Atlantic World Literacies: Before and After Contact

Atlantic World Literacies: Before and After Contact will be a an international, interdisciplinary conference sponsored by the Atlantic World Research Network, October 7-9, 2010 at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Elliott University Center. Featured Speakers will include
Laurent DuBois (Professor of French and History, Duke University), Susan Manning (Professor of English, University of Edinburgh), Peter Mark (Professor of Art History and African-American Studies, Wesleyan University), and Julio Ortega (Professor of Hispanic Studies, Brown University).
When Christopher Columbus departed from Palos in 1492 and set sail into the Ocean Sea, probably the most powerful substance that he carried—besides gunpowder and European bacteria—was ink. In sailing west to the East, Columbus was following what was written—in royal contracts and decrees, in codes of law, in the Bible. Yet he was going beyond what was written—off the map, outside the limits of Ptolemaic geography, over the uncharted sea. In the centuries before and after transatlantic contact, how
did literacy spread and change? How did overseas travel help to transform the rare and elite skill of the scribe into a common condition of citizenship, and a marker of social, economic, and political advantage? How did Europeans, Africans, and Americans read each others’ cultures, societies, and religions? How did they compose new cultural and economic forms within the emerging crucible of circumatlantic power relations?

This conference will explore how different kinds of literacy, broadly defined, developed all around the Atlantic Rim before the Columbian era- consider the roles of writing, communication, and sign systems in the era of discovery, colonization, and conquest- and examine how transatlantic encounters and collisions birthed new literacies and literatures, and transformed existing ones. We will consider aural and visual communication, along with varied metaphorical, cultural, and technological “literacies.” How have oral traditions and “orature” interacted with written history and literature? How did unlettered peoples invent, adopt, expand, and sometimes
resist or refuse literacy? How has literacy created and defined something called “illiteracy,” and even stirred critiques of “graphocentrism”? And how are new worlds—continents, races, classes, cultures, deities, sexes, sciences, technologies, even individual bodies—inscribed and read, seen and spoken?

Proposals are invited for papers and full panels in a variety of disciplines, including (but not necessarily limited to): history, classical and modern languages and literatures, anthropology, ethnography, art, religion, rhetoric, communications, musicology, broadcast and cinema, and media studies. Interdisciplinary panel proposals and papers with interdisciplinary focus or potential are particularly welcome.

Proposals must be submitted via e-mail. For 15-20-minute papers, send a 250-word titled abstract- for a complete 3-4-person panel, send an overall title and individual 250-word titled abstracts for each paper. Please indicate AWL 2010 in your subject line and include a 1-page CV giving an e-mail and a regular mail address at which you can be reached- and indicate any expected audio-visual needs (including special software needs).

Send submissions for AWL 2010 to: [email protected]
Due date for submissions: March 22, 2010


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