to enjoy the Twin Cities while you are involved with WLA business. Guest status does not refer to a WLA member who is not presenting a paper.

We are excited to be welcoming you to beautiful Minnesota, a landscape that was first inhabited over 12,000 years ago by the ancestors of our many Native communities. The mighty mythic Mississippi owes its creation to the last Ice Age, and you will be able to explore its banks and falls while visiting Minneapolis. Fort Snelling , built in 1819 as Fort Saint Anthony as one of the first western military outposts, is now a National Historic Site and worth a visit while you attend WLA. The West of WLA begins on the west banks of the Mississippi, and we have a program of nearly 300 presentations to enrich your minds and expand your vision of western North American writers, playwrights, filmmakers, storytellers, poets, and scholars.

We encourage you to come in time for our Wednesday evening kickoff, which features two Minnesota treasures—Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen and storyteller Kevin Kling—to get you feeling Minnesota. Other featured writers are Will Weaver, Linda LeGarde Grover, and Heid Erdrich.  Our Distinguished Achievement Award recipient playwright Rick Shiomi will be bringing some actors. We will be announcing an amazing band shortly that adds to the celebration of Minnesota greats!

You can begin your registration process at

https://www.conftool.pro/wla-conference-2017/

Our conference hotel is the Marriott City Center in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Reservations must be made by 26 September 2017 or until the block is full to assure the conference room rate of $150/night. Our group rate is available 3 days prior to and 3 days following the dates of our conference based on availability. When making your reservation, inform the reservation agent that you are receiving the Western Literature Association group rate for your visit. Reservations can be made at:  https://aws.passkey.com/e/49008766  or  1-877-303-0104.

Once again, WLA has contracted with United Airlines for a 5% discount for WLA members. United has numerous domestic and international flights to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport daily. For your discount, please book online at united.com/meetingtravel. Use the code ZY5Y175071. MSP also serves all major North American airlines.

We will send ground transportation information later this summer. Travel to and from the airport is easy via light rail. Amtrak also arrives and departs from the beautifully restored Union Station in St. Paul. Light rail then provides ground transportation into downtown Minneapolis as well. Many of you are Uber and Lyfft customers and have that option as well.

We are hard at work on the conference program. As soon as the first program draft is completed, we will put it on the conference website and alert all participants via ConfTool. Please note your two deadlines: September 20, 2017 for early conference registration and September 26, 2017 for your guaranteed hotel group rate.

Miigwech, thank you, WLA colleagues! We look forward to serving as your hosts to the 52nd Annual Conference of the Western Literature Association, 25-28 October 2017.

Your co-presidents,

Florence Amamoto (amamoto@gustavus.edu)

Susan Maher (smaher@d.umn.edu)

 

Reminder:  If you want your conference paper considered for the Manfred award (creative writing) or the Taylor or Grover awards (best grad student papers), please send final copies to us (copy both co-presidents) by Aug. 15.  Grad students wishing to be considered for the Owens awards (to foster diversity), please send application material to Lisa Tatonetti (tatonett@ksu.edu) by Aug. 15.  More detailed descriptions of WLA awards on the WLA website.

C19 Conference: Climate

C19 Seminars and

proposal submission site

Dear C19 members,

We are delighted to announce the nine seminars that will be featured at the fifth biennial C19 conference, “Climate.” The conference will take place March 22-25, 2018, in Albuquerque, NM, and is hosted by the University of New Mexico.

We are also very glad to say that the conference submission site is now available: https://c19conference2018.exordo.com/. We look forward to reading your proposals.

Here are the nine seminar topics and leaders; a full description of each seminar is attached and can be found on our conference website:  https://c19conference.wordpress.com/seminars/.
1. Childhood Teleologies: Climates of Growth

Seminar Leaders: Anna Mae Duane and Karen Sánchez-Eppler
2. C19 Environmental Humanities

Seminar Leaders: Teresa A. Goddu and William Gleason
3. Pacific Intersections

Seminar Leaders: Hsuan L. Hsu and Paul Lyons
4. Expanding Forms: a Writing Workshop

Seminar Leaders:Sarah Mesle and Sarah Blackwood
5. Dissonant Archives: The History and Writings of Nineteenth Century Afro-Latinas

Seminar Leaders: Nancy Raquel Mirabal and Gema Guevara
6. Performing Citizenship in Hostile Climates

Seminar Leader: Koritha Mitchell
7. In/Civility

Seminar Leaders: Tavia Nyong’o and Kyla Wazana Tompkins
8. Feminist Critical Regionalism and the Climate of Western Literary Studies

Seminar Leaders: Jennifer S. Tuttle and Jean Pfaelzer
9. Indigenous Textualities: Native Americans, Writing, and Representation

Seminar Leader: Hilary E. Wyss, Trinity College
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 co-facilitators with expertise in the topic. Each participant will submit a five-page position paper 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.
We hope to see you in Albuquerque,

 

Hester Blum, President

Meredith McGill, Vice President

Carrie Tirado Bramen, Program Chair

Alex Black, Program Committee member

Martha Schoolman, Program Committee member

Conference Deadline Extended

Attention WLA Members and Interested Participants: Due to some registration challenges, we are changing the submission due date to July 1, 2017. We don’t want anyone to miss the voyage to Minneapolis! Come to hear writers Linda LeGarde Grover, Kao Kalia Yang, Will Weaver, Joyce Sutphen, Heid Erdrich, and Kevin Kling! Our distinguished achievement honoree is playwright and theater great Rick Shiomi.

Go to the 2017 Western Literature Association Conference page on the WLA website for more information and to submit your proposal.

New Directions in Black Western Studies (CFP)

New Directions in Black Western Studies

Western History Association Conference

Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, San Diego, California

01-04 November 2017

 

We are seeking proposals for the 57th Western History Association Conference workshop and American Studies Special Issue: “New Directions in Black Western Studies.”

Though several scholarly historical treatments of Blacks in the North American West exist, few engage with what Black Western Studies means in a contemporary context. Over the past decade there has been a return to the west in intellectual and artistic production at a rate not seen since the 1970s. Several critically acclaimed television series, films, music albums, and literary texts are rooted firmly in western historical legacies. Likewise, the relationship between Blackness and western geographical and cultural identity has been explored in various disciplinary genres. From film, music, literature, and art to theatre, architecture, and museum studies, These possibilities drive several questions undergirding this workshop at the 2017 Western History Association Conference.

How do we make sense of conventional westerns and science fiction westerns such as HBO’s Westworld and AMC’s Hell on Wheels that  feature black characters in lead roles, but render the mythic west primarily a “white” space? How do we hear songs that claim the West as a site of a distinct “authentic” black culture? Here, N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” (1988), 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” (1996), and Kendrick Lamar’s “Compton” (2012) come to mind. How do musicians conjure up images of the Black West in their lyrics and chords? How do we make sense of memorials and commemorations of Blacks in the West that position their presence as part of frontier exceptionalism? How do we document riots and revolutions in a black western context? How do murals of Black subjects in Western cities serve as correctives to cowboy and pioneer histories of the West?  How have fiction and creative non-fiction writers imagined the Black West in their texts? Is the Black West gendered? What are the boundaries of the Black West? For example, when we include the American Pacific states and western Canadian territories in our understanding of the Black West, how does that open up new avenues for understanding black Western subjectivities?

Papers accepted for the WHA workshop will be vetted for a subsequent special issue of American Studies (AMSJ) on Black Western Studies. For both the workshop and the journal we are interested in what it means to read the North American West as a Black space with varied and deep possibilities.. By this we mean, how the concept of presenting/representing the West is informed by black identities and identity-making, rival geographies tied to black mobility, black culture, black knowledge production, black arts, and black literatures. The WHA workshop and AMSJ special issue  will fill a gap in American Studies by bringing Black Western Studies into current dialogue with other fields of American Studies that focus on the intersections between race, ethnicity, and place/geography. Borderland studies, Canadian Studies, Midwestern Studies, Southern Studies, and Asian/Pacific/American Studies are just a few examples of such fields.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • 21st century Television and Film
  • Reconsidering Public Memorials, Museums, and Historic Preservation
  • Photography
  • Visual Arts (painting, murals, and sculptures)
  • Literatures
  • New Media
  • Music and Song
  • Theatre and Performance
  • Architecture and Built Environment
  • Graphic Novels and Comic Books
  • Gender and/or Sexuality
  • Urban and/or Rural Spaces

Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be emailed to Jeannette Eileen Jones, Kalenda Eaton, and Michael Johnson at blackwesternstudies2017@gmail.com by 30 June 2017.

All submissions should include the name of the author, title/position, institution, email address, a short profile, the title of the proposed paper, and the abstract. Once accepted, drafts of complete papers will be due from contributors by 15 September 2017.

Note: Accepted contributors must register for and attend the 2017 Western History Association, which will meet 01-04 November 2017 at the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, San Diego, CA.

During the conference the accepted contributors and guest editors (Jones, Eaton, and Johnson) will workshop pre-circulated drafts of papers in a closed session for two days (Thursday and Friday). The contributors will present their work in an open session on the last morning (Saturday) of the conference. Please note that all papers MUST go through a blind peer-review process with American Studies (AMSJ) prior to final publication. We expect the special issue to be published in 2018.

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