At Thanksgiving, We Thank The Lord For American Studies

November 14, 2012, 11:25 pm

Binders full of academics are being disgorged at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the American Studies Association Annual Meeting. Good news: unlike many places in the Northeast, there is heat and hot water, and it’s about 80 degrees. Your favorite Radical, who spent this pre-convention day eating fish sandwiches at the beach, has an unexpectedly fantastic room at the Caribe Hilton, the conference headquarters. A Mad Man-ny styled place with 1960s retro furniture and a shower as big as some Manhattan apartments, it has a balcony and a view of the entire coastline.

Those of us who are checked in here had a fantasy about being able to slip in and out of panels, and in between go back to the beach. I was not the only person to design my convention-wear so that a bathing suit would fit comfortably underneath.  Alas, it is not to be: the actual meeting is at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, a snazzy, modern building two miles away from our lovely resort.

The obvious reason for this problem is that resort hotels are not built to host academic meetings, or conventions of any kind: they are built for fun! Bars you can swim up to! Snorkeling! Lunch by the pool! Not book exhibits, or a round table on Deconstructing the Colonial Queer Other.  T0 this, we must commute.

Other souls who have a darker turn of mind think the program committee may have been concerned that if the convention were held here no one would attend the sessions. We all have memories of meetings held in lovely places where that has happened.  It’s always a toss up, isn’t it? The location was quite the draw. Despite the fact that when I budgeted it, this meeting was twice as expensive as the American Historical Association Meting in New Orleans, there are tons of people here.

The program is outstanding, so being trapped in a concrete box when we could be playing beach volleyball has its compensations. Despite some dismay about not having received the book ahead of time (we missed the ritual of reading and dog-earing it on the plane) the next four days features a rock star lineup. One attendee (who, from my perspective, is a classic example of MLA coolness that social scientists could only dream of emulating) claimed to be “having a little trouble with the glitz” that ASA always presents. This meeting can be overwhelming. However, the array of up and coming ethnic studies scholars on the program is truly impressive and, on a final note, we historians (used as we are to people and scholarship done up in three or four  shades of grey) are always grateful when the literature and cultural studies folks come and class things up.

Back to basics: when we do wash the sand off our feet and make our way over to the convention center, what will we see?

Yours truly is on at 12:00 tomorrow as a panelist in Blogging as Public Pedagogy: A Roundtable with GayProf, Historiann, Roxie, and Tenured Radical. We are being chaired by Martha Nell Smith, University of Maryand- College Park, formerly known as Goose of Roxie’s World (Puerto Rico Convention Center 202B).

Practically every panel looks great, but this is where I’m going:

10:00 Engaging Empire at Home: Public Scholarship and Activist Pedagogies Beyond (Puerto Rico Convention Center 201A). With:Gregory Jay, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Matthew Countryman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Victoria Robinson, University of California, Berkeley, and Bruce Burgett, University of Washington, Bothell, and Cheryl Ajirotutu, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

At 12:00, if I were not at my own panel, I would be at:

Return of the Tiger: The Social and Cultural Politics of Asian American Parenting (Puerto Rico Convention Center 209B) with Elena Creef, Wellesley College; Miliann Kang, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Lan Duong, University of California, Riverside; and Erin Khuê Ninh, University of California, Santa Barbara.

2:00:  The Dust of Empire: Material Culture and the Circulation of Power’s Remains (Puerto Rico Convention Center 102C), with Courtney Fullilove, Wesleyan University; Michelle Morgan, Yale University; Katherine Lennard, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Christopher Kramaric, Yale University; and Megan Bayles, University of California, Davis.

4:00 Keywords in Critical Ethnic Studies: Racialization, Genocide, Settler Colonialism, and Debt (Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A) with Lee Ann Wang, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Jodi Kim, University of California, Riverside; Dylan Rodríguez, University of California, Riverside; Andrea Smith, University of California, Irvine; and Alex Weheliye, Northwestern University


Digital/Imperial Worlds (Puerto Rico Convention Center 204), with
Meghan E. Drury, George Washington University; Matthew Jacob Schneider-Mayerson, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Alexandra Juhasz, Pitzer College; Jacob Peters, University of Southern California; Megan Boler, University of Toronto 5:30-7

5:30: Envisioning a Latina/o Studies Association: A Discussion (Puerto Rico Convention Center Chrysler Conference Room)

You can end your day of beach combing conventioneering with the Welcome Reception/Celebration of ASA Authors at the Book Exhibit, 7:00, (Puerto Rico Convention Center Ballroom B). Don’t forget that the hashtag you want to be using is #2012ASA, as the other logical tag has been snagged by the sociologists.


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