Migrant literature and culture in Asia–cfp

Call For Papers (ACLA 2018): Borders, Uneven Development, and Migrating Bodies: Migrant Literature and Culture in Asia


Organizer: Xiangjing Chen <xc98@cornell.edu>
Co-Organizer: Jun Xie

We hope to collect enough excellent papers and invite a group of scholars to discuss the “migrant literature” and problem of modernity in Asia together. To submit a paper proposal, please write a 200-word abstract. Please include the title of your paper, your abstract, your rank and your email address via the ACLA website. Abstracts must be received by Thursday, September 21, at 9 a.m. EST.

Uneven structure and borders are indispensable for the accumulation of capital, hence capital not only thrives on the uneven structures, but also actively generates various kinds of borders. Asia, with its large tracts of not fully capitalized rural area and its complex historical legacies of imperialism and colonialism, has formed the most uneven landscape, accommodating and facilitating the huge flow of migrants which have played a central role in its rapid course of industrialization and modernization. Also, in the age of contemporary post-Fordist capitalism, with its rising role in world economy, it further witnesses the multiplication of borders and wide array of forms of border-crossing, between nation and nation, between cosmopolitan cities and backward rural areas, between former empire and former colonies, and across various kinds of social rankings, ethnic groups, gendered division of labour, etc.

How do the migrants – the migrating and working bodies – manage to maintain the wholeness of their “Lebenswelt” under the fragmenting power of the capitalism? What kind of traces and memories left by the worlds they have travelled through are inscribed on their bodies? Then, is it possible for us to start to imagine a type of “new humanity” with the thriving of “migrant literature,” just like the rising of bourgeois subjectivity with classic realism, the reification of the immanence of the atomic individuals with modernism, or even the utopian imagination of “New Man” with socialist realism?

But what is “migrant literature”? Literature of/about/by migrants? Can migrants speak? And who are migrants?  The brothers and sisters of proletariat? The undertaker of immaterial labour? The multitude? Bare life? The ethnic group of diaspora?

This seminar invites papers that study literature and cultural works on migration and migrants in Asia or elsewhere. Historical studies of a past period are welcome, but analyses and contemplations about current situation and contemporary age are encouraged. To narrow the scope of discussion to a specific geographical area – Asia for example – is a compromise for expediency; technically, we need to focus on certain particular field for the departure of discussion. However, the problematic of mercurial contemporary capitalism and the political and aesthetic significance of migrant literature are most definitely global and universal.

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