Navigating Trauma: Pasts, Presents, and Futures in African American Literature (NeMLA 2019)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

NeMLA Annual Convention - Washington D.C. - 21-24 March, 2019

In “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism”, Kodwo Eshun argued that the impact of the Middle Passage and slavery could still be felt in African American authorship today. The erasure of their African past, culture and heritage leaving them disconnected and made strangers, black writers look to the future as a way of dealing and engaging with the present. The term counterfutures is thus used to describe those writings that explore the potentiality of a dissonant life that emerges from these traumas, ones which reimagine the futures that the current path of human experience seems to lead to, as well as the pasts that have or might catalyze real or imagined futures.

This panel aims at evaluating how African American authors grapple with different manifestations of trauma through a variety of (sometimes conflicting) notions of futurity, be these in science fiction, fantasy or any other genre. Some questions the panel will address include:

-What are the social, political, literary or other functions of writing about futurity?
-What do futures (counter-, afro-, etc.) tell us about the past and/or present?-What can we extract from the interaction between trauma and identity in these texts?
-What is the significance of the temporal, positional or spatial to trauma narratives?
-What occurs when we revisit these authors’ texts from the futures about which they write?

This panel welcomes submissions that engage with texts from all literatures, music, film and/or art.

Please submit 300 word abstracts alongside a short bio before September 30th (confirmation will be sent by October 15th) through the NeMLA submission page:

Applicants are not required to be NeMLA members at the time of submission but accepted speakers will have to become members by December 1st, 2018.

For further information contact Eyal Handelsman Katz ( or consult