ASA 2013: "The Culture of Crisis: Representations of Financial Panic in Nineteenth-Century America" (Deadline 1/7/13)

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Michael Hardy, Rutgers University
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Financial crises have bedeviled America since its founding, as historian Scott Reynolds Nelson reminds us in his new study A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters. In the nineteenth century, America experienced major panics at almost exactly 20-year intervals: 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893. Then, as now, financial crises shattered complacency, upended conventional wisdom, and discredited narratives of teleological progress or expansion.

But for writers and visual artists they also posed what Mary Poovey has called a "problematic of representation": how do you depict a phenomenon with widespread effects but no readily discernible cause? Should panics be seen as irrational perversions of a smoothly-functioning market (as liberal political economists tended to argue) or as symptoms of fundamental economic problems (as Marx and Engels would suggest in The Communist Manifesto)? Building on the recent work of scholars like David Zimmerman and Jessica Lepler, this panel seeks papers that examine both the popular and high-cultural responses to nineteenth-century commercial crises.

The 2013 American Studies Association conference will be held Nov. 21-24 in Washington, D.C. Please submit 300-500 word abstracts and C.V.s to Michael Hardy ( by January 7, 2013.