Expanded Conference Schedule

The Transnational Turn in the Humanities

 Expanded Conference Schedule: Presenters, Titles, Abstracts, and Bibliographies

To prepare us for the conference all seven presenters at the conference have supplied an abstract of their talk and a short bibliography that lists–among other things–some of the scholarly influences that led to their own “turn” toward transnational research.

By providing this information to participants and attendees beforehand, the conference organizers hope attendees will appreciate the wide array of disciplinary approaches to the transnational and begin to acclimatize themselves to the wide array of languages in which the turn has been articulated.

One of our tasks at the conference will be to improve our skills at translating those languages and approaches in an effort to understand how crossing disciplinary borders might be able to help us more effectively cross other types of borders.

Friday, March 22

8:30-9 Continental Breakfast

9-9:15 Welcome

Erik Seeman, UB Humanities Institute

Keith Griffler, Chair Department of Transnational Studies, UB


Carl Nightingale, UB Transnational Studies


Richa Nagar

Professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota

Five Truths of Storytelling, Co-authorship and Alliance work.

Moderator: Marion Werner, UB Geography

Co-authoring stories is a chief tool by which those who work in alliances across borders mobilize experience to write against relations of power that produce social violence, and to imagine and enact their own visions and ethics of social change. Such work demands a serious engagement with the complexities of identity, representation, and political imagination as well as a rethinking of the assumptions and possibilities associated with engagement and expertise. This presentation draws upon partnerships with co-authors in India and the US to analyze how story telling across sociopolitical, geographical, national, and institutional borders can enhance critical engagement with questions of violence and struggles for social change, while also troubling dominant discourses and methodologies inside and outside of the academy.  In offering five “truths” about co-authoring stories through alliance work, it reflects on the labor process, assumptions, possibilities, and risks associated with co-authorship as a tool for mobilizing intellectual spaces in which stories from multiple locations in an alliance can speak with one another and evolve into more nuanced and effective critical interventions.  The presentation ends with a translated excerpt from a play I co-authored with members of Sangin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan, Aag Lagi Hai Jangal Ma (The forest is burning). Even as this scene articulates the profound ways in which rural lives and livelihoods are continually violated by structures of power and by own complicities with those structures, it calls for continuing to place our hopes in fighting, dreaming, writing and singing together.

Gordon, Avery F. 2008. Ghostly matters: Haunting and the sociological imagination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Sharpe, Jenny and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 2003, A conversation with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak:  Politics  and The Imagination, SIGNS, 28: 2: 609-624.

Sangtin Writers (and Richa Nagar). 2006. Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism Through Seven Lives in India. New Delhi: Zubaan (and Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Said, Edward Said. 2002. Opponents, audiences, constituencies and communities. In Reflections on exile and other essays, ed. Edward W. Said, 118-147. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Scheman, Naomi, 2011. Shifting Ground: Knowledge and Reality, Transgression and Trustworthiness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

10:30-10:45 Coffee break

10:45- 12

Aims McGuinness

Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Tramping Across History: Transnational History’s Temporality Problem

Moderator: Camilo Trumper, UB Transnational Studies

Many are the critiques that have been made of the ways in which national historical narratives erase, obscure, or distort transnational historical phenomena ranging from commodity chains and imperial projects to the history of human rights and even nationalism itself.  In recent years, historians in virtually every field have found themselves being exhorted to “look beyond the nation.” Yet, too often, these exhortations have focused exclusively on spatiality without considering how national historical narratives also guide and limit concepts of temporality.  This paper argues that the “trans” in transnational should be seen as a challenge not only to the spatial categories of national historiography (the nation, world region, etc.) but also its temporal categories, including the received temporal boundaries of epochs, eras, and events.

First, the paper considers efforts to create a transnational or global approach to the event that U.S. historians know as the California Gold Rush.  I argue that although U.S. scholars working in a transnational or global mode have successfully expanded their inquiries beyond the territory of what is now the continental United States, they have largely failed to question the temporal categories that they bring to their study of the past, which are no less imbued by nationalism than the spatial categories that they seek to critique. For U.S. historians, the incidents or occurrences that have come to define understanding of the California Gold Rush as an “event” occurred in 1848 and 1849. But as the paper explains, the California Gold Rush has also been claimed as a “national” event by historians of other nations, including Panama. And for Panamanian historians and in Panamanian popular culture, the occurrence that defines the Gold Rush (or “La California”) as an event took place not in 1848 or 1849 but in 1856. The paper then moves to a reflection on my own experiences as a U.S. historian who participated in a reenactment of this infamous (in Panama) event, the “Incidente de la Tajada de Sandía,” or “Incident of the Slice of Watermelon,” on its 150th anniversary in Panama City on April 15, 2006. More specifically, the paper discusses how remarks by historians and interjections from spectators reshaped my approach to the past. The paper concludes with a consideration of temporality in the work of the German novelist W. G. Sebald, particularly the novel Rings of Saturn, and speculates how Sebald’s insights into the temporality and walking or “tramping” might be useful for historians working in a transnational mode.

Castillero Calvo, Alfredo. “El oro de California en la vida panameña.” In Relaciones entre Panamá y los Estados Unidos, 117-128. Panama City: Biblioteca Nuevo Panamá and Ministerio de Educación, 1973.

Duara, Prasenjit. Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Figueroa Navarro, Alfredo. Dominio y sociedad en el Panamá colombiano. Panama City: Editorial Universitaria, 1982.

McGuinness, Aims. Path of Empire: Panama and the California Gold Rush.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008.

Owens, Kenneth. Riches for All: The California Gold Rush and the World. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

Roberts, Brian. American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Sebald, W. G. Rings of Saturn. New York: New Directions, 1999.

12- 1:00 Free Lunch (you must RSVP to huminst@buffalo.edu)


Daniel T. Rodgers

Henry Lea Professor of History, Princeton University

“Cultures in Motion”

Moderator: Gail Radford, UB History

Peoples have always been in motion, replanting cultural institutions or imposing them on others.  But cultural practices are in constant motion even among geographically stable peoples.  Focusing on the latter, this paper examines the ways in which the rediscovery of empire and the contemporary experience of globalization have shaped the current analytical vocabularies for dealing with the trespass of culture across space.  It concludes by suggesting several “rules” for thinking about cultures in motion.

In trying to reconstruct the influences on my mind in the 1980s and early 1990s, when my own first transnational project was taking shape, I think of particularly of the following, all examples of transnational history written before the label was invented:

David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823.  Ithaca, 1975.

J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition.  Princeton, 1975.

Thomas J. McCormick, “The State of American Diplomatic History.” In The State of American History, ed. Herbert J. Bass.  Chicago, 1970.

Robert Kelley, The Transatlantic Persuasion: The Liberal-Democratic Mind in the Age of Gladstone.  New York, 1969.

Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America.  New York, 1976.

John W. Cell, The Highest Stage of White Supremacy: The Origins of Segregation in South Africa and the American South. New York, 1982.


Audra Simpson

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University

Haudenosaunee Territory, the Racialized Life of Treaty and Settler Sovereignty

Moderator: Theresa McCarthy, UB Transnational Studies

Haudenosaunee – or “The Iroquois” – are an Indigenous Confederacy of Six Nations that interrupt the knowledge that attempts to contain them as well as the states that purport to lawfully own and administer their land.  In this, Haudenosaunee interrupt portraits of timeless, procedural tradition that have framed scholarly understandings of them, but also state and legal interpretations of their actions, which are also often based on anthropological and ethnological understandings of them – their culture, their politics their descent systems, their gender orders and their inherent and unceded sovereignty. Nowhere is this made clearer than in Iroquois interpretations of the Jay Treaty of 1794 and Iroquois movement across the US-Canada border–an international border that cuts through their historical and contemporary territory and is, simply, in their space and in their way. It is through their actions, and in particular, their mobility on their own terms, that Indigenous border crossers enact their understandings of history and law, understandings that are then received in particular ways – racializing, criminalizing, and delimiting. Nonetheless, Haudenosaunee push against all of this as they move across various borders: territorial, temporal and juridical, in their active relationships to land and to each other. This paper takes up the historical, legal, political and ethnographic life of Iroquois nationhood across borders. Their continued life and action calls into deep question the conceit of territorial certainty and settler sovereignty itself.

Red Man’s Appeal for Justice.  (Brantford: D. Wilson Moore Ltd., 1924)

Evans, Denise, Superimposed Nations: The Jay Treaty and Aboriginal Rights. Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies 4 (1995): 215-230.

Luna-Firebaugh, Eileen M.,”The Border Crossed Us: Border Crossing Issues of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas,” Wicazo Sa Review (Spring, 2002): 159-181.

Morgan, Lewis Henry, The League of the Iroquois. ([1851] Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1996 .

Nickels, Bryan, “Native American Free Passage Rights Under the 1794 Jay Treaty,” Boston College International and Comparative Law Review 24 (Spring, 2001): 313-339.

O’Brien, Sharon, “The Medicine Line: A Border Dividing Tribal Sovereignty, Economies and Families,” Fordham Law Review 53 (1984): 315-350.

Wolfe, Patrick, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native,” Journal of Genocide Research 8 (4) (2006): 387-409.

Wolfe, Patrick, “After the Frontier: Separation and Absorption in U.S. Indian Policy,” Settler

 Colonial Studies 1(1)( 2011): 13-51.

3:30-3:45 Coffee break


Rinaldo Walcott

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology and Equity Studies, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

After Settler Colonialism:

Diaspora, Transnationalism and the Decolonial Project

Moderator: Theresa Runstedtler, UB Transnational Studies

In this paper I seek to engage current debates concerning settler colonialism. In particular, I am interested in the ways in which those debates run the risk of reproducing forms of anti-blackness, which might preclude the possibility of what I will call a pure decolonial project. Indeed the paper I seek to engage contemporary debates on settler colonialism that appear to be premised on a notion that all post-Columbus “movements” constitute a form of “settlement” than can only be understood through a lens of occupying other peoples lands. By engaging the ways in which diaspora and transnationalism can conceptually mark movement as unsettled, I hope to provide a way to engage a pure decolonial project as a potential collective renewal of the human.

Sylvia Wynter (1995). “1492: A New World View”. Race, Discourse, and the Origin of the Americas. V. Hyatt and R. Nettleford (Ed.). Washington, D.C. :Smithsonian Institution Press.

—. “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument”. The New Centennial Review, 3 No.3 (Fall, 2003): 257-337.

Jacques Derrida (2000). Of Hospitality: Anne Dufourmantelle invites Jacques Derrida to respond. Trans. R. Bowlby, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Saturday, March 23

8:30-9 Continental Breakfast


Paul A. Kramer

Associate Professor of History, Vanderbilt University

Itinerant Histories:

Mobilities, Networks, and Transfers in the Making of Connected Pasts


Moderator: Jennifer Gaynor, UB History

This talk will explore recent and ongoing efforts to rescale historical thought and research, with special attention to the geopolitics of scholarship: the ways that concepts, frames and narratives directed at escaping the “tyranny of the nation-state” have often borne other, sometimes unrecognized global power relationships.  I will focus on three different themes, each of which has organized discrete but overlapping methodological innovations and debates, enlisting examples from recent scholarship: mobilities (the material transit, especially of people and commodities, across borders), networks (affiliations, solidarities and movements connecting political locations), and transfers (the effort to transpose forms, practices and institutions between settings).

Daniel T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998)

Daniel T. Rodgers,American Exceptionalism Revisited,Raritan 24, #2 (2004) 21-47.

Michael Geyer and Charles Bright, “World History in a Global Age,” American Historical Review, 100 (October 1995): 1015-1033.

James Clifford, “Traveling Cultures” in Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), 17-39.

Ann Laura Stoler and Frederick Cooper, “Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda,” in Cooper and Stoler, eds., Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World ( Berkeley, 1997), pp. 1-56.

10:15-10:30 Coffee break


Ato Quayson

Professor of English and Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University of Toronto

Postcolonialism and the Diasporic Imaginary

Moderator: Carrie Bramen, UB English

While the two fields of Postcolonial and Diaspora Studies overlap in interests and even methods, it is very rare that they are actually brought into serious conversation.  I shall be arguing, firstly, that this impasse is due to the fact that while Postcolonial Studies is dominated by the epochal relation of the nation-state (its colonial formation, its post-colonial anxieties, and the manner of its uneven insertion into transnational and global realities), Diaspora Studies has been concerned primarily with the experience of spatial discontinuities in various guises (multiple and simultaneous identification with the homeland and hostnation, the unheimlich of home, post-memories of exile, etc.). I shall then proceed to illustrate the differences between the two fields with reference to what I describe as the diasporic imaginary, elaborating its three essential components of place, nostalgia, and geneological accounting.

Hirsch, Mariane. 1997. “Past Lives: Post-Memories in Exile”. Poetics Today, 17(4): 659-

Holak, Susan and William Havlena. 1992. “Nostalgia: an Exploratory Study of Themes
and Emotions in the Nostalgic Experience.” In Advances in Consumer Research,
edited by John F. Sherry, Jr., and Brian Sternthal. (Provo, UT: Association for
Consumer Research).

Quayson, Ato. 2012a. “Introduction: Postcolonial Literature in a Changing Historical
Frame.” In The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, Vol. 1., edited by Ato
Quayson, 1-29. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press.

Quayson, Ato. 2012b. “Periods vrs Concepts: Space Making and the Question of
Postcolonial Literary History.” PMLA, 127(2): 349–356.

Wimmer, A., and N. Glick-Schiller. 2002. “Methodological Nationalism and Beyond:
Nation Building, Migration, and the Social Sciences.” Global Networks, 2: 301-334.

11:45-1 Lunch and Wrap-Up Session

Moderator: Carl Nightingale, UB Transnational Studies

For lunch you must RSVP to humist@buffalo.edu


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