Money Talks: Inequality and North American Identity

Interdisciplinary Postgraduate and Early Career Conference

University of Nottingham
Friday, 19th June 2015

“Let me tell you something. There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man, and I’ve been a rich man. And I choose rich every time” – Leonardo DeCaprio as Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Great Recession beginning in 2008 was a firm reminder of how North America’s financial instability affects our lives the world over. Yet a global focus risks ignoring the particular images and experiences of inequality within Canada and the U.S. themselves. From the patriarchal log cabins of the Canadian Rockies and the American Mid-West to the homogenous suburbs of the 1950s, North American economic identity has often marginalised racial and sexual difference.  Parallel fears of elites were conveyed in the populist movements of the Tea Party and Occupy. In light of recent events, we should ask: how can or should we engage with financial inequality as experienced by North Americans? How do we parse cultural representations for insights into the continent’s divide between rich and poor? How representative is The Wolf of Wall Street’s Jordan Belfort in expressing North Americans’ desire to ‘choose rich every time’?

For Lauren Berlant, a ‘cruel optimism’ keeps us attached to promises of the good life despite the retrenchment of post-war welfare programmes and social democratic ideals. Indeed, this denial often ignores higher African American and Hispanic unemployment rates. Such intersections between identity and economic inequality, whether in the present or other historical periods, form the basis of the upcoming international conference organised by 49 Parallel: An Interdisciplinary Journal of North American Studies. Proposals are invited from postgraduate and early career researchers in American and Canadian studies, history, English, politics, philosophy, sociology, art history, economics, film and television studies, international relations, and other appropriate disciplines. Topics for papers may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Representations of economic inequality in literature and popular culture
  • ‘Capitalist Realism’ and Neoliberal Hegemony
  • Austerity cultures in a North American context
  • Identity (sexual, national, racial, etc.) and financial experience
  • Populism and economics (Occupy, the Tea Party, etc.)
  • Representing economic crisis (The Great Depression, The 2008 Recession, etc).
  • “Ruin porn” and the representations of urban decay

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Paul Crosthwaite from the University of Edinburgh as our keynote speaker.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is the 12th of January 2015.

UPDATE: Due to overwhelming response to our CFP, we have decided to extend the deadline to the 23rd January 2015.

Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words and should include an additional biography of no more than 75 words. Please e-mail proposals to Registration for the conference is £15. Travel and accommodation costs will not be covered.

For more information see