The Ideological Emergency of the Frontier

deadline for submissions: 
January 29, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
American Studies Association (ASA, November 8-11, 2018)
contact email: 

ASA Annual Meeting 2018

November 8-11, 2018 - Atlanta, Georgia

Fredrick Jackson Turner’s proclaiming the frontier closed in 1893 precipitated an emergency for the foundations of American ideology. According to Turner, the loss of the frontier would amount to the loss of the myth that could sustain a nation—it would be the loss of the vital force that sustains democracy and the individualism that underpins the American national identity. Of course, for Turner, the closing of the frontier was dependent on the frontier as a geographical space that finds its end at the shores of the Pacific. But, as the American frontier has since moved past the coasts of North America and far beyond the borders of the nation, in this panel we are interested in how the idea of a clear-cut frontier has been problematic from the beginning. This panel, then, seeks to investigate the perennial ideology of the frontier in American culture, politics, and economics.

While the frontier seemed to depend on a physical western border, we want to investigate other ways in which the frontier has figured as central element in the creation and sustaining of American ideology. How might, for example, the frontier be tied up with capitalist expansion, both abroad and within its own borders in the rise of the city? Given recent emphasis on hemispheric studies and the transnational turn, can we now begin to talk of something like an Eastern or Atlantic frontier, across which flows wealth, immigrants, and slaves? How might have the frontier – as a borderland and cultural contact zone – been central to conceptions of American cosmopolitanism and nationalism? How might this frontier ethos have problematized U.S. racial politics? To answer these and other questions related to the persistent influence of the frontier in American culture, this panel seeks papers that investigates these issues in literature, political and cultural history, environmental history, art, and architecture throughout American history.

Please submit 300 word abstracts for a traditional 20-25 minute presentation and a brief bio including institutional affiliation, position, and academic interests by January 29th, 2018 to Alex Moskowitz (alex.moskowitz@bc.edu) and Megan LeBarron (mjleb@bu.edu).