Call for Papers

“Borders and Contact Zones in the Americas”

13th Conference on the Americas


March 20-21, 2015

Grand Valley State University

The Eberhard Center, Grand Rapids, MI

Extended Deadline for Submissions: Saturday, January 10, 2015


We deal with borders on a daily basis, consciously or not.  Some may be geopolitical ones, like that 1,933 mile one between the US and Mexico.  Others may be legal or normative, social or cultural, and economic or environmental.  But contact zones—spaces of interaction—may blur or reconfigure these borders.  Contact zones are places where the powerful and the seemingly powerless encounter one another with a mix of resistance and accommodation, and in the process they alter one another.  These zones are where defenders of the status quo wrangle with advocates of novel ideas and practices, changing the differences between the two.  They are habitats and terrains that produce and interact with new species or environmental factors.


We invite you to participate in an interdisciplinary conference that explores borders and what people of different disciplines and occupations might call synthesis, syncretism, hybridity, transculturation, multiculturalism, or community partnering.  We anticipate presentations that will help us better understand these borders and contact zones, whether they exist at a regional, national, sub-national, or community level.  And we welcome participants from the humanities, history and the social sciences, the physical sciences, and community organizations.  While the conference focuses on the Western Hemisphere, we are open to panel or workshop proposals that address this theme in a way that compares the Americas with other regions in the world.


Keynote Speakers

Dr. Juan Manuel Sandoval Palacios is a professor of social anthropology in the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico, and teaches in the areas of social anthropology, geography, international relations and political science.  His research and writing focus on the history of the formation and transformation of the Mexican-US border, including migration, economic relations, and security issues.  Among other work, he is the co-author of The Integration of Latin American Borders and Migration.


Dr. Ana Patricia Rodríguez is a professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and U.S. Latina/o Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.  Her teaching area covers Latin American, Central American, and U.S. Latina/o literatures and cultures.  Her research interests include Central American and U.S. Latina/o literatures and cultures; Central American cultural production in the U.S.; transnational migration and cultural production; diaspora studies; violence and postwar/trauma studies; gender studies; U.S. Latina/o popular culture; community-based research; and Latina/o education (K-16).  Along with other publications, she is the author of Dividing the Isthmus: Central American Transnational Histories, Literatures, and Cultures.


Topics include, but are not limited to the following:

·         Role of art or artists in representing or challenging borders, or in fomenting contact zones

·         Border representations in literature, film, art, performance and other cultural artifacts

·         Cultures or subcultures along national or other kinds of borders

·         Security, trade, and other national border policies

·         Migration, human trafficking, and smuggling

·         Community responses to immigrant populations

·         National or transnational communities and identities

·         Shifting language patterns and syncretic languages

·         Assimilation, or resistance to it

·         Formation and articulation of formal and informal economies

·         Construction or reconfiguration of social groups, categories, and identities

·         Development, maintenance, or dissolution of environmental habitats


We welcome proposals for panels and workshops, individual paper or poster presentations, as well as performances and exhibits.  Presentations may be in Spanish, Portuguese, French, or English (though we cannot guarantee translators for presentations in Portuguese and French).  Please keep in mind that individual presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes, and sessions will be 90 minutes.  Workshops may run from 90 minutes to three hours—though the schedule will be flexible to accommodate diverse kinds of proposals.  The extended deadline for submission of proposals is Saturday, January 10, 2015. We will  immediately notify those submitting of acceptance.  Please submit your proposal here:







There are no fees for participation or attendance


Questions? Contact Andrew Schlewitz, Latin American Studies, 616-331-8158,, or the Area Studies office, 616-331-8110,


Page last modified January 6, 2015