To honor the bicentennial of Saint Louis University, the Center for Intercultural Studies at Saint Louis University, in collaboration with other academic units, will host a conference titled "Intercultural Origins of St. Louis and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1800-1840," which will be held March 22-23, 2018.
Politically, the Louisiana Purchase, the debates about Missouri statehood, the opening of the West, and the ensuing migrations had a profound effect on forging American nationhood. Economically, the location of St. Louis city allowed it to become a transportation hub linking several great rivers, attract much of the rapidly developing continental trade, and become a major center of fur trade. The explosive growth of the city would make it an early example of the challenges of urbanization.
Culturally, the relationships between St. Louis and the region demarcated a distinctive terrain at the western edge of European colonizing empires and Indian homelands, where highly diverse peoples and cultures interacted with one another and underwent profound changes in the process. Walking the streets of St. Louis, one would encounter Americans, Indians, Canadians, Creole French, Mexicans, Africans, both slave and free, and later the Irish and Germans. As their mutual otherness was negotiated and domesticated, it became an indigenous component of local culture.
The conference will focus on these cultural interactions, in the ways the differences were navigated and creative adaptations made. Creolization, hybridity, and mixing take place even if the dialogue between the various groups is asymmetrical and constrained by relations of power. Other possible themes might include: St. Louis and Saint Louis University, St. Louis and the fur trade, St. Louis and exploration of the trans-Mississippi West, St. Louis and slavery, St. Louis and the indigenous peoples, St. Louis and the politics of statehood, and St. Louis and the urban experience.