Can the Other Speak? Productive Difficulties in Ethnic and Postcolonial Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Misun Dokko / NeMLA
contact email: 

Can the Other Speak? Productive Difficulties in Ethnic and Postcolonial Literature

Northeast Modern Language Association Convention

March 5-8, 2020

Boston, MA

Deadline for paper abstracts: September 30, 2019

Contact: Misun Dokko


Our 2020 NeMLA panel emerges from Gayatri Spivak’s seminal question, “can the subaltern speak?” Following Spivak’s response to this question, we will investigate moments when subalterns cannot speak or have difficulty speaking. Our inquiry into these moments will build on and sharpen conversations about otherness with respect to literary texts and beyond.

More precisely, our panel calls for papers that examine attempts at representing "others" who surface in ethnic and postcolonial literature. For our purposes, we define others as different from modern subjects. They are distinct because modern subjects resist the past and tradition by reducing others as their irrational and primitive inferiors who require integration into or expulsion from civilized society.

Our shared point of inquiry will be these literary others who evade, fracture, and undermine efforts to understand them. We invite proposals that promise to unpack this dynamic by examining contexts--such as ethics, postcoloniality, globalization, civil rights, post civil rights, and neoliberalism--that inform representations of putative inferiors. Our panel will scrutinize how these frameworks shape, complicate, and limit the comprehension of others. 

Pursuing this matter further, we welcome papers that consider how the gaps and fissures of representing literary others disrupt structures of domination and subjugation. This line of inquiry will serve as a critique of power systems and encourage recognition of others without assimilation to modern subjectivity.

We encourage panelists to compare literary others to comparable figures in historical texts, newspapers, magazines, and other non-fictional sources. Our comparative readings of fiction and non-fiction will complicate conclusions about understanding otherness.

Submit a short bio and a three hundred word abstract through the NeMLA submissions page before September 30, 2019: