Urban Studies

All Proposals & Abstracts Must Be Submitted Through The PCA Database.
Please submit a proposal to only one area at a time. Exceptions and rules


At the dawn of industrialization in the United States, one of its Framers took a jaundiced perspective on the growing power of urban centers. “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, “[in] whose breasts He has made his His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue” (Query XIX, Notes on the State of Virginia). He framed the city as fostering dependency, excessive pleasures, and, most worryingly, a certain European disposition toward tyranny. This conception seems one of the most powerful founding myths of American culture, as evinced by the way “small-town values” and “heartland” rhetoric serve as currency in contemporary politics, despite the fact that these terms are used to solicit the votes of a nation that has not had a majority rural population since the 1910 census.

But why are cities such undesirable locations in American life? In a nation that claims a sacral relationship to an exceptional past, cities are nonetheless quarantined as outside of national conventions, despite the fact that they create circuits of return to a shared history – whether in the unconscious, as in Freud’s account of “uncanny” meandering through the red light district despite his stated desire to avoid it, or in the constant, concrete visual reminders offered by the monuments, markers, and memorials that seem to proliferate in metropolitan space. These visible reminders provide powerful possibilities for analysis of the past, while global protests in the urban streets raise awareness of present and pressing social problems, and the constant specter of urban development and sprawl enable an imminent sense of futurity.

The Urban Studies Area of the PCA/ACA invites completed panels on any dimension of urban life and culture, as well as abstracts for 15 – 20 minute presentations on the real and imagined landscapes of cities, whether in myth or practice, theory or literature, populist politics or popular culture. Topics include, but are not limited to, the following themes in literary and popular representations of urban space:

  • exiles and expatriates
  • public spheres and public space
  • migrations (great and small)
  • urban planning
  • suburban/urban exchanges
  • queer metropolitans
  • blight and recovery
  • fantasy and futurist metropoles

Please submit either completed panel line-ups or 200 – 300 word abstracts to the PCA Database.

Please send all inquires to:

Jennie Lightweis-Goff
Tulane University
Department of English
Norman Mayer 122
New Orleans, LA 70118