Traces of Early America



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Christopher Jones

From our friends at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies comes what appears to be a fascinating interdisciplinary graduate student conference at the end of September. From the conference website:
Scholars encounter early America through its traces, the vestiges and fragments left behind. And in reconstructing the fleeting and ephemeral, scholars also attempt to trace early American encounters. This conference will bring together graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines to explore the various meanings of traces—as material objects, cultural representations, and academic practices. Presentations and discussions will explore how people deliberately and unwittingly left traces as they moved through space and time; what traces or remnants of the past get privileged while others are marginalized or occluded; how written, visual, and other texts are both material objects and traces of lives and experiences; and where we look for the traces of different communities and conflicts in early America. More generally, this conference seeks to address tracing as a method of historical inquiry, one that both uncovers and constitutes objects and archives, as well as the methodological traces that have reconfigured early American studies, such as Atlantic history, diaspora studies, hemispheric studies, and circum-Caribbean and Latin American studies.
I've been informed by conference organizers that although religion is not an obvious theme in many of the papers (the notable exception being Joseph Beatty's "'We seek goodness and assistance from Allah': Tracing a Muslim Path in Early America"), it factors into several of them. Two other announcements from the organizers.

1. They are actively working with Penn's IT folks to stream the entire conference live. At this point, it is a "good possibility" that it will happen.

2. Assuming that happens, they hope to invite online viewers/participants to participate in the Q&A by submitting questions via Twitter. Check back at the conference website in coming weeks for more information.

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