I am writing as both the current president of the American Studies Association (ASA) and as one of the co-chairs for its 2021 conference with an update about our upcoming convening. I want to thank you for your patience during our planning process, especially at a time marked by omnipresent anxiety and uncertainty. The pandemic has undeniably had a profound impact on our daily lives and professional work. And, as I hope this email clarifies, these circumstances have also affected our conference planning and scheduling.
After considerable deliberation, and following extensive consultation, we have elected to proceed with a hybrid/blended conference program. We will have an in-person convening in San Juan, Puerto Rico; that will take place on October 7-10, 2021. We will also have a 100% virtual conference the following week October 11-14, 2021. To ensure consistency and accessibility, the book exhibit will take place virtually.
This program format is on the one hand consistent with the original call for the 2021 conference; it also reflects the results of a survey we conducted in May 2021, wherein we attempted to gather data to inform whether or not we would have an in-person or virtual conference. The majority of respondents opted for an in-person convening. Even so, many also indicated a preference for a virtual conference. We have since asked chairs to determine to which sessions would take place in-person and which would take place virtually. Many of you responded to this most recent request for information, and you did this without the benefit of knowing our precise plans for the annual meeting. I regret that our protracted process has produced understandable confusion, frustration, and stress.
ASA 2021 ANNUAL MEETING (OVERVIEW AND UPDATE)
The site for each conference is chosen five years prior; this extended timeline allows the association to negotiate with site venues, curate a robust program, and work closely with local activists, community members, artists, and scholars. As 2020 made clear, circumstances can shift dramatically, and these circumstances are not just linked to the circumstances of a global pandemic. When the organization made the decision to hold its annual convening in Puerto Rico, those in ASA leadership positions were responding directly to calls from local activists and on-the-ground community members whose livelihoods were distressingly changed due to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria and the inexcusable disregard that was part and parcel of the Trump administration.
Despite such “good faith,” we understand that San Juan is not an ideal site insofar as we – like you – are concerned with making sure we have a convening that reflects the ASA’s membership and concomitant ethical stances. Admittedly, what was once an established programming process has been upended due to the pandemic. In addition to ongoing uncertainties involving whether we could move forward with any in-person event, we had never planned to host a virtual conference. We were also not able to work with those on the ground whose knowledge forms the foundation of what we do within and outside the conference. We therefore do not have a site committee for the 2021 conference.
ASA IN-PERSON CONFERENCE
- You can make reservations and find more information about our headquarters hotels by accessing this site.
- Due to infrastructure, staffing limitations, and cost, we are not able to facilitate blended sessions that involve both in-person and virtual participants. We understand that someone in your session may not be able to be there in-person. If that is the case, we ask that the paper/presentation is recorded in advance of the October 7-10 conference. This recording may then be projected during the session. We simply do not have the technical capacity to curate simultaneous live-stream sessions, which is why we suggest the prerecorded format.
- The book exhibit will be held virtually.
ASA VIRTUAL CONFERENCE
- As mentioned previously, we will have a 100% virtual conference the week after the in-person convening. This allows for greater access to the conference.
- We understand that plans may change due to a variety of factors. However, we do need to know whether you plan to attend in-person or virtually by August 15, 2021. We want to make sure that the virtual convening replicates the experiences of an in-person conference.
- We will be developing and posting an FAQ (“Frequently Asked Questions”) about the virtual and in-person convenings. This will be updated on a regular basis.
Despite these programming challenges, and in the face of seemingly unending struggle on personal, local, and national fronts, what has provided considerable strength is the work you do within and outside the ASA. I, along with program co-chairs Erica Edwards and Antonio Tiongson, appreciate that labor along with your continued patience.
With much respect, appreciation, and admiration,
Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, ASA President (2021-2022)
Community announcements and events are services that are offered by the ASA to support the organizing efforts of critical constituency groups. They do not reflect the decisions or actions of the association’s governance bodies, the National Council or Executive Committee. Questions should be directed to the committee, caucus, or chapter that has authored and posted this notice.