Research platform, 2014-2016: “Place in American Culture”
“Place in American Culture” succeeded the Center for Transnational American Studies’ previous two-year platform theme “American Cultures of Work” (2012-2014). The centerpiece event of the current platform theme, the CTAS symposium “Place in American Culture: Region, Nation, Globalization,” was held on 23 and 24 April 2015. Speakers at the symposium included core CTAS staff; colleagues from the Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies; and colleagues in American studies from other Danish universities. The symposium was also a “launch event” for a new international American studies network featuring CTAS and three partner institutions: the Department of American Studies at Brown University; the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Manchester; and the Department of English and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. The symposium featured keynote speakers from each of the three partner institutions, as well as PhD students and other participants from those universities. For the full program, see http://humanities.ku.dk/calendar/2015/april/region-nation-globalization/.
Brief description of project theme and central questions
The experience and idea of place—of spatial metaphors and material realities--has long had a central role in the history of the United States, as well as the history of American studies. Well established examples would include myths of the western frontier and manifest destiny; the purported “sense of place” of the South, especially southern literature; the plantation and the Middle Passage as sites of slavery, and the North and Canada as sites of liberation; contact zones of European-Native encounter, followed by Indian “removal” and reservations; and Jefferson’s vision of an agrarian republic, versus an increasingly (sub)urban built landscape. The “transnational turn” in American studies, as well as the “spatial turn” in various related disciplines, has recast some of these ideas and ideologies in new ways, as well as generating new questions. Has the “space of flows” of global capitalism really, as some critics claim, generated a “sense of placelessness” or “time-space compression”? To what extent is the “place” of the nation recalibrated by transnational movements of capital, commodities, peoples, and cultures? To what degree do various “borderlands” complicate or regenerate traditional notions of American identity and geography? Does transnationalism and globalization erase U.S. regional identities, as many commentators have tended to assume, or does regional identity increase or adapt when exposed to such processes? These are some of the questions being addressed by the platform theme, especially via the symposium.
The overall research aims of the platform
1) to offer an organizing theme that is simultaneously capacious and specific enough to encompass the existing research interests of all CTAS core staff; 2) to constitute the central theme of most, if not all, research activities in CTAS for the two year term (fall 2014-spring 2016 semesters); 3) to involve colleagues from elsewhere in Engerom, the faculty of humanities, and from other Danish and international universities; 4) to provide a possible forum for research publications, as in the case of the ”American Cultures of Work” special issue of American Studies in Scandianvia (vol. 46, no. 1, 2014) that emerged from the “American Cultures of Work” platform theme.
“Place in American Culture” was chosen as the platform theme partly because it also aligns with specific research interests of core CTAS staff. These narratives of transnational migration to the U.S. South (Martyn Bone); U.S.-Chinese relations (Russell Duncan); environmental and urban studies, especially “penurbia” (Joe Goddard); the American West and narratives of home and domesticity (Cathryn Halverson); literary constructions of space, notions and functions of place and the interaction between individual and his or her place (Inge Birgitte Siegumfeldt); Danish-American cultural relations (Christa Holm Vogelius).
American Studies colleagues abroad: Dr. David Brown (Department of English and American Studies, University of Manchester); Prof. Matthew Guterl (Head of Department of American Studies, Brown University); Dr. Peter Reed (Director of graduate studies, Department of English, University of Mississippi).