On Bothering

deadline for submissions: 
January 31, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Canadian Association of American Studies

“On Bothering” is an interdisciplinary American Studies conference, hosted by Concordia University and the Canadian Association for American Studies (CAAS). It will take place at Concordia University in Montréal/Tiohtià:ke from October 4th-6th, 2024.

From its earliest forms, “bother” etymologically suggests a conflation of “both” and “other”—at once kinship and distinctness. “Bother” still contains some of its early contradictions: it refers to making an effort—to concern oneself, to take the trouble to do something—and also to finding things inconvenient, irritating, or troublesome. To be bothered suggests at once a willingness to engage, a perception of nuisance, or, when sexualized, to be subject to unwelcome attention. To not bother, in turn, suggests indifference, complaisance, and/or disengagement. 

This conference will take up all the valences of “bothering”: among them, bothering the both/other as constructs; bothering familiar narratives, genres, and paradigms; bothering the troublesome and the inconvenient; bothering the historical and mythic records; and bothering the question of not bothering—the perception that bothering will, in the end, make no difference at all. As Boots Riley’s, Sorry to Bother You suggests, “bother” speaks to both the (underpaid, often African American) labourers, who “bother,” by infringing on the time of their “marks” (the poor or middle class), and the Bezos-like capitalists who would rather “not bother” with (and indeed imagine, and instantiate, alternatives to) their workers. 

We seek approaches to this theme from all disciplinary fields and periods. Papers on other topics relevant to American Studies are also welcome. In addition to single paper proposals, we encourage preorganized panels of 3-4 presenters (or other alternative formats).

Topics and themes might include (but are not limited to):

  • bothering received history
  • bothering with the archives
  • bothering received genres, histories, and/or myths
  • bothering as apology
  • bothering as intervention
  • bothering inequities
  • bothering indifference and complaisance
  • bothering as an effort of will
  • bothering as trouble
  • bothering as care
  • bothering as noticing
  • bothering as revolution
  • bothering as stasis
  • bothering as disrupting

Please send proposals of 250-300 words, 3-5 keywords, and a 50-word bio to Nicola Nixon (nicola.nixon@concordia.ca) by January 31st, 2024. For preorganized panels, please provide proposals, keywords, and bios for each presenter, along with a panel title and 50-100 word panel abstract.