American Studies

Conference Call for Papers

"The African American Experience Since 1992" - Friday 20 September 2013, University of Hull

This conference, hosted jointly by the American Studies programme and the Wilberforce Institute for Slavery and Emancipation Studies (WISE) at the University of Hull, aims to examine, explore and critically engage with issues relating to African American life and cultural representation in the post civil rights era. This event forms part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary for the American Studies degree programme at the University of Hull and we are very proud to have received a grant from the US Embassy in London to support the conference.

Over the past four decades, African Americans have faced a number of new challenges brought about by changes in the political, economic and social structure of America. Few moments offer a clearer dramatisation of these challenges than the 1992 Los Angeles (LA) uprising. This upswelling of black urban ‘rage’ made visible the persistence of racial and class hierarchies, and state-sanctioned police brutality. As we move past the twentieth anniversary of the LA uprising it is relevant to reflect upon the past two decades in particular. Moreover, in the post-Obama, ‘post-meltdown’ era, it is an ideal time to once again explore what Howard Winant (1998) has dubbed America’s “racial dualism”, in which a national discourse of ‘post-racialism’ co-exists with an insidious yet deeply ingrained system of white supremacy.

Furthermore, this vastly changed social landscape has produced a number of resonant pop-cultural trends that have proved to be simultaneously innovative and contentious, unifying and divisive. Consequently, we would like this conference to consider questions such as: how have African Americans contributed to recent popular culture terrain (both as artists and producers)? To what extent have the politics of race representation, gender and class evolved? In what ways have notions of geographical and generational space progressed? Because of the connection with WISE, we are particularly interested in papers that address contemporary ‘slavery’ for African Americans (eg literally in terms of incarceration and the prison industrial complex, or metaphorically in terms of economic hindrances).

But the remit for this conference is not limited to the inner city, the violent, the popular cultural and the decisively male. We would like to make room for the affirmatory, the culturally and demographically diverse, the cross-racial and (not least) the female. The designated period has seen a series of breakthroughs by African Americans into the realms of opera, ballet, modern dance, classical composition and orchestra membership. Opera’s latest wunderkind, Noah Stewart, is just one example of the current successes of young African Americans in such fields. We hope the conference will address the diverse dynamics of continuity and change that have defined various shifts in the African American experience over the past twenty years.

The call for papers is now closed and information on registration, panels, and travel / accommodation can be found at this link. Please do not hesitate to contact j.metcalf@hull.ac.uk or r.bloomfield@hull.ac.uk if you have any further questions about the conference.

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