Delta Symposium XXVIII: “Labor History and Contemporary Laborlore”

March 29 - April 1

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Delta Symposium XXVIII: “Labor History and Contemporary Laborlore”

March 29 April 1 America/Arkansas/Jonesboro

The Department of English, Philosophy, and World Languages at Arkansas State University presents the 28th annual Delta Symposium, March 29–April 1, 2023 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The Delta Symposium features a wide variety of scholarship and presentations that focus on the Delta’s history, culture and literature.

The symposium focuses attention on this year’s theme of “Labor History and Contemporary Laborlore.” The symposium organizers will present research that focuses labor history and working culture within the region, including history, literature, artistic expression connected to labor relations and workday realities. The presentation of experiences connected to contemporary workers will also be part of the 2023 event. Relevant topics include labor history during the antebellum era, labor relations of the early 20th century, working lives of those affected by New Deal policies during the Great Depression as well as research on contemporary working lives. In this respect, contemporary laborlore can include music, songs, stories, and other forms of expression relevant to working culture.

The 28th annual Delta Symposium will feature special guest Si Kahn, now in his 57th year as a professional civil rights, union and community organizer, musician, and author.  He has simultaneously had successful careers as a composer, lyricist, and script writer for musical theater, and as an internationally recognized songwriter, recording and performing artist. 

Kahn began his social justice career in 1965 in Forrest City, Arkansas, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the young people’s wing of the Southern Civil Rights Movement. His experiences in the Delta shine through in the music and lyrics he wrote for Some Sweet Day, a musical about the Arkansas-based Southern Tenant Farmers Union, which toured nationally for over a dozen years.

During the Delta Symposium Kahn, the holder of a doctorate in American Studies with a specialization in Cultural Studies, will make presentations, work with university students, meet with symposium participants, and perform a concert of his original songs. His keynote will be a self-described “songspeech” that blends a capella music with poetic rhetoric.

Kahn’s body of work includes five books, including one co-authored with public philosopher Elizabeth Minnich, his long-time partner and spouse; 18 albums of his original songs; six albums of his songs done by other artists; a collection of traditional labor and civil rights songs recorded with Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp; Good Times and Bedtimes, an album of songs for children;the official musical versions of the classic children’s books Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny; and the songs and/or scripts for seven musicals.  In 2008 the Little Rock-based literary publication Oxford American named him a “Southern Master.”

The Delta Symposium presents work from multidisciplinary approaches including literary criticism, cultural studies, history, anthropology, folklore, ethnomusicology, sociology, speech communication, arts and art history, and heritage studies.

Delta Symposium Committee
c/o Dr. Gregory Hansen, Chair

Arkansas State University
Dept. of English, Philosophy, and World Languages
P.O. Box 1890
State University, AR 72467
[email protected]
Phone: 870-972-3043
Fax: 870-972-3045

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