13th Graduate School of North American Studies Conference 2020 announced

News from Jan 27, 2020

Revisiting the Margins: Contemporary Perspectives on North American Studies

Freie Universität Berlin, June 10-12


  • Conference Info
  • Call for Papers
  • More on the official website gsnas2020.com

Claims about marginality are increasingly being made in order to explain and justify a wide variety of actions in North American culture and politics, economics and the arts. As a result, the concepts of the margins and marginalization seem to have renewed urgency. The center-margins binary is far from new, having been crucial to poststructuralist, postcolonialist, and intersectional criticisms of the 1980s and 90s. Since then, however, numerous theoretical interventions have attempted to redirect critical discourse away from this dichotomy. It is in this light that the 13th annual Graduate Conference of North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin seeks to investigate the current relevance and contemporary debates surrounding the margins and marginality across numerous fields of research.

Marginality is perhaps best understood here as a transdisciplinary concept whose actual meaning is radically contingent upon context: Aesthetic marginality and the avant-garde are commonly seen as productive to creativity, whereas in social contexts, marginality is often detrimental and caused by discriminatory practices. Social justice movements like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter make claims for marginality and mutuality, but so do actors of the political (far-)right, who argue that it is they who are being victimized by mainstream media and a culture of political correctness. These claims can of course be contested, but that makes other questions all the more pertinent: Is there a strategic value in pronouncing oneself marginal or marginalized? What does it mean to feel marginalized? What kind of agency is possible in the margins, however conceptualized?

The Graduate School invites abstracts for individual 20-minute presentations from researchers of all disciplines of American Studies including cultural studies, economics, history, literature, political science, sociology, and related fields of research. Submissions from early-career researchers and from researchers of diverse backgrounds are especially encouraged. Topics for papers may include but are not limited to:

  • Debates surrounding theories of marginality in the contemporary moment
  • Academic and educational margins: marginalized knowledges, disciplines, and practices; marginalization within the educational system
  • Climate crisis and its marginalizing effects
  • Geographies of marginalization in urban, suburban, and rural spaces
  • Margins of democracy: ideology, disenfranchisement, and electoral reform
  • Histories of marginalization and history as marginalization
  • Pluralist approaches to mainstream economics
  • Writing in the margins: marginal authors, literatures, and genres; making use of page margins, flip sides, and paratexts in art and literature
  • Avant-garde aesthetics: the fringes of mainstream film, literature, and media
  • Decentering epistemologies: black feminism and queer theory
  • The productive and destructive potential of the margins as subversive spaces; extremism and marginality

Abstracts of 300 words should be submitted via email to conference2020@gsnas.fu-berlin.de, together with the author’s name, institutional affiliation (if applicable), and a short biography of no more than 100 words. The deadline is 16th February 2020, and selected participants will be notified by the end of March. The conference language is English, the venue is wheelchair accessible, and childcare can be provided upon request.

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