CFP: Spatial Americas (1/22/07; 4/19/07-4/20/07)

full name / name of organization: 
George F. Flaherty
contact email: 

Call for Papers

April 19-20, 2007
University of California, Santa Barbara


A recent article in London's Financial Times (FT) warned its
market-minded readers that the "plight of La Paz provides an
illustration of how a city's unchecked growth can threaten
stability."* The article went on to detail how El Alto, a "slum" city
of 1 million located on a plateau above the Bolivian capital, disrupts
business as usual not just with by now familiar complaints of
"pot-holed roads, belching minibuses, street vendors and packs of
stray dogs," but the radical spatial praxis of its inhabitants.

El Alto, the FT asserted anxiously, is the unruly space of urban
militancy that has frequently brought international trade to a
standstill with strategic roadblocks—the city sits squarely on all
main roads leading to the airport and the country's
interior—disrupting the flows of global (mostly foreign) capital.
Furthermore, El Alto is the site of protests that have toppled two
presidents in the past five years and propelled anti-capitalism
candidate Evo Morales to power in December 2005, Bolivia's first
indigenous head of state.

It is no small irony then that El Alto translates to English as "The
High" but also "The Halt." As the FT ascertained, it is El Alto's
adjacency, looming over and dangerously supplementing the seat of
government, which is worth noting, indeed worth pausing for.

"Spatial Americas" invites graduate students and emerging scholars
(recent PhDs and junior faculty) in the humanities and social sciences
to take such pause and present works in progress that engage space
(both as material and discursive forms) and spatiality (the
theoretical and tactical processes through which space is produced) in
the Americas broadly defined: south to north, precontact to the
present, or as part of a comparative study.

A principal polemic thrust of postcolonial theory to date has been the
centrality of history—time and its mis/use—in the (re)production of
both mastering and emancipatory narratives. But if, as John Berger
suggests, "it is space not time that hides the consequences from us"**
—in other words, space is so naturalized within the historical frame
as to be inert if not outright duplicitous—then perhaps we should
finally attend to space and spatiality of human being and becoming
with the same criticality that has been lavished upon time. This has
been the call of the so-called spatial turn in the U.S. academe,
consolidated in the last two decades around the work of Michel
Foucault, Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells, David Harvey and Mike Davis.

For Americanists, neither this "turn" nor the Financial Times's
alarmist report is much news. Space and spatiality have facilitated
conversations across time period and case study for some time now,
defining the converging fields of American and Latin American Studies.
Religion, empire, commerce and natural disaster have all generated a
rich palimpsest of spatial relations to investigate and to serve as
nodes for hemispheric cross-reference.

This said, we still struggle to place the material and discursive
aspects of space in a more meaningful dialogue. How are we to put them
together methodologically-speaking? Space is too often treated either
as something entirely concrete to be mapped and "explained," or as
pure mental construct, ideas about and representations of space
flagged for their "significance." That space is not static and in fact
constantly reproduced is often underestimated as well. But it is in
this repetition that space is activated as a category of cultural
analysis, leaving room for critique at its less than seamless joints.
"Spatial Americas" asks that its participants self-consciously attempt
to work out in their presentations an architectonics for this dialogue
between the material and discursive and envision spatial cultures

Please send abstracts for a 20-minute presentation (500 words or less)
along with a short bio and contact information (name, affiliation,
phone and e-mail address) to George Flaherty and Amara Solari at by January 22, 2007. Authors of accepted
papers will be notified by February 5, 2007 and must agree to submit a
draft to their panel moderator by April 16, 2007. Questions about the
conference may also be directed to

Conference website:

* Hal Weitzman, "Held to Ransom in the Sporadic Siege of the Bolivian
State" Financial Times (September 12, 2006)
** John Berger, The Look of Things (1972)

"Spatial Americas" is sponsored by the UCSB History of Art &
Architecture Department

--George FlahertyPhD student, History of Art & ArchitectureUC Santa Barbaragflaherty_at_umail.ucsb.edu415-596-5626 (mobile) ========================================================== From the Literary Calls for Papers Mailing List Full Information at or write Jennifer Higginbotham: ==========================================================Received on Sat Nov 25 2006 - 20:17:38 EST