Saturday, July 12, 2014
July 12-13, 2014: Crowd-sourcing the ALA
[In late May, I had the chance to make a quick trip to Washington, DC, to attend a portion of the American Literature Association’s annual conference. I wasn’t able to stay as long as I would have liked, but did have a chance to attend some very interesting panels while I was there. So this week I’ve highlighted a few of them, as well as a couple other contexts for the conference. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from the follow ups of a couple fellow AmericanStudiers—if you were there, add yours, please!]
Agnes Herra follows up Monday’s post on her panel on contemporary literature and cultural movements, writing, “Thank you so much for write up, Ben! It was so nice to meet you. I had a great experience at the ALA conference. It was my first time at a specific American studies conference and I was really excited to hear about everyone's work. Since I'm currently starting to focus on the activist figure in American literature in my research, it was great to see how scholars are approaching American lit generally. Everyone was really welcoming!”
AnneMarie Donahue responds to Friday’s post on the ALA and the FRC, writing, “I worry, and always have worried, that ‘American Identity’ is a subjective term. And while it is subjective, as all historical perspectives are, it's the idea that some subjectivities are more valid than others. That while I consider myself a ‘flaming liberal’ others could easily put me in a conservative camp. My 10th grade history teacher, who was and is a misogynistic jerk, made a great point one day in between bad-mouthing title 9 and pointing out that women destroyed the single-income economy. He said that all scales must be put in proper perspective, that my views of gender equality (and neutrality, as I have been very lucky to work with some brave young people whose gender of the mind and body conflict have helped me re-term it) are actually quite conservative, as I see a citizen's rights as paramount. The idea that the government would want to ban abortion is very liberal when looked at through the lens of government invading on the individual's freedoms and rights. With that in mind I worry that our nation's ‘trend’ towards fundamentalism (which is really what this all boils down to, and I am speaking as a proud culturally-catholic person) will allow a narration of American Identity that is trying to define the terms liberal and conservative to their own standards and remove that sliding scale that my history teacher (whose name I can't recall, how's that for respect?) spoke of. But the biggest fear is that this new ‘historiography’ denies the most important fact that any historian must be aware of at all times. They are being subjective. And through that acknowledgement of subjectivity comes a larger tolerance to contrasting ideas, theories, accounts and philosophies. But without this little reminder that ‘we can't keep ourselves out of the narration so at least admit you are throwing yourself in the narration’ we lose that goal of objectivity. I worry about my students growing up in a country with a very strange definition of itself, but what worries me more is that they are growing less and less aware that those coming up with the definition are doing so with an agenda.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Thoughts on any of the week’s topics? Other follow ups you’d share?