CFP: Ethnography and American Culture in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 1870-1920 – Kent, May 2014

CFP: Ethnography and American Culture in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 1870-1920

Plenary Lectures by Professors Nancy Bentley (University of Pennsylvania) and Brad Evans (Rutgers, New Jersey)

The University of Kent, Canterbury
19th May 2014
Organiser: Dr. Michael J. Collins (University of Kent)
Sponsored by The School of English, Centre for American Studies, and Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

Recent scholarship on the relationship between social science and the creative arts in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era USA has sought to question more traditional understandings of the era as the moment when scientific inquiry and artistic expression finally “broke” from one other. The perception that ethnography became a scientific discipline whose reach extended solely to universities and specialist periodicals is belied by the period’s rich and vibrant use of ethnographic materials and concepts in a huge variety of different artistic and cultural settings, including literature and mass-market periodicals (Harper’s, Scribner’s, Century), early film and photographic exhibitions, illustration, design, and architecture.
In other words, renewed attention has begun to be paid not just to the work of Gilded Age and Progressive anthropologists within their own institutional and disciplinary contexts, but how that work was diffused and circulated in the period’s popular culture. These questions of diffusion invariably raise further questions relating to the dangers implicit in the cultural appropriation, aestheticisation or marketisation of ethnographic subjects.
This one-day symposium will attempt to unite literary studies and print culture with intellectual history, anthropology, the history of science and visual culture studies in order to explore how mainstream media related to emergent social-scientific disciplines in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era United States. As such, we welcome proposals for 20 minute papers on any topics related to the themes and concerns of the conference. Please send a CV, brief biography and an abstract of no more than 300 words to by February 28th 2014

The symposium will conclude with the first British screening of a new version of the American photographer Edward Curtis’s important, 1914, silent feature film, In the Land of the Head Hunters (the first major motion picture to star Native North Americans) at the Gulbenkian Cinema on The University of Kent campus. Based on recent archival research, in 2008 a collaborative team led by Aaron Glass (now at the Bard Graduate Center), Brad Evans (Rutgers), and Andrea Sanborn (of the U’mista Cultural Centre in BC) oversaw a new restoration of the film that returned the film’s original title, title cards, long-missing footage, color tinting, initial publicity graphics, and original musical score—now thought to be the earliest extant original feature-length film score in America.

Professor Brad Evans, who served on the team restoring the film, will be providing an introductory lecture. A Q&A will follow the screening.

Dr. Michael Collins
Lecturer in American Literature – The University of Kent (
Deputy Director of American Studies (Recruitment)
British Association for American Studies – Website and Communications (
Open Library of Humanities – Early Career and Advocacy Forum (