[ACLA] The Other of Postcolonial Studies: Postcolonial Islands, Their Unique Sensbility and Challenges

deadline for submissions: 
September 22, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Nick Lu, Maricruz Gomez / University of North Texas
contact email: 

In their seminal book, Islands in History and Representation, Rod Edmond and Vanessa Smith famously point out that stories about islands tend “to slip the net of postcolonial theorising” due to their marginality in terms of geopolitics and academic representation. Accordingly, researchers of Island Studies, an emerging field in the past two decades, have long maintained that due to their geographical and geostrategic singularity, or “islandness,” the (post)colonial conditions of island societies deserve special attention, and the study of which requires a different set of concepts and methodologies than what are available or predominant in Postcolonial Studies. This panel hopes to make a concerted effort to contribute to the discussion of island (post)coloniality from a literary and cultural standpoint. We welcome proposals for papers that explore how “islandness” shapes a unique “island cultural sensibility” in literature reflecting island peoples’ concerns in areas such as politics, economics, culture, identity, and environment. We welcome proposals that seek to (1) make theoretical intervention by putting Island Studies and Postcolonial Studies in dialogue and (2) conduct place-based or comparative studies focusing on specific island societies, including but are not limited to Okinawa, Taiwan, Palau, Guam, Tasmania, Bermuda, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Jeju Island, Haiti, Martinique, Dominican Republic, and Guadeloupe. Although we acknowledge that there are important differences in size, population, colonial history, geopolitical positioning etc., among different island societies, we believe that a better understanding of them is instrumental in broadening the scope and richness of Postcolonial Studies today. Often occupied by multiple imperial powers and used as cultural buffer zones or entry points for economic and military expansion by the colonizers, island societies have been and still are standing at the forefront of globalization and act as connecting points facilitating flows of capital, humans, objects, knowledge, and cultures. As such, a better theorizing of island (post)coloniality promises to enrich and problematize a series of key concepts such as “the postcolonial,” “decolonization,” “sovereignty,” “dependency,” and so on. Following are possible research questions that can serve as launchpads for papers.

Theoretical Exploration:

  • To what extent is island postcolonalism a more meaningful grouping than conventional geographical categories such as the Caribbean, South Asian, and African postcolonialism?
  • What theoretical approaches are particularly appropriate in studying the cultural sensibility of postcolonial island societies?
  • How does island geography inform an “island cultural identity”?
  • How does the study of islands help us understand postcolonialism/decoloniality in an innovative form?

Discourse Analysis:

  • How are “islands” represented in non-Western texts?
  • How does focusing on these small islands together lead to more innovative representations?  What can we learn about these islands through a new discourse of study?

Placed-Based and Comparative Studies:

  • How does literature express specific island societies’ concerns in topics such as politics, economics, environment, culture, and identity?
  • How can we better understand place-based islands without generalizing them to large geographical categories such as the Carribbean, South Asian, and Latin American categories that they are usually grouped?

Presenters & Organizers

Nick T.C. Lu nick.lu@unt.edu

Maricruz Gómez maricruzgomez@my.unt.edu

Please submit your abstracts direclty through the ACLA portal by 9/22. Authors of accepted abstracts will be contacted should the panel get approved by ACLA