Panel 2: Place and Displacement

9:15am, Saturday, October 15, 2016

Respondent: Monica Huerta, Link-Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow, Princeton Society of Fellows; Lecturer, English Dept., Princeton University

Lucy Partman, “Arthur Wesley Dow’s Visual Displacement in the ‘Country of the Marshes’” (Art and Archaeology, Princeton University)

American artist and educator Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922) referred to his native Ipswich, Massachusetts as the “country of the marshes.” The water and related environs Dow depicted throughout his life situate the viewer in his hometown. However, his focus on abstract compositional components influenced by Japanese concepts destabilize location. This paper considers how Dow’s work reveals an act of both place-making and displacing.

Rupa Pillai, “Insights from Beach Pujas: Guyanese Hindu Place-Making in New York City” (Anthropology, University of Oregon)

Not far from the ethnic enclave of Little Guyana in South Queens, New York, Guyanese Hindus, descendants of Indian indentured laborers, gather at Jamaica Bay to worship the water of the Atlantic Ocean as Ganga. By performing beach pujas and making offerings this New American community transforms the water into a Guyanese Hindu place. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork I will consider how Guyanese Hindus situate themselves within New York City, both culturally and politically.

Joshua Bartlett (Twitter), “Underneath the ‘Azure Reign’: Exploring the Atlantic in Phillis Wheatley’s ‘A Farewel to America’” (English, University at Albany, State University of New York)

On May 8, 1773, Phillis Wheatley left Boston Harbor and set sail for England aboard the London Packet. Upon her departure, her poem “A Farewel to America” was published in several Boston newspapers. This paper presents an oceanic reading of that poem. I show how Wheatley’s use of the term “plain” to juxtapose familiar New England geographies with unfamiliar ocean spaces encouraged readers to reconsider perceived oppositions between land and water – while exploring how her use of the descriptive “azure” operates as oceanic language that defines the uniqueness of, and ascribes a particular vibrancy to, the Atlantic Ocean itself. Likewise, I show how editorial changes made to the poem by Wheatley between May 1773 and July 1773 intensify its emphasis on the ocean’s power to generate both “astonish’d” experience and feelings of wonder.