2018 EBAAS CONFERENCE, KING’S COLLEGE LONDON, UK, 4th–7th of April, 2018
The months of March and April turned out to be a very busy but truly inspiring time for me. I had just returned from academic conference travels to Indianapolis, stopped over in Dublin for a night to catch up with jet lag, and then boarded the plane to London to speak at the 32nd European Association for American Studies and 63rd British Association for American Studies Conference.
The events of this year’s conference took place at Kings College London, the British Library and University College London, and offered a great variety of presentations, talks, round table discussions and networking opportunities. Indeed, the conference provided a platform and many intriguing occasions to engage in stimulating conversations with international scholars and listen to the latest developments in American Studies research across Europe and the world.
It was difficult to choose which events to attend from the program because of the exceptional diversity of available panels. On Wednesday, I attended panel A7 on ‘Constructing Antebellum Race and Gender’ which was aligned closely with my own research. Lawrence McDonnell from Iowa State University discussed ‘The Hanging of Pauline, a Bad Slave’; Iulian Cananau from the University of Gävle presented a remarkable paper on womanhood and citizenship entitled ‘A Conceptual-Historicist Approach to Antebellum Women’s Literature of Protest’ and Shane White from the University of Sydney delivered a captivating talk entitled ‘A Crossdresser and Con Artist in Antebellum New York’. During the afternoon, I had to do some panel-hopping because the times of several talks I was adamant on seeing clashed. Thus, I first went to see Panel B6 about Anti-Slavery Networks, enjoying a paper by Thomas Mareite from Leiden University about ‘Conditional Freedom: US Fugitive Slaves in Mexican Texas, 1821-1836’ and by Charlotte James from the University of Nottingham, who spoke about ‘“Heroic Souls”: The Memory of Tubman, Truth and black female abolitionists’. Second, I sat in on Panel B13 about the ‘peculiar institution’. Elizabeth Barnes from the University of Reading kicked the panel off with her talk about ‘Environments of Abuse: the Farm, the Plantation, and Sexual Violence under Slavery’. A thought-provoking second presentation was given by Matthew Griffin from University College London about ‘The Climatic Theory of Slavery and the Wilmot Proviso Controversy’. Lastly, Edward Mair from the University of Hull presented his talk about ‘The Impact of Hostile Environments on the Parameters of Slavery: The Seminoles and Florida, 1780-1822’. The panel-hopping continued into the evening Parallel Session C as I attended the lively Panel C7 with discussion about how the US South has changed American politics since 1968, and an invigorating Panel C8, debating the role of radicalism, protest and patriotism at the turn of the 20th century. The last highlight of the day was the keynote by Bettye Collier-Thomas from Temple University entitled “From King to Trump: The Enduring Legacy of White Supremacy for American Democracy”—a very current and personal exploration of recent and not-so-recent events and developments in the US.
On Thursday and Friday I was faced with the same difficult decision to choose from an excellent range of papers. I decided to join Panel D8 which shared new perspectives on protest and resistance during the Civil Rights Movement. Next, I participated in an energetic debate about ‘Intersection of Women, Place and Protest’. Panelists shared their research ‘Chisholm ‘68: Black Protest and Left-Liberal Politics’ (Anastasia Curwood, University of Kentucky), Transatlantic Feminist Reform Networks in the Mid-20th Century’ (Ann Schofield, University of Kansas) and ‘African American Women and Washington, DC as a Site of Protest’ (Kim Warren, University of Southern Denmark). This second day of full-time conferencing concluded with a keynote by Jo Gill from the University of Exeter. In UCL’s Logan Hall, she gave a passionate talk about American poetry in the Jet Age.
I also had the opportunity to participate in a panel myself as part of a round table discussion on Friday about ‘American Studies in Europe: The Experience of Postgraduate Students and Early Career Researchers’. While I have attended many different conferences since I enrolled in college in 2005, I have long pursued events that encourage and focus on networking and exchange between postgraduate students and early career researchers in the field of American studies in Europe. I was especially interested in contributing to this event because I have been a student in a German, an American and now an Irish university environment, progressing from BA to PhD. This enabled me to offer comments on challenges and best practices in the different universities and departments and to share my own experience. Together with Francesca Razzi, Natalia Kovalyova, Kostantinos D. Karatzas, Marta Duro, and Aleksandra Kamińska, I discussed the current situation of American Studies in European member states and what we can do to improve communication and collaboration among ECR and PhD students in American Studies across Europe. Our chairs, Lorenzo Costaguta of the AISNA Graduate Forum and Katerina Webb-Bourne from King’s College London and PG Representative BAAS, guided the discussion and a lively and very interested audience participated actively in the round table. We also collected a long list of fellow researchers who are interested in future collaborations, and established a Slack group for European American Studies ECR and PhD students, free for anyone who is interested to join. Moreover, we were joined by Philip McGowan, senior lecturer in American literature at QUB, who, as President of the EAAS, had an open ear for all our concerns and was ready to support us wherever he could. In addition to our panel, ECR and PhD students also had the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and share ideas at the PG social events on Wednesday evening and the BAAS and EAAS joint Postgraduate Lunch on Friday right after our round table.
My participation at EBAAS conference not only helped me establish dialogue with interdisciplinary and international researchers and attend talks and discussions about my PhD research as well (e.g. ‘Prisons, Protest Culture, and Radical Politics’, ‘Black Protest and American Studies’, ‘Questioning Blacks’ Existence in America’, ‘Using Runaway Slave Advertisements to Teach Slavery’, ‘African American Memory and Place’ and the others I mentioned above), it also allowed me to disseminate my research with diverse group of international scholars. Moreover, it allowed me to share my experience as a woman in academia. I attended the Women in American Studies Network (WASN) and EAAS Women’s Network Joint Lunch during which we discussed the upcoming conference the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece in 2019, and other issues concerning a closer collaboration between female researchers in European member states to increase the visibility of women and gender in academia.
The EBAAS conference thus allowed me to participate in the current scholarly conversation in the field of American Studies by offering new perspectives and my own experience in studying North American literature and film in Europe in the last 13 years as well as receiving feedback, inspiration and motivation to develop my overall research as well as my PhD project, and serve to establish and strengthen my academic network.
For all of these opportunities, and so much more, I am grateful to the IAAS. Without the financial support of the travel bursary I was awarded and their generosity, it would not have been possible for me to attend these two truly thought-provoking conferences, the PCA/ACA conference in Indianapolis and the EBAAS conference in London.
Caroline Schroeter is a final year PhD candidate and recipient of the UCC PhD Excellency Scholarship. Her upcoming publications include “From Griffith to Parker: Constructing race and the history of the US South” (Kentucky UP, 2018). She is the Editor-in-Chief for Aigne Journal and an Editor for Alphaville.