Cultural Capital or Capitalist Culture? An Economic Turn in American Studies (NeMLA March 15-18, 2012 Rochester, NY)

full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association

Though Americanist scholarship of the past quarter-century has focused almost exclusively on the political and ideological, questions of culture, identity, and exceptionalism have more often than not supplanted rather than complemented economic analysis. With the advent of the 2008 global financial crisis, however, economic concerns have again risen to the fore. Critics across the humanities—from David Harvey and Slavoj Žižek in geography and political philosophy to Walter Benn Michaels and Timothy Brennan in English and comparative literature—have suggested that the left's celebration of diversity, cosmopolitanism, and transnationalism has led to an unwitting complicity with right-led neoliberalization, making it more rather than less difficult for literary and cultural critics to trace the pernicious effects of global laissez-fairism's cooptation—even evacuation—of the political and ideological.

This panel seeks papers that consider the role which the economic plays in American literature as well as its study. Our goal is to foster a conversation about the theoretical and methodological viability of an economically oriented approach to American literature, one that finally speaks to the stakes of reframing our perspective around the economic.

We will be seeking papers on topics including:

• Liberalism, neoliberalism, and corporatism
• "State of the field" considerations
• Marxism and psychoanalysis: opposed or complementary?
• Race, gender, and class concerns
• Emotion/Affect and capital
• Identity construction and consumption/commodification (e.g., fetishism, masochism)
• Transnational laborers/itinerant workers
• Capital exploitation and slavery
• Cosmopolitanism and capital accumulation/(re)circulation
• Pecuniary virtue and reification

Please electronically submit 300-word abstract proposals to John Havard ( and Russell Sbriglia ( by September 30, 2011.