MLA International Symposium Panel Proposal: Memories of Non-Alignment (Lisbon, 23-25 July 2019)

deadline for submissions: 
September 20, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Natasa Kovacevic
contact email: 

In 2015, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán justified building a border fence to prevent migrants from Asia and Africa from entering Hungary as necessary to preserve Europe “for Europeans.” East and Central European countries in general have become associated with extreme xenophobia and anti-immigrant policies following their acceptance into the European Union. Erased in current debates over these formerly communist countries’ “Europeanness” is a different history of geopolitical positioning, one where they ideologically aligned themselves not with Western Europe, but with anticolonial movements in Asia, Africa and Central and South America during the Cold War. “Memories of Non-Alignment” seeks to foreground this historical moment in order to reconstruct the lost cultural links between so-called “Second” and “Third” World studies, employing a “(post-) Cold War” theoretical perspective as defined by Sharad Chari and Katherine Verdery: a unified interpretive framework that explores worldwide effects of the Cold War ideology and undermines the traditional divide between postcommunist and postcolonial studies. 

Perhaps the most under-researched part of this legacy is the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the “third way” alternative to Cold War bloc politics which connected countries across continents and political systems. The NAM countries currently represent almost two-thirds of the United Nations’ members and contain more than half of the world population. While the NAM’s influence has waned after the end of the Cold War, this panel seeks to assess critically the cultural legacy of this global anticolonial alliance dedicated to the principles of disarmament, peace, and national self-determination. In recent years, NAM has received fresh attention from historians, political scientists, and anthropologists, but it is still largely absent from literary, film, theater, and media studies. This panel invites presentations on literary, film, and other cultural production informed by Non-Aligned ideals and practices so as to offer a rigorous analysis of the cultural legacy of this movement, without glossing over its internal complexities or contradictions, or betrayals of its stated ideals. Possible approaches include but are not limited to addressing the following questions:

1. How did the Non-Aligned Movement foster cross-cultural collaborations – literary conferences, film festivals, publication/translation projects, etc. – in the member states during the Cold War? 

2. How are Non-Aligned ideals and themes explored in literature, film, theater, or media production? Who were their real or imagined audiences? How did they portray issues related to anticolonial struggle, solidarity, race, postcolonial independence, etc.?    

3. How is the legacy of Non-Alignment depicted in recent literature, film, theater, and media production? What implications do these reflections on the past have for our re-evaluation of the present?

Please send a 250-word abstract and a short bio to by September 20, 2018.


Nataša Kovačević

Professor of English

Department of English Language and Literature

Eastern Michigan University