Earlier this year, the IAAS awarded two bursaries to assist postgraduate members with attendance at the biennial conference of the European Association of American Studies in Constanta, Romania. You can read C. Hilary McLaughlin-Stonham’s report below.
The European Association for American Studies Biennial Conference took place in Romania this year. From the 22nd to the 25th of April almost four hundred American studies scholars gathered at Ovidius University, Constanta, a beautiful port city on the Black sea. After the official opening of the conference at the Naval Academy, keynote lectures began with Rodica Mihaila from the University of Bucharest who examined sites of worlding in the post 9/11 novel. This was followed by the greatly anticipated Bronx River Director, Linda Cox, who delighted delegates with the enlightening and entertaining story of the reclaimed river by the Bronx community. Drinks and aperitif completed the first evening as speakers at the first sessions the next morning drifted off for last minute preparation.
The Panel sessions held at Ovidius University were spread out over two large Campus buildings allowing twelve sessions to run simultaneously. Mostly run as panels of three papers, the topics ranged from slavery and resistance, to digital poetry, and the plight of American women in office. Despite the early start the first panels attracted good numbers and lively audience participation. In the Slave Identity and Resistance panel the post-paper discussion ran well into the coffee break. Saturday morning also included a film screening which examined diversity, public schools and testing. A similar number of panels ran simultaneously throughout the day but were often divided into two parts which allowed for more speakers to contribute to specific themes. A good example of this was the Politics of Memory session in which six speakers examined the victory in Europe during WW II which ran alongside Roundtable discussion on women in U.S. Film. The variety of themes and topics were incredible, for example Sue Currell, outgoing Chair of BAAS, gave a fascinating talk on eugenics and eugenic propaganda, which attracted a large audience and stimulated debate on ethics and race. Panels were chosen in such a way as to have a crossover of themes and this worked well in animating the audiences to participate in discussion. Saturday was completed with the third Keynote lecture by Professor Gary Gerstle at the Naval Academy who linked Democracy and Money in American history. Cocktails and a wonderful Jazz concert by the contemporary Romanian Jazzman, Harry Tavitian completed the evening.
Sunday commenced once again at Ovidius Campus halls, which ran sessions on Native American experiences, War and masculinity alongside sex, magic and crime in Lyn Di Iorio’s novels. The President’s Breakfast invited presidents or representatives of various associations as a collaborate initiative and once again a film screening offered an alternative session, this time a documentary on the life and career of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Fourteen sessions ran simultaneously all day offering talks on various themes often causing a difficulty in choosing which to attend. Konstantinos Karatzas gave a compelling paper on the Tulsa Riot of 1921 and chaired an insightful two part panel on Racism and Violence which dominated the afternoon and early evening for many African American History delegates in the audience. The IAAS were represented by Philip McGowan and Catherine Gander chairing an American art and writing panel. Coincidentally Philip, the outgoing chair of the IAAS was appointed the new president of the EAAS at this conference. The opulent Vega Hotel in the neighbouring resort of Mamaia was the location for the Gala dinner which was a roaring success. The four course meal with complimentary drinks was very well attended and delegates danced to the talented sounds of the Romanian band till after midnight.
Monday morning brought another round of panels back at Ovidius University with thirteen panels running in the first part of the morning and a further eight until lunch time. Again the variety of talks was considerable with topics ranging from Buffalo Bill, women’s archives, and Anne Frank. Teresa Saxon and Lisa Merrill added to the diverse themes by examining transatlantic theatre from 1776 to 1917. By the close of the conference, the organisers had been successful in maintaining a balance between papers on art, literature, drama, history and digital assets resulting in a very rewarding experience for all who attended.
C. Hilary Mc Laughlin-Stonham is a PhD Researcher and Post Graduate Instructor in the School of English and History at Ulster University.