From Migrant to Refugee: Theorizing Diasporic Identities

deadline for submissions: 
September 18, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association - 2019
contact email: 

“Refugee and immigrant are very different. A refugee is someone ejected from his or her past, who has no future, whose present is totally empty of meaning. In a refugee camp, you live outside of time – you don’t know when you’re going to eat, let alone when you’re going to get out of there. And you’re also outside of space because the camp is a no man’s land. To be a human being you have to be part of something. The first time we got an official piece of paper from Canada, my whole family stared at it – until then, we were stateless, part of nothing.” 

In the quote above, author Kim Thúy distinguishes her experience from that of other migrants. In doing so she gives a voice to her family’s unique struggles when they left Vietnam for Canada. However, there is also a case to be made for finding solidarity in, rather than drawing boundaries around, diasporic experiences. Authors from a variety of backgrounds have engaged the slippage between the lexical categories of migrant, whether documented or undocumented, refugee and asylum-seeker. This panel engages literary cultural products, by members of diasporic communities that reframe conversations on the concepts of related to diasporic existence. 

The following is a non-exhaustive list of topics that are of interest to our panel:

-      (non)belonging, citizenship, and diasporic community

-      displacement, exile and the impossibility of return

-      homeland (real or imagined)

-      issues of political asylum due to war, conflict, or oppressive legislation (subtopics include genocide, ethnic minorities, or queer sexualities)

-      innovate theories of time and place in migrant/refugee literature