Call for Panels: 2021 Society of Early Americanists' Biennial Conference

Patrick M. Erben Discussion



The SEA seeks submissions of complete panels for its twelfth biennial conference, which will take place March 3-7, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Emory Conference Center & Hotel and Emory University campus (panels/keynotes March 4-6; community service, workshops, and field trips March 3 and 7). For the first round of submissions, we invite proposals for complete panels, roundtables, and experimental/innovative formats. To submit your panel proposal, please go to the conference website ( and select “Program” from the menu. (Individual paper proposals will be invited between July 1 and August 31, 2020.)

Biennial conferences serve as the SEA’s big tent for members and the wider early Americanist community to gather, present their work, and meet new colleagues while cultivating long-standing relationships. The 2021 Biennial in Atlanta aims to foreground how we create and define our field and scholarly society. We especially envision this conference to serve as a larger and more open tent, providing a place for new members and participants; at the same time, we hope members who have always seen the SEA as their scholarly home will continue to do so. The 2021 seeks to launch new initiatives (such as a collaboration with Atlanta University Center’s HBCUs) and build on existing practices (including dedicated panel series in Native American and Indigenous Studies as well as African American Studies) in order to join a multiplicity of scholarly perspectives with a diverse and inclusive group of scholars and students.

Atlanta, given its reputation for continually reinventing itself, its Civil Rights heritage, but also its role in racist violence, segregation, and removal, is thus uniquely situated for discussing “The Many Pasts, Presents, and Futures of Early America.” As a 21st-century global hub, Atlanta helps us debate the futures of the field and opportunities for public engagement. In addition to the manifold topics and approaches that our participants will bring to the table, therefore, the 2021 Biennial in Atlanta seeks to connect the place and its history deliberately to our scholarly work and community. We will offer workshops in archives rich in African American literature and culture (Emory’s Rose Library) and early American religion (Pitts Theology Library); we will plan visits to landmark sights and museums focused on Indigenous culture and removal as well as slavery and Civil Rights. Our organization will collaborate with the many institutions of higher education in the metro Atlanta area—especially its outstanding HBCUs—to tie conference attendees to the vibrant intellectual culture and history the area has to offer.

Beyond the conference itself, Atlanta offers an array of cultural and entertainment opportunities: not far from our venue at Emory, attendees will find the museums, theaters, and concert halls of Midtown (e.g. the High Museum of Art, the Fox Theater and Alliance Theater, Atlanta Symphony Hall), Midtown’s LGBTQ hubs, the historic neighborhoods of Sweet Auburn, Edgewood, Cabbagetown, and Reynoldstown; and the foodie/music hotspots Little Five Points, Virginia-Highland, East Atlanta, and (a bit across town) the West End. Running and biking devotees will enjoy Emory’s Lullwater Park, Piedmont Park, and the new Atlanta Beltline. Most importantly, conference attendees are encouraged to explore the multi-layered history of the city by visiting sites and institutions such as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, The King Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta History Center, Historic Oakland Cemetery, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum, and many more.     

By May 15, 2020, we seek proposals for complete panels for 90-minute-long sessions, including traditional panels (with or without commentators), roundtables, colloquies, experiential learning workshops, and experimental formats. We invite proposals on all topics and in all disciplines concerned with the study and teaching of early America. Potential topics and approaches include, but are not limited to:

  • Innovations in teaching early American literature, history, and culture; undergraduate and graduate student research.
  • Reverberations of early America throughout history and the present; specifically, Atlanta as a window for connecting and discussing the Many Pasts, Presents, and Futures of Early America and Early American Studies.
  • Significance of early America and early Americanist topics for debating the futures of the field and the public.
  • Early America and the Global South; empire, colonialism, neocolonialism, and Post-Colonialism/Post-Colonial criticism.
  • Regional approaches to early American studies: early Georgia and the Southeast.
  • Native American and Indigenous Studies.
  • African American Studies, Africana Studies, and Diaspora Studies.
  • Hemispheric Studies, Latin American Studies, Latinx Studies, Chican@ Studies.
  • Multilingual, Translingual, and Transnational Studies; Border Studies.
  • Transatlantic, Transpacific, Maritime, and Oceanic Studies.
  • Early Caribbean Studies.
  • Religion, Theology, New Puritan Studies, Quaker Studies.
  • Art History; Material and Visual Culture.
  • Ecology, Ecocriticism, History of Science, Animal Studies, early American geographical imagination.
  • Health Humanities, Medical Humanities, and Disability Studies.
  • Queer Theory, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Bio- and Body Politics.  
  • Aesthetics, Poetics, and New Formalism; narrative theory and practice.
  • Genre studies (fiction, non-fiction, life-writing, poetry, theater).
  • History of the Book, Print Culture, and Periodical Studies.
  • Archival Research and Archival Studies.
  • Archeology and Architecture.
  • Oral Culture and Transmission.
  • Music and Sound Studies.
  • Digital Humanities; digital early American studies.
  • Early America in Popular Culture (film, TV, fiction, graphic novels, etc.).
  • Early America and the Public Sphere, politics, and political rhetoric.
  • Shape and direction of the field; the profession; the job market; early Americanists and the politics of Higher Education.