Transgressing Borders: World Literature and Literature of Migration (NeMLA 2019)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Polina Kroik
contact email: 

We invite paper proposals for our panel at the 50th convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association taking place in Washington DC, March 21-24, 2019.  

Migrant literature not only calls into question territorial borders but also problematizes disciplinary ones. While some definitions of World Literature include works by migrant authors, others rely on narrowly conceived understandings that privilege national culture and context. For example, Pheng Cheah suggests a definition of world literature that is expansive and all-inclusive, characterizing world literature as “stories of what it means to be part of a world” and “as the literature of the world.” On the other hand, many scholars follow Goethe’s formulation in suggesting that works of World Literature emerge from a national culture, and are usually important enough to be read in other countries. Migrant literature reveals and inhabits this disciplinary fault line because it is usually written outside an author’s country of origin and may or may not be read outside the national and linguistic borders of the place where it is produced. In the U.S., such texts are often grouped under the rubric of Ethnic American literature, or categories such as “transnational” or “translingual.”

This panel seeks to interrogate the relation between World Literature and literature of migration. Do these two categories represent two distinct canons? Is there a difference between migrant literatures of past centuries and those of the twenty-first century? As the U.S. imposes more restrictions on immigration, and migrants around the world are more vulnerable than ever, what is at stake in the way we classify, read and teach these texts?

We welcome essays on any relevant topic, including the following:


--Migration routes in World Literature texts

--Labor migration and capital in World- and migrant Literature

-- Migritude, Afropolitanism, and other emergent trends in migrant literature

--Implications for representations of gender and sexuality

-- Historicizing migrant literature


The session is chaired by Polina Kroik (Fordham University); Alexander Hartwiger (Framingham State University) and is supported by NeMLA's World Literature Working Group. Please submit abstracts via the NeMLA site:


For questions, contact Polina Kroik, pkroik [at]