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British Association for American Studies


What can you expect from the 2016 joint BAAS and IAAS conference? Philip McGowan explains


What can you expect from the 2016 joint BAAS and IAAS conference? Philip McGowan explains

[vc_row][vc_column][dt_banner image_id=”8626″ bg_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.17)” min_height=”300″][/dt_banner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row margin_top=”15″][vc_column width=”1/2″][dt_quote]The 2016 joint BAAS and IAAS conference will interrogate precisely what we are doing as Americanists at this point in time, says IAAS Chair and conference organizer Philip McGowan, and what conferences like these are for.[/dt_quote][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]A generation has passed since the last joint annual conference of BAAS and its Irish counterpart the IAAS. In 1992 Stranmillis College played host to a joint conference of the two Associations; next year, between 7-9 April, Queen’s University Belfast has the honour of welcoming hundreds of Americanists to a city much changed since the pre-ceasefire days of the early 1990s.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row margin_top=”15″ margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column][vc_column_text]There’s a number of reasons why Belfast is an apt venue for 2016 and also why another joint conference is timely. For the last four years the two associations have been working very closely together, particularly on joint postgraduate initiatives and reciprocal funding support for research students to travel to the annual postgraduate conferences of each Association. 2016 will be another confirmation of the strong links that connect us as scholars on these islands.

As for 2016 itself, it marks a number of anniversaries, most notably the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. Meanwhile Americanists will mark the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and there is no better place in the UK or Ireland to be for that event than Belfast. The Belfast News Letter was the first English language newspaper in Europe to publish details of the Declaration of Independence in 1776; in 1796, George Washington established a US Consulate in Belfast, appointing Belfast-born James Holmes on 20 May (coincidentally, Holmes’ brother-in-law Henry Joy was owner of the News Letter) as the first US Consul to Belfast. Other notable anniversaries with an American slant occurring next year include the centenary of the first appearance of James Montgomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam recruitment image in July 1916, and also the bicentenary of Uncle Sam’s first appearance in literature in Frederick Augustus Fidfaddy’s The Adventures of Uncle Sam, in Search After His Lost Honor.

We are delighted to have lined up some excellent plenary speakers for next year’s event. John Howard (Professor of American Studies, King’s London), known to many in both Associations, will be the Eccles Centre plenary lecturer while the new editorial team of the Journal of American Studies (Celeste-Marie Bernier and Bevan Sewell) has secured Deborah Willis (Chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, NYU) as their keynote speaker. Traditionally at the annual IAAS conference the keynote delivers the Alan Graham Memorial lecture in honour of one of the most significant influences on American Studies in Ireland. Alan Graham was a founding member of the IAAS in 1970 and was a pre-eminent member of the School of History at Queen’s University Belfast from the 1960s until his untimely death in the mid-1980s. In 2016, the Alan Graham lecture will have a slightly different feel to it as acclaimed novelist Richard Ford will read and take part in a question and answer session at Titanic Belfast before the conference’s closing banquet.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”8611″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” img_link_large=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1440401441662{margin-right: 30px !important;margin-left: 30px !important;padding-right: 60px !important;padding-left: 60px !important;}”]

Keynote speakers for next year’s joint BAAS and IAAS conference include Professor John Howard, Professor Deborah Willis and acclaimed novelist Richard Ford.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row margin_top=”15″ margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column][vc_column_text]As researchers and teachers predominantly working in the Arts and Humanities, we do find ourselves having to argue the case for our very existence as the twenty-first century reaches the middle of its second decade. One thing the 2016 conference will be doing is to interrogate precisely what conferences like these are for and what we are doing as Americanists at this point in time. For this conference we are looking to move away where feasible from what can be a rather rigid paper-after-paper panel format that conferences typically follow. Sessions that wish to discuss the teaching of American subjects or that would like to trial pre-circulating papers so that the formal presentations are shorter thus allowing more time for discussion are encouraged. Proposals for 20-minute presentations have been coming in steadily over the summer to the conference email address ( If you are thinking of offering a talk, your proposal should be a maximum of 250 words and include a provisional title. Moreover, proposals by two or more people sharing a common theme are warmly invited and we welcome panels that cross disciplinary boundaries or which are keen to develop a workshop theme across more than one session. The closing date for proposals is 1 November 2015.

While academic endeavor will be central to the three days next April, we do also hope that you will have time to enjoy what Belfast has to offer. Whether it is the weekend St George’s market in the city centre, tours of this historic city, our vibrant nightlife and the many galleries and museums within walking distance of Queen’s, or the iconic Titanic building itself there’s going to be plenty for you to do while you’re here. We’re really looking forward to what you will see on twitter hashtagged as #IBAAS16 and we hope to see you here come April.

Philip McGowan is the current Chair of the Irish Association for American Studies and teaches American Literature at Queen’s University Belfast.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][ultimate_carousel slides_on_desk=”3″ slides_on_mob=”1″][dt_teaser image_id=”6171″ lightbox=”true”]The poster for the 2016 joint BAAS and IAAS conference.[/dt_teaser][dt_teaser image_id=”8641″ lightbox=”true”]The grounds of Queen’s University Belfast.[/dt_teaser][dt_teaser image_id=”8643″ lightbox=”true”]Attendees will dine in Titanic Belfast, a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage where the RMS Titanic was built.[/dt_teaser][/ultimate_carousel][/vc_column][/vc_row]