25th AISNA Biennial Conference Gate(d)Ways. Enclosures, Breaches and Mobilities Across U.S. Boundaries and Beyond

deadline for submissions: 
June 25, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Italian Association for North American Studies (AISNA)
contact email: 

CALL FOR PAPERS

 

Paper  proposals  (max.  300  words)  should  be  submitted,  together  with  a  brief biographical note, to the Panel Coordinator(s), to the Conference Organizer Gigliola Nocera (noceragi@unict.it) and to the Aisna Secretary Simone Francescato (segretario- aisna@unive.it) by June 15, 2019. Successful proponents will be notified by June 30,

2019. Panels exceeding four participants will be split into two sessions.

 

Panel # 1

 

Photography and American Culture Within and Beyond Walls

 

As   a   counterpart  to   a  tradition  of  American  photography  that   privileges   the representation  of  open  spaces  and  unrestrained  movement,  this  panel  proposes  to explore cases in which, in the history of American culture, photographic and/or para- photographic practices of representation have dealt with the existence of enclosed, secluded, segregated spaces and/or restrained movement– reflecting, documenting, reinforcing, critiquing, and/or subverting such configurations of space and foreclosed/limited mobility. From portraits of slaves to mugshots, from medical documentation to immigration checkpoints, photographic practices can contribute to buttress or justify the confinement of humans within borders and walls, for instance in the case of ghettos, prisons, detention camps, interrogation centers, and physical and/or mental health institutions. On the other hand, photography can also have or claim a role in opening breaches in walls, documenting or bringing about escapes from confinement or attempts at gaining freedom. Such potential emerges, for instance, in Jacob Riis’ or Lewis Hines’ photographic immersion into the confined spaces inhabited by workers and immigrants; in the use of the photographic medium in prison activism; or in the thematization and usage of photography in works that create counter-memory, illuminating  enclosed  zones  of  history  and  blurring  the  lines  between  biography, autobiography, and creative art – like graphic novels such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus or Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, or Maxine Hong Kingston’s fictions/memoirs The Woman Warrior and China Men. We invite proposals that discuss photographic work, or tackle the presence and/or thematization of photography in/through other media such as literature, cinema, graphic narratives, multimedial art etc., dealing with photography’s potential for hypostatizing, but also rediscussing, existing in/balances between closure and openness, between confinement and the possibility of transit, passage, movement.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Vincenzo Bavaro, University of Naples, “L’Orientale”, vbavaro@unior.it; vincenzo.bavaro@gmail.com

Serena Fusco, University of Naples, “L’Orientale”, sfusco@unior.it; serenafusco@gmail.com

 

 

Panel # 2

 

Supernatural Passages Across Enclosures in  Science Fiction Literature

 

Science fiction is one of the few literary genres very closely concerned with the analysis and improvement of society. Many significant works of science fiction can be viewed as a kind of a scientific research laboratory in which the important trends in the development of the society are studied, analysed and   extrapolated to an imaginary world for further analysis. This imaginary world is a metaphor, a model, which tests the viability of concepts and ideas of a science fiction writer. In the case of negative trends observed in the society in the zero/primary world, the author singles them out, exaggerates and extrapolates them to the imaginary world, thus creating a dystopia in most of cases. In doing so, the author tries to draw the attention of the society to the existing problems, warning about the negative consequences if no measures are taken in due time. In other cases, the author tries to suggest his ideas to improve the society and explores the possibilities for a better world for everyone.

The subject of supernatural passages across enclosures is rather common in science fiction literature. Most of the times, sf writers strictly follow the Standard Cosmological model, but when it is necessary to find a solution to a fatal problem, often threatening the existence of human species, they resort to hypothesis of parallel universes, multiple universes, etc. describe warm holes as hypothetical passages between universes. To find a problem solution, the protagonist must cross a supernatural passage to another world. Projected back to the zero world, it means that often walls and boundaries must be overcome in order to find the right solution for thd current problems in the society.

This panel analyses some sf novels by Arthur Clarke, Philip Dick, I. Asimov, and other American sf writers, which deal with supernatural passages.

 

Panel Coordinator:

Iren Boyarkina, University of Tuscia, DEIM,  estel20@mail.ru

 

Panel # 3

 

Blue-Collars: Racial and Economic Boundaries Inside America’s Working Class

This panel aims to explore the social and political background that led to the decline of unions and the downfall of blue-collar jobs in the last decades of the U.S.history; most of all, the central topic of inquiry will take into account how this background affects the racial and economic boundaries that nowadays divide American people and creates grudge and discontent.

Late 20th  century’s globalization and  improvements in technology meant the collapse of local factories and the displacement of labor to cheaper, less union-protected countries, the consequence of this being that unemployment and underemployment is now a reality for an extremely high number of blue-collar workers in the U.S. Unprotected and considered as unnecessary labor, many former Democratic blue-collar voters changed their political positions and voted for Trump in 2016 election. How did the working class become Republican? Did the Democratic Party abandon the lower classes of society in favor of wealthy elites, paving the way for a conservative, racist and illiberal revolution of the people?

With  this  aim  in  mind,  the  panel  will  focus  on  the  social  and  political background of the first years of the 00’s as crucial environment at the root of the fall of blue collar communities: NAFTA’s impact on working-class jobs, George W. Bush election, the financial crisis and the consequent growing resentment that may have le d to the election of Donald J. Trump.The polarization of American workers, be it racial or economic, is at the core of a deeper division that creates inequality and furthers individualism against collectivism. The workshop welcomes papers covering the above topics and that consider how the concepts of race and social status divide and destroy collectivity, creating boundaries between members of the working-class and fostering hostility to the immigrants.

 

Panel Coordinator:

Anna Cadoni, University of Cagliari - Bowdoin College,  anna.cadoni1992@gmail.com

 

 

Panel # 4

 

Space, Security, Control, and Containment: Tales of Hope and Despair

 

Challenges  to  security,  whether  concrete  or  abstract,  disrupt  the  status  quo,  often leading to tightening control. Typically, dystopian novels are built upon themes of security, control, and containment, yet, they arise in all genres of literature in varying degrees. The subjects of control are usually ordinary citizens, but often in a defined space they are more likely to be “others”, such as women, members or (often non- Caucasian) minorities, or animals.

Containment and control are not limited to those literally imprisoned. The subject of control does not have to commit an action of disturbance. For instance, animals are detained  due  to  their  existence  as  non-humans.  Painfully  similarly,  various  ethnic groups have been subject of containment to provide (the feeling of) security to others.

Further, individuals with disruptive thinking need to be monitored or eradicated. In the end, control is often escaped or overcome in one way or another.

I propose to discuss space, security, control, and containment through tales of hope and despair. Such tales can be either traditional or modern, and they can be products of

various genres. The papers proposed for this panel should address questions including, but not limited to:

•          • What kind of controlled spaces are there?

•          • What type of justifications act as the building blocks for such controlled space?

•          • What or who is controlled/contained?

•          • Is the entity in power omnipotent; who is in control? Can the power to control

be transferred from one entity to another? How?

•          • What is the relationship between control, containment, and need for security?

•          • Does containment increase security?

•          • Is security, in Margaret Atwood’s words, freedom to or freedom from?

 

Panel Coordinator:

Anni Calcara, Doctoral candidate, Social and Cultural Encounters (SCE), University of

Eastern Finland,  anniras@student.uef.fi

 

Panel # 5

 

Urban  Borders:  Relocating  the  boundary  to  the  urban  milieu  in  American Literature and Culture

 

In Karen T. Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange, Buzzworm, an African American character, talks about the invisible yet productive borders he is aware of in the city. Spatial demarcations do not have to be officially drawn, but everybody knows that if you step over the invisible front line, you can get implicated, arrested, jailed, or killed. Similarly, in Ernesto Quiñonez’s Chango’s Fire, Julio comments that you would be arrested on the very spot if you were to set foot on white people’s lawns. Though invisible to the eye, urban boundaries split and separate different parts of city. This relocation of the geopolitical boundary or edge opens a reconsideration of the workings of the border as a dividing mechanism. Borders, Patricia Price claims in Dry Place, have turned conspicuous, flexible and fluid. For Price the location of new boundaries   requires thinking about lines of separation as more fluid sorts of places, since they do not stay put in visible geographical manifestations. They function in what she calls a transverse fashion, one that conflates visual, architectural, economic, and racial segregation. Urban borders may get activated in the face of the “wrong” kind of crosser, whenever s/he is entering forbidden territory, what Homi Bhabha terms the “Heim of the national culture and its unisonant discourse.”The notion of the border then moves from the exterior to the interior border.

Given this relocation of the geopolitical line we welcome papers that include the

following topics:

1.   Racial control and spatial demarcation in the city

2.   Infected vs healthy spaces

3.   Barrioization vs Barriology tendencies

4.   From the geopolitical/exterior border to the interior border

5.   Gentrification of the city

 

Panel Coordinators:

Ana Mª Manzanas Calvo, University of Salamanca,  amanzana@usal.es

Ewa Antoszek, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University,  antoszek@poczta.umcs.lublin.pl

 

 

Panel # 6

 

Contested   belongings, border identities, and theNation-State: Arab and Muslim Americans in the 20th and 21st century

 

We seek contributions addressing the Arab-American and Muslim-American experience in the 20th and21st centuries, and its representations in literature, (performing) arts, political discourse and the media.

Approximately 3.5-million strong today, the Arab-American community in the United States has transitioned over the last 20 years from an invisible group within the (presumed) American melting pot spanning multiple generations of immigrants, mostly perceived  as  ”white”,  to  a  racialized  “problem  minority”  and  an  alleged  threat  to national security. Recent scholarship has traced this construction of an “Arab Other” as “The Enemy” back to the Oil Wars and US involvement in Middle Eastern politics in the 1960s and 70s.

Two decades into the 21st  century, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans - a group that subsumes part (but not all) of Americans of Arab descent together with other, non- Arab minorities -remain an embattled minority. Yet, their voices have gained national prominence through the work of intellectuals (the late Edward Said, as well as Moustafa Bayoumi, Louise Cainkar, Nadine Naber and many others), political activists (Linda Sarsour) and, most recently, a new generation of young, newly elected Congresswomen (Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar) whose social and political activism is pushing to revive American liberalism from decades of lethargy.

Arab and Muslim Americans in the 20th  and 21st  centuries are the embodiment of the center-periphery dynamics of American culture, i.e. communities that have risen up to question  the  place  and  status  of  borders  and  liminality  –  social,  cultural,  mental, religious – within the American body politic, and the ways in which liminal identities can acquire agency to push for new social and political agendas, as this call for panels suggests,  “on  both  U.S.  national  and  global  stages”,  interrogating  the  meaning  of “home” and “abroad”, “us” and “them”, citizenship and belonging, the very notion of “nation-state” as well as its borders.

We therefore welcome proposals for contributions addressing, but not limited to, the topics ofArab and Muslim-American lives, literature, arts in the 20th  and 21st  century; North American, Transnational Literature and Trans-border textualities in the Arab and Muslim-American context; post 9/11 geopolitical strategies of securitization/governmentality; US race relations, ethnicities and   citizenship and the

Arab world; Individual and collective identities in the Global War on Terror.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Andrea Carosso, University of Turin,  andrea.carosso@unito.it

Cinzia Schiavini, University of Milan,  cinzia.schiavini@unimi.it

 

Panel # 7

 

Gates(d)ways in “Pre-occupied Spaces”: Exploring Signs of Ethnicity in American Cities 

This  panel  seeks  inspiration  from  the  recent  book  by  Teresa  Fiore,  Pre-Occupied Spaces: Remapping Italy’s Transnational Migrations and Colonial Legacies (2017)and reconceptualize Fred Gardaphe’s concept at the base of Italians Signs, American Streets (1997) in urban spaces recognizable as marked by ethnic or multi-ethnic identity. While centred  on  the  Italian  experience  of  migration,  Fiore’s  book  provides  a  useful framework that can be extended to read places as spaces for the analyses of stories, which are not limited to the Italian case. Furthermore, it offers the possibility to recognizes Italian signs in multi-ethnic communities located in the United States, as well as to recognize signs of other ethnicity in Italian-American communities.

On those premises, this panel aims to explore the possibilities offered by Fiore’s

and Gardaphe’s frameworks, to enlarge the context of migration which they specifically identify beyond the “gates” and the “walls” defined by the Italian diaspora, as it has been conceptualized by Donna Gabaccia (2000). Intended as interdisciplinary, the panel invites scholars from American studies to answer questions such as the following:

How writers, directors and artists haveperceived “gates” and “walls” that define the limits of a specific ethnic identity in multi-ethnic communities of American cities?

What stories those urban spaces havetold to us?

Which  spaces  we  recognize  as  Italian  spaces,  and  which  ones  as American spaces?What makes it possible to identify “gates” and “walls”that define them?

How  the  assimilation  to  the  American  mainstream  has  helped  to “remove”  gates  while  conversely,  it  built  new  ones?  How  ethnic communities have built “gates” to replace other “gates”?

All  contributes  that  attempt  to  read  the  American  experience  as  a  multi-ethnic experience are welcome.

 

Panel Coordinator:

Francesco Chianese, Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence, California State University Long Beach,  Francesco.Chianese@csulb.edu

 

 

Panel # 8

 

Considering Violence Within Domestic Walls to Pursue An Ethics and Politics of Nonviolence

Domestic walls have ears and eyes through which both insiders and outsiders may listen and watch—and take action to break through.  This panel invites reflections upon the domestic space—its protection, sufferance and comfort, as well as it violence, nostalgia and fear—to focus on the political relationship between the domestic and the public space and to speculate on the epistemic frame that may host an ethics of nonviolence. While the elaboration on the personal that is political may date back to Betty Fr iedan’s Feminine Mystique (1963) to bloom through second-wave feminism, consciousness- raising practices, the Redstocking and the Combahee River collectives and the noteworthy specifications highlighted by Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks, the elaboration on the politics of the relationship between the private and the public, the domestic and society is calling for more careful attention. The inadequacy of public discourse on private  matters explodes  in  relation to  episodes of domestic  violence against women and children.

Literature both examines the affects confined within the domestic wall and shows the emotions that breaking down the wall of domestic silence entails. Literature puts into words the relationship between public and private by showing the empowering relation of the personal with the political but rejecting the simplistic equation of personal with private and political with public. The examples range from Toni Morrison’s narratives that often depict incidents of domestic violence within a public context of racist and sexist oppression to Laura Kasischke’s poems that voice acts of breaching through the domestic wall of fear in search for the human. The panel invites interpretations that regard non-systemic philosophical positions that may span from Leela Gandhi’s postcolonial definition of revolutionary nonviolence to Jacques Derrida’s reflections on transcendental violence to show the way over the wall of domestic violence.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Giovanna Covi, University of Trento, giovanna.covi@unitn.it

Cristiana Pagliarusco, PhD University of Trento,  c.pagliarusco@unitn.it

 

Panel # 9

 

Decolonizing the Digital Archive

 

In recent years we have witnessed a proliferation of digital archival work – often (but not always) in the form of open access platforms developed to gather, preserve, and share historical documents. The very nature of open accessibility counters a rhetoric of retreat and the construction of barriers among knowledge producers and consumers – by refusing   ownership   over   its   content   and   seeking   collaborative   and   communal engagement in both interpretational and curatorial work, open access digital archives are often decentralized archives that  provide modes for democratic access, exchange, and co-construction of knowledge. 

As digital archives are beginning to define the work that we do, an interdisciplinary effort, spearheaded by digital humanists, has increasingly focused on theorizing the affordances offered by the digital form and the power structures and silences of the archive in colonial and capitalist knowledge regimes. Projects such as the Early Caribbean Digital Archive (ECDA), Colored Conventions, and Chicana Por Mi Raza have proposed different tactics – such as remixing, reassembling, and decentralizing – to decolonize the archive and violate the epistemic boundaries and the structure knowledge that it seeks to enforce.

In this panel, we hope to explore questions at the intersections of theory and praxis, as we consider how digital tools can be theorized, hacked, and used in service of decolonizing the archive. This panel seeks to explore not only digital archives as repositories of historical document, but also their capacity to collect real-time produced knowledge. We also invite contributions that look at pedagogical practices based on digital archival work,, digital platforms that speak to multiple constituencies and online projects that serve as Open Educational Resources.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Sonia Di Loreto, University of Turin,  sonia.diloreto@unito.it

Stefano Morello, The Graduate Center, CUNY,   veritas44@gmail.com

 

Panel # 10

 

Beyond Bricks and Concrete: Regenerating Walls and Barriers

 

Whether  consciously  or  subconsciously,  walls  have  long  exerted  a  dramatic  impact  on passers-by,  affected  by the feelings of isolation,  loss,  and  remoteness (or, to  quote Don DeLillo, lontananza) they forcefully evoke. Nonetheless, these artificial barriers, separating peoples and nations, have often been endowed with an undermining potential: indeed, they have become larger-than-life canvases, where identities are projected and asserted, and dissent is graphically exhibited. The Berlin Wall and the Chinese Wall, with their inscriptions and graffiti as ways of articulating protest, are two outstanding examples of this phenomenon. Furthermore, from the Mexican Muralism art movement of Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and José Orozco, to the murals and cave paintings in numerous archeological sites dating back to Upper Paleolithic, walls have long acted as mirrors, bound to reproduce the ever-changing identities of transient ethnic groups across the world.

This panel sets out to explore the many and various ways artists have strived to regenerate walls and barriers, thus subverting the initial intentions of their creators. Special emphasis will be placed on the role walls have played in separating/juxtaposing ethnic communities within the great American metropolis in the XX century. Indeed, world-famous murals can be found in Mexico, New York City, Philadelphia, Belfast, Derry, Los Angeles, Nicaragua, Cuba, and India; all of them seem to perform an important social function, as transgressive means of communication between members of socially, ethnically, and racially divided communities in times of tension and conflict.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Carla    Francellini,    University    of   Siena    –    University   of   Rome    “Tor    Vergata”,

carla.francellini@gmail.com

Elisabetta Marino, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”,  marino@lettere,uniroma2.it 

 

Panel # 11

 

“There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me”: American music across the wall.

In 2011 Costica Bradatan wrote that “Walls […] are built not for security, but for a sense of security […]. What a wall satisfies is not so much a material need as a mental one. Walls protect people not from barbarians, but from anxieties and fears, which can often be more terrible than the worst vandals” (“NYT”, 27 November 2011).

The material and metaphorical dimensions underlined by Bradatan have characterized the idea of wall in artistic terms. In particular, music has always established a close relationship with it and the album The Wall seemed to have explored all the possible physical and psychological, as well as political and ideological variations. However, Roger Waters’s intention to play his concept album along the US-Mexican border to protest against President Trump marks a reconfiguration of wall in material terms, which is in line with the American and Mexican percussionists’ cross-border concert in January 2018 and the sound sculptor Glenn Weyant’s experiments with the fence between the two countries played as a musical instrument (“Loudwire,” 10 January 2019).

The panel aims at reflecting on the relationship between music and borders, walls, fences and barriers in the United States, trying to  investigate the phenomenon through its historical evolution and its geographical differentiation taking into account not only the possible metaphorical and symbolic meanings, but also the physical and material ones.

Actually, these two dimensions characterize the wall in Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land: “There was a big wall there that tried to stop me,” a line the author decided not to perform for a long time. Many years later, during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger sang the song re-inserting the verse. In 2009 it seemed like an invitation and a hope; now it would only be a new warning.

 Panel Coordinators:

Gianna Fusco, University of L’Aquila,  mg.fusco@gmail.com

Enrico Botta, University of L’Aquila,  enricobotta@hotmail.com

 

Panel # 12

 

From Gatekeeping to Border Crossing: Translating Americanness for Italian Readers

 

At the intersection of recent studies on reception of foreign novels, cultural translation studies and studies of the literary transfer lies the shared assumption that both the commercial success and literary reputation of a foreign book and its author are largely constructed by the collaboration of critics, publishers, agents and editors involved in bringing a foreign text to a specific national audience and literary system.

In this critical framework it is useful to think of these actors/agents/advocates of the literary field and its channels of production and reception as gatekeepers of literary tastes whose selection processes for translation help condition not only which texts will be chosen – raising questions about the diverse voices of a given national literature – but also how such texts will be approached by readers in terms of literary genres and stylistic conventions. Choosing which book to translate – and which not – is thus historically inscribed with issues related to the publisher’s agenda, its role as culture broker, and, ultimately, with the definition of a national literary canon.

To define the presence of American literature in the Italian publishing market in the 20th and 21st  centuries as predominant is hardly an exaggeration. Be them romance-novels, detective stories, noir, sensation fiction, modernist masterpieces or more canonical works, American books have always had the lion’s share of translations in the Italian publishing market, often standing as a recognizable shorthand for bestselling trade fiction. This panel invites contributions that tackle the historically constructed relations between diverse cultural agents – authors, publishers, translators – within a transnational context and address  how  certain  aesthetic  and  cultural  understandings  of  the  “American-ness”  of American literature have been negotiated on the Italian book market and circulated among Italian readers.

Alongside topics regarding the Italian translation and reception of single American authors and case-studies, other topics include:

---The triangulation of texts, marketing strategies and reception

---The importance of series and collections in a publisher’s catalogue (e.g. Medusa, Omnibus,

NarratoriStranieriTradotti, etc.)

---Questions of Censorship

--- Genre-related  questions about  selection processes for  Italian translations of American

books

--- Gender-related questions about selection processes for Italian translations of American books

--- Racial- and ethnic-related questions about selection processes forItalian translations of American books

Panel Coordinators:

Valeria Gennero, University of Bergamo,  valeria.gennero@unibg.it

Cinzia Scarpino, University of Turin,  cinzia.scarpino@unito.it

 

 

 

Panel # 13

 Milestones in Italian Americana: di Donato’s Christ in Concrete and Puzo’s The Godfather

The year 2019 represents the eightieth anniversary of Pietro di Donato’s novel Christ in

Concrete and the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.  Paul Lauter’s The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition, and The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Eighth Edition, contain di Donato’s short story version published in 1937; however, neither anthology include Puzo or any of his writings.

 

Panel Coordinator: Alan Gravano, Rocky Mountain University, alan.gravano@outlook.com

 

 

Panel # 14

 

Dissent: from Walls to Breaches to Bridges of Knowledge and Resistance.

 

This panel aims to investigate varieties of dissent to increasing forms of material, cultural, and political enclosures such as walls, borders, protected zones, ethnic divides, and other kinds of self-defensive constructions. The obvious, immediate reference for Americanists is, of course, the U.S.-Mexico border, while for US, Italians, Europeans, it is the European coordinated governmentality that has turned the Mediterannean sea into a giant, invisible upside-down wall that bounces off, rejects and disperses immigrants and refugees from Africa and the so called Global South.

But walls are political dreams – or nightmares –erected and undone, first of all, in the imagination. For instance, in the cultural industry, one can reflect on how institutions, ruling bodies, governments, as well as corporations, associations and local communities acquire implicit, large-scale consent (which Noam Chomsky defined ‘consent without consent’) by frequently turning citizens into audiences or crowds of either – following Lilie Chouliaraki’s definition – ‘ironic spectators,’ as well as into bodies of anomic individuals, monads whose modes of active social existence –located between the abstract domain of digital life and the concrete pressures of embodied materiality– is not easy to capture and actively mobilize by traditional means of dissent.

 Against such a context, literary, cultural and political practices of dissent are here seen as strategies and tactics for opening breaches and building bridges – today as in the past

– for crossing and re-crossing borders in order to make connections in artificially disconnected spaces. There are several ways of crossing divides, but building bridges– cultural and otherwise – also means fostering civic awareness and freedom and conceptualizing the means to enact active, responsible citizenship by way of argumentation and narration, by artistic and performative practices, by strategies of denunciation, documentation and disclosure, and by taking care of networks of cooperation and dissent across disciplinary, social, and material boundaries. We invite papers that  discuss  literature, films and  other  narrative  forms,  installations, performances, public engagement actions, disciplinary commitments and revisions in literary  and  cultural  studies  as  part  of  critical  processes  that,  by  enabling  us  to understand differences in more nuanced ways and to address complex cultural phenomena  from  transgressive,  dissenting  angles,  labor  with  us  toward  replacing cultural walls with bridges of/for knowledge.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Cristina Iuli, Università del Piemonte Orientale,  cristina.iuli@uniupo.it

Elena Lamberti, University of Bologna,  elena.lamberti@unibo.it

 

Panel # 15

 

Living in The Shadow of No Towers: Conceptualizing Americans’ experiences and responses in Post 9/11 Trauma Narratives

If literature exhibits what remains untouched and unrepresented about 9/11 attack on the twin towers of America, two of the tallest buildings in the world, it also gives birth pertinacious questions about we construe and render 9/11, questions formulated by debates within and outside America about the “War on Terror”. American perspective on this attack is evolving till now and it has begun to evolve with the dissipation of early national unity, along with the emergence of the global sympathy in the wake of America’s invasion of Iraq. The 9/11 Memorial becomes a symbolic space and place- a place to remember the shadows of the twin towers, to lament over the death of innocent Americans, to experience the traumatic effects of the victims’ family members, and finally, to recall those unrecognizable dead bodies of American people. The enduring senses  of  mourning  for  the  untimely  death  of  many  Americans  and  the  traumatic experiences of the gruesome and violent event on 9/11 point out the naked truth that not everyone in this world likes and accepts American culture and American way of life. While the feelings of the Native Americans’ victims’ families are taken care of to help them from post-traumatic stress disorder, the negative attitudes shown towards the Muslim Americans and Arab Americans after 9/11 are found to be very alarming and unacceptable.  Different  types  of  traumatic  experiences  of  the  Native  Americans, Muslim and Arab Americans and the destruction of World Trade Center become central to many literary texts written by Art Spiegelman, Robert Pinsky, Philip Roth, John Updike, Don DeLillo, Frank Bidart, Ian McEwan, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Amy Waldman, Corman McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Jonathan SafranFoer, Claire Messud, SiriHustvedt, and many other American writers in the wake of 9/11. These writers also criticizes America’s war hungry and political and military establishment.

By placing  trauma  narratives of American writers within  the political and  cultural context, this panel proposes to readdress Americans’ experiences and responses on 9/11, as well as on the complex relationship between aesthetics and post-memory, and politics of American people.

Keywords: Trauma, War, Terror, Muslim, America, Twin Towers

Topics may include but are not limited to-

A) Literary representation of Trauma in American trauma narratives written after 9/11

B)  Narrating the transmission of traumatic memories from witness generation to subsequent  generations  of  American  people  in  American  trauma  narratives written after 9/11

C)  Impact of 9/11 on America's economy

D) How individual trauma of American people enters into the cultural space of America to become a major part of American cultural discourse

E)  Narrating genocide, personal, and collective trauma of Americans

F)  The Changing Mental Health Aftermath of 9/11- post-traumatic stress disorder of American People

G) The prime characteristics of traumatic experiences, and the representation and referential problem in rendering the actual traumatic experiences of the Americans in American trauma narratives written after 9/11

H) Attitude toward Muslim Americans and Arab Americans in America after 9/11

I)   Psychological and Emotional Effects of 9/11 attack

J)    Representation  of  Trauma  in  American  graphic  novels,  comics,  animation, popular culture, and media

K) 9/11 and the role of the Media in America

L)  American culture, political, and historical understanding of 9/11 attack

M) Trauma, memory and recovery of American people

N)  Responses given by the Americans after 9/11- human rights and social justice, war, civil war, and conflict

O) Satire on the war mongers, blind patriots, lock-step sentimentalists, illogical political and military policy makers, and narcissists of America (for example- Ken Kalfus’s novel A Disorder Peculiar to the Country)

P)  The transnational,the transgenerational, and the transcultural American trauma narratives and discourses

Q) Migrant tactics of America after 9/11 to negotiate states of exception,borders, and sovereignty

R)  Reconstruction  of  the  territoriality  of  law,  the  legal,  economic  and  the politicaldimensions of processes of reterritorializationand deterritorializationin America after 9/11

S)  Health and environmental consequences after 9/11 attack on WTC in America

T)  America’s initiatives towards the demolition of Terrorism

 

Panel Coordinators:

Goutam Karmakar,  Barabazar Bikram Tudu Memorial College, Sidhu-Kanhu-Birsha

University, West Bengal, India,  goutamkrmkr@gmail.com

Imana Pal, PhD Research Scholar, Dept. of Home Science, University of Calcutta, West

Bengal, India,  imana.pal09@gmail.com

 

Panel # 16

 

Walls as Tropes of Separation and Contact in American Literature

 

Strictly speaking, the definition of the word “wall” suggests a separation as well as an enclosure. But what if the wall is represented not as a permanent division, but rather a permeable membrane between the inside and outside?

What  kind  of  contact  takes  place  through  the  wall  and  despite  it?  What  is  the

epistemological relevance of the wall in literature?

“Something there is that doesn't love a wall” is the opening line of Robert Frost’s poem

“Mending Wall.” The scrivener Bartleby, in Melville’s most memorable tale, chooses to spend most of his time staring out of his office’s window at a brick wall. How has the wall been portrayed in American literature? How does this fit in and compare to the wider context of World Literature? The wall can function as spatial and generic demarcation  and  at  the  same  time  it  can  represent  a  desire  for  transgression  and hybridity. The US myth of the frontier is in itself a metaphorical wall of separation that has been negotiated and renegotiated, written and rewritten – and thus reappropriated – over  time.  Moreover,  notions  of  “walls”  are  in  constant  evolution,  and  can  be considered as being the product of historical, social and political relations, weaving a network of representations and mental images.

This panel will specifically focus on critical relations between interior and exterior, the known and the unknown, form and formlessness, flux and fixity, absence and presence, real and imaginary geographies, forms or acts of “translation” in the etymological sense of “carrying across.” In the absence of a physical wall, what are the metaphorical representations of borders, margins, thresholds and gate(way)s? How might these be read as a creative re-use of walls? The coordinators invite proposals for papers on fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry, translation, ecocriticism, geocriticism and spatial literary studies in American literature.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Paola Loreto, University of Milan, paola.loreto@unimi.it

Margarida Cadima, University of Glasgow, mcadima@gm.slc.edu

 

Panel # 17

 

The Politics of Walled Geographies/Communities in Contemporary US Cinema.

 

The goal of this session is to facilitate a more inclusive understanding of the ways cinema mediates questions of physical and social space in the present context of economic liberalism, globalization, and electronic media. To this end, the participants will analyse how spaces are inscribed with meaning,how invisible borders are erected in contemporary societies and the consequences this has for citizens.The rise of neoliberal globalization has generated concern and anxiety over questions of multiculturalism, national identity, and citizenship, which, in turn, has brought about an intensification of securitization measuresand has mobilized a restrictive concept of citizenship that threatens fundamental human rights. Similarly, the 9/11 attacks and the financial crisis of 2008 have affected the way borders are perceived and the way we make sense of mobility and spatiality. Apart from their global dimension, these processes have also generated new geographical demarcations at home, creating areas of social privilege and exclusion that are redefining the social environment.All three panellists will examine how films create positions of knowledge from which to pursue questions about the entanglements of space, national security, inequality and citizenship. In his presentation, Dr. Ian Scott draws upon Hamid Naficy’s elaboration on the notions of “house, home and homeland” and their interconnection with those of “personhood and exile” to examine how the documentaries about Julian Assange tap into broader questions about freedom. For her part, Dr. Hilaria Loyo also seeks to discuss questions of home and homeland vis-à-vis notions of citizenship and freedom by analyzing the invisible walls and geographies of exclusion in Debra Granik’sfilms. Finally, Dr. Juan A. Tarancón examines how Latino films deal with the ethnic transformation of the landscape and mobilize different understandings of multiculturalism and citizenship in the wake of the recent crackdown on immigrants in the United States.

 

Panel Coordinator:

Hilaria Loyo, University of Zaragoza, Spain,  hloyo@unizar.es

 

Panel # 18

 

US Encounters with the Maghreb and the Mashreq: Inclusions, Interactions, Turn Aways

In recent years, the discipline of American studies has witnessed a transnational turn (Brian T. Edwards, 2015; Nina Morgan, Alfred  Hornung, Takayuki  Tatsumi, 2019; Alex Lubin, 2016). This panel investigates US encounters and engagement with North Africa and the Middle East through a variety of lenses, including ethnographic, cultural, and historical, in order to explore the diverse ways in which Arab and American individuals have interacted, exchanged or failed to collaborate under conditions of mobility, border crossings, and enclosures.

Scholars of all relevant disciplines – American Studies, Middle East Studies, Diaspora Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography, Visual Arts, Music etc. – are invited to submit abstracts for papers dealing with US-Arab relations or/and (failed) interactions.

Though papers from all disciplines and periods are welcome, those that deal forwardly with 20th-21st century US and Arab literary and artistic encounters and expressions are particularly welcome.

 

Suggested topics are:

-     InterconnectionsBetweenArab and US Culture

-     US Appropriations of Arab culture

-     Americaness and Arabness Beyond the Nation

-     Representations of Multiple Belongings

-     Transcontinental and Trans-MediterraneanConnections

 

Panel Coordinator:

Lisa Marchi, University of Trento,  lisa.marchi@unitn.it

 

 

Panel # 19

 

Narratives across borders: generic and epistemological breaches in 21stCentury

North-American Literature

 

September 11, 2001 is often regarded as the cultural boundary marking the end of postmodernism and the beginning of a new literary period. But the metaphorical wall separating postmodern narratives from what comes after is not without breaches that highlight the many continuities between the two periods. For instance, sincerity has now supplanted postmodern irony, with scholars such as Lee Konstantinou arguing for the emergence of ‘post-ironic’ literature (2017) and Adam Kelly exploring the turn to sincerity (2016). Ironic language, however, has not yet disappeared. Despite the fact that

9/11 fostered before/after dynamics, it is a boundary signalling a shift of interest rather than a rupture,  as Irmtraud  Huber  (2014:  6)  points out.  Indeed,  many postmodern devices such as the mixing of genres and media are still employed in contemporary US literature, but not so much to expose and play with ontological boundaries - like postmodernist narratives - as to foreground issues of “relationality, the reader-writer relationship, and intersubjective  problems” (Konstantinou 2017: 100).

This panel seeks contributions exploring the various attempts in North American literature and media at exploring narratives that breach clear-cut boundaries such as postmodernism/post- postmodernism, fiction/nonfiction, and irony/sincerity. How do these generic and epistemological border-crossing intersect with cultural and societal changes such as 9/11, the 2007 financial crisis, the digital revolution, and recent activist movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter? How are the current boundaries, walls, divisions, whether metaphorical or not, contributing to the shift of the cultural dominant after postmodernism? How are distinctions and binary categories reshuffled in light of the present historical period?

 

Contributions are welcome on topics including, but not restricted to:

Contemporary American fiction

-     genres that attempt to dismantle borders such as autofiction and memoir; 

-     novels and authors including Lauren Groff, Maggie Nelson, Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Sheila Heti, Teju Cole, Ben Lerner, Michael Chabon, Jesmyn Ward, George Saunders;

Postmodernism and beyond

-     continuities and discontinuities;

-     theories of post-postmodernism, transmodernity,  metamodernism;

-     explorations  of  the  post-human,  post-truth,  post-memory;  new  sincerity  and post-ironic mode;

-     issues   of  relationality,   the   reader-writer   relationship,   and   intersubjective problems;

Narratives and digital media

-     borders, no borders, limits;

-     transcontinental bridges through archival data;

-     contemporary  literature  and  the  intersections  with  the  digital turn:  thematic

influences, digital paratextuality, focus on the “real.”

 

Panel Coordinators:

Pia Masiero, University of Venice Ca' Foscari,  masiero@unive.it

Virginia Pignagnoli,  “Juan de la Cierva” Research Fellow, University of Zaragoza,

vpignagnoli@unizar.es

 

Panel # 20

 

The Political and Socio-Cultural Relevance of Frontiers

 

This panel invites contributors to reflect on the political relevance of frontiers in the United States and Europe; its aim is to foster a discussion on the contrasting forces that seem to increasingly dominate our world: expansion and isolation, mobility and constraint.

In particular, we encourage proposals dealing with the evolution of the frontier as pillar of the American identity, e.g. Indian Removal Act(1830)/The Winning of the West (1880);Manifest Destiny (1845)/The Turner Thesis (1893); The California Gold Rush (1848)/Mexican Cession (1848). How is the concept of frontier related to that of the wall, particularly when the latter is deployed as tool for raising political consensus, e.g. in the recent political discourse on the U.S.-Mexico border wall?

Moreover,  we  are  interested  in  essays  that  investigate  possible  links  between  the

American and the European refugee crisis: Are there any social, ethical or cultural similarities? The objective is to highlight challenges and possible scenarios that the loosening and/or forting up of borders trigger on either the American and European stages. We invite proposals belonging to different disciplines, from history to literary studies, from cultural studies to sociology and politics.

Contributions are welcome on topics including, but not restricted to:

 

 The representation of walls in American and non-American art (e.g. frontier

paintings, Ai Weiwei’s  Gilded Cage);

 

 

 The challenge of protectionism in Trump’s American foreign policy;

 Rhetoric of isolationism in American and European politics: the refugee crisis in

Italy;

 Geographical mobility, redistribution, andpolitical polarization;

 Human flows: the contemporary narrative between political interests and human rights violation in novels/movies/plays;

 Freedom  from  want  and  freedom  from  fear:  how  America  is  shaping  its democratic future;

 Walls and public discontent: protests and marches as spaces of empowerment;

 Social Media and the new digital frontiers 4.0: how artificial intelligence is

shaping the world’s boundaries.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Roberta Meloni, Independent Scholar,  roberta.meloni90@gmail.com

Chiara Migliori, Freie Universität Berlin,  chiaramigliori@yahoo.com

 

Panel # 21

 

Children on the Move: Under-Age Migrants and Refugees in the Age of National

Security

 

Every year, thousands of children cross borders alone for a variety of reasons: some try to reunite with family members; some travel with relatives but then get separated or kidnapped by smugglers or traffickers; others flee war, domestic violence, poverty, natural disasters, gang or military recruitment. Often, children are on the move for a combination of reasons, yet to date, the complexity of under-age migration is just beginning to be explored. For far too long, child migrants have just been seen as appendages to migrating adults, but as Jacqueline Bhabha emphasizes in her study Child Migration & Human Rights in a Global Age (2014): “child migrants need to be viewed as agents whose aspirations are relevant to institutional decision makingˮ (10). Child migration raises many legal, psycho-social, cultural and political questions that differ fundamentally from the questions raised by adult migrants and refugees, and not acknowledging these differences can lead to unsatisfactory, inherently contradictory, or even oppressive migration and refugee regimes.

 

This  panel  invites  contributions  that  explore  the  topic  of  under-age  migrants  and refugees form a range of different perspectives. Themes may include, but are certainly not limited to:

---the ways in which institutions, technologies of governance, as well as immigration policiesand legal rights discourses regulate the movement of children across bordersand in this way produce, shape, and prevent mobilities

---South and Central American under-age migrants and refugees who are trying to find

asylum in the U.S., are held in U.S. detention centers, or get deported from the U.S.,and the unique challengesthey face

---the traumatizing effects of immigrant detention and parent-child separation on the cultural and psycho-social development of children

 

 

---the ways in which child mobility can serve as a corrective to dominant mobility discourses as well as prevailing legaland policy regimes

 

Panel Coordinator:

Dr. Marietta Messmer, University of Groningen, The Netherlands,  m.e.messmer@rug.nl 

 

Panel # 22

 

Crossing borders, challenging America: political space and women’s authorship as an act of resistance

The relationship between women and political space in the United States has been characterized by alternate processes of inclusion and exclusion that, when historically analyzed, reveal the ambiguity of women’s condition: citizens but not fully included in citizenship. Indeed, while on the founding of the United States the Constitution formally recognized women as citizens, the law subjected them to the doctrine of coverture that effectively established their exclusion from the public sphere.

Nevertheless,  how  many  strategies  of  resistance  have  women  used  since  then  to gradually acquire political spaces of agency for social change? They made their voices heard in women’s rights, abolitionist, suffragist and labor movements, muckraking journalism, second wave feminism, intersectional struggles - to mention just some of their main efforts throughout US history. At the root of this challenging attitude there was authorship, meant as an important means to reach and persuade a wide audience.

The panel especially aims at exploring the different forms of the complex relationship between female authorship and border crossing in the United States. On the one hand, female authorship allowed women to challenge social gender boundaries, to embrace spaces of autonomy of thought and action and finally enter the public debate as political subjects, agents or leaders. It happened in literature, journalism, academic research and teaching, political and social activism, as well as at grass-roots and top-down politics. On the other hand, female authorship has also been a way to cross the material borders of the State. Women migrants and travelers produced dissenting narratives of American domestic and foreign policy that contributed to make public opinion aware of the intrinsic contradictions of the American government and its international leadership, encouraging reforms and creating new fluid spaces of national and racial identities, both inside and outside the US borders.

The panel therefore - by mainly using historical and interdisciplinary analysis - intends to raise questions on the ways in which female authorship, including different genres and pseudonyms, has served as a powerful rhetorical tool to challenge the status quo of American borders in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Serena Mocci, University of Bologna,  serena.mocci2@unibo.it

Marta Gara, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Milan,  marta.gara@unicatt.it

 

 

Dwelling on thresholds: exploring, trespassing liminal places.

 

Thresholds inform loci where the American cultural and literary minds have contemplated nature and established connections as well as forms of control over it. They stay precisely where official, structural sites of residence/dwelling arise, or pose themselves as transitional domains -  docks, front stoops, porches, doorways, – where humans and non-humans mark their presence and chart  territories.

Thresholds  may  unfold  a  spatiality  of  public,  mutually  aware,  interdependent  and engaged entities, a place in which an ethics of interpersonal relations is structured and where,  following  Jacques  Derrida’s  work  (2000),  hospitality  is  approached, experimented and experienced.

But where does lie the productivity of dwelling on thresholds? What subject positions and what circumstances unfold in such status of dwelling or trespassing limens fraught with both possibilities and risks? To which extent threshold dwelling incurs the risk of solipsism, or offers a contingent security which is, nonetheless, liable to disperse or explode?

Since they signal a vital transition between the uncontrollable world outside and the sovereignty  of  home/nation,  physical,  concrete  thresholds  bespeak  of  desire  and longing, and may become "the necessary obstacle that makes the bursting palpable (Mukherji, 2013)."

This panel invites paper on both actual, physical and figurative thresholds, and the way they interface with borders and boundaries, liminal states, frontiers. Paper proposals ( max 300 words) may address several disciplinary fields, textual and visual genres, historical periods and perspectives that interrogate and capture the dynamics of thresholds, their creative potential, and their resonance in our contemporaneity.

 

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to

 

 Thresholds and nature/environment

 American neighborhoods/community building

 Post 9/11 world and transnational literary and historical criticism

 Ethnic and race relations

 Translation/transculturation in American literature and culture

 Gender dynamics and relations

 The gaze: visual gaps, seclusion, overexposure in media and communication

 

Panel Coordinators:

Gigliola Nocera, University of Catania, SDS of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Ragusa.  noceragi@unict.it

Raffaella   Malandrino,   University   of  Catania,   SDS   of  Foreign   Languages   and

Literatures, Ragusa.  rmalandr@unict.it

 

 

“Beyond Walls and Enclosures: Social Justice and Literary Experimentalism in

Early Black Speculative Fiction”

 

This panel will explore the alternatives to exclusionary and discriminatory social practices  and  ideologies  that  emerge  from  African  American  literary  works  of speculative fiction published in the 19th and early 20th century.  As a result both of the increasing popularity of Afrofuturism as a mode of critical inquiry and of the ongoing archival work of recovery and critical reinterpretation of previously neglected African American works of fiction, the variety of speculative challenges to the oppressive regimes  of slavery and segregation can be investigated in ways that reveal the complex notions of social change informing the thematic concerns and formal experimentalism of African American speculative fiction from the 19th  century to the Harlem Renaissance.   The visionary, radical, prescient quality of these visions retains an insurgent and inspirational value highly relevant to 21st-century debates on social (in)justice, the “new Jim Crow,” and contemporary forms of neo-colonialism within and beyond U.S. boundaries.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Nadia Nurhussein, Johns Hopkins University,  nnurhus1@jhu.edu

M. Giulia Fabi, University of Ferrara,  fbg@unife.it

 

Panel # 25

 

Tearing Through the Fabric of Things: What lies outside, beyond, beneath the page and the screen

 

According to Mark Fisher, the weird (a sensation of wrongness, the conjoining of two or more things which do not belong together) and the eerie (concerning ontological questions such as: why is there something here where there should be nothing? Why is there nothing here where there should be something?) share “a fascination for the outside, for that which lies beyond standard perception, cognition and experience.”Though the major examples of such modes traditionally come from horror and science fiction, when we consider the weird and the eerie as aesthetic categories emerging in a plethora of contemporary cultural artifacts, hey can shed a new light on the way we approach, understand, and possibly overcome current dynamics linked to identity, historical and political barriers.

The  weird  and  the  eerie  convey  a  feeling  of  otherness,  create  thresholds, passages between (im)possible worlds, and, most importantly, are connected to the possibility that something alien can break through the barriers that preserve our limited and well-guarded everyday perceptions and certainties. As modes of film and fiction, or even modes of perception, they often imply the presence of a ghostly agency whose origin is non-defined, leaving thus room for speculation about the ontological (or better, the hauntological) status of disturbances and intrusions that our intellectual frameworks fail to grasp. In making different worlds juxtapose, collide, and/or melt together, they are also strictly connected to the invisible forces conjured by capitalist society, and inevitably elicit spatial inquiries in opsychology, history and memory, language and identity, social structures and constructs, politics and ideology.

This panel aims at investigating the disruption of frontiers between life and afterlife, the real and the imaginary, the continuum of past, present and future. We welcome contributions tackling the presence of ghosts, spirits, demons and unfathomable entities in contemporary novels, poetry, graphic novels, comics, film and tv-series. Topics of discussion may include (but are not limited to):

 

 Supernatural passages and transitions through borders and boundaries;

 Implications of different planes of existence;

 Extrasensory journeys into other dimensions;

 (Postmodern) descents into the underworld;

 Supernatural figures and characters who act as gatekeepers or helpers;

 Posthumous narrations and narrative strategies;

 Social and  political commentary about the crossing  of barriers disguised  as speculative fiction;

 Altered psychologies and perception;

 Time warps and historical paradoxes; Apocalypses and post-apocalyptic scenarios.

 

Panel Coordinators:

Marco Petrelli, University of Catania,  marco.petrelli@unict.it

Paolo Simonetti, University of Rome “Sapienza”,  paolo.simonetti@uniroma1.it

 

Panel # 26

 

“Cracks in the wall”: the circulation of people and ideas during the Cold War.

 

This panel will present a set of researches connected by the intent of reversing the common  interpretation  of  the  Cold  War  as  an  era  of  barriers,  walls  and  “closed systems”, and highlighting how the circulation of people and ideas through the Iron Curtain and beyond played a fundamental role in shaping the history of the second half of the 20th century.

The expression “wall mentality” can be used to describe some aspects of life during the

Cold War. An “under siege mental state” was used, for example, to prevent Soviet people  from getting  in  touch  with  a  more  complex  view  of the  world  that  could endanger the ideological framework sustaining the Soviet state, and to justify the birth of a “national security state” in the US. Over the years, this mentality extended to comprehend a whole world seemingly locked in the stalemate between the two superpowers. These enclosures, born with defensive and protective function, tried to cage the people inside a defined horizon, but they were not enough to suppress the possibility of dynamic exchanges.

In fact, a challenging and not-so-common approach to the history of the Cold War is to look not at what the Iron Curtain kept out, but at what, and who, was able to cross it. Efforts were made from the Western side to “cross the border” and penetrate Soviet territory both in a physical way – with the infiltration of agents – and in an intellectual one – with the use of propaganda and the circulation of “subversive” cultural items, while at the same time many people escaped the grip of the Soviet security state, generating ripples of change on both sides of the Wall. Even the boundaries of the Cold War were not so easily defined: the US experimented a vast array of policies to redefine the borders of their area of influence. Finally, this movement of men and ideas went beyond the “border” between the two superpowers. Global movements of people continued during the Cold War, creating specific contexts of multiculturalism linked to dynamic departures, arrivals and re-entries.

 

Panel Coordinator:

Luca Polese Remaggi, University of Salerno,  lpoleseremaggi@unisa.it

 

Panel # 27

 

Breaking the Wall of Secrecy: the present and future of the Freedom of

Information Act

 

In 1966 US Congress enacted an amendment to the Administrative Procedure Act of

1946. The FOIA (Freedom of Information Act)  was born and became a milestone of

modern democracy. The new law compelled federal agencies to release any information requested by the public. Until then a public document could be released only on a ground of legitimate interest. FOIA  established the principle that administrative and political information belonged to the public and concerns over secrecy and National security could be overruled by the need of transparency. FOIA approval marked a breakthrough for transparency advocates in Congress and Civil Society. After 15 years in which government’s secrecy became obsessive and sparkled by Cold War, a new wave of transparency affected  all domains of American political and social life.

In 50 years FOIA use expanded: almost 1 million requests are filled any year in the US. After 1989 FOIA became a normative model for advanced democracies worldwide: more than 120 countries adopted (at least formally) laws on administrative transparency based on the FOIA-scheme. Notwithstanding its persistence, FOIA (and transparency laws) has been amended many times and disputed by fierce critics. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said that “FOIA is the ThajMahal of the Doctrine of Unanticipated Consequences, the Sistine Chapel of Cost-Benefit Analysis Ignored“. In other words FOIA, according to critics, is a heavy burden to agency effectiveness as well as governmental legitimacy. The aim of this paper is 1) to analyze the historical roots of FOIA approval, its evolution in the US legislative system, the societal approach to the FOIA use in the United States; 2) to identify current and main trends of political and administrative debate on the future of the right to public information: despite technological advancements and the large amount of information available current society still needs active transparency on governmental actions. Secrecy is still robust and walls are edified daily to preserve it 3) to deconstruct lasting relations between the American legislative approach and the adoption of local FOIA worldwide. To which extent the American model for total transparency affected political and administrative traditions in Europe and elsewhere? Are we, as transparency is concerned, on the verge of a global convergence?

 

Panel Coordinator:

Daniel Pommier Vincelli, Univ. of Rome “Sapienza”,  daniel.pommier@uniroma1.it

 

Panel # 28

 

Borders, Mobilities, Minorities

 

From the 1840 onward, the US Southern borderline has been a major factor in the broad history of the United States. Indeed, at least by the time of the 1848 Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty, not only it defined spatially US_Mexico diplomatic relations, but it also impacted the circular mobilities of Mexicans and Latin Americans to the United States and those of North Americans to Mexico, while simultaneously affecting the identity-building process of a wider border community. These mobilities associated to sizable flows of people, goods and ideas, have massively contributed to shaping reciprocal perceptions and reinforcing stereotypes among the larger border community.

Given its own deep permeability, the US Southern border may be looked hist orically as innately “flexible,” and such a flexibility has implied a constant renegotiation of citizenship and identity that has mostly affected minorities groups like Native Americans, Hispanic and Anglo different-in-nature migrants.

The panel aims to analyze the Southern border as a key-area of the country in the long history of the United States, thus spanning from the beginning of the 19th century up to the rigid closure theorized today by President Donald J. Trump, in order to assess the historical ro le it played in the definition of such concepts as national secutiry, foreign affairs, and racial relations.

 

Panel Proponent:

Matteo Pretelli, University of Naples,  matteo.pretelli@tiscali.it

 

Panel # 29

 

Gateways and Gatekeepers: American Institutions Abroad

 

The institutional turn in literary studies (exemplified by the work of scholars like Lawrence Rainey, James English, and Mark McGurl) asks, without presuming to know the answer in advance, how the “machinery of cultural production” shapes the form and content of culture. In the same period, and from the institutional position of American Studies,  revelations  about  C.I.A.  funding  for  Cold  War  cultural  programs  have debunked the supposed autonomy and innocence of culture from the world of power politics. This panel seeks a dialogue between “describers” and “debunkers,” ideology critique and post-critique, around institutions of American culture and power in Europe. Magazines and military bases; academies and aide organizations; conventions and consulting firms: these and other institutions have, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,  been  important  sites  for  the  dissemination  of  American culture/ideology/power. But they have also been generative of hybrid or “indigenized” cultural forms (to borrow a term from Arjun Appadurai) and unanticipated political mobilization. Contributions are welcome from scholars researching sites of Americanization in Europe and elsewhere. In line with the conference theme, we invite you to consider how these institutions serve as both gateways and gatekeepers: bridges to unexpected encounters; border-police of empire.

 

Panel Coordinator:

Kathryn Roberts, University of Groningen,  k.s.roberts@rug.nl.

 

Panel # 30

 

Walls and Breaches: Gender, Race and Class within American Society and Politics in the

XIX and XX century

 

The United States has often been described as an open society characterized by a high level of social, political and economic mobility. Nonetheless, the evolution of the United States has been characterized by countless limes and borders, aimed not only towards the outside world but also towards some social groups that were part of the American social fabric itself. To understand how these dynamics of exclusion, or hierarchical inclusion, have always been at work in the American context, one just needs to read the founding document of the U.S. nation, the Declaration of Independence, that excluded women and slaves form the collective “we”.

Starting from these considerations, the objective of this panel is to analyze, in an historical

perspective, how class, gender and race, at different times in American history, acted and were used as barriers and boundaries to voluntarily or involuntarily exclude or marginalize portions of the American population from involvement in politics, union participation, access to the benefits of economic growth, social mobility.

Offering a range of perspectives across the chronological arc of the history of the country, the panel aims to investigate how and why gender, class and race were used to exclude and marginalize from different realms of the social and political life social groups that, at different times, were conceived of as possible corruptive actors for the body of the Nation: women, slaves, African-Americans, workers, immigrants, radical left activists, native Americans.

 

Panel Coordinator:

Angela Santese, University of Bologna,  angela.santese3@unibo.it