The Middle Eastern City: Conflict and Modernity (ACLA 2011 Vancouver Mar 31 - Apr 3; Deadline Nov 12)

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ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association)

The cities of the modern Middle East are marked, even defined, by conflict. From Istanbul to Cairo, Jerusalem/al-Quds to Beirut to Tehran, the city is the site where the ideological, ethnic, and religious divisions of the Middle East are crystallized in often violent confrontations. Recent history has shown the world relentless fighting over holy sites in Jerusalem/al-Quds, the Sabra and Shatila massacre, the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the 2009 election protests and government reprisals in Tehran, and so on. Whatever one's political orientation, it is evident that the city is, alongside truth, the first casualty of such conflict.

This seminar seeks to explore representations of the Middle Eastern city in literature, film, and the arts, paying special attention to questions of conflict. How do Middle Eastern writers and artists negotiate conflict in their cities of origin? How do they help their audiences manage the unspeakable traumas of events like the Sabra and Shatila massacre? What impact do such events have of form? What new perspectives do migrant and exiled writers offer on the lost cities of their youth? As texts enter a globalized literary economy, how do they culturally translate the Middle Eastern city for non-Middle Eastern audiences? How can comparative approaches help us detect shared histories and common conflicts across Middle Eastern cities, help us, that is, understand the tensions and contradictions of a modernity particular to the region?

Proposals on works in any of the Middle Eastern languages, in English, and in translation are all equally welcome.

Please submit proposals by November 12 via the ACLA conference webpage at

For any questions, please contact Karim Mattar at