(Counter) Narratives of Migration

deadline for submissions: 
December 7, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
University of Michigan Department of Comparative Literature
contact email: 

“I have lived that moment of the scattering of the people that in other times and other places, in the nations of others, becomes a time of gathering.”

— Homi K. Bhabha, “The Location of Culture”

Keynote speaker: Ariella Azoulay

Dates: March 13-14, 2020

In June 2019, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Trump’s administration was establishing “concentration camps” for immigrants on the southern border of the US. Her viral tweet, which has as of the posting of this CFP has46k retweets and 102k likes, has caused a bipartisan commotion.

Some responders were in solidarity with AOC, outraged over the inhumane conditions of these so-called migrant detainment centers. They urged us not to forget history, lest we repeat it. Others—both on the left and the right—protested the use of the term “concentration camp,” arguing that to apply it outside of the context of the Holocaust was flippant. And, of course, there was no shortage of those who responded by lauding the hostile treatment of immigrants.

But before you read this CFP, did you even remember her tweet? Is her media intervention making migration visible, or is the ephemeral nature of a tweet doing something else to the narrative of migration and the writing of history? Who reads these histories, how are they circulating, and how does that impact our understandings of what history is and who writes it?

The polemic around narratives of migration, the medium in which they evolve and the events they correspond to, expose a deep contradiction. We see globalization and digital media accelerating the circulation of ideas, people and material goods. But at the same time, governments across the world are making ever bolder attempts to delimit this circulation through state-sanctioned xenophobia and censorship. 

This year, CLIFF hopes to investigate the visibility, narratives, and media of migration. We aim to explore circulation in all its forms—bodies, ideas, and material goods—through its various manifestations in the arts, critical theory, and new media. We welcome papers from across disciplines, dealing with a wide range of languages and historical periods, as well as in various formats. We especially encourage papers focusing on particular case studies, presenting close readings of works and artists.   


Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • How do(n’t) our forms of documenting, narrating, and representing migration—both past and present—make movement tangible, visible, and memorable? 

  • How has critical theory, comparative literature, and media studies kept up with globalization and the development of global capitalism?

  • How have concepts such as memory, home,and belonging developed in works of literature, media, and the arts, and how relevant have they been in each historical moment?

  • How do works engage with the notions of citizenship and humanity in relation to migration?

  • How do narratives of migration (or their suppression) shape the production of cultural, ethnic and national identities?

  • What questions and directions do cultural works provide when it comes to conflicting affiliations, allegiances and identities in a context of hybridity and migration? 

  • What can we learn from critical theory/comparative literature/media studies about crossing/reinforcing/ (de)constructing/transgressing borders?  

  • What does it mean for migration to be visible or invisible? 

  • How does the migration/circulation of people affect the movement, reception, and transformation of cultural works? 

  • How do media infrastructures impact the circulation of texts and commodities? How do media infrastructures change who has access to circulated ideas?

  • How do the circulation and reception of texts intersect with the politics of migration?