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NEASA Conference

New England American Studies Association (NEASA)

Hoaxes, Humbugs, Pranks and Play: Functions and Expressions of Foolery in American Society and Culture

March 10-11, 2017

Boston University


The New England American Studies Association’s (NEASA) annual spring conference offers an opportune moment to pursue connotations of playfulness and trickery, and of enjoyment and leisure. The emergence of myriad manifestations and sites of playfulness across social sectors has profoundly impacted American society and culture. Childhood has become a playful time to be treasured; diversionary activities have come to dominate cultural products; even nostalgia has acquired a pronounced lucidity. Play is also big business: gaming, sports, and other recreation activities are their own sectors of the economy. We therefore invite contributions that interrogate, reflect on, and celebrate the changing functions and sites of playfulness and trickery in American society and culture.


To register for the conference, click here.


New England American Studies Association

2017 Spring Conference

Boston University

BU Photonics Center, 8 St. Mary’s Street

Friday, March 10th and Saturday, March 11th

Hoaxes, Humbugs, Pranks and Play:

Functions and Expressions of Foolery in

American Society and Culture

 Friday 1:30 - registration

Friday 2 p.m.

Re-thinking Narratives and Citizenship

  Facilitator/Discussant: tbd

Carmen McClish, Saint Anselm College

“Urban Tricksters, Rebel Clowns and the Unruly Mob”

Ryan Kluk, Hampden-Sydney College

“Conspiracy Theories: What Might Have Actually Happened”

 Darren Edward Lone Fight, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“‘I Am the Ironic Indigenous Immigrant!’ Sherman Alexie, Immigration, and the Politics of Playing with Tradition”


  Facilitator/Discussant: tbd

Andrew Hannon, University of Massachusetts Boston

“From Play Acting to Play Power”

 Nathan Hurwitz, Rider University

“The Play State and Its Application to Realistic Acting Styles”


Friday 3:30 p.m.


Play, Politics, and Performance

 Facilitator/Discussant: tbd 

Allison S. Curseen, Baruch College

“‘Infinite Pranks’: Play and the Resistance of the Dependent object in Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig

Bryd McDonald, Brown University

“Karaoke as White Public Space: On the Politics of Playing with Diversity”

J.M. Wasko, New-York Historical Society DiMenna Children’s History

“Playing with Firelocks: Detaining Danger When Reenacting Past Conflicts in a Museum Setting”


Play, Publics, and Performance

  Facilitator/Discussant: tbd

Julian Saporiti, Brown University

“The Bojangles Girl’s Club: Making Meaning/Fun/Resistance/Chaos in WWII Japanese-American Incarceration Camps”

John X. Christ

 “‘The Kindergarten of the Streets’: Play and Pedagogy in and around Tompkins Square, New York”

Sarah Whitt, UC Berkeley

“A Role to Play: Indigenous Representation and Resistance in the Era of Assimilation (1879-1943)”


Friday 5 p.m. 

Re-working cultures

 Facilitator/Discussant: tbd 

Casey Hayman, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“Playing with Trauma: Slavery, Social Death and the speculative in Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad

Ryan Bunch, Rutgers University-Camden

“Humbug!: Baum, Barnum, and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz”

Brian Michael Murphy

“Archeology of ‘The Joy’: Nostalgia and the Architecture of Hip Hop Sound’



Internet and Culture

 Facilitator/Discussant: tbd

Christal Chiu, New York University

“The Politics of Meme Culture: White Nationalists, Identity, and Humor”

Morten Hansen, Bowdoin College

“Teju Cole’s ‘A Piece of the Wall’ and the Global Americanism of the World Wide Web”

Holly E. Schreiber, University of Maine

“Rethinking the Humor of Anthropomorphism”


After the panels on Friday, please join us for a trip to a local game shop, where there will be the opportunity to play games!

Saturday 9:00 a.m. - Coffee and Registration

Saturday 9:30 a.m.

Sports and Play

 Facilitator/Discussant: tbd

John Ronan, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

“Game Play in Friday Night Lights and The Last Shot

Ronnie Feng, Boston University

“Is It the Shoes? Spike Lee’s Influence on American Sneaker Culture”

Jonathan Silverman, UMass Lowell

“A Hidden History of Horse Racing: The Remnants and Ruins in the New England Landscape”


Playing Games

 Facilitator/Discussant: tbd

Suzannah Showler, The Ohio State University

“‘Most Dramatic Ever’: Competing Destines of The Bachelor’s Marriage Game”

Ray Huling, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“The Pleasures of Losing, Alone and Together: Luck, Corruptions, and Horror in Two Board Games Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft”

Don Graham, University of Connecticut

“Ouija The Talking Board…of Trade?” Spiritualism and Speculative Games of Chance in the Turn-of-the Century US


Saturday 11 a.m.

Games of the Self and Empire: Gender and Play in Consumer Culture


Facilitator/Discussant: Mariah Grunder, Boston University

Emily Contois, Brown University, emily_contois@brown.edu

“It’s Like a Video Game:” Marketing Food, Cooking and Dieting to Men Through Discourses of Play

 Diana Garvin, Boston University, deg97@cornell.edu

“Imperial Cereal: How Box Top Board Games brought Empire to Breakfast”

 Rayshauna Gray, Harvard University and Tufts University

“It’s All in the Cards:” Life Lessons in Spades”


Images at Play

Peter McDonald, University of Chicago

“Wit, Trickiness, and the Impossible Reversal: Reading George Brecht’s Deck

Gretchen Sinnett, Salem State University

“Not at Play: Edward Lamson Henry’s Kept In

Wendy Korwin, College of William & Mary

“Insults and Hoopla: Disorderly Advertising at the Turn of the Twentieth Century”


12:30 - Lunch, Networking, Kelley Prize Announcement

1:30 - NEASA Council Meeting - all are welcome!

Link to 2013 conference information