ACLA 2018: Postcolonial Studies and Racial/Ethnic Studies

deadline for submissions: 
September 21, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Octavio González / Wellesley College; Swati Rana / University of California, Santa Barbara; Philip Tsang / University of Cincinnati
contact email: 

Many claim that the heyday of postcolonial studies has passed. Scholars have criticized the premises of postcolonial theory (Chibber), questioned the relevance of empire to British culture (Porter), and defended the legacy of British imperialism (Ferguson). Others have found postcolonial modes of analysis predictable or exhausted. New frameworks have arisen instead: global Anglophone, cosmopolitanism, the “new” world literature, and modernist studies with its temporal expansion into the contemporary. Yet, as Robert Young argues, the postcolonial has always been about what is unfinished, incomplete, and left over. Does the purported obsolescence of postcolonial studies pose an opportunity to reflect on the valences of its vocabulary, especially in regard to today’s racial, ethnic, or diasporic literary-cultural formations?

This seminar asks how postcoloniality, race, and ethnicity continue to intersect at literary and cultural conjunctures in the contemporary and historical diaspora. Recent scholarship at the nexus of empire and the model-minority myth (Bascara), Black performance and imperialism (Batiste), and queer diasporic belonging (Ellis) connect postcolonial studies and racial/ethnic studies. What are the critical norms that delimit this joint methodological approach? How might the scholarly debates and critical terms of postcolonial studies travel in other fields, such as Asian American studies, Africana studies, Chicana/o studies, or Indigenous studies? We aim to explore the promises and limits of such critical conversations.

We invite scholars to ask how the conceptual terrain of postcoloniality could inform or transform conceptions of minority subjectivity and collectivity. How might the key tenets of postcolonial studies—contrapuntal reading, hybridity, native informant, subalternity, orientalism, etc.—deepen or decenter discussions of race, ethnicity, nativism, immigration, diversity, or multiculturalism? Conversely, can new perspectives in racial/ethnic studies re-inflect, revitalize, or denaturalize the theoretical idiom of postcolonial studies?

Possible topics include: the uses and abuses of postcolonial theory in racial/ethnic studies; status of (post-) colonial archives in historical or contemporary diasporas; intersections between postcolonial theory and other theoretical formations, such as Afro-Pessimism, critical multiculturalism, critical race theory, antisocial queer theory, mestizaje, and so on; links between migration, immigration, racialization, and post-/neocolonial globality; colonial hauntings of race and diaspora; British imperial decline and the end of the American century; postcolonial remnant as a new critical vocabulary; how literature mediates postcolonial conditions; and the implications of postcolonial studies for emerging fields of study, such as performance studies, queer of color critique, ecocriticism, and cognitive literary studies.

Please contact the seminar organizers (ogonzalez@wellesley.edu, srana@english.ucsb.edu, tsangpp@ucmail.uc.edu) with any questions. Papers should be submitted via the ACLA portal (https://www.acla.org/seminar/postcolonial-studies-and-racialethnic-studies) by September 21, 2017.