CFP: Postcolonial Trauma Narratives (3/1/06; MLA '06)

full name / name of organization: 
Stef Craps
contact email:

CFP: Postcolonial Trauma Narratives
Proposed Special Session
2006 MLA Convention, Philadelphia

Twenty-minute presentations are invited that address the inscription of
traumatic memory in postcolonial narrative literature.

Despite a stated commitment to the promotion of cross-cultural solidarity,
trauma studies - an interdisciplinary paradigm which emerged as a substrand
of the ethical turn affecting the humanities in the 1990s - retains a firmly
Eurocentric perspective. Cathy Caruth's claim, in her influential
introduction to _Trauma: Explorations in Memory_, that "trauma itself may
provide the very link between cultures" is not borne out by the founding
texts of the field, which focus entirely on white Euro-American experiences
and histories (predominantly the Holocaust) and exclusively employ critical
methodologies emanating from a Euro-American context (e.g. psychoanalysis).

This panel seeks to examine whether and how trauma studies can redeem its
promise of cross-cultural engagement. We are particularly interested in
papers that explore this question through the analysis of postcolonial
trauma narratives, i.e. narratives produced by writers from the non-Western
world that bear witness to the suffering engendered by colonial oppression.
Panellists will ideally address theoretical and disciplinary issues as they
relate to the analysis of individual works. Possible topics include:
-- Does colonial trauma comply with hegemonic understandings of trauma? Is
there a sense in which the current discourse on trauma is "culture-bound"?
Do postcolonial trauma narratives present challenges to trauma theory?
-- Much writing about trauma, memory and representation assumes that
traumatic events can only be adequately represented in anti-narrative
modernist forms. Do the textual strategies used for the representation of
colonial trauma differ from those commonly used for the representation of
traumatic Western events such as the Holocaust or 9/11 (e.g. disruption of
linear chronology, fragmentation, narrative self-consciousness,
hypersubjectivity, narration through visual images, non-closure)?
-- How do postcolonial trauma narratives construe the relationship between
colonial trauma and the Holocaust?
-- How can postcolonial studies benefit from a rapprochement with trauma

Please send a one-page proposal and a brief CV to both Gert Buelens
( and Stef Craps ( by 1st
March 2006.

This session has not yet been approved for the convention. We will submit an
organized session proposal to the MLA Program Committee by 1st April 2006.
Further information on the MLA's policies and procedures is available at Please note that panellists must be members of the MLA by 7th
April 2006.

Dr. Stef Craps
English Department
Ghent University
Rozier 44
B-9000 Ghent

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Received on Wed Dec 21 2005 - 14:05:27 EST

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