American Studies Association: Unmarked at 25

This weekend I had the privilege of serving on a roundtable at the American Studies Association celebrating the 25th anniversary of the publication of Peggy Phelan’s Unmarked. To all of you who attended, witnessed, asked questions: thank you! Much gratitude to my co-panelists as well: our convenor Christopher Grobe, Patrick Anderson, Colleen Kim Daniher, Monica Huerta, Jill Lane, Joseph Roach, and, of course, Peggy Phelan herself, who responded to our comments with such generosity.

I’m still thinking about our conversation: Phelan’s injunction to write not to please the senior leaders in our field, but to satisfy our own questions; the recursivity of the conundrum of visibility politics that the book explores; conversely, the transformations (? maybe not?) in the relation between the visible and the political in the digital age; and all the scholarship of the last couple of decades that has tried to write through the problems of visibility, vulnerability, performance, and power—and I thank Daniher for invoking the work of Brooks, Glissant, and Fleetwood in her comments.