‘Contested Spaces’ key to 2010-11 Clements Center symposium on the early Americas

Antonio Pereiro map, 1545, courtesy of the John Carter Brown LibraryThe common history of the Americas – bridging conceptions of borderlands both continental and hemispheric – is the theme of the 2010-11 Annual Public Symposium, presented by SMU’s William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

“The Contested Spaces of Early America” is cosponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the Clements Center. It will take place 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. April 2 in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall.

This year’s event takes as its model and inspiration the work of the late David J. Weber, Clements Center founding director and Dedman Professor of History in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History. The symposium theme was originally organized to honor Weber upon his retirement.

“We wanted a theme that would transcend some of our usual models for understanding the histories of the Americas and the borderlands,” says symposium co-organizer Juliana Barr, associate professor of history at the University of Florida and former Clements Center Fellow. “David was expansive in his own work in using a larger framework to understand the histories of those lands that were colonies of New Spain, as well as the borders of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest.

“There are a number of interesting commonalities across the histories of North and South America,” she adds. “It’s a good exercise to step back and take a larger look and think in new ways about framing these histories.”

An initial meeting and program took place in Fall 2010 at the McNeil Center. The participants will gather at SMU this Saturday to present their revised papers.

One highlight of the conference is its diversity of both scholars and scholarship, Barr says. “Our presenters include a Canadian scholar who specializes in the history of New France, scholars from Mexico and Argentina, a literature scholar, a Native American scholar, one former Ph.D. student of David Weber’s, and three former Clements Center Fellows, as well as traditional ethnohistorians,” she says. “With that kind of diversity, you begin to build bridges among these seemingly disparate areas of scholarship. It’s the conversation among them all that will be the most exciting.”

The symposium is open to the public and has been approved for Continuing Education Credit for teachers. “Texas teachers face a lot of challenges in the classroom,” says Barr, herself a native Texan. “The state is such a crossroads for so many histories. It’s one of the most fascinating states to teach about because of its own diversity. How can we look at all these individual communities and link them across borders that include everything from European empires to Native American lands?

“These larger frameworks may help teachers help their students create those bridges between the histories of the larger American and global worlds.”

Preregistration cost is $5 for general admission ($20 including lunch at the SMU Faculty Club) and $2 for graduate students ($10 including lunch). Register online or contact the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, 214-768-3684.

> Find a complete schedule at the Clements Center Annual Symposium homepage

Above, Antonio Pereira’s 1545 map of the Americas, courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library.

About Kathleen Tibbetts

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