The 15th International Conference of the Spanish Association for American Studies (SAAS) “Fear Narratives” and their Role/Use in the United States”

Country: Spain

City: Bilbao

Abstr. due: 15.10.2020

Dates: 24.03.21 — 26.03.21

Area Of Sciences: Arts; Cultural science;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: University of Deusto



There is little question that conflicting “knowledge claims” play a major role in current social, cultural, political, and policy debates in the U.S. These knowledge claims are generally articulated in the form of enticing narratives that try to resonate with certain interests, concerns, and values in the general population. With uncertainty becoming one of the key defining features of our era, it seems only natural that the media, policy-makers, politicians, and even scholars should exploit their public’s most immediate dreads and anxieties to build their narratives. “Fear narratives” may cover broad issues that range from international migrations or the threat of terrorism to the competition of emerging economies or the waning power of traditionally dominant social groups. Because these problems show a very protean and multifaceted nature and because the debates on them are fraught with doubts and contingencies, it should be expected that competing claims will arise to try to explain their causes and dynamics, as well as to guide the policy interventions that would best steer the latter. In this sense, it is important to study how those claims develop into full-fledged narratives and how those narratives are then codified, refashioned and, finally, disseminated in different fora. It would also be interesting to determine what role predetermined interests, knowledge and belief or the cognitive features of narrative itself play in the configuration of these “fear narratives.” Likewise, and perhaps most importantly, the kind of roles played by these narratives and the uses to which they are put would BOLETÍN SAAS 2019 25 also need to be dwelled upon.
Since its very inception, first as a colony and then as a nation, U.S. culture, history, politics, and art has been plagued by “fear narratives” that in most periods have marked the path followed by the country decisively. From the Witchcraft Trials in the late 17th century to the Nativist movements in the 19th century or the “Yellow” and “Red Scares” in the 20th century, it is evident that the life and development of the nation have been highly conditioned by the narratives built around those alarms. With the arrival of Donald Trump to office, one is afraid that the use of this type of narrative is not going to abate. Given the breadth of the topic in question, we welcome panels that approach the question of “fear narratives” from diverse theoretical and critical frameworks within American Studies. SAAS conferences invariably attempt to be wide-ranging inter-disciplinary events and we are keen on seeing this reflected in the variety of topics discussed in relation to U.S. culture and society.

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