Retrofitting English Studies: When Diversity Becomes an Afterthought

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Texas A&M English Graduate Student Association

Texas A&M University's English Graduate Student Association Graduate Conference:

"Retrofitting English Studies: When Diversity Becomes an Afterthought"
April 7-8, 2012

Speaker: Jay Dolmage

Jay Dolmage's 2008 essay, "Mapping Composition: Inviting Disability in the Front Door," asks what it means to challenge the literal and metaphorical structures designed for certain bodies, specifically within the academy. With diversity becoming a buzzword across universities, this conference seeks to examine what Dolmage calls "retrofitting the university" with regard to the issues surrounding diversity. Retrofitting, an update of an existing system with new or improved technologies, is the solution for many non-accessible structures and services to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). Dolmage asks us to think about this concept in the academy, and the ways in which retrofitting squeezes in marginalized peoples into a structure that already places certain peoples outside of its walls.

The inaugural inter-collegial Texas A&M University Graduate Conference, sponsored by the English Graduate Student Association, invites papers that examine the responses to diversity, specifically the ways in which retrofitting becomes the (inadequate) solution to issues of diversity. We are looking for presentations that engage, complicate, or challenge the concept of retrofitting in response to diversity across all disciplines and interests.

This conference seeks to bring together multiple perspectives, including, but not limited to those within the English Studies model, i.e. growing literary subfields, such as Children's Literature and Film Studies; emerging interdisciplinary fields, such as Disability Studies and Digital Humanities; and historically established practices, such as Rhetoric and Creative Writing. Most importantly, we encourage proposals that create spaces and dialogues, complicate discussions, and challenge definitions in order to make diversity an integral and relevant part of the academy instead of an afterthought.

We invite graduate students of all levels from all disciplines and concentrations. Creative writers, artists, and performers are also strongly encouraged to apply.

Possible topics include:

- In what ways do academic fields and university departments invite "well-rounded scholars," and are these ways problematic? Why?
- In what ways do academic disciplines marginalize fields? What are the implications of this?
- What are the implications of tokenizing diversity?
- How can varying interests and concentrations help build diverse departments and fields?
- How does cultural relevancy affect the way we understand works of literature?
- How do genres affect portrayals of diversity?
- How can recognizing our own cultural biases affect our pedagogical practices?

Please send your proposals of no more than 500 words to by January 27, 2012.