The Native American & Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) annual meeting needs early Americanists!

Dear Readers,

Historiann here.  Today’s post is from a comment from Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, who teaches in the Department of Transnational Studies at the University of Buffalo.  We clashed a bit around my post criticizing this year’s Omohundro Conference, as she thought that my post overlooked her panel (and it did), but in the end I believe we agreed that we’re both rowing in the same direction when it comes to diversifying early American studies.  

We emailed a bit over the following month, and she graciously agreed to permit me to publish a modified version of one of her comments on the Omohundro post to help advertise the 2015 Native American & Indigenous Studies Association conference.  Alyssa is concerned that very few early Americanists, so far, are involved in NAISA.  So if you are an early Americanist, or anyone working on Native American or Indigenous Studies, read on and consider putting together a proposal for the seventh Annual Meeting of NAISA, which will meet in Washington, D.C. on June 1-6, 2015.  Take it away, Alyssa!

It’s been a few weeks since I jumped into the fray here, and I wanted to follow up with some comments that developed out of a very productive email exchange with Historiann.

I want to make clear that I am invested in opening up lines of communication regarding scholarship among and between those working in Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) and those whose work focuses on the early Americanist period. From what I’ve seen over the past seven years since the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) was founded, there are very few early Americanists who regularly attend NAISA meetings. I’m interested in working to change that and toward that end I helped Coll Thrush organize two sessions around the theme of “Indigenizing Early Modern and Early American Studies” at the 2014 annual meeting of NAISA in Austin. The standing room-only crowds (over 100 people) that attended the linked panel and roundtable seemed to signal that there is a significant scholarly audience for this work and this discussion.

Building on the positive reception of the sessions at NAISA, as well as the successful panels that NAIS scholars based in New England organized for the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture meeting in Halifax, I am encouraging colleagues to continue the conversations in whatever ways they see fit at the 2015 meetings of both organizations. Personally, I am involved in organizing several research and methodology panels for both meetings.

If you haven’t been to NAISA yet, I hope you’ll consider attending the 2015 meeting in Washington, DC. Everyone who attends NAISA meetings leaves enthusiastic about the dynamic work undertaken by Native and non-Native scholars who are dedicated to realizing the organization’s vision that it is “the premiere international and interdisciplinary professional organization for scholars, graduate students, independent researchers, and community members interested in all aspects of Indigenous Studies.”

As is clear from this statement, NAISA is dedicated to supporting scholars and scholarship about Native American and Indigenous Studies. It is not now, nor has it ever been, focused on identity politics. Although I am deeply concerned about the very small number of Native American and Indigenous historians (less than ten) whose scholarship focuses on the early Americanist period, these sociological issues are not part of the mission of NAISA. I think this focus on scholarship (rather than demographics) is borne out in attendance patterns: the reason hundreds of people submit proposals for well over the 160 sessions that appear on the program, and 800 scholars spend scarce conference funds attending NAISA every year, is that participants are doing smart work, not that they’re Native.

If you want to learn more about NAISA, please visit the association’s website:  In case you haven’t seen it, the 2015 NAISA CFP can be found here.  And if you’re interested in seeing the program for the 2014 NAISA meeting in Austin, it can be found here.

I hope to see you in Chicago (at the 2015 Omohundro Institute-Society for Early Americanists joint conference, June 18-21), and also in Washington!

Thanks so much, Alyssa.  Clearly, there is a large and appreciative audience at NAISA for early American studies.  The Omohundro-SEA conference web site is now open for proposals, which are due by September 15.  The NAISA conference website will open September 1, with a deadline for proposals of November 3.  (Please note that this is an earlier deadline than NAISA has used in the past!)

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