Call for Papers


Community, Conflict, and “the Meaning of America”

Australian and New Zealand American Studies Association Conference

14-16 July 2019

The University of Auckland, New Zealand

In 1939, Perry Miller published the first volume of The New England Mind, a foundational text in American Studies.  Looking back, he regarded this book as part of his life’s study of “the meaning of America.”  Eighty years later, the 2019 Australian and New Zealand American Association (ANZASA) Conference will engage with Miller’s intellectual endeavor.

With a productive career spanning four decades, Miller’s many writings and their critical reception remain relevant for American Studies scholars today.  He contributed greatly to the core concept of the emerging field of American Studies: exceptionalism or, as he put it, “the uniqueness of the American experience.”  Scholars since have taken a dimmer view of Miller’s work, with many rejecting the exceptionalist thesis.  Amy Kaplan and others have powerfully critiqued its imperialist underpinnings and erasure of indigenous peoples.  Slavery gets no attention, nor does the South.  The singular “New England mind” misses the diversity of early America.

Yet, Miller’s interrogation of the “meaning of America” remains relevant.  In his later work—published during the Cold War—he found disunity and decline in the nation’s past.  Already in 1949, he began to rethink American exceptionalism in the context of “the contemporary crisis” with its attendant “conflicts, anxieties, and cruelties.”  In the same year, he addressed his historical moment in a way that resonates with ours.  “Faith in democracy can no longer be maintained by ignorance of the recurrent lessons of history.”

The 2019 ANZASA conference will revisit these long-standing “Millerian” themes in American history and culture.  After a theme-setting opening address by Paul Giles, Challis Professor of English, University of Sydney, our keynote speakers will address major points of conflict—the American Revolution, slavery, the Civil War, World War II, and Vietnam—as well as how Americans defined, sought, and built community in the past.  Keynote speakers include Professors Carrie Tirado Bramen, Kathleen M. Brown, and Michael A. McDonnell, and Associate Professors Neal Curtis and Peter S. Field.

We welcome proposals for individual papers or panel sessions on the conference theme of community, conflict, and “the meaning of America” as well as on any topics in American Studies and related fields, including US culture, history, literature, media, politics, and foreign policy or where the United States figures in a global or transnational context.

The deadline for proposals is 15 January 2019, but we will be reviewing proposals as they are submitted and providing timely responses to aid advance planning and preparations.  All proposals must include the presenter’s name, e-mail address, and affiliation; an abstract of 250 words; and a brief biography of 250 words.  For panel session proposals, please provide the session organizer’s name, e-mail address, and affiliation; a title for the panel; an abstract of 250 words for the session as a whole; and relevant information for each presenter.

Please submit your proposals as well as any questions to Jennifer Frost, Associate Professor of History, The University of Auckland,

Download ANZASA Conference 2019 Call for Papers

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