MLA 2016: Contemporary Postcolonial Poets and Publics

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Modern Language Association Special Session

How do contemporary poets envision their role in the public life of a postcolony? This is not a question of social value but of social relations. In what ways does poetry mediate the discourses which, in part, inform the coherency of any public?

I invite papers for a panel that proceeds from Ella Shohat and Robert Stam's description of postcolonial inquiry as focused on "continuous spectra. Notions of ontologically referential identity metamorphose into a multifaceted play of identifications. Rigid paradigms collapse into sliding metonymies…. Revolution with a capital R transmutes into a lower-case resistance. Teleological narratives of linear progress are replaced by zigzagging interrogations of change. Notions of progressive, stagist development give way to tropes of simultaneity and counterpoint. The nation, losing its unitary form, is now seen as palimpsestic, as embodying multiple times, rhythms, and perspectives" (Race in Translation 86).

As both a problematic and a "perspective" (Homi Bhabha), how can postcolonial studies incorporate critiques of the field as negligent to the dynamics of social class, political economy, and contemporary imperialist actions while also providing due attention to contemporary writers? This panel will more broadly ask panelists to consider new frames for postcolonial social relations, through our joint consideration of "the special symbolic role of the writer as an intellectual testifying to a country's or region's experience, thereby giving that experience a public identity forever inscribed in the global discursive agenda" (Edward Said, "The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals").

Comparative, multilingual, and interdisciplinary work is especially welcome. Presentations and discussions will be in English unless otherwise arranged. Please send a 250-word abstract and short CV to Kate Brennan ( by March 15, 2015.