Deadline: October 1, 2019

Local Organizers: Manfred Berg (History), Ulrike Gerhard (Geography), Günter Leypoldt (Literature and Culture), Margit Peterfy (Literature and Culture), Jan Stievermann (Religious History), Martin Thunert (Political Science), Welf Werner (Economics)

Participation is a core value of American citizenship and at the same time one of the nation’s most ambivalent concepts. In colonial America, a larger share of white males had the right to vote than in any other society in the world. The Federal Constitution of 1787 was a milestone in the history of political participation because it tied political power to national elections. In the nineteenth century, universal white manhood suffrage gave rise to the first electoral mass democracy worldwide. The struggle of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and immigrants for full participatory rights has been a major theme in U.S. history and remains a challenge today and into the future. This challenge reaches far beyond the realm of politics and encompasses full and equal access for groups and individuals to participate in a wide variety of social, cultural, religious, and economic activities. Exclusion from participation based on class, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is indeed part and parcel of the nation’s heritage. In recent years, fears of a backlash against participation and inclusion are mounting as economic inequality is growing and American society is becoming more segmented and polarized. Ironically, social media, once believed to usher in a brave new world of easy and universal participation, drive the emergence of parallel worlds and echo chambers. At the political level, attempts to undermine the right of minorities and the poor to vote are reminiscent of racist disfranchisement during the age of Jim Crow.

Thus, our conference theme is an important and timely topic that also speaks to the full range of disciplines represented in the GAAS. We invite scholars of American Studies to explore the manifold expressions of and obstacles to participation in American culture and society, including but of course not limited to

– Manifestations of participation and exclusion in literary works and cultural production

– Literature and art as vehicles for articulating claims to inclusion and participation

– Access to literary publishing and cultural production

– Social media and participation

– Participation in social movements, religious communities, voluntary associations

– Political participation from the Colonial Era to the present

– Social capital and social participation

– Women’s suffrage and minority voting rights

– Urban planning and citizen participation

– Income, inequality, labor market participation and the welfare state

Proposals for workshops need to include two speakers who have been contacted in advance. In addition, proposals should allow for two to three more speakers to apply after the proposal has been accepted by the Advisory Board of the German Association for American Studies.

Please remember that workshops can only be organized by members of the German Association for American Studies (DGfA). Similarly, except for North American speakers, all speakers in these workshops have to be members of the DGfA or its sister organizations such as the European Association of American Studies (EAAS) by the time of the convention.

Please send workshop proposals to