Kent Americanists hold Indigenous Art Event

A Public one-day symposium on Native American art will take place in Bristol on 6 June from 09.30-17.30.

The event has been organised by academics running the Beyond the Spectacle project, led by the University of Kent, which is investigating the impact of Native North American visitors to Britain over the last 400 years.

The keynote speaker at the event will be Native American artist Marla Allison (Laguna Pueblo) and the symposium will end with the official opening of her exhibition Painter from the Desert at the Rainmaker Gallery in Bristol.

Other speakers at the symposium include George Alexander (Muscogee (Creek)), Max Carocci, Stephanie Pratt (Dakota and Anglo-American), Joanne Prince, Pat Pruitt (Laguna Pueblo and Chiricahua Apache), Robbie Richardson (Mi’kmaq), Sarah Sense (Chitimacha / Choctaw), and Coll Thrush.

Tickets for the event are £40 and include lunch and refreshments. It will take place at the Lecture Theatre 1, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Bristol University
43 Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1UU.

Tickets and more information are available at:

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New Publication: Will Norman on Hard-Boiled Literary History

The latest issue of American Literature (Volume 90, Issue 1, March 2018) features a new article by Dr Will Norman, Director of the Centre for American Studies and Reader in American Literature and Culture.

In this article, entitled ‘Hard-Boiled Literary History: Labor and Style in Fictions of the Culture Industry’, Norman argues for a new understanding of the term hard-boiled by tracing the relationship between literary style and historical shifts in intellectual labor in the mid-twentieth-century United States.

American Literature is published by Duke University Press, and the issue containing this article can be found here:

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William Rowlandson on Sartre in Cuba

Dr William Rowlandson, Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and member of the Centre for American Studies, has published a new book titled Sartre in Cuba-Cuba in Sartre (Palgrave, 2017).

In early 1960, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir accepted the invitation to visit Cuba and to report on the revolution. They arrived during the carnival in a land bursting with revolutionary activity. They visited Che Guevara, head of the National Bank. They toured the island with Fidel Castro. They met ministers, journalists, students, writers, artists, dockers and agricultural workers. Sartre spoke at the University of Havana. Sartre later published his Cuba reports in France-Soir.

This book explores Sartre’s engagement with the Cuban Revolution. Sartre endorsed the Cuban Revolution, but his accounts became denounced as ‘unabashed propaganda.’ The  book explores such accusations. Were Sartre’s Cuba texts propaganda? Were they blind praise? Was he naïve? Was Castro deceiving him? Had he deceived his readers? Was he obligated to Castro or to the Revolution?

He later buried the reports, and abandoned a separate Cuba book. His relationship with Castro later turned sour. What is the impact of Cuba on Sartre and of Sartre on Cuba?

Find out more information about this book.

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‘The Cartographic Imagination’: Conference Announcement

The Centre for American Studies is delighted to announce a new conference, The Cartographic Imagination: Art, Literature and Mapping in the United States, 1945-1980, to take place at the University of Kent’s Paris School of Arts and Culture, 18-19 May 2018. The conference is organized by Dr Will Norman, the Centre’s director, and Monica Manolescu of the University of Strasbourg, previously an honorary fellow at the Centre.

This two-day international conference is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, in conjunction with the Centre for American Studies at the University of Kent and the Département d’Etudes Anglophones at the University of Strasbourg. Please see the call for papers for a range of possible topics and details of how to submit a proposal.

The event investigates spatial representations and practices in postwar US literature and art, and their intersection with mapping. We are particularly interested in the ways in which American space is constructed, imagined, reconfigured, displaced, and questioned in writing and in artistic form. The conference will examine the specificity of the literary and artistic appropriation of cartographic tropes, as well as the possible points of convergence and divergence of literature and art in relation to mapping and the material culture of mapping.

Art and literature have rarely been treated together with cartography in the same equation. Literature and mapping, on the one hand, and art and mapping, on the other, have already been discussed in bilateral configurations, but this conference attempts to place them side by side, and ideally to inaugurate a dialogue between the two, with the aim to encourage the articulation and confrontation of literary, artistic, and cartographic thinking.

In the past decades there has been an ever-growing body of work on the intersections of literature, art, and geography (“the geohumanities” and “spatial turn”), and several exhibitions on “art and mapping”. The conference aims to draw on the conceptual foundations that have begun to coalesce around the figure of the map and to bring together these disciplinary strands. The conference would also like to offer an opportunity to reflect on the reasons for the explosion of the interest in maps and mapping in literary texts and artistic practice after World War II.





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The annual Bolt Lecture: 30 Nov 2017

The Bolt Lecture: Suffering, Struggle, Survival
The Activism, Artistry, and Authorship of Frederick Douglass and Family (1818-2018)

The Centre for American Studies is delighted to announce that Professor Celeste-Marie Bernier (Professor of Black Studies at the University of Edinburgh) will be giving this year’s Bolt Lecture on Thursday 30th November, at 6pm in Grimond Building, Lecture Theatre 1, The University of Kent, Canterbury Campus. All are welcome at the lecture and a reception to follow.

Abstract of the Lecture
While there have been many Frederick Douglasses – Douglass the abolitionist, Douglass the statesman, Douglass the auto-biographer, Douglass the orator, Douglass the reformer, Douglass the essayist, and Douglass the politician – as we commemorate his two-hundred anniversary, it is now time begin to trace the many lives of Douglass as a family man. In this talk I will trace the activism, artistry and authorship of Frederick Douglass not in isolation but alongside the sufferings and struggles for survival of his daughters and sons: Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Remond and Annie Douglass. As activists, educators, campaigners, civil rights protesters, newspaper editors, orators, essayists, and historians in their own right, Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Remond and Annie Douglass each played a vital role in the freedom struggles of their father.  They were no less afraid to sacrifice everything they had as they each fought for Black civic, cultural, political, and social liberties by every means necessary. No isolated endeavour undertaken by an exemplary icon, the fight for freedom was a family business to which all the Douglasses dedicated their lives as their rallying cry lives on to inspire today’s activism: “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”

About the Speaker
Professor of Black Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Celeste-Marie Bernier specialises in the literatures, histories, politics, visual cultures, and philosophies of women, men, and children living in the African Diaspora over the centuries.

For the bicentenary of Frederick Douglass’s birth in 2018, she is preparing a new scholarly edition of The Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave in addition to numerous other activities that will include an exhibition as well as international symposia and public workshops.

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Major grant award for Native North Americans in Britain project

Professor David Stirrup of the Centre for American Studies at Kent has begun a major three-year project to provide a comprehensive history of Native North Americans in Britain over the last 450 years.

The project, entitled Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presence in Britain, will look to document all forms of Native North American travel across the Atlantic, whether it resulted in return trips, onward movement into Europe, or even long-term residence in Britain.

Although focusing over a wide span of 450 years, the project will have a particular focus on the last 150 years to the present day, a period which has not previously been examined in any depth. It will also look beyond the traditional focus on metropolitan centres such as London and instead examine how Native visitors travelled throughout Britain and established mutual relationships, economic exchanges, and cultural connections across the whole country.

To do this the project researchers intend to draw upon a diverse range of source material, much of it never previously examined, such as archival holdings, museum collections and oral histories. They will also use a dynamic crowdsourcing campaign to uncover stories and material objects retained by private individuals or by descendant communities of those Native North Americans who travelled to Britain or who made their home there. Anyone who thinks they may have information of interest is asked to visit the project website at

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to a value of £1m and will also include the involvement of academics from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver (UBC).

Professor David Stirrup of the Centre for American Studies at Kent and Professor Jacqueline Fear-Segal in the School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA will lead the research while Professor Coll Thrush at UBC will act as International Co-Investigator.

As well as traditional scholarly analysis the researchers intend to present the material they uncover in a variety of exciting and thought-provoking ways. For example, four artist residencies will allow Native artists (working in visual, performative or musical media) to showcase representations of their own engagement with the material.

Furthermore, digital mapping will allow the project to produce truly ground-breaking interactive maps of the journeys made by Native travellers, which will create powerful visual representations of these transatlantic networks.

The findings of the project will also be disseminated as widely as possible including through public workshops, the creation of educational resources for school students, creative partnerships with local art groups across Britain, and open discourse with Native communities in the USA and Canada.

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Indigenous Studies guest lecture

We are delighted to welcome Professor Chris Anderson, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta who will give a guest lecture entitled: ‘Making Indigenous Studies Critical, at the heart of empire: intellectual, institutional and ethical considerations’ on Monday 16th October, at 6pm in Grimond Lecture Theatre 3.

Abstract of the lecture
“What would an ethical Indigenous studies unit look like in the absence of sustained connections to local Indigenous communities? In this talk, I will lay out the importance of Indigenous studies units to the discipline in two contexts – institutional and intellectual – with an eye for thinking through the complexities of engaging in Indigenous Studies in locales without an Indigenous presence. What responsibilities accrue, more specifically, from doing Indigenous studies at the heart of empire but at the periphery of the Indigenous world, and what can this teach us about how to practice good allyship in this ethical space?”

About the speaker
Chris Andersen is the former Director of the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research and is currently the Dean of the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. He is the author Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Indigenous Methodology (Left Coast Press, 2013 with Maggie Walter) and “Métis”: Race, Recognition and the Struggle for Indigenous Peoplehood (UBC Press, 2014). In 2015, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association awarded “Métis” the “2014 Prize for Best Subsequent Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies” and in 2016, it was shortlisted for the 2015 Canada Prize. He also co-edited the recently published Sources and Methods in Indigenous Studies (Taylor & Francis, 2017, with Jean O’Brien). Andersen was a founding member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Executive Council, is a member of Statistics Canada’s Advisory Committee on Social Conditions and is editor of the journal aboriginal policy studies.  He was recently named as a Member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

The talk is co-sponsored by the School of English, the Centre for American Studies and the Postcolonial Seminar Series. We hope you can make it.

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Americanist Symposium: 12 June 2017, University of Kent

The University of Kent is holding a day-long Americanist Symposium for all researchers interested in discussing effective methods and methodologies for approaching the histories and cultures of the United States. Taking place on Monday 12th June, 2017 in Darwin College, Lecture Theatre 3 the symposium has been co-organised by the University’s Centre for American Studies and the Schools of English and History.

The event will be organized around a series of research presentations and skill-share sessions that will promote dialogue between disciplines on effective research techniques. Presenters will be discussing, among other things, literary analysis, translation, interdisciplinary methodologies, visual analysis, Native American culture, and historical analysis.

  • Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
    Monica Manolescu, University of Strasbourg
    Emma Long, University of East Anglia

For further information about this event, please contact

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Dr John Wills publishes on Disney Culture

Senior Lecturer in American History, John Wills, has published a new book as part of the Rutgers University Press series, Quick Takes: Movies and Popular Culture.

Entitled Disney Culture, Dr Wills’ book explores how over the past century, Disney has grown from a small American animation studio into a multipronged global media giant. Today, the company’s annual revenue exceeds the GDP of over 100 countries, and its portfolio has grown to include Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ABC, and ESPN. With a company so diversified, is it still possible to identify a coherent Disney vision or message?

Disney Culture proposes that there is still a unifying Disney ethos, one that can be traced back to the corporate philosophy that Walt Disney himself developed back in the 1920s. Yet, as cultural historian John Wills demonstrates, Disney’s values have also adapted to changing social climates. At the same time, the world of Disney has profoundly shaped how Americans view the world.

Wills offers a nuanced take on the corporate ideologies running through animated and live-action Disney movies from Frozen to Fantasia, from Mary Poppins to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But Disney Culture encompasses much more than just movies as it explores the intersections between Disney’s business practices and its cultural mythmaking.  Welcome to “the Disney Way.”

About the author

John Wills is a senior lecturer in American history and the director of American Studies at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. He is the author of Conservation Fallout: Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon, California and U.S. Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday.

Reviews of ‘Disney Culture’
Wills makes a strong contribution to both the fields of media studies as well as Disney scholarship with this concise, well written and thoroughly engaging overview of how the cultural, artistic, and economic factors surrounding the Disney corporation intersect.”

Blair Davis, author of Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page
“Disney Culture is a notable addition to the growing critical work on Disney and its cultural significance. Wills skillfully dissects the Disney ethos and even challenges the multimedia giant to ‘mean something beyond merchandise’ in the twenty-first century.”

Janet Wasko, author of Understanding Disney: The Manufacture of Fantasy

For more information about Disney Culture, please see the publisher’s website :


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Research Seminar: The Dream for a new (Disney) World

The Centre for American Studies welcomes visiting academic, Konstantinos Karatzas (University of Zaragoza, Spain) to give a paper on Tuesday 4 April, 12-2pm in Cornwallis North-West, Seminar Room 9.

Entitled, ‘The Dream for a New (Disney) World; The idea, the plans and the creation of the Orlando, Florida Walt Disney Resort’ Konstantinos will focus on the first stages of the creation of Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The lecture will chronicle and describe the selection process of the site, purchases of land and the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District that encompasses the property. The lecture will analyse the tax assessor’s plats that used to identify and evaluate alternative World’s sites and also present feasibility studies, news releases and the early stages of the advertising campaign of the ‘New Disney World’.

Konstantinos D. Karatzas is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, specializing in African American history. His work focuses on the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma Race War, the Civil Rights Movement, the interpretation of violence and race in the United States along with the examination of collective memory. During the summer of 2017, Konstantinos was a visiting research scholar at the Universities of South Florida, Florida-Gainesville and Central Florida where he explored the modern history of Florida.

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