ImagiNation: Exploring the American Political Circus

deadline for submissions: 
June 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 

Call for Papers: ImagiNation: Exploring the American Political Circus

A Special Session at the Pacific and Modern Language Association (PAMLA)
November 14 - 17, San Diego, CA
DEADLINE: June 10th

As Benedict Anderson made clear in Imagined Communities, the nation is founded and established on a series of collectively agreed-upon imaginings. When we imagine the nation and the national, we imagine a sense of collectivity, a sense of shared traits that allow for in-group recognition by people who may have never met but who identify as members of the same national community. These sometimes extend to include a shared sense of humor or the type of things “we” find amusing. Looking at the current political climate in the U.S., it is easy to find the ways in which these “national imaginings” have diverged, destabilizing what were once considered stable concepts of the American nation. In particular, elements of national identity previously thought of as serious and central have increasingly become sites of parody and comic relief. In a modern political context where the earnest statements of politicians and activists are often simultaneously found to be horrifying, amusing, and full of righteous fortitude in equal measure, it is clear to see on a daily basis how tenuous these imagined connections are. Furthermore, the nature of reality itself has become blurred, suggesting that our political existence is composed more of the imagined than we may have previously understood. This panel seeks to explore the process of imagining and imagination and its central place in establishing the evolving conception of the nation. Particularly as ideas about what that nation is, and/or should be, continue to develop in dramatically different directions, testing the bonds of the imagined community, it is of vital importance to consider how the process of national imaginings occurs and the role that humor has increasingly played in making connections across long distances and widening divides. We welcome papers that highlight the national imaginary and the ways in which imagination creates, maintains, and disrupts notions of the national, considering the figures, periods, and movements that inspire these imaginings both historically and in a contemporary context.

Please submit your 300-word abstract no later than June 10th through the PAMLA website (https://pamla. 17903)

Please contact Kristen Tregar ( and Will Jones ( with any questions or concerns.