Encounters Across the Americas: Archives, Technologies, Methods
1st Biennial Conference of IABA-Americas Chapter
June 4-7, 2015
Institute for the Humanities
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
This conference aims to explore auto/biographical encounters of all kinds, particularly encounters with archives, technologies, and scholarly methods for interpreting auto/biographical acts and practices. Across the Americas these acts and practices create encounters–with ourselves and our past, with others, with storytelling genres, with languages and cultures, with economic and political conditions, with historical legacies, with possible futures.
THE THEME: ENCOUNTERS: ARCHIVES, TECHNOLOGIES, METHODS
Across the Americas auto/biographical acts and practices create encounters–with ourselves and our past, with others, with storytelling genres, with language and culture, with economic and political conditions, with historical legacies, with possible futures. The media and arenas of auto/biographical encounters are multiple and heterogeneous: testimony and autoethnography, graphic memoir and ecocriticism, digital media and performance art, popular lyrics and material objects, political forums and family gatherings. We invite proposals for papers and panels that explore auto/biographical encounters of all kinds, particularly encounters with archives, technologies, and scholarly methods for interpreting auto/biographical acts and practices.
Archives document encounters in stories of conquest, invasion, genocide, transportation, enslavement, cultural loss and survival, national expansion and global repositioning, local indigeneity and diaspora. They attest to acts of migration, mobility, conversion, transformation, or re-embodiment. Archives can be large or small, long-lived or ephemeral, drawn from Big Data or fragments. They may include letters, diaries, identity papers, inventories, logbooks, lyrics, or objects in many media: textual, visual, graphic, haptic, oral, aural, material. They encompass myths, memories, personal aspirations, and evidence of public spectacles. While archives can be, and have been, lost, silenced, overwritten, they can also be digitized and exposed as sources of stories to sustain individuals and communities–or disrupt and separate them.
How do life writers across the Americas encounter and use archives? What modes of evidence are discoverable in and through them? What kinds of life stories, acts of translation, and encounters do archives call forth? How are digital technologies enabling scholars of life writing to build archives? What issues of curation, preservation, assemblage, and circulation do archives present?
Technologies may be conceptual, as in Foucault’s sense, or material, analog or digitally enabled. Encounters with technologies enable the recovery of histories of colonial violence, the circulation of postcolonial legacies, and the evocation of posthuman agencies. Technologies are employed in reorganizing ethnic identities and indigenous politics. Via cultural collisions, across contact zones, they produce multi-temporal histories that express the legacies of transport in both new and long-lived forms of witnessing. They point up intersections of geographic and sexual imaginaries embodied in disparate modes, from queer performance art to computer games about gender transition, and register the impact of environmental degradation in the Americas through ecocritical writing.
What is an auto/biographical technology? How have technologies enabled the telling of lives within and across the Western hemisphere, and to what effect? What histories of technology do auto/biographers draw on in constructing their stories? How do technologies facilitate the creation, or collection, or circulation of life narratives?
Encounters with, and as, Method
Our acts of critical practice are encounters as well. In the medium of storytelling personal stories trace a history, generate a legacy, revision the possible shapes of embodied experience. But the heterogeneous aesthetics and politics of personal storytelling make the methodology of reading life narratives necessarily a choice among possibilities. What methods of analysis do scholars of auto/biography now rely on? How is a particular method related to past theorizing of the autobiographical or a larger theory of language, culture, subjectivity, sociality, or politics?
That is, papers might foreground method, asking, for example: What is entailed in performing a deep reading of an individual life story? What reading practices are marshaled in understanding a prosopography as a collective story? What issues arise in assembling an oral history of one or more marginalized subjects? When the focus is the subject, the self, the person, the community, the nation, or the corporation, what kinds of evidence or data are used in the analysis? Are there methodologies that point up networks of life writing practice specific to the Americas, with their long history of both heterogeneous reception and occasional congruence? If some theoretical approaches seem exhausted, what new approach to familiar or emergent forms of life narrative might be productive?