Conference Report: Currents of American Culture and Its Study (Eastern American Studies Association), March 29-30, 2019, Harrisburg, PA
Like most small regional conferences this one is welcoming to all comers and a place to present and hear people present on early stage research.
I missed the first Friday afternoon sessions but did attend the last panel of the day. Mary Kate Cowper talked about waves of Puerto Rican identity. I was very intrigued by her mention of the Borinquena graphic novel (https://www.la-borinquena.com/). The second speaker on the panel, Kathryn Holmes, talked about plastic surgery in Utah, focusing on Mormons. “Mommy makeovers,” designed to counter the effects of childbirth. The third speaker on the panel was Aaron Rovan, whose topic was street children in 19th century America. One item he pointed out was that street children were sometimes called “street Arabs,” thought most were Irish and German, most especially in the period just after the Civil War. The final speaker was David Giles who focused on misogyny and the Internet. I was also able to enjoy the banquet on Friday evening, preceded by the keynote address, The Democracy of Ice Cream, by John Kasson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The dinner conversation was just as interesting, and the food was very good as well.
The Saturday sessions were equally interesting. For the first morning session I heard John Price talk about Star Trek Axanar, Camille Sleight-Price on #Blackhogwarts, Brittany Clark on how retails workers are gendered on film, and Jose Feliciano on “relevance and Community when Museums are Not Neutral.” Price’s talk focused on the hierarchy of authenticity and fan created materials. Sleight-Price spoke about the twitter hashtag #blackhogwarts, which involved reimagining the characters in Harry Potter as Black. Clark looked at the presentation of retail workers in film over time; in earlier films retail work was a sign of being poor, but in later films it was a sign of stunted maturity. Feliciano pointed out that many cultural institutions are not neutral and were based on legacies of colonialism.
I was part of a panel on Saturday. My topic was my bike routes project. Also on the panel were McKenna Britton who spoke at the Women at Work on Cooper Street project, tracking the women who lived on Cooper Street in Camden, NJ and their employment. Bart Everts spoke about Peirce College’s transformation after World War I. Spero Lappis talked about a heartbreaking court case, Prig v Penn, which involved a woman who thought she had been freed from slavery but years later she and her children were taken back and sold.
There was a third session on Saturday but I had to leave before those talks. It was a really enjoyable conference experience and I hope to attend again in the future.