CFP: ASA 2016: Home/Not Home: Centering American Studies Where We Are
Proposals are invited for a session on “Non-Fictions of Race: Post-War Writing Genres” to be held at the American Studies Association conference in Denver, Colorado from November 17-20th 2016.
While recent American Studies scholarship has significantly problematized the nationalist historiography and cultural geography of the U.S. post-war period, offering counter-narratives to both the imperialist “culture in the age of three worlds” and the liberal-nationalist account of twentieth-century racial progress, comparatively little inquiry and theorization has been spent on non-fiction cultural archives of the post-WWII era. Rather, these non-fiction archives have more often been contextualized within a modernist politics of realism, in a period that has been historiographically framed as the twilight of realism’s hold on literary culture. We suggest that these contextualizations have not sufficiently accounted for the popularity and political cache of non-fiction writing in the period. To take just one example, one has only to consider cultural and political life of Michael Harrington’s The Other America in the War on Poverty to recognize the significance of non-fiction writing in the post-WW II years. To reopen the question of this significance, this panel seeks proposals that investigate the proliferation of non-fiction writing genres (e.g. essays, autobiography, New Journalism, travel writing, etc.) that, in the Post-WW II U.S., became so prominent in US cultural life.
Turning to works such as these, we are interested in exploring post-war non-fiction genres as both techniques of self-making and technologies of state power that, in both capacities, can be articulated to their racial moment. How do we understand this turn to non-fiction, expressed so generally throughout the period? Do we imagine it as an attempt to recapture a politics of “truth” or as a rejection of traditional realisms and an attempt to critically negotiate a specifically post-war politics of representation? How does the non-fiction-ness of these texts work with or against the various fictions and non-fictions that narrate the identity of a post-WWII U.S. nation-state? How can we see them as cultural practices designed to operate within or against both the forms of racialization that characterize the practices of state power in this moment or the modes of truth-telling which are privileged in this representational regime? How can our own genealogies of race be transformed by an understanding of the role of post-war non-fiction? How have these genres shaped our own imaginations and cultural memories of this moment of U.S. history?