MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27, 2013: Fall Forward: ASA Conference

[As part of my end of spring semester series, I blogged about my upcoming fall courses. But there are lots of other things going on this fall, so in this week’s series I’ll highlight a handful of other upcoming events and some of their meanings. Please share some of what your autumns will include!]
Three things I’m looking forward to at November’s American Studies Association conference.
My central reason for traveling down to Washington, DC for late November’s ASA conference is to deliver a talk, as part of a panel on public histories of dissent organized by Emory’s Sarah Van Horn Melton. I’m always excited to give talks (and hear fellow panelists’ talks), but in this case I’m particularly thrilled because I get to focus for the first time (outside of this space, that is!) on a couple of my favorite New England and AmericanStudies sites: Salem’s Witch Trials Memorial and Plimoth Plantation. It’s not always easy to be analytical and critical about things we love, but it’s also a very significant skill to work on; and I’ll certainly also be highlighting some of the reasons why I love these sites, and find them exemplary American spaces. I can’t wait to do so, and to hear what my fellow panelists and our audience has to say about these themes.
While I’m at the conference, I’ll also have the chance to attend my second Editorial Board meeting for the Encyclopedia of American Studies. The EAS, which was first edited by my graduate advisor Miles Orvell and has now moved to Penn State Harrisburg and the direction of Simon Bronner, represents the best of what AmericanStudies can be: academic and public, analytical and narrative, complex and engaging, contemporary and timeless. I’ve had the chance to contribute to it in small ways since my time at Temple, and am proud to be on the Editorial Board as the EAS moves forward toward even bigger and better things (which I can’t spoil yet but will mention here as soon as they’re finalized!). And on a more informal note, the Editorial Board meeting is—if last year’s was any indication—another example of my favorite part of academia: a group of colleagues coming together to share our passions and interests and ideas, to be communal in the best sense.
Those are two events and conversations I know will be inspiring—but I’m also looking forward to what I don’t know. Last year, as I wrote in this blog post, I discovered upon arriving at the conference that there would be a screening of John Sayles’ film Amigo, hosted by Sayles himself; needless to say, the event was a lifetime highlight. I’m not saying that I expect an impromptu Springsteen concert at this year’s conference (there’s only room for so much goodness in the universe, after all), just that I plan to remain open to surprises, to see what the conference and weekend might have in store, to attend at least one event that I know nothing about at the moment. As last year proved, the best-laid plans are infinitely better if we leave room for what we don’t plan at all.
Next autumn event tomorrow,
Ben
PS. Fall plans of yours you want to share?  

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