The Power and Limits of Narrative in Opposing Injustice (NeMLA 2020)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

Literature, film, and other forums for bearing witness to injustice can create space for voices that have been silenced. They can lead to the recognition of people subjected to human rights violations. As such, narratives of witness have the power to connect people across divisions of nation, culture, and experience. They may contribute to shared national and even transnational identities.

At the same time, narratives that strive to combat injustice often produce their own injustices. They can distort life stories by defining their subjects solely as victims of violation. They can exclude experiences that do not fit easily into dominant interpretive frameworks. They can appropriate voices in ways their subjects would not endorse. This concern is important for all fields and disciplines that use narrative in the service of social justice and human rights, from literature, film, and journalism to activism and policy-making.

This session seeks papers that address the limits and pitfalls of narrative in responding to injustice. This may include analyses of narratives that inadvertently re-inscribe injustices as well as formal experiments and innovations that strive to negotiate these dangers. Papers on all genres and media are welcome. Please submit a 200-300 word abstract and bio to Lisa Propst through the NeMLA website: