CFP (MELUS): Legacy, Reckoning, and Jubilee: Contemporary African American Ways of Mourning

deadline for submissions: 
September 29, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
MELUS: The Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
contact email: 

CFP for roundtable proposal to the annual meeting for MELUS (The Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States) from 2-5 April 2020 in New Orleans, LA.

In the 2016 collection The Fire This Time, editor Jesmyn Ward divides the seventeen essays into three sections: Legacy, Reckoning, and Jubilee. For a text that takes as its central premise the need to work through the overwhelming threat of black death era with a keen eye on the past and future these three words accurately capture the critical stance of the collection. These writers, along with a number of other artists and writers find themselves attempting to mourn culturally felt losses in an age where black lives do not seem to matter. In an effort to remember, wrestle with, and celebrate the experiences of black people, these artists create works that are profoundly shaped by a rhetoric of death and mourning. This roundtable invites papers that examine contemporary representations of death, loss, and mourning that reflect shifting characteristics and purposes of African American ways of mourning. 

 Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Mourning black men and women murdered by the police in 21st Century cultural productions
  • Art representing black motherhood as a site of mourning 
  • Elegies/Elegiac Songs 
  • Memory projects of landscapes and home spaces
  • Street art/graffiti 
  • Historical fiction/Poetry reckoning with culturally specific events/deaths
  • Street memorials 
  • Expressions of disenfranchised grief
  • Collective Mourning on Social Media 
  • The Merging of Public/Private Forms of Mourning 
  • Mourning Fashion: R.I.P T-Shirts/Tattoos 

Please email a 150-200 word abstract, brief bio, and any A/V requirements to Kajsa Henry (kajsa.henry@famu.edu) by September 29 (using the subject line “MELUS 2020”). The organizer hopes that this conversation might lead to a collection of essays focused on this important and under-explored area of inquiry of nontraditional forms of mourning within an African American context.