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Call for Proposals - Translation and Transmission in the Early Americas


Washington DC and the University of Maryland, 19–22 May, 2016

In the opening lines of his Grámatica (1492), Antonio de Nebrija famously declared language to be “the companion of empire.” This pithy turn of phrase was said to encapsulate early modern views on language, but new work by literary scholars, historians, art historians, linguists, and anthropologists has refined our understanding of entangled translations of empires and civilizations between and among indigenous, African, and Europeans in the early Americas. Even in their coerced, imperialist deployment, New World translations required a reciprocal transmission of words, ways of knowing, and textual forms, including knotted, painted, and lettered accounts of spiritual, social, and scientific principles. Despite these advances, often scattered among different disciplines, there is still much that we do not understand.

Continuing in the tradition of the “First Early Ibero/Anglo Americanist Summit” (Tucson, AZ, 2002), “Beyond Colonial Studies” (Providence, RI, 2004), and “Early American Borderlands” (St. Augustine, FL, 2010), this event will bring together scholars of the early Americas working in various languages and disciplines in order to exchange questions, ideas, research and teaching methods as we promote comparative perspectives and cross-disciplinary dialogues.

Proposals for papers, roundtables, workshops, and traditional panels are invited from graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars submitted. Please include a short CV with your proposal, submitted before May 15, 2015, at Accepted panels will be posted on the conference website for submission of additional paper proposals in September.

Topics to consider might include:

translations of religious, doctrinal, or catechetical materials
scientific writing and new forms of knowledge
print histories and lettered forms of dissemination
non-alphabetic transmissions of knowledge
multilingual communities of the early Americas
the relationship of language, race, and ethnicity
theories or methodologies for historical translation
pedagogical practices

This conference will take place with the generous support of the Kislak Family Foundation and the Early Americas Working Group, as well as the University of Maryland, the Society of Early Americanists, and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. It is organized jointly by Ralph Bauer (University of Maryland), Allison Bigelow (University of Virginia), Alejandra Dubcovsky (Yale University), Patrick Erben (University of West Georgia), Carlos Jaurégui (University of Notre Dame) and Luis Fernando Restrepo (University of Arkansas).

For more information, please contact Ralph Bauer ( or Allison Bigelow (