UPDATE: [Cultural-Historical] Replications
Replications: Performing and Re-staging America at Home and Abroad
Barbara Lewis, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Susan Tenneriello, Baruch College, CUNY
Driven by price and desire, the composite sense that is America
today and was America yesterday depends on the appeal of unity and
expansion, with the visual, technological, economic, and performative
absorbing the sensibilities of the diverse and different yet downplaying
the significance of such disparities. Being like our neighbors, having
what they have, doing what they do has long been an American aspiration.
Why are we so invested in replicating what is seen, known, done? What
standard does the demand for sameness impose? How does this new
spectacle of sameness, if indeed it is new, connect to the constant
reproduction, of replication promoted in the formula film, in the rush to
mallification, and in the commercial mandate to have every Starbucks or
McDonaldâ€™s or hotel room look virtually like any other in an endless
chain of cities in an erasure of difference? What impact does constant
reproduction have on our collective psyche?
Valuing sameness is by no means a new tenet of the American
dream, which is not limited geographically to the United States, but is
marketed globally. We have only to remember Henry Ford and the cookie-
cutter conformity of his Model Tâ€™s early in the twentieth century or the
craze for Uncle Tom memorabilia unleashed by Stoweâ€™s famous novel or the
passion for a memento of the Jinny Lind concert tour in the nineteenth.
Is there a difference when the impulse to sameness is motivated by dreams
of mobility, as in the car, or by belonging to the culture of the book or
exalted art, as with Stowe and Lind, versus the reduction within four
cornered borders as is suggested by the frame of the photograph? Is
there a downside to such a pursuit of sameness? In the extreme, the
spectacle of sameness informs the culture of lynching, which celebrates
an American conformity at the same time that it punishes, even executes,
an American difference. What are the cultural and political and social
costs of the project of sameness? How has the spectacle of sameness, the
desire for replication, evolved or changed from earlier eras?
Our seminar explores the notion of replication in culture and the
persistent role "American" plays as producing agent in deploying
spectacles of sameness. The focus of our inquiry pursues the influence of
replicated experience on public perceptions, as well as how â€œconsumer-
friendlyâ€ fields of cultural signage are repeated worldwide. Our interest
is in looking not just at the influence and extent of what is American in
the twenty-first century, but also at the increasing attention to be paid
to constructs or critiques of the American in earlier eras and in other
New World locations, whether in the Caribbean, in South or Central
America, Canada, or Mexico.
We conceive the seminar as a launch point for on-going inquiry
among conference attendees. We seek a range of perspectives that
investigate the American project as stage (or staging) of cultural
replication worldwide. Interdisciplinary approaches to the subject are
especially welcome. Possible points of investigation include but are not
How is America perceived and how has that perception changed over time.
What is the price for being Americanized?
What is its appeal?
What does it give and what does it take away, what does it satisfy?
Can the American agenda be considered a giant step toward or a retreat
from the destination of a more just global future?
How would the optimum global economy best be described, achieved?
What happens to resistant practices within global replication?
How does cultural replication affect distinct traditions?
Submissions: Deadline 20 January 2008
We ask seminar participants to send a 500-word abstract, institutional
affiliation, brief bio (max.100 words), and contact information to
Selected participants will each submit a 10-12 page paper by 3 April
2008. Participants will paired prior to the conference for on-line
discussion and provide responses in the seminar. Co-leaders plan to
engage participants and audience in critical dialogue toward creating a
framework of major themes and areas for future development.
Barbara Lewis (Barbara.Lewis_at_umb.edu)
Department of English
University of Massachusetts-Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Susan Tenneriello (susan_tenneriello_at_baruch.cuny.edu )
Department of Fine and Performing Arts, B7-235
One Bernard Baruch Way
New York, NY 10010
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Received on Wed Dec 05 2007 - 00:33:00 EST