On April 17, humanities scholars, artists, and activists posed new vantage points for considering the discipline of American studies at Globalizing American Studies 2.0, a day-long symposium. From discussions on how we measure progress in the United States to understanding the persistent forces of colonialism in southern Louisiana, presentations challenged a single perspective on understanding the U.S. and American culture, expanding scholars’ and students’ understandings of American history and society.
Globalizing American Studies 2.0 was co-organized by School of Liberal Arts Dean and Professor of English Brian Edwards and Professor of English Kate Baldwin. Edwards first launched Globalizing American Studies at Northwestern University in 2004, where he hosted a series of international symposia over the following decade and a half. With both Edwards’ and Baldwin’s move to Tulane University last summer, the two were eager to relaunch the project with a refreshed presence in New Orleans, turning greater attention to localities, indigenous populations, our relationship to water, and global connections.
Throughout the day, presenters from the U.S. and Europe shared research that expands American studies. Professor Kelly Wisecup from Northwestern University and professor Vicente Diaz from the University of Minnesota both urged listeners to consider the methods they use to measure progress. By challenging the order in which we tell histories and the language we use to do so, they proposed that we can better frame how we speak about indigenous and new populations.
Artists and activists Monique Verdin and Jayeesha Dutta, both based in New Orleans, presented on their current project “Floating Adaptions—From Bengal to Balbancha,” which is investigating ways individuals in Southern Louisiana can adapt to rising waters and become independent of industries that have taken advantage of indigenous populations.
Other discussions focused on the current moment as a lens to better understand how our framing of the past has impacted our lives. Presentations by professor Deborah Cohn of Indiana University, professor Selamawit Terrefe of Tulane University, and professor Donald Pease of Dartmouth College investigated topics of race, the Cold War, the African Diaspora, politics, international relations, imaginaries, and the future.
As Edwards explains, “American Studies has long offered an intellectual space of possibility,” allowing many disciplines—including history, literary studies, gender and sexuality studies, and critical race studies—to intersect in the discussion of how we perceive “the global place of the United States and the meanings we and others ascribe to ‘America.’” Last week’s program was the first project to emerge from the new Tulane Center for Global Humanities Research in the School of Liberal Arts, which Edwards is launching as a hub for programs that serve as collective research projects in the humanities and social sciences.