ONLINE AND POSTPONED TO NOV 2020 American Contact: Intercultural Encounter and the History of the Book

Fri, Apr 24, 2020, 10:00 am to Sat, Apr 25, 2020, 5:30 pm
Humanities Council
Center for Collaborative History
Program in American Studies
Office of the Vice President for Campus Life
Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding
Department of English
Program in Latin American Studies
Princeton University Library
University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences
University of Pennsylvania Libraries
University of Pennsylvania University Research Foundation
Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography, Rare Book School, University of Virginia
Bibliographical Society for America

Yanktonai, Winter Count

Yanktonai, Winter Count, cotton cloth, ink, pigment, 40 3/4 × 35 1/4 inches (103.5 × 89.5 cm), 1911. Detroit Institute of Arts.

About the Conference

American Contact is a multi-disciplinary conference that invites scholars to discuss the use of material texts in cross-cultural encounters in the Americas. We seek to explore how texts — broadly defined to include not only books but textual artifacts and material culture including visual art, musical scores, and various kinds of handwork — have facilitated

  1. communication across cultural divides
  2. the creation and transmission of knowledge
  3. the performance of both colonization and resistance
  4. the creation of alphabetic and alternative literacies from the eras of contact, conquest, and colonization through the twentieth century in both North and South America.

American Contact proceeds from the fact that “text” was put under particular pressure in the Americas, where we find rich histories of negotiation between cultures defined by widely divergent linguistic and notational traditions. It is for this reason, we suggest, that the manifold ways that texts operate come into focus precisely at such moments of intercultural encounter. Although they have often remained marginal to studies of “the book,” historically centered on Europe, material texts from the Americas emerge as central to their material, geographic, and conceptual reorientation.

The conference is part of a broader multi-year Humanities Council Global Initiative that will result in three products: the conference, a published volume of short, single object-focused essays (to be submitted for consideration at the University of Pennsylvania Press’s Material Texts series in August 2021), and an accompanying digital humanities website focused on how to teach with those objects.

 Locations and Schedule

Thursday, April 23, 2020, the symposium convenes in Firestone Library. It reconvenes in Dickinson Hall, Room 211 at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 24 and at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 25.

A more detailed schedule will be posted on the conference website in the coming months.