Trust Issues: Community, Contingency, and Security in North America

Surveillance_cameras

My friend and colleague Felix Brinker, now at the Freie Universität Berlin, is co-organizing a conference on the notion of “trust” — including all the technologies and media of surveillance and control upon which trust is built and broken — in contemporary America. I am pleased to post the call for papers for this exciting event:

“Trust Issues: Community, Contingency, and Security in North America”

GSNAS Graduate Conference 2014

May 9-10, John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

From the misprision of financial institutions to the NSA scandal, recent years have seen several revelations calling the architecture of American society into question. The United States has been rocked by crises of faith that have cast new doubt on the American Dream. Historical breaches of trust are also at the fore. The fortieth anniversary of Watergate is a further reminder that issues of trust constitute a central concern in North American studies.

This conference engages with the significance of trust for social cohesion and the consequences of its withdrawal from social, political, and financial institutions. We also welcome papers exploring how these processes are represented in literature, film, and other media. Where can we place our trust, culturally and socially, given a multitude of informational sources and authorities? How can America’s damaged politico-cultural institutions be stabilized, transformed, or replaced?

Papers are invited on a range of topics from various disciplines. Possible subjects include, but are not limited to:

  • How has America created, maintained, and interrogated its ‘grand narratives’ throughout history? What role does popular culture assume in debates regarding surveillance and control, conspiracy theories, and leadership? 
  • How can the conflicting priorities of an individual’s right to freedom and the communal desire for security be accommodated? In what way do business interests interact with political responsibilities? Can corporations rebuild trust at a local and transnational level? 
  • In what ways do the histories of race, sectarianism, and sexuality in North America intersect with those of community and security? How does the figure of the Other stabilize or destabilize a sense of trust?
  • In what way does minority/divided government influence political accountability and legitimacy? Do the political systems of the U.S. and Canada inspire trust in adequate representation?
  • What does the erosion of trust between narrators and readers signify for modern and postmodernist texts and aesthetics? How are alternative realities, paranoia, and the fear of technology depicted in fiction?
Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words and a short CV to gsnas.conference2014@gsnas.fu-berlin.de. The proposal deadline is February 9, 2014. For updates, please refer to http://www.gsnas.fu-berlin.de/en/conference/2014/index.html.
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Conspiracies and Surveillance — In Media Res Theme Week

Caméra de vidéo-surveillance avec sa torche infra-rouge

Over at the media commons site in media res, what promises to be a great theme week on “Conspiracies and Surveillance” has just gotten underway. All of the contributions sound exciting, and among them is one by our very own Felix Brinker, who’s up tomorrow (Tuesday, April 9) with a piece on the “logics of conspiracy” in American TV series. (And in case you missed it, make sure you check out the longer text on the topic that Felix allowed me to post here recently.)

Here’s the full lineup for the in media res theme week:

Monday, April 8, 2013 – Jason Derby (Georgia State University) presents: Scandalous Conspiracies: Making Sense of Popular Scandal Through Conspiracy

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 – Felix Brinker (Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany) presents: Contemporary American Prime-Time Television Serials and the Logics of Conspiracy

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 – Meagan Winkelman (University of Oregon) presents: Sexuality and Agency in Pop Star Conspiracy Theories

Thursday, April 11, 2013 – Perin Gurel (University of Notre Dame) presents: Transnational Conspiracy Theories and Vernacular Visual Cultures: Political Islam in Turkey and America

Friday, April 12, 2013 – Jack Bratich (Rutgers University) presents: Millions of Americans Believe Conspiracy Theories Exist

Each day’s contribution, consisting of a video clip of up to three minutes accompanied by a short essay of 300-350 words, is designed to serve as a conversation starter aimed at involving a broad audience in discussion of key topics relating to the topic of “Conspiracies and Surveillance.”

Please check out all the contributions as they go live here, and consider joining the discussion (to participate, you will need to register at in media res).