By Associate Professor Jennifer Frost and Dr Paul Taillon
The ANZASA conference is returning to Auckland, New Zealand after 15 years! The dates have been set—14-16 July 2019—and the location too—The University of Auckland. Our American Studies community in Auckland is comprised of academic staff and undergraduate and postgraduate students in History, English, Media & Communications, Politics, and Sociology. Our sponsors include the Faculty of Arts, the School of Humanities, and the US Consulate in Auckland. We are looking forward to welcoming conference participants to the City of Sails and to a range of engaging lectures, panels, workshops, and social functions.
Our theme for 2019 is Community, Conflict, and “the Meaning of America.” This theme was inspired, first, by next year being the 80th anniversary of the publication of Perry Miller’s foundational text in American Studies, the first volume of The New England Mind (1939). A so-called consensus historian, Miller found unity and community in early American history. But conflict and decline dominated his second volume of The New England Mind, published 14 years later. He also contributed to the concept of American exceptionalism, that is, that the United States is qualitatively different from other nations. Miller’s ideas about America have been subject to much debate and discussion over the years, and we felt it was time to take stock and assess his scholarly legacy today.
We were also inspired—or perhaps incited is a better word—by the Presidency of Donald Trump and what it means for these “Millerian” themes. In his vision of the United States, conflict trumps (pun intended) community. His campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” and his invocation of “American carnage” in his inauguration speech assumed national decline. In response, commentators have been roused to revisit the concept of American exceptionalism. They argue that with Trump’s victory it has come “to an end” and has met “its death knell.” At the very least, as Politico’s Joshua Zeitz has put it, Trump “is making us rethink American exceptionalism.”
All of which led us to choose our conference theme and keynote speakers who will address various aspects of it. In future blogposts, we’ll profile these speakers and their conference contributions and highlight specific panels and workshops. We have just released the Call For Papers. We welcome proposals for individual papers and full panels on all topics in American Studies, not just those related to our conference theme. In the meantime, please mark your calendar for 14-16 July 2019 in Auckland and do not hesitate to contact us for further information.