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
- communication across cultural divides
- the creation and transmission of knowledge
- the performance of both colonization and resistance
- 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
A more detailed schedule will be posted on the conference website in the coming months.