Contemporaneity and the Global South

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

For the last two decades, critical approaches to literature of the global south have taken for granted the importance of history in shaping the present. The ongoing consequences of colonialism, nationalism, partitions, civil wars and other forms of actual and epistemic violence have been taken as key optics for understanding the crises and possibilities of the present. On the other hand, in many cases the discourse of futurity has been usurped by the proponents of neoliberalism who imagine that capitalism will release the formerly colonized countries from history’s handcuffs and pave the way toward a bold new future.

In this landscape pulled by a turn toward the past on one hand and an uncritical celebration of the future on the other, where is the contemporaneity of the global south? The present – where we’re at – is often perceived as a time elsewhere. Yet new literary works, films, art and cultural productions are questioning this idea. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, for instance, refuses the standard telos of diaspora to have Ifemelu return to Lagos at the end of the novel, writing the city’s contemporary into the African novel. Aravind Adiga’s protagonist in The White Tiger is a self-styled entrepreneur who mixes new discourses such as management-speak and self-help into his satirical critique of the new India. How does recent literature illuminate the elusive time of the contemporary in the global South? What formal and aesthetic characteristics emerge in this enterprise? How are writers, artists and filmmakers reclaiming the contemporary while also refusing the homogenization promised by globalization? What new relationships to the west and among the global south are being formed in this endeavor? How can we excavate the contemporary without celebrating capitalism? Might the contemporary be a conceptual alternative to the postcolonial?

This panel explores these questions from a number of geographic and disciplinary perspectives. Papers are invited from the traditional areas of the global South (Africa, South Asia) as well as from Latin America, the Middle East, minority literatures in the west and other areas in which the contemporary can be paradoxical. Possible approaches include, but are not restricted to:

    • Are certain genres (the novel, the blog, television etc.) more receptive to the contemporary than others?


    • What is the role of the market in contemporary cultural production?


    • How are new political imaginaries constructed in contemporary writing?


    • If nation, diaspora, borderlands, exile, partition, trauma, etc. were keywords for an earlier generation, what are the new keywords, if any, for the contemporaneity of the global south?


    • Is the contemporary only in English or are there vernacular contemporaries as well?


  • How do we read contemporary writing?