From the Puritans landing at Plymouth Rock to the digital nomads stopping over in San Francisco, the multifarious interchange across the seas has, for better or worse, shaped the nation; whether through the unspeakable horrors of the Middle Passage or the grateful arrival of “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the ceaseless, multidirectional traffic of people, ideas, values, expressions, aesthetics, and wares has defined and ceaselessly redefined what we think of as American. This process is sometimes slow and gradual, sometimes radical, but whether through generations of involvement with economic and cultural energies or a lightning extension to the imaginative landscape, the importance of the sea to the consolidation of the United States would be hard to overestimate.
For this conference, we are interested in the sea as both physical reality and cultural topos, and participants may equally track the networks of global trade or plumb the depths of human consciousness. Possible topics (with representative prompts) include but are not limited to:
Literature: In what ways has the ocean or the major continental waterways served as inspiration for American literature? What guiding metaphors govern the American literary engagement with the sea?
Economy: How has sea travel or global import/export affected the American economy historically and/or in the present?
Politics: In what ways are political alliances or agreements consolidated or destabilized by shared oceans? What cultural reasons motivate the differing voting patterns on the US seaboard and interior?
Religion: How has the sea figured in American religious experience? How have transatlantic/transmarine networks influenced religious networks and communities?
War/Military Engagement: To what extent has the ocean been an arena for conflict and/or how might it evolve as one? In what ways can both American isolationism and American imperialism be understood in the context of the sea?
Indigenous Knowledge & Practice: How do indigenous perspectives on the sea inform or challenge American attitudes? What role has the sea played in indigenous cultures and societies?
Language: How does the English language / American usage conceptualize the ocean or nautical voyage? How have seaborne cultural exchanges changed language?
Transnationalism: How has the idea of transnationalism been shaped by an historical engagement with the sea?
Representation: What texts, historical figures, archival materials, or resources could redefine or decenter received understandings of American experiences or understandings of the sea?
Culture: How has the sea been represented in other media (film, visual art, music, TV), and how have these representations made an impact on American culture?
Climate Change: What role has America played in the history, either long or immediate, of climate change? How is climate change altering the American relationship to the sea?
To apply, please send a 300-word abstract and a 100-word biography to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 8, 2022.
Three stipends (3,000.00 NOK each) are available for graduate students (M.A. and Ph.D.) travelling to the conference from outside of Norway. For consideration, eligible candidates may submit the application form alongside their presentation abstract. More information can be found on the conference website.