War / After War: Memory, Fear, Indifference: Oct. 4-5, 2018, CCA Seminar Room, Academic Building 6051, Rutgers University
Keynote address: Jed Esty, English, University of Pennsylvania
The military struggles that define the nineteenth century as a period—the revolutionary violence in America, France, and the Caribbean in the late 18th century and the first global conflagration in the early 20th— are at once political events establishing new social arrangements, and cultural ones provoking reflection, memory, and debate.
And yet, the place of military conflict in the cultural imagination varies strikingly depending on specific national traditions. European wars look different from the vantage point of the far reaches of Empire, as does the struggle over New World territory from the perspective of the enslaved or the newly emancipated. The nationalisms that emerged all over the world in the period bore a complex relationship to both colonial expansion and domestic revolt. As none of England’s many nineteenth-century wars took place on its soil, the involvement of the general population was intermittent and highly mediated. By contrast, a civil war that caused the death of more Americans than any foreign struggle explicitly structures the study of nineteenth-century American literature and culture, installing a sharp break in the middle of the century and recasting narratives of national and regional belonging on either side of this divide.
Population: Oct. 6-7, 2016, Murray Hall 302, Rutgers University
Keynote address: Frances Ferguson, English, University of Chicago
The nineteenth century turned the very old concept of “population” into a newly central actor in the realms of politics, arts, and science. This workshop aims to answer several pertinent questions: How did the concept vary in different national and professional contexts, and how did it interact with other rubrics of organization like race, nation, class, and gender? How did population cut across or reinforce the ideology and practice of slavery and empire? How adequately do our current theories account for nineteenth-century realities? And what legacies of nineteenth-century theories of populations are still with us today?
Family / Law: Oct. 1-2, 2015, Murray Hall 302, Rutgers University
Keynote address: Janet Halley, Royall Professor of Law, Harvard University
Recent work in legal history and criticism designates the nineteenth century as a pivotal moment in the consolidation of “family law” as a distinct juridical domain in the West. Ubiquitous as a legal category, family law was also highly particularized because it was assumed to be culturally and nationally distinct. It was cast as different from market law, which was assumed to operate everywhere in the same way. Family law thus presumed cultural/national/religious/racial difference as a contrast and complement to the universality of market logics and laws. And yet the historical and cultural processes that contributed to this bifurcated development—colonial expansion and national consolidation; migration and missionary work; the abolition of slavery and the alienation of labor; advances in transportation and communication technologies—brought family laws into regular conflict with each other and with the presumptive universality of the market. The foundations and meanings of “family” and “law” were hence as much sites of contestation as of political, economic, and cultural legitimation.
Circulation; Oct. 2-3, 2014, Murray Hall 302, Rutgers University
Keynote address: Lisa Gitelman, English and Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU
The nineteenth century was an age of mass circulation of newspapers and magazines; of forced migration and exodus; of developing expertise in networks of trade and colonial exploitation; of the emergence of standardized time for travel by steamship and by rail; of the transnational circulation of theatrical performances, medicine shows, and fraudulent currency; and of new understandings of the movement of languages, species, and cultures. The end of the slave trade and the abolition of slavery in many empires and nations, new forms of colonialism (of both the extractive and settler varieties) as well as massive labor migrations, all radically altered individuals’ sense of place and belonging, and what constituted the local and the global.
How was the movement of commodities, capital, and human bodies governed, promoted, and understood by different groups and organizations? How did nineteenth-century cultural works orient themselves to new conditions of circulation? In an age of increasingly coordinated circulation, where were the blockages? What stayed still?