Wiki-Planet? : Postcolonial Theory and Digitality (3/21/10; MLA 2011, Jan. 6-9, 2011, Los Angeles, CA)

full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Amit Ray, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology, USA
contact email: 

The heady digital utopianism of the nineties has not come to pass. Despite the unprecedented access that new media can provide, the so-called digital divide mimics earlier forms of privilege and marginalization within and across nations. The last five years have seen a dramatic shift in terms of how users interact on-line. During this time we have seen the rapid rise of social media, also known as Web 2.0 or the Read/Write web. As a result, user-generated media, real-time interactivity and serial collaboration can form the basis for novel varieties of social and cultural interaction.

This panel seeks to critically examine social media across established boundaries of nation, language and identity. In what ways have wikis (Wikipedia), blogs (Global Voices), micro-blogs (Twitter), massively multi-player online role-playing games (World of Warcraft), social networking (Bebo, Facebook), etc., facilitated new forms of community that do not mimic the formations of the past, potentially challenging repressive elements of that past? And conversely, in what ways do we find historical socio-economic strictures copied and pasted into cyberspace.

Postcolonial theory is well positioned to address such interactions. Accordingly, this panel seeks proposals that apply postcolonial theory to digital media. How does theory "travel" on the web? Is "hybridity" a viable category for analyzing on-line identity? Can we better understand digital phenomena in light of what colonial, postcolonial and neocolonial histories have to teach us? In what ways does digital representation challenge or reinforce orientalisms and primitivisms of the past? How does digital culture "translate" as it mediates and is intermediated across different "contact zones"? Does the "free" in free software resist or reinforce the neo-liberal foundations of globalization? Finally, proposals should focus on what postcolonial theory and digital cultural theory have to offer one another.

Please send an abstract (250-500 words) and CV by March 21st, 2010 to

Please note that this call does not appear on the MLA website. The deadline for submitting Special Session proposals to MLA is April 1st, 2010. Selected panelists will notified no later than March 24th and must be members of the MLA by April 7th, 2010.