Call for Papers | American Art in the 1940s: Global Currents, Local Tides

American Art in the 1940s: Global Currents, Local Tides
A Study Day in Memory of Professor François Brunet
16 – 17 April 2019
Université Paris Diderot, Paris

Professor of American art and literature at the Université Paris Diderot and member of the Institut Universitaire de France, François Brunet (1960–2018) was a specialist in the history of photography. A prolific scholar, and dedicated teacher and mentor, Professor Brunet was instrumental in advancing the study of American art and visual culture in France through fostering networks of institutional collaboration and exchange. The Terra Foundation Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship is one among numerous programs that benefited from his time and energy. The conception of this study day is greatly indebted to his generous intellectual contributions.

In 1949, American philosophers John Dewey and Arthur F. Bentley published Knowing and the Known, which laid out the fundamentals of transactionalism—a method of inquiry that emphasizes the collective and transactional nature of knowledge. In this view, the “transactional” is understood as an epistemological shift from the “interactional,” in which persons, objects, or ideas are organized as operating one upon another. Transactionalism challenges the notion of fixed causality, instead emphasizing a systematic approach to inquiry that locates its subject on the ever-dynamic nexus of space and time.

This study day will take up the notion of the transactional both as a historically specific term, grounded in the particular cultural and intellectual context of the 1940s United States, and as a method of inquiry that focuses on reciprocal and mutually co-constitutive aspects of cultural production. The 1940s, which saw the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, has been the focus of numerous scholarly publications in the fields of U.S. history, political science, globalization studies, and literary and cultural studies. Yet the scholarship on American art and visual culture still tends to fraction the decade along the pre- and post-1945 divide. However, a number of recent publications, primarily focused on individual artists working at the time, challenge this situation and propose fresh perspectives on the period. This study day aims to contribute to the process of re-conceptualizing the 1940s by bringing together scholars and curators who offer alternative approaches to thinking about the decade. We welcome papers that challenge the notion of seemingly stable stylistic, chronological, and geographical divisions and instead explore the multidirectional and relational nature of cultural production during the time.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
–    the resonance of global events for artistic production in the United States;
–    chronologically persistent currents of cultural exchange;
–    nation- and continent-wide networks of collaboration;
–    co-constitutive lines of artistic influence;
–    networks of local artistic and craft traditions; and
–    histories of regional and community-based initiatives and projects.
We also welcome papers that consider the cultural significance of the 1940s—its concepts, institutions, and social imaginary—for the present-day United States. Our goal is to remain true to the transactional method, as articulated by Dewey and Bentley, by probing our own cultural moment and historicizing the logic of our own inquiry.

The study day will be held on Tuesday, April 16, at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art and Wednesday, April 17, at the Université Paris Diderot. A keynote address will be given by Cécile Whiting, Professor of Art History at the University of California, Irvine, serving as Visiting Professor at the Université Paris Diderot in spring 2019.

Papers may be in French or English. To submit a proposal, please email an abstract of 250 words and a two-page CV.

Deadline: 17 February 2019.
Notifications of acceptance will be given by February 28, 2019.

The event is organized by Tatsiana Zhurauliova, Terra Foundation Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the Université Paris Nanterre and Université Paris Diderot, in collaboration with these affiliated institutions.