Archipelagic American Studies

Roundtable chair: Sally Anderson Boström (Uppsala University)

The last decade has seen an increase in scholarship on the archipelago and what some, inspired by the later work of Caribbean thinker Édouard Glissant, call “archipelagic thought.” Appearing in a vast range of disciplines, the idea is most used to propagate a way of thinking that resists dominant continental narratives and shifts the focus to island spaces and the waters between landmasses as productive ways to negotiate space. In the editors’ introduction to Archipelagic American Studies (Duke University Press 2017), Brian Russell Roberts and Michelle Ann Stephens stress the need “decontinentalize” American Studies and reorient from the perspectives of islands. One of the contributors, Lanny Thompson, goes as far as to suggest a methodology ruled by an “archipe-logic,” which he defines as “ways of thinking aboutwith, and from archipelagos” (66). Brian Russell Roberts’s more recent book, Borderwaters (Duke University Press 2021), continues these discussions to argue that conventional border narratives in the US may benefit from an understanding of the borders that exist in water as well as on land. Both books suggest a remapping of US geography in order to understand US imperialism and US global interdependencies. Applied to the Americas more broadly, archipelagic thought has the potential to offer insight into the region’s culture, history, and tides of political power. During this roundtable we will discuss the implication of archipelagic approaches to American Studies and ways it may, or may not, be productive across our disciplines.

Reading: Roberts, Brian Russell and Stephens, Michelle Ann. “Introduction”. Archipelagic American Studies, edited by Brian Russell Roberts and Michelle Ann Stephens, New York, USA: Duke University Press, 2017, pp. 1-54.