CFP: American Literature in the Age of Surveillance (1/6/06; ALA, 5/25/06-5/28/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Ian Finseth
contact email: 

American Literature in the Age of Surveillance


One of the moments that marked a turning point in modern environmental
consciousness was the picture taken, from outer space, in the 1960s, of
the Earth. This photograph suggested, at a visceral level, that whatever
one's political or theological views might be, all humankind inhabited
the same blue-green orb sailing through the vast, cold wastes of the
universe. Today, we are able, as never before, to watch the earth—and
each other—with the simple aid of a personal computer. An array of
commercial surveillance technologies—from GPS navigational systems to
Google Earth—have made technologies of surveillance increasingly
decentralized, and increasingly publicly available.

We invite paper proposals for a planned ALA session exploring the
potential risks and rewards of such surveillance technologies from the
perspective of American literary and cultural studies. Possible themes
and questions to be explored might include the following:

    * How will widely available satellite and photographic imagery
      change our understanding of public space?

    * What visual information about the surface of the earth is meant to
      be kept from public view, and why?

    * What is this technology's potential for strengthening ordinary
      people against the encroachments of the powerful?

    * The politics of visual evidence in relation to the American reform
      tradition: abolitionist and temperance literature, or the
      documentary photography of Jacob Riis, Dorothea Lange, Walker
      Evans and others.

    * The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, specifically how
      television images of violence here and abroad shocked viewers out
      of their ethical torpor.

    * Ecocritical approaches that explore the impact of surveillance
      technology on modern environmental consiousness and politics.
    * Science fiction and surveillance

Please send by January 6, 2006, paper proposals, no longer than 500 words,
and a copy of a c.v. to Ian F. Finseth at
<> or by post to Stephanie L. Hawkins,
University of North Texas, Department of English, P.O. Box 311307,
Denton, TX 76203-1307.

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Received on Sun Aug 28 2005 - 14:34:03 EDT