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Conference to consider Midwest’s role in major U.S. issues

Monday, February 22, 2016

LAWRENCE – Leading scholars from across the Midwest will convene at the University of Kansas next month to deliberate the issues that are grabbing headlines and affecting the lives of Americans and Midwesterners in the 21st century. 

The theme Battleground Midwest will be the focus of sessions at the Mid-America American Studies Conference. KU’s Department of American Studies is hosting the conference March 4-5.

Since the last gathering of the Mid-America American Studies Association, the region has drawn international attention and mass organization around Ferguson, Missouri, police brutality, and varied forms of structured violence; unequal taxation and declining school districts; a rise in poverty among all populations; union busting and assaults on public education; immigration and human trafficking; religious freedom; academic intellectual censorship; women’s and LGBTQ rights and protections; and growing hunger.

“Too often, the Midwest is dismissed as ‘flyover country.’ As recent events continue to demonstrate, though, this region plays a decisive role in setting the political, social and cultural pace for America, whether for better or worse,” said Jennifer Hamer, chair and professor of American studies.

The American studies department at KU is home to two of the most prominent researchers in the discipline. David Roediger, president of the national American Studies Association, started this academic year as a Foundation Distinguished Professor. Robert Warrior, president-elect of the American Studies Association, will join KU faculty next year as the Hall Distinguished Professor in American Literature and Culture with joint appointments in English and American studies.

Both Roediger and Warrior are featured speakers at the conference.

Roediger’s scholarship and teaching, which focus on race, ethnicity, labor and the 19th and 20th centuries, have made him a well-known figure in the humanities and social sciences. In particular, his groundbreaking work on the study of race has been widely credited with transforming the field of study. His book “The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class” was awarded the 1992 Merle Curti Prize for the Best Social History Book from the Organization of American Historians.

Warrior, currently at the University of Illinois, specializes in American Indian studies, English and history. An enrolled member of the Osage Nation, he’s the author or co-author of several books acclaimed as influential works from organizations including the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Native American Literature Symposium. Selected works include “The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction, American Indian Literary Nationalism,” “Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee" and “Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions.”

More information on the conference, including registration details, is available on the KU American studies website.

The Department of American Studies is part of KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The College is KU’s broadest, most diverse academic unit. The College is home to the arts, humanities, international and interdisciplinary studies, natural sciences and mathematics, and social and behavioral sciences at KU.