Call for Papers: Cultural Mobility and Knowledge Formation in the Americas (30.06. – 02.07.2016, Munich)

Deadline: 15.02.2016

International Conference at the Amerikahaus, Munich, Germany, jointly organized by the Bavarian American Academy (BAA) and the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC (DHI Washington)

Conveners: Volker Depkat (BAA) and Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson (DHI Washington)

Photo by DariuszSankowski | Public Domain

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski | Public Domain

In the ongoing debate about transnational history that gained momentum in the 1990s, hemispheric approaches have either been discussed as one way to transnationalize the study of U.S. history or as frames for exercises in comparative history. As different as these hemispheric approaches are, they all see U.S. history as sharing certain historical experiences with all other American states (European colonialism, immigration, etc.), and they feature the United States as one historical actor in the Americas among many. Some of them embrace transnational concepts of entanglement and hybridity; others pursue the more traditional project of comparative studies to understand why the states, peoples, economies and cultures in the Western hemisphere developed differently despite shared spatial characteristics and historical contexts. Thus, hemispheric approaches aim to compare political, social, economic and cultural phenomena of the Americas in terms of similarities and differences, as well as convergences and divergences, to reach a deeper and fuller understanding of the specificities of the United States not only in contrast to Europe but also in contrast to other American nation-states.

While historians have discussed hemispheric approaches either as one among several competing ways to transnationalize the study of U.S. history or as a frame for comparative history, literary and cultural critics in the field of American Studies have reached out to colleagues in Latin American Studies, Asian American Studies, African Diaspora Studies, and comparative literature to reframe disciplinary boundaries within the broad area of what is generally called American Studies. Since the 1990s, the debate has become increasingly differentiated and also fragmented. After more than a decade of intense hemispheric scholarship in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts, this conference aims to bring historians into a closer dialogue with the other disciplines involved in hemispheric American Studies.

Two categories — knowledge formation and cultural transfer — will serve as useful discursive frameworks to introduce a common analytical focus for the discussions among and between the disciplines. We will use Stephen Greenblatt’s concept of cultural mobility as a starting point, examining the causes and consequences of concrete physical movements of peoples, objects, images, texts, and ideas as well as the contact zones where cultural goods are exchanged. Moreover, we encourage the use of mobility studies to reveal new aspects of the tension between individual agency and structural constraint, and, ultimately, to analyze sensations of rootedness and stasis in the experience of mobility.

Against this backdrop of the long, multifaceted debate about hemispheric approaches to U.S. history and American Studies, our conference in Munich will bring together American and European scholars from various disciplines involved in hemispheric American Studies and in different stages of their careers to assess the state of the art, to identify transdisciplinary commonalities and disciplinary differences, and to set a course for future scholarship.

With the conference uniting panels from the fields of history, political sciences, geography, cultural studies and literary criticism, this call for papers specifically invites contributions from historians for two of the six total sessions.

Possible topics for paper proposals include (but are not limited to)

  • The intellectual construction of the Americas
  • Experiences of colonialism and decolonization
  • Hemispheric social movements
  • The formation of social spaces in the hemisphere
  • Histories of racial oppression, liberation, and/or empowerment

The conference will be conducted in English, and the organizers will cover travel and accommodation expenses for invited participants.

Please send a short abstract of your proposed contribution (no more than 400 words) and a brief academic CV with institutional affiliation in one file to Volker Depkat ( and Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson ( by Feb. 15, 2016.

Applicants will be notified by March 7, 2016, whether their proposals have been accepted.


Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson
1607 New Hampshire Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009-2562

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, concentrated around the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with distinctive and independent focal points. Through its globally operating institutes, the Foundation is able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and the host countries or regions of its establishments. By promoting scientific dialogue and merging academic as well as non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the Internationalization of research in its three fields of dedication.

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