[UPDATE]"The Foreignness of Foreigners: Cultural Representations of Otherness in Britain", DEADLINE EXTENSION: 5 MARCH 2010

full name / name of organization: 
Université Lille 3 Charles-de-Gaulle, (Lille, France)
contact email: 
vanessa.alayrac-fielding@univ-lille3.fr ; claire.dubois@univ-lille3.fr

Call for papers :

The foreignness of foreigners: cultural representations of Otherness in Britain (17th-20th centuries)

An international conference to be held at Université Lille 3 Charles-de-Gaulle, in Lille (France) on 17 and 18 March 2011.

Keynote Speakers: Professor Linda Colley, Princeton University and Professor Kathleen Wilson, State University of New York, Stony Brook.

The relationship between the British and foreigners has played a crucial role in Britain’s search for a national identity and in its construction. More often than not, the perception of the foreigner spawns a feeling of strangeness, unease, even defamiliarisation when the “native” is confronted with geographical, cultural and linguistic differences. In the 17th and 18th centuries, voyages of exploration, together with commercial and colonial trips from the West to the East Indies led the English to discover other peoples and territories. 19th-century British imperialism and colonisation, 20th-century decolonisation and the rather strained British relationship with Europe raised many issues that beg the question of how the Other has been perceived and represented in Britain.
Through these encounters, the British have made other nations fill the “empty space” (in Ricoeur's words) which characterises the figure of the Other. Indeed, the foreign and the strange are concepts that are subsumed by the notion of Otherness. As Julia Kristeva points out, the foreigner is “the one that does not belong to a group, the Other”. The emphasis laid on the sense of belonging implies that foreignness is not necessarily linked to geographical distance since, first and foremost, the foreigner is or feels alienated or estranged from a group. Ireland, Scotland and Wales or the example of English regionalisms provide relevant case studies to explore the notions of Englishness and Britishness where the integration or the exclusion of difference plays a significant role.

The concept of Otherness is abstract and fluctuating. Its indeterminacy allows for various modes of representation which blend myth and reality. Indeed, the foreigner seems anomalous, even “abnormal” at times when compared to the cultural codes of “native” identity, although “nativeness” is a complex notion that needs to be qualified and examined as it itself depends on matters of representation and self-perception. This unsettling feeling that is observed in encounters between Self and Other leads the former to resort to stereotypes to define the foreigner's identity. One then needs to examine how important a role imagination and fantasy come to play in this process.

This conference aims at examining how the various figures of the foreigner have been constructed in Britain through representations and discourses in the political and literary fields, as well as in the visual arts. Of particular interest is the way Otherness has participated in the shaping of a national, religious or regional identity, through ambivalent relations of domination or admiration, integration or rejection, idealisation or demonisation. Thus the question of cultural transfers needs to be addressed to explore the particular ways in which British identity has been enriched by contacts with the Other. We also invite papers on British material culture and the visual arts which would consider issues of hybridity and hybridisation, and focus on cultural practices such as adaptation, borrowing and transposition Different theoretical approaches are welcome, among which colonialism and post-colonialism, orientalism, feminism, cultural history, historicism...

Topics may include but are not limited to:
- The representation of foreigners in times of crisis (wars, economic or religious crises) in the visual arts and the media.
- The contribution of the Other to British Art
- Exoticism and orientalism.
- The study of “contact zones” with foreigners in the visual arts, material culture or literature
- The Other's body, voice or dress.
- Racism and xenophobia.
- The Other within the Self and the concept of “third space” (in Homi Bhabha’s words): hybridisation, polyphony, dialogism ...

Abstracts (300-500 words) should be submitted, together with a short bio-bibliographical note, to Vanessa Alayrac-Fielding (vanessa.alayrac-fielding@univ-lille3.fr) and Claire Dubois (claire.dubois@univ-lille3.fr) before 5 March 2010. Presentations will be expected not to exceed 30 minutes. Final papers will be considered for publication following a peer-review process.

Scientific Committee: Vanessa Alayrac-Fielding (Université Lille 3), Claire Dubois (Université Lille 3), Fintan Cullen (Nottingham University), Amandine Ducray (Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre La Défense), Isabelle Gadoin (Université Paris 3 -Sorbonne Nouvelle), Guyonne Leduc (Université Lille 3), Catherine Maignant (Université Lille 3), Renaud Morieux (Université Lille 3), Alexis Tadié (Université Paris 4-Sorbonne), Philippe Vervaecke (Université Lille 3).

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