CFP: 18th & 19th Century African Atlantic Culture, History, & Performance

‘Triumph in my Song’: 18th & 19th Century  African Atlantic Culture, History, & Performance
at the University of Maryland, May 31-June 2, 2012
The Society of Early Americanists and the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland invite proposals for this exciting interdisciplinary conference, May 31-June 2, 2012.  The conference will be held in the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland, College Park (just outside Washington, DC).
We invite colleagues to explore a wide range of definitions of culture, history, historiography, and performance as they connect to the experiences of Africans in the Atlantic world up to the Civil War.  As the study of the black experience in pre-Civil War America grows, it incorporates increasingly diverse fields of scholarship, each of which has the potential to make enormously valuable contributions to our understanding of this topic.  The conference program will feature live performances, roundtables on methodologies and analyzing evidence, and colloquies with established authors in the field.
Questions/Topics may include:
·        *What are the particular challenges in writing a history of performance, a phenomenon that, by definition, disappears?
·        *How do we define and analyze the “evidence” for our scholarship?  How does moving across disciplinary boundaries transform our understanding and interpretation of what constitutes evidence?
·       * How can we consider history and culture not just as contained narratives of the past, but as living performances of memory, repertoires of behaviors from the past?
·       * How are these challenges in writing a history of performance compounded when writing about race, racial performance, and people of African descent during the time of slavery?
·       * How have the material culture and performance culture of African peoples traveled across geographical boundaries, and what historiographical or theoretical lenses should we apply to chart their movement?
·       * Given the need for historicization, what are the relative strengths of history vs. memory?  What does each mode of encountering the past en/dis-able?
·        *Regarding such topics as minstrelsy, lynching, slave narratives, miscegenation, incarceration, gendered constructions of blackness, parallels/divergences between slavery and post-bellum sharecropping, and others, how can we actively engage in questions of how pre-Civil War history and culture reverberate forward to post-Civil War history and culture?
While the conference will feature papers and panels, we also encourage participants to propose sessions that fall outside the normal panel/seminar design.  Alternate session formats might include staged readings of long-lost or neglected texts; performances of traditional music or dance pieces; performances exploring issues of embodiment and identity; explorations of documents or material objects from interdisciplinary perspectives; or roundtables coordinated around a performative event or theoretical or methodological question.
Proposals may be for complete panel sessions, or participants may submit individual proposals.  SEA warmly welcomes proposals from graduate students.  Please see the guidelines below.  PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL TECHNOLOGY REQUESTS MUST BE INCLUDED IN YOUR COMPLETED PROPOSAL.  Each presenting/performance space has PowerPoint and internet capabilities.  Proposals are due by September 15, 2011.  Please send your proposal — or your questions — via e-mail to   Possible proposal formats include Panel SessionsRoundtables (focusing on one or more texts, theories, methodologies, performances, or objects), Performance Events, or Interdisciplinary Explorations.

About Sarah Bay-Cheng

Professor of Theater at Bowdoin College. Co-host for the On TAP (Theatre and Performance Studies) podcast at Editor for the book series Avant-Gardes in Performance (Palgrave). Sporadically blogging about theatre, performance, and digital culture. twitter: @performaddict
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