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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Northumbria Hosts International Conference for British Association of American Studies

American studies at Northumbria University attracted an international array of delegates for the 60th Anniversary conference of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS) between April 9-12. Current BAAS chair, Sue Currell of the University of Sussex, was delighted with the conference which attracted over 250 people: “It seemed very fitting to look back on 60 years of the British Association for American Studies while being hosted by one of the newest and most ambitious American Studies programmes in the country. As we approach another US election, I think the success of the conference speaks volumes about the vitality and significance of research and teaching on American topics around the UK.” 

The opening plenary was well-attended lecture given by Guardian journalist Gary Younge that featured in the newspaper the following day. The full transcript will be published in a forthcoming collection of essays on voting rights in the United States to be edited by Dr Henry Knight Lozano and Dr Joe Street both of Northumbria University. Current political events in the US were also central to another plenary lecture delivered by Professor Dana Nelson from Vanderbilt University, who spoke about the politics of Presidential power. Professor Nelson updated the audience on the findings of her 2008 book Bad for Democracy, to include observations on the current Obama administration. American literature Professor and Guardian columnist, Sarah Churchwell, also gave a lively guided tour of the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald as it appeared in The Great Gatsby. Speakers were sponsored and supported by the Journal of American Studies and the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. The audience and participants included members of the public as well as representatives from the cultural affairs office of the US Embassy, who generously supported postgraduate student attendance at the conference.

Alongside numerous academic panels in a wide variety of subjects of significance to American studies scholars, there were publishing workshops and representation from over 20 international publishers. Delegates also took the opportunity to visit the University’s library holdings in American materials, including the papers of the Black Panther Party and the Records of Students for a Democratic Society.  Local hotels and the local economy also benefited from such a large influx of extra guests as delegates took advantage of visiting the city, many for the first time. Sue Currell noted that “The annual conference is central to sustaining the network of scholars who are researching the history, culture and politics of America in the UK. BAAS is very grateful to the hosts at Northumbria University for creating such a welcoming and successful event to celebrate our Anniversary: there is no doubt in my mind that everyone who attended is now looking forward to the nearest opportunity to come back.”

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