EXTENDED DEADLINE: Contact Spaces of American Culture: Localizing Global Phenomena

full name / name of organization: 
Austrian Association of American Studies


What do airports, U.S. military bases, The Huffington Post and the dinner table have in common? They all are spaces where global phenomena manifest themselves in a local U.S. context. Emblematic of the underlying patterns that shape cultural encounters in the U.S. these cultural geographies evoke Mary Louise Pratt's concept of "contact zone," that is "the space in which people geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish ongoing relationships, usually involving conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict." In the context of the "spatial turn" that has heavily influenced the field of American Studies since the 1990s, Pratt's concept has not only taken on new meanings but has also been challenged by other theories of space. Marc Augé, for instance, argues that our age of "supermodernity" is producing more and more "non-places," which lack the main parameters of 'place' (relation, history and identity) and thus reduce social relations to temporary and anonymous encounters.

Taking cues from both, Pratt's emphasis on the "interactive, improvisational dimensions" of colonial contact zones as well as Augé's more pessimistic notion about the erosion of place, we encourage paper proposals that investigate how global interactions manifest themselves in specific local spaces of American culture in and outside of the U.S. We especially invite contributions that discuss the various cultural encounters and conflicts by approaching space as a culturally constructed and experienced entity in line with concepts such as Soja's "Thirdspace," Nora's "Lieux de Mémoire," Sassen's "Global City" or Lowe's "Intimate Geographies."

The specific contact spaces that we have in mind include, but are not limited to, the following:
• The Beauty Parlor
• Ellis Island/Angel Island
• Times Square
• The U.S. Embassy
• The U.S.-Mexican border
• Hospitals
• The Immigration Ship
• Ground Zero
• The American Studies Department
• The Pistachio Farm in Fresno County
• The Subway
• Four Corners
• The Shopping Mall
• …..
The conference will be conducted in an "Open Space" format. Accepted papers (short papers, approximately 4000 – 5000 words) will be made available to the participants by being placed online prior to the conference. On the conference itself, workshops (open discussion forums) will be formed ad hoc according to the interests of the participants: any participant can suggest a workshop topic. Thereby, the conference theme of "contact spaces" with its issues of openness, flexibility and spontaneity should also find its formal expression in the organizational form.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Lisa Lowe
Edward W. Soja
Ana Maria Manzanas Calvo

Please send your 250 – 300 word paper proposals and a 100 word biographical statement by June 30, 2009 to: