Seminar "Frontiers and Wasterlands. Redefining the Nation in Us Popular Culture"
The seminar will focus on how the American imagination has shaped—and, in turn, has been shaped by—its frontiers and borderlands, marked by an intrinsic peripheral quality, sociocultural porosity, and a diverse range of experiences and identities. As Lee Bebout (2016) has highlighted discussing the US–Mexico border, representations of frontiers, the “other side,” and the people inhabiting these regions have been historically deployed to construct a dominant national identity—often exploiting, invisiblizing, or neglecting local identities in the process.
The proximity of otherness—which dwells in the borderlands themselves—implies an implicit threat to the sovereignty and cultural integrity of the nation eliciting a variety of perceived dangers, as well as exoticism, fetishization, and stereotypes connected to the peripheral regions and their people. Borderlands are at the same time familiar and troubling places, characterized by neo/colonial legacies and where “the fluidity of national borders collapses the otherwise clear distinctions between native and foreigner, domestic and international” (Alemán 2006, 409). Furthermore, the geography of the frontier is rife with threats itself, perceived as either wasteland, impenetrable growth, or impassable orography, overwhelming and foreign.
The seminar invites reflections on the multimodal representations of the US borderlands and frontier experience in popular culture and discourses, focusing on the diversity of identities, liminality, and disenfranchised experiences of Americanness, as well as the construction of borders as means to define the US national imaginary.
Possible themes could be related to:
• Representations of the borderlands, borders, and borderland communities in US cinema, TV series, and graphic narratives
• Borderland literature and artistic expressions, especially related to immigration, border-crossing, and the life in border communities
• The myth of the frontier: western narratives and Old West imaginaries
• The Mexican American borderland experience
• Representations and narratives about the militarized border fence
• Frontiers and the wilderness: representations of borderland landscapes and the desert
To participate with your presentation (which should last about 12–15min), please apply sending a tentative title and abstract (ca. 150 words long) to email@example.com by February 24. Proposals will be accepted / rejected shortly after submission, to allow you to organize your travel in the best way possible.
To participate as attendee, please register by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 19.
Date: March, 28th 2023
Place: Center for American Studies, University of Southern Denmark (SDU)