8th International Summer Academy

June 4-11, 2016 in Miami

"We have many Chairs of History but few historians of chairs," historian Marie Ellwood once quipped in order to call for a turn to material culture and its symbolic potential and a turn away from mostly text-based sources and scholarship. And many scholars have joined her in pointing out the role of material culture (and materiality) for an understanding of cultural meaning production.

Drawing on material objects as presence, evidence, but also as relics of a historical alterity and as fetish objects prompts particular theoretical and methodological considerations: how do we "read," interpret, and analyze material objects in the study of the cultures, literatures, and histories of the Americas? What constitutes "thingness" in the first place? How are materiality effects created in light or widely accepted mind/matter-dichotomies? What is the role of affects and affective economies for the existence of and the attention to things? And how does materiality connect to aesthetics?

These are some of the questions that our summer school addressed and discussed against the backdrop of a more general "turn" to material culture. 

We would like to thank Barrett Watten, corresponding member of the BAA, for his cooperation in the summer school program (2009-2016).

The summer academy was organized by and in cooperation with:

Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg
Florida International University


The program of the academy wasstructured into three parts:

  1. Keynote lectures by US- and European speakers – including, so far, Donald Pease (author of The New American Exceptionalism [2009, Minnesota UP], co-editor of Futures of American Studies [2002, Duke UP], and Re-Framing the Transnational Turn [2011, Dartmouth College P]), Kyla Wazana Tompkins (author of Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century [2012, New York UP]), April Merleaux (author of Sugar and Civilization: American Empire and the Cultural Politics of Sweetness [2015, U of North Carolina P]), Gesa Mackenthun (author of Fictions of the Black Atlantic [2004, Routledge]), Ashli White (author of Object Lessons of the Revolutionary Atlantic, forthcoming), and others,
  2. work-in-progress presentations by the doctoral participants,
  3. workshop sessions in which participants discuss key texts in the field.

The program also included a cultural program in and around Miami.

Following institutions supported the Summer Academy in Miami:

University of Miami: College of Arts and Sciences
Miami Beach Urban Studios
Wayne State University
The Wolfsonian — Florida International University
The Betsy Hotel