2016 NASA Conference: American Studies after the Digital Turn

15-16 September 2016, Roosevelt Study Center, Middelburg, The Netherlands

We live in an era of academic “turns”: cultural, linguistic, transnational. The “digital turn” is something different, and has raised possibilities and predicaments for scholarly work on the United States—especially for Americanists working outside of the United States. The increased availability of digitized material has cut across other turns in American Studies: it makes some work easier, other work more difficult; it outdates some scholarly modes and revives other scholarly modes. Seemingly stale inquiries into American myths and symbols might have a digital revival, while the global reach of the digital might make transnationalism and interdisciplinary research seem less revolutionary or revisionist than it seemed even a decade ago.

The “digital humanities” have already gone through several cycles of celebration and lament. This is a good moment to take stock. European Americanists are particularly well-positioned to discuss the impact of the digital, given their long experience with transnational and comparative inquiries in American Studies. Additionally, Americanists in Europe, in the course of teaching and researching the United States from a distance, might have different uses for digital tools than their peers in the U.S.

Our concerns in this conference are practical, theoretical, and polemical. We are interested in papers addressing Americanists’ use of digitized sources and tools. How do they use digital sources in their work? How do they combine the reading of texts with digital tools? What counts as “interdisciplinary” for a field long associated with interdisciplinarity, for better or worse?

We are equally interested in cautions about digitization’s unintended consequences. How do Americanists view the possibilities of the digital in education? Do they envision significant shifts in the balance of funding and institutional settings caused by digitized sources and tools?

We are interested as well in the yield of digital research for Americanists in Europe, now that several major projects are running their course. What new results did digital research deliver?

Finally, we also invite proposals from scholars outside of “American Studies” proper—for instance, scholars of European history and literature who have backed their way into U.S. social, political, economic, cultural, intellectual, and literary history. What academic narratives of America inform their work? What old or new ideas from American Studies—keywords, clichés, slogans—have been most useful or most distracting? How did digital sources help them achieve their goals?


In this conference we hope to learn more about these questions and find inspiration in these keynote lectures:

Antal van den Bosch (Radboud University Nijmegen), Digital Humanities Data: Contradiction or the New Frontier?

John Corrigan (Florida State University), Digital Data and the Methodology of American Studies

Miriam Posner (UCLA), Fostering a Digital Humanities Project within the American Studies Paradigm


Examples of relevant panels include, but are not limited to:

  • American Studies research using digital sources and/or tools
  • Should I go digital, or rather not? The perks of a non-digital oasis
  • How to transfer an analog project to a digital one
  • The possibilities of multi- and interdisciplinary research
  • The changing contents of and accessibility to collections
  • Integrating space, image, text, and sound for American Studies research
  • Combining the digital and the analog in research and/or teaching
  • Involving students in digital projects
  • Lessons from the previous computer revolution (historiography)


The conference invites proposals (300 words plus CVs) for workshops, presentations, models, that fit either the methodological or the theoretical themes.

Participants who seek advice how to enrich/combine/extend their analog projects with digital applications, are more than welcome to submit a project as well. A forum of experts will offer feedback and recommendations.

Please, mail your submission to nasabestuur@gmail.com before June 1, 2016.

The conference will be held at the Roosevelt Study Center, Abdij 8, Middelburg, the Netherlands. The conference fee is € 50 for two days, including lunches and coffee/tea and a reception.

The organizing committee consists of:

George Blaustein, University of Amsterdam

Hans Krabbendam, Roosevelt Study Center, Middelburg

Frank Mehring, Radboud University Nijmegen

Lisanne Walma, Utrecht University