Somewhere Else: Teaching Literatures of Refugee Experience in a U.S. Context (NeMLA, Hartford, CT, March 17-20, 2016)

full name / name of organization: 
Justine Dymond

In "Refugee Memories and Asian American Critique," Viet Thanh Nguyen suggests that a category of refugee literatures outside of disciplinary borders of national literatures "allow[s] a different set of connections across time and space that point somewhere else besides assimilation into the nation and to affiliations with other people besides US citizens" (934). What connections are necessary to make, and what kinds of borders do we have to cross, in the teaching of refugee literatures? With Nguyen's words in mind, this roundtable session aims to explore our encounters with literatures of refugee experience in the classroom.

Teaching refugee literatures often requires students and teachers to reach outside of disciplinary borders in their interpretive work and seek an understanding of history, international relations, immigration law, and ethnic and cultural differences, among other topics. In a general education curriculum, in which such literatures might be tasked with providing "diversity" content, instructors must also engage students who are not necessarily English majors. Specific student populations and institutional settings can provide more layers of challenge to the classroom.

In light of classroom demographics and institutional culture, this roundtable might address such questions as: How do we contextualize the literature‚ÄĒhistorically, sociologically, linguistically, theoretically? How do we challenge stereotypical representations, attending to differences across identifications, in courses that take a "survey" approach? How do we design our courses in curriculums that emphasize national literatures and/or English as the primary language? How does the instructor's own subject position impact pedagogical strategies and the classroom experience for students and teacher? How do teachers develop a pedagogy that is responsive to the diversity of textual voices and attendant to the emotional responses of students to the texts? This list is not exhaustive, but merely suggestive of some of the issues and questions this roundtable will raise about teaching refugee literatures.

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The deadline is September 30, 2015.