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.

Make Your Executive Committee Suggestions Now

This year’s elections may be over, but there is still time for members to make suggestions for the executive committee elections to be held in 2017. Serving on an executive committee is an excellent way for members to become more involved in association activities, to create exciting programming for the annual convention, and to work on developing MLA Commons as a tool for scholarly and professional collaboration. When arranging their elections, the executive committees of the MLA’s forums depend on suggestions from members. To suggest yourself for executive committee service or to recommend a colleague, please fill out a brief online suggestion form by 19 December.

Suggesting Members for Committee Appointments

In February 2017 the Executive Council will make appointments to sixteen standing committees of the association. These committees and the outgoing committee members will be listed on the committee suggestion page through 9 February, the deadline for making a suggestion. To suggest yourself or another member of the association for a committee, respond to the three prompts on the suggestion page and then complete the short information form. Please note that suggestions for appointments are not carried forward from year to year; they are compiled anew for each appointment cycle.

Vote in 2016 MLA Elections by 10 December

The deadline for submitting the online ballot (member log-in required) covering this year’s elections for second vice president, the Executive Council, the Delegate Assembly, and the forum executive committees is now only ten days away. Voting will close on Saturday, 10 December, at 12:00 midnight (EST). All members in good standing as of 10 November are eligible to vote. Be sure to vote before time runs out.

MLA Issues Postelection Statement

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election in the United States, the MLA Executive Council has issued a statement reaffirming “in the strongest terms possible its commitment to free inquiry and academic freedom for all, unimpeded by acts of prejudice and hate.” Asserting the need to support those who are vulnerable, the statement recognizes the critical role of the humanities and humanistic knowledge, which “are now more essential than ever to help guide us in these difficult times.” The American Comparative Literature Association, the Modernist Studies Association, the Rhetoric Society of America, and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies have endorsed the MLA statement.

Vote in 2016 MLA Elections

If you are a current member, you can now vote for second vice president, Executive Council members, Delegate Assembly members, and members of the convention forum executive committees. You may vote online (member log-in required) until 12:00 midnight (EST) on Saturday, 10 December. If you wish to exit the ballot system before you finish voting, your votes will be saved until your next session. To request a paper ballot, please e-mail the coordinator of governance by 16 November.

Help Lead an MLA Forum

Have you ever wondered how you could become more involved in association activities? Would you like to expand your field’s boundaries by creating exciting programming for the annual convention? How about furthering the development of MLA Commons as a tool for scholarly and professional collaboration? Service on a forum executive committee allows members to pursue these opportunities. During the upcoming convention, each executive committee will nominate at least two members for the fall 2017 committee election; at least one of these names must be selected from a list of suggestions put forward by the membership. To suggest yourself for executive committee service or to recommend a colleague, please fill out a brief online suggestion form by 19 December.

Travel Grants for the 2017 MLA Convention

The MLA offers $400 grants to help cover expenses for travel to the MLA convention, which will be held in Philadelphia from 5 to 8 January 2017. Non-tenure-track and unemployed members, as well as members living abroad, may apply for financial assistance. Graduate students who join by 30 November as 2016 members are also eligible. For more information and to apply online, visit the MLA Web site. The deadline for applications is 1 December 2016. If you have questions, please contact Annie Reiser at awards@mla.org.

Travel grants are supported by contributions to the Professional Education Assistance Fund and the Good Neighbor Fund. Please consider making a donation to help those who need assistance; your contribution is tax-deductible.