ACLA 2019: Imperial Performances: Self-Making in Travel Narratives

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

To broaden the conversation surrounding subjectivity, imperialism, gender and travel, this panel aims to advance the study of travel writing by considering performance as a category of significance to the understanding of the social production of travel narratives. Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst, in their introduction to New Directions in Travel Writing Studies (2015), establish a connection between performance and travel, claiming that performativity is a driving force behind the development of travel writing as a genre. Building upon the shared premise that the acts of travel and writing about travel are inherently performative, we are interested in interrogating the ways in which travelers actively engage in the task of self-making in their travel accounts. This panel will explore the correlation between performances of imperial power throughout history, specifically within the genre of travel writing, and the process of writing the self.

We solicit essays that focus on the construction of imperial subjectivities within the broad genre of travel writing, including but not limited to epistolary accounts of voyages, travelogues, travel journalism, and guidebooks. How does the act of travel contribute to the construction, and subsequent performance, of identity? How does imperialism provide a protective shield for travelers, particularly women travelers? In what ways does the performance of an imperial identity reproduce or challenge hierarchies of power? Conversely, how are subjects who lack an imperial identity able to acquire authority in their travel narratives? In which kind of performance do they engage, if any? How does that performance differ from that of imperial travelers?

We are particularly interested in papers that take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of travel writing and literature and welcome papers from a broad spectrum of time periods, geographic locations, and national literary traditions. Interested participants may contact the the seminar co-organizers Shannon Derby at and Michelle Medeiros at Please submit abstracts (100-250 words) via the ACLA website between September 1-20. Early submission is encouraged.