Important SEA 2021 Biennial Conference update!
Dear SEA members and early Americanist community:
I am writing to provide some important developments and contextual information regarding the 2021 SEA Biennial Conference: We are moving to an all-virtual conference format.
As you know, the March 2021 SEA Biennial was to take place at the Emory Conference Center & Hotel and the Emory University campus. Emory University recently released its fall 2020 reopening plan (https://vimeo.com/emoryuniversity/review/428479064/08edd47bd1). In short, Emory will be leasing the Emory Conference Center and Hotel to serve as a) overflow student housing, and b) quarantine space for students who are sick with COVID-19 or have been in contact with anyone who is sick with COVID-19. Although the plan has been billed for the fall 2020, no ending date for this protocol has been announced; thus, it is highly likely that this plan will continue throughout the winter and spring (i.e. our conference dates), especially given many public health predictions. In addition, we are seeing a significant spike in COVID cases, as you know, in many states (especially across the South) as well as a precipitous drop in travel funding for many of us in academia.
In sum, the SEA executive and advisory officers met and considered our options (cancel outright; move to all-virtual/online; postpone to fall ’21). We concluded, for the following reasons, to move the conference to an all-virtual conference in early March 2021:
a) allowing the SEA to hold a conference during its customary time.
b) providing a sense of persistence and continuity in our society’s activities (especially as our topical conference in Exeter, UK, planned for June 2020, was cancelled).
c) providing a platform/venue for early Americanists/SEA members to continue their professional development, exchange work, etc.
d) Providing increased accessibility in times of uncertainty and allowing for an inclusive/accessible conference model.
e) helping us to configure and experiment with future models for combining our valued and beloved in-person conference with virtual elements.
f) using our existing line-up of keynote and plenary speakers.
g) taking advantage of our existing relationship with Ex Ordo, which is now rapidly expanding its virtual conference capabilities, featuring:
a. a fully integrated conference platform, with everything under the same roof
b. content delivery and participation options:
— Stages: sharing live video (via Cisco Webex) with participants; especially appropriate for keynotes and plenaries
— Bundles/Clusters: on-demand content released bit by bit to control when content is available (to approximate the stair-stepped conference experience) and/or to release/group panels by theme
— Rooms: housing panels and presentations, via video or text and images
c. Communication features will include live responses (especially for keynotes/live-streaming), messaging, interactive chats for each “Room”, etc.
d. Access options will be many, i.e. participation can be restricted for registered attendees but also be opened to the public for individual events.
e. Pricing for the virtual conference will be very affordable (registration fees, as a result, will be very low; we have to work out final costs but will offer free registration for a broad and inclusive group of participants)
1) We very much hope that everyone who has already submitted a proposal will participate in the Virtual 2021 SEA Biennial Conference. Please email any questions to email@example.com.
2) We also hope that the new arrangement will allow a range of interested scholars and students in our and adjacent fields to participate in the SEA Conference (perhaps for the first time) and thus help us shape an even more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community—especially during these trying and confusing times.
3) We extended the submissions deadline for completed panels to September 15, 2020 (to coincide with the deadline for individual paper proposals). If you have already submitted a panel, you may edit/change your submission, given the new circumstances (e.g. tweak your approach, add on other panelists who are now able to participate).
4) We will soon follow up with an electronic survey allowing you to contribute requests and ideas for the format and options offered by the Virtual 2021 SEA Biennial. In addition to the features already mentioned, please contribute anything that you think would make the Virtual SEA Biennial an attractive event; we will work with Ex Ordo on shaping and developing a Virtual Conference that allows for the greatest range of both traditional and experimental approaches for sharing scholarship and pedagogy, workshopping, networking, and meeting.
5) We will update the conference website to reflect the new arrangements and send out frequent information via the EARAM listserv and the SEA membership directory.
I am, of course, saddened by having to take this step. Our location would have offered amazing in-person experiences. However, I hope we can still–as much as possible–tie Atlanta/Georgia and the programmatic and historical touchstones it provides–into our virtual conference; most importantly, we will continue our Common Reading Initiative and collaboration with the Atlanta University Center HBCUs. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to participate in the Common Reading Initiative (see the insert below for details) focusing on Honorée Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis (www.hfsbooks.com/books/the-age-of-phillis-jeffers/); I will send you a Google doc to sign up as a participant.
All the best, and be well.
SEA President (2019-2021)
July 3, 2020