EEASA Conference Panel Communities in Print / Communities of Print: Periodicals and the Constitution of Community in Early America

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Tim Lanzendörfer / Julia Straub
contact email: 

Biannual Meeting of the European Early American Studies Association

London 14-16 December 2018

The Making and Unmaking of Identities and Connections in Early America and the Atlantic World, 1650-1850


Call for Papers for a Panel on

Communities in Print / Communities of Print:

Periodicals and the Constitution of Community in Early America

Conveners: Tim Lanzendörfer (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) and Julia Straub (University of Bern)


The proposed panel investigates the relation between community and periodicals in Early America. We are interested in the tensions between ideas of community and the theorization of the periodical, the ways in which periodicals frame community, in which they and their readers constitute communities, or the ways in which understanding periodicals as communities helps us understand them. We depart from a number of observations. On the one hand, there is much congruence between Benedict Anderson’s seminal study on Imagined Communities (1983/1991), which identifies the importance of print-capitalism and the reading of newspapers in the constitution of imagined national communities, and studies of Early North American print culture as setting out to produce a peculiarly American, and then national, identity (see e.g. McGill 2007, Gross/Kelley 2010, and Straub 2017). On the other hand, philosophical and sociological engagements with the idea of community (Bauman 2001, Wright 2000, Nancy 1991) have frequently stressed the exclusionary role of community, the way it needs to be read against identity, and the importance of limiting it off against outside communication (Bauman 2001, 14-16). Furthermore, early American periodicals are embedded in transatlantic, local, translocal, and then national contexts, and in these various contexts appear capable both of supporting the constitution of communities as well as challenge such a process; recent research (Loughran 2010, Lanzendörfer 2013) has complicated the notion of print’s nationalizing power, for example. How, then, can we understand the interaction between community and the periodical at different levels: the community of printers, the community of creators, the community of readers, whether national or local or simply translocal, or the communities written into being by periodicals? The periodical archive has already been shown to offer priceless insights into the contested creation of early American identities, through the formation of the canon and cultural standards, the rise of literature as a profession and industry, and the essentially transnational dimension of cultural production in the colonial period and beyond. This panel seeks to add to this by offering steps towards a more complex theorization of the interaction between community as an idea and ideal, and communities in Early America in practice, and their constitution by, in, through, or against periodicals.

            We are looking for 20-minute contributions dedicated to periodicals that grant insights into the making or stabilization of communities or address concomitant challenges. Topics include, but are by no means restricted to:

-          Theorizations of the role of print in the constitution of community/communities

-          The various kinds of communities that are constituted by and through periodicals (magazines, newspapers), such as different (target) readerships, local communities, editors, writers

-          A probing of different critical concepts of community and their relevance for our study and understanding of early American print culture

-          Community, the transnational turn in (early) American Studies, and the place of periodicals

-          Case studies or comparative readings of selected periodicals with a special focus on community


200-word proposals should be sent to Tim Lanzendörfer,, and Julia Straub,, as Word documents by March 1, 2018.