ACLA 2020 Seminar: Geopolitical Narrative and the Genre Turn
The genre turn in global literature has inspired scholarship exploring the relationship between generic form and contemporary themes. In addition to Caren Irr’s Toward the Geopolitical Novel (2014), which investigates the newly emerging genre of the international political novel, and Theodore Martin’s Contemporary Drift (2017), a comprehensive analysis of contemporary genre fiction and film, we have also seen scholarship tracking specific genre forms: Contemporary Literature’s 2006 special issue, Immigrant Fictions; Jeremy Rosen’s 2018 article “Literary Fictions and the Genres of Genre Fiction” in Post45; and Sheri-Marie Harrison’s 2019 series Global Horror in Post45, to name a few. Contemporary global literature engages with current issues of military conflict, refugeeism and displacement, infrastructural failure, and international economic corruption at the same time as it repurposes and revises generic narrative forms. The result is a literary field for writers and readers attuned to how geopolitical aesthetics reclaim and reshape literary systems tangled in capital, a literature where transnational themes inhabit transformed genres.
Rewriting genre is a project simultaneous with rewriting citizenship globally: contemporary fiction is committed to uncovering transnational economic forces that influence military conflict, migration, and neocolonization of lands and peoples while reimagining future (un)successful cohabitations. Invoking transnational real estate schemes, illegal trade, and infrastructural failure, recent works such as Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (2017) and Ahmed Naji’s Using Life (2014) imagine a possible world in which borders are dysfunctional and climate change wipes clean urban spaces for new transnational architectural and infrastructural investments. Similarly, Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017) dramatically expounds the geopolitical urgency of far-right Hindu movements in India while resisting conventional narrative structures.
While broadly interested in geopolitical criticism and genre criticism, this seminar also aims to answer the following questions: When talking about contemporary global literature, what do we mean by “contemporary” and what do we mean by “global”? In what ways does current scholarship think through global literature and not just global anglophone literature? How does contemporary global literature utilize generic forms to revisit and revise expected narrative outcomes in order to undercut nationalistic ideologies and modes of reading? How do contemporary narratives of war, ethnic conflict, and forced migration reconfigure architectural and urban spaces to demonstrate the activation of tangential, inanimate agents during global and ethnic conflict? Regarding immigration fiction, in what ways do narratives of hope derail migrant autonomy and instead justify ethnonationalism or anti-immigration sentiments?
I am co-organizing this seminar with my colleague Cynthia Snider for ACLA’s 2019 Conference in Chicago March 19th-22nd. We would like papers that can be presented in 15-20 minutes, which will leave plenty of time for discussion. Proposals must be submitted through the ACLA website (link below). The deadline to submit proposals is Monday, September 23, at 9:00am EST. After we collect all papers, we will submit the final seminar proposal to ACLA and be notified on or around November 1st whether the seminar was accepted.