Unsettling Race and Region, Building Alter-Narratives of the Midwest
Session type: 

While ongoing battlegrounds of globalization, immigration, inclusion, and environmental conservation play out in full relief all over the nation, recent events prove that the Midwest once again is not so staid and predictable as its coastal and urban counterparts would like to believe. Although news media might couch such divides as partisan, social formations, particularly around race, are central to this regional schism. The Midwest as battleground however is not a recent phenomenon as Indigenous removal, white settlement, and Asian/American, Black, Latinx, and Middle East and North African resettlement over the last two centuries have shown. On one hand, the Midwest symbolizes the US nation’s core values and beliefs, such as hard work and self-reliance; and the region often stands in as an idealized America—read white, Christian, middle class, and straight. On the other hand, the region has faced and continues to face considerable demographic shifts that, while still remaining majority white, reveal the interior US is less racially homogeneous than most people presume; arguably, these population changes are intimately connected to the US settler colonial enterprise. What’s more, the region has never been solely politically conservative, contrary to the enduring discursive stereotypes that write off the Midwest as uninteresting from academics, media, and laypeople alike.

We seek to assemble a roundtable that fights the narrative of the Midwest as the province of normative whiteness and that builds alter-narratives that render the region as socially and culturally diverse. For example, how does a Midwestern perspective radically shift our understanding of nation, empire, and settler coloniality; and what does accounting for non-white folx’s presence in the middle of the country do to our understanding of racial, gendered, sexual, and classed formations? We aim to examine how this “heart”land exists as both center and margin as we unsettle the Midwest as “America.” By suggesting that the Midwest is both the middle and the edge, we aim to engage and amplify activists, scholars, and community members doing the work of queering the idea of “nation” as geographically stable and bounded. By convening a conversation that considers the Middle West as both geographically central and often academically peripheral, we can build a more robust understanding of American dualisms (e.g.,  rural/urban, conservative/progressive, flyover/coast, Trump’s America/the other America) and develop networks that connect folx invested in reimagining the place they ambivalently call home.

If you would like join the roundtable conversation, please send a 300-word abstract and a 150 word biography to Rebecca Kinney (rkinney@bgsu.edu) and Tom Sarmiento (tsarmiento@ksu.edu) by January 18, 2019.

Current contributors: 
Rebecca J. Kinney
Tom Sarmiento
Panel contact: