2018 Presidential Theme: #States of Insecurity

Diana Taylor, the 2017–18 president of the MLA, has chosen #States of Insecurity as the presidential theme for the 2018 MLA Annual Convention in New York. Human beings have long lived, told stories, danced, cried, written, made art, learned, taught, debated, and theorized in moments of insecurity caused by events as varied as war, plague, famine, conquest, and enslavement. States of insecurity, in fact, have animated some of our most enduring cultural productions and informed our values. This theme invites reflection on how our intellectual, artistic, and pedagogical work helps us think through the crises of our time. What strategies do the humanities offer for navigating our current crises: political volatility, fluctuating financial markets, fear-mongering media, and increasingly hateful acts and rhetoric that contribute to a general sense of malaise? #States of Insecurity asks those in the academy to draw from their experiences to identify and denaturalize the elements that contribute to states of insecurity. How can faculty members, administrators, students, and staff members strengthen our institutions; reaffirm the value of open inquiry and dialogue; and secure academic access and freedom for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, and immigration status? We can begin by reexamining our own epistemologies, disciplines, technologies, and organizational and governing structures. What does the pursuit of knowledge mean when students are indebted and faculty members lack job security? How do we conduct research in a political and media climate in which facts don’t matter? The academy cannot be separate from the political, economic, and ideological turmoil of our time: #States of Insecurity calls on academia to uphold its role as a place of critical and historical reflection, inquiry, and intervention. To solicit contributions for a convention session that engages with this theme, you may post a call for papers on the MLA Web site until 28 February 2017. Session proposal forms for the 2018 convention will be available online by early March.