The Migrating Word: Collectivities Outside State Boundaries: NeMLA Convention 2015

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Northeastern Modern Language Association
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In the global present, migration is increasingly understood not as a voluntary process, but as one of forced displacement, whether for political or economic reasons. Disillusioned by the rupture of the social contract, and the failure of states to guarantee the rights of all its citizens, forcibly displaced diasporic communities seek forms of representation and expression that trouble statist interpretations of culture that have been traditionally delineated by physical geography. Troubled by the legacies of colonialism, and carrying the trauma of political upheaval and displacement, communities with a history of neglect or abuse by statist discourse have, over the past few decades turned to art forms that embrace futurism via digital media. While Hip Hop as a cultural form that articulates displacement appears to have found resonance in multiple communities, various artists have delved into inherited traditions to resuscitate and reinvent poetic expression that cannot easily be subsumed by this genre alone. However, these expressions cannot be categorized as reactionary returns to a pre-colonial ideal either, conceptualizing, as they do, collectivities and solidarities beyond the contours of nation, race and ethnicity.

These explorations of the word, whether spoken, ranted, sung or depicted, test the limits of contemporary theorizations of culture and discipline. Far from submitting to the hegemonic constructs of increasingly surveilling states, artists like Sujeeth G., Sailja Patel, Asha Kowtal, D'bi Young, Cheran, Marlene NourbeSe Phillips and many others depict competing social realities, challenging the privileging of traditional literary forms and media as sole purveyors of imagined community. This panel would engage with the ways in which diasporic and racialized performers productively engage with digital media in their efforts to imagine collectivities and solidarities that defy the constructs of the nation state.

Please submit abstracts of 150-250 words through the NeMLA site: