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Forthcoming events and conferences

The Eccles Centre for American Studies regularly organises and supports conferences, seminars, lectures and other events on North American and transatlantic themes, often in partnership with other institutions and organisations.


Afrika Bambaataa: 40 Years of Hip Hop

When Thursday 27 November 2014, 19:00-20:30
Where Conference Centre, British Library
Price £10/£8/£7 Book tickets via the BL Box Office

Afrika Bambaataa, often considered the ‘Godfather of Hip-Hop’ and the founder of the Universal Zulu Nation movement, was a block party DJ, promoter and community leader in 1970s South Bronx. Out these activities a conscious, highly creative Hip Hop culture was born and continues to inspire people worldwide. Bambaataa went on to create musical classics such as Planet Rock and recorded with everyone from James Brown to John Lydon. Always politically engaged, he co-staged a Wembley Stadium concert to mark Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, and is now a visiting scholar at Cornell University. In this conversation with broadcast music journalist Jacqueline Springer he explores the past, present and future of a street culture that became a global phenomenon.

London-based Jacqueline Springer is a print and broadcast journalist and university lecturer. She wrote for a number of specialist black music publications (Blues & SoulHip Hop Connection); broad-sheets (The GuardianThe ObserverThe Independent); lifestyle publications and international imprints Vibe (USA), Bounce (Japan) before joining the BBC. Jacqueline is currently an Adjunct Professor at Syracuse University's London Program and at Fordham University (London Liberal Arts Program). She is also a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster.

This event is presented in partnership with Universal Zulu Nation UK.


Symposium: 100 Years of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation

When Friday 28 November 2014, 12:30-17:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price Free (Reservation via Eventbrite)

Inspired by the centenary of one of the most controversial films ever made, this symposium will consider the issues raised by the film, such as popular culture, national mythologies, the American South, racism, transnationalism, memorialisation, art, politics and ethics.

The symposium will feature a keynote lecture by Michael Hammond (University of Southampton) as well as panel sessions showcasing current scholarship. The symposium programme is available here.

Light refreshments will be provided.

The symposium is organised in collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire, Edge Hill University and the University of Manchester.

* * * * *

The symposium marks the launch of a multi-disciplinary network which will be hosting a year-long programme of events from November 2014 to November 2015 exploring the centenary of The Birth of a Nation, in partnership with public institutions and educational projects, including the International Slavery Museum and the Race Relations Centre, Manchester.

For more information on the network and its programme of events, please contact Ian Scott (University of Manchester), ian.s.scott@manchester.ac.uk, and Jenny Barrett (Edge Hill University), barrettj@edgehill.ac.uk


The Search for Franklin's Lost Ships

When Monday 1 December 2014, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Book via the BL Box Office

This year the Canadian Government led the biggest search yet to find Sir John Franklinís lost ships. On 9 September Prime Minister Harper announced that one of the ships has been discovered.

On May 19, 1845 HMS Erebus and HMS Terror departed Greenhithe under Franklinís command to find and navigate the Northwest Passage. Except for a brief meeting with whalers and occasional encounters with the Inuit, the crews of the vessels would never be seen alive again.

Join us for a discussion on the fate of the expedition with marine archaeologist Ryan Harris. Ryan has been involved in six campaigns to find the ships and worked on the team that made the recent exciting discoveries.

In partnership with the Canadian High Commission.

This event is part of the events programme for the free Lines in the Ice exhibition.


Darker Hauntings: Imagery of the Southern Gothic

When Friday 16 January 2015, 18:45-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £5/£4/£3 Booking will be available via the BL Box Office shortly

Delve into the depths of the American gothic imagination as Susan Castillo Street explores what Southern Gothic reveals about America’s repressed past. Taking in Edgar Allan Poe, George Washington Cable, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner and Truman Capote, this wide ranging discussion will consider how the South’s complex relationships with race and sexuality are manifested through powerful recurring images such as the collapsing haunted mansion, the racialized doppelganger and the monstrous feminine. Push aside the hanging moss and join us, if you dare…

Susan Castillo Street, a native of Louisiana, is the Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor of American Studies at King’s College London. Professor Castillo Street is known for her interdisciplinary work on race, gender and ethnicity. Her research interests include the Southern Gothic, Native American and colonial writing. She is currently conducting research for her new book Darker Hauntings: Writing Race and Slavery in the Early Atlantic (Louisiana State University Press), and is co-editing an essay collection, A Handbook to the Southern Gothic (Palgrave Macmillan).

This event is part of the events programme for the Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibition.


The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

When Monday 26 January 2015, 18:45-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £5/£4/£3 Booking will be available via the BL Box Office shortly

Venture with Olivia Laing into the lonely city, exploring urban loneliness by way of the work and lives of some of America's greatest artists, among them Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz and Henry Darger. Olivia Laing's forthcoming third book is a cultural history of urban loneliness, and she'll be discussing the research process and some of the major themes, from Warhol's fear of speech to the devastating stigma of the Aids epidemic.

Olivia Laing is 2014 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence and author of To the River and The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking (Canongate). She's a regular contributor to the Guardian, New Statesman and the New York Times and is the former deputy literary editor of the Observer.


Workshop: Emerging UK Research on the Arctic

When Monday 16 March 2015, am
Where British Library Conference Centre

As part of the British Library exhibition ‘Lines in the Ice’, The Eccles Centre for American Studies is inviting UK postgraduate students to present their research as part of a morning workshop in the British Library Conference Centre.

Call for papers:

Students are invited to submit proposals for short papers (15 minutes) on their work that will become part of two sessions of presentation and discussion. Submissions should take the form of a title, short abstract and biography (c. 150 words in total), sent to Dr Philip Hatfield (Curator for Canadian and Caribbean Collections and lead curator for ‘Lines in the Ice’) at: philip.hatfield@bl.uk. The call for papers closes on 1st December 2014.

This workshop will be followed by an afternoon symposium on 'Alaska, the Arctic and the US Imagination', as well as an evening event in collaboration with the US Embassy (to mark the United States’ role as Chair of the Arctic Council in 2015). Attendees for these events will be encouraged to take part in the student workshop discussions and students from the morning session are similarly invited to stay for the afternoon and evening events.


Symposium: Alaska, the Arctic and the US Imagination

When Monday 16 March 2015, pm
Where British Library Conference Centre

To mark the British Library exhibition ‘Lines in the Ice’ and the United States’ 2015 role as Chair of the Arctic Council, the Eccles Centre for American Studies is organising a half day symposium on the US and the Arctic. Looking at the history of American interest in the Arctic, as well as its contemporary relationship with the area, the symposium asks what the roots of this enchantment are as well as how the Arctic influences the US view of itself and the rest of the world.

Call for Papers:

Proposals for papers are invited from across the humanities and sciences with a view to organising two panel sessions of three papers, rounded off by a keynote address. This will be provided by Dr Michael Robinson (Hillyer College, University of Hartford), author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture.

Submissions should take the form of a title, short abstract and biography (c. 150 words in total), sent to Dr Philip Hatfield (Curator for Canadian and Caribbean Collections and lead curator for ‘Lines in the Ice’) at: philip.hatfield@bl.uk. The call for papers closes on 1st December 2014.

At the beginning of the day the Eccles Centre will also invite UK post-graduate students working more broadly on research relating to the Arctic to provide short (15 minute) presentations on their work, or an aspect of it. The two sessions of presentations will be underpinned by an audience discussion and those presenting in the afternoon conference would be welcome to participate.

The conference will be followed by an evening event organised in collaboration with the United States Embassy. All conference attendees and speakers are invited to attend.


Panel Discussion: The Future of the Arctic

When Monday 16 March 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Booking will be available via the BL Box Office shortly

Marking the United States' 2015 role as Chair of the Arctic Council, this panel discussion will consider the future of one of the planet's last great frontiers. The panellists will explore the political and environmental challenges and emerging opportunities arising from significant increases in Arctic activity as sea ice diminishes and a new Arctic environment emerges.

In the context of shifting geopolitics, the discussion will consider how international cooperation can be sustained to maintain a peaceful Arctic region and how the Arctic powers can work together on issues such as search and rescue and pollution prevention and response, whilst at the same time benefiting from new economic opportunities in the region, including energy resources and shipping routes. The panellists will also explore how rapid climate change is affecting Arctic ecosystems and the needs of indigenous communities in the region.

This event is part of the events programme for the free Lines in the Ice exhibition.

Presented in collaboration with the United States Embassy, London.


Inside the Nixon White House

When Tuesday 17 March 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant
Price £8/£6/£5 Booking will be available via the BL Box Office shortly

Deputy Assistant to President Richard Nixon, Alexander Butterfield, shares his memories of Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

A trusted member of the Nixon's staff since the President's inauguration in 1969, in February 1971, Butterfield was instructed to oversee the installation of the now infamous White House taping system. In 1973 he revealed its existence to the Senate Select Committee and the Watergate investigation was transformed. Butterfield will discuss his experiences in the White House, his memories of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal in conversation with Professor Iwan Morgan (Commonwealth Fund Professor of American History, University College London).

Presented in collaboration with University College London Institute of the Americas.


Black Dandyism

When Tuesday 17 March 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant
Price £8/£6/£5 Booking will be available via the BL Box Office shortly

Twentieth century dandyism was deeply rooted in nineteenth century literary and performance cultures. Michèle Mendelssohn examines two of dandyism’s intertwined roots: the European dandy tradition (synonymous with Charles Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde) and the blackface minstrel show dandy. Her talk asks what this genealogy reveals about nineteenth century dandyism’s descendants, and the cultural burdens they bore? And asks what place do our cultural genealogies make for dandyism’s dark brother, minstrelsy?

This talk considers how early twentieth century African American writers renegotiated their relationship to dandyism and how one man in particular sought to make black dandyism new. In this talk, Dr Mendelssohn discusses W. E. B. Du Bois’s struggle with this theme in Dark Princess: A Romance – a fascinating, cosmopolitan novel that engages some of dandyism’s most problematic legacies. She explores how this most influential Renaissance Man of African American letters grappled with this fraught tradition and, in the process, attempted to redraft literary modernity’s lines of transmission.

Michèle Mendelssohn is Associate Professor in English and American Literature at Oxford University.

This talk is presented in collaboration with the ‘Aestheticism and Decadence in the Age of Modernism: 1895 to 1945’ conference at the Institute of English Studies, University of London.


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