Imagining Communities, Multilingually

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University of Groningen / Campus Fryslân


Special issue title: Imagining Communities, Multilingually

Journal: parallax


Edited by Jesse van Amelsvoort (University of Groningen/Campus Fryslân, NL) and Nicoletta Pireddu (Georgetown University, USA)


All around the world, modernity has been characterised by a drive towards ever more nation-states. The study of this phenomenon has heavily drawn on Benedict Anderson’s (1983) seminal concept of ‘imagined communities’. Anderson’s argument that the development of European print capitalism from the late medieval period to the modern era played a paramount role in language standardization and the creation of a national consciousness has been influential throughout the humanities and social sciences. In the face of unfolding globalization, today the claim that the printing press gave rise to ‘wholly new ideas of simultaneity’ has gained particular resonance. The upsurge of digital media and an increasingly interconnected world prompt us to ask whether these factors do not in fact enable a wholly new idea of simultaneity once again.

Contemporary globalization problematizes another tenet of the traditional understanding of imagined communities, namely its (implicit) monolingual nature. As many linguistic anthropologists have argued, the nation-state as a political ideal is the product and reproduction of a ‘standard language’ ideology (Woolard and Schiefelin, 1994; see also Gal, 2006). This ideal is strongly monolingual. As Yasemin Yildiz (2012) has argued with regard to Europe, however, the continent’s presumed monolingualism is slowly giving way to a postmonolingual paradigm, in which language variety and multilingualism are recognised and valued. 

Theorists so far have been slow to connect this drive towards (societal) multilingualism with the study of communities and the arrangement of the social in the ‘era of globalization’, to borrow Spivak’s (2012) term. One attempt has been made by Rebecca Walkowitz, in her book Born Translated, where she engages Anderson’s ideas from the perspective of translation, arguing that it ‘puts pressure on the conceptual boundaries between one community and another’ (2015: 29). This special issue wants to push these ideas further, exploring how the conditions and context of group and community formation change as the world becomes increasingly multilingual. 

In this special issue, titled “Imagining Communities, Multilingually,” which we intend to offer to the journal parallax, the various contributors pursue both a critique and an elaboration of Anderson’s work from the perspective of literary, artistic and societal multilingualism. Each essay takes one or more literary works, art works or other cultural products as a starting point for a reflection on the relationship between language, place and group formation in the early twenty-first century all over the world. It centrally asks how European legacies of enforced monolingualism and language standardization are worked through not only in Europe itself, but especially also in other places. The contributions are firmly rooted in literary, cultural and media studies, yet do not shy away from making connections with other humanities and social science disciplines. Topics authors might want to engage with can include:

  • textual multilingualism and the imagination of the social;
  • new media and historically invisible genres in academia, such as hip-hop;
  • language and the role of literature and art in imagining communities otherwise;
  • comparisons between Europe and other regions in the world;
  • globalization and the rise of new global lingua francas, most prominently English.


Instructions for Submissions

parallax is an internationally renowned, interdisciplinary journal bringing together work in cultural studies, critical theory and philosophy, and is of interest to those working in these fields, as well as cultural history, gender, queer and postcolonial studies, English and comparative literature, aesthetics, art history and visual cultures. Contributions to the journal are somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 words, inclusive of references and endnotes. Our aim is to make the special issue available in open access format.

We invite everybody to submit a short abstract (no more than 300 words), accompanied by a short biographical note (200 words max.). Abstracts are due 1 March 2020, notice of acceptance or rejection will follow by 1 April 2020. After this date, we will submit the proposal and suggested list of contributors to parallax. Final acceptance is conditional upon the journal editors’ decisions.


About the Editors 

Jesse van Amelsvoort is a PhD candidate at the University of Groningen/Campus Fryslân in the Netherlands. His research is situated at the intersection of comparative literature, minority studies and European studies, and examines the position of multilingual minority writers in a time of globalisation, border talk and a changing importance of the nation-state. He has published essays in Tulsa Studies in Women’s LiteratureJournal of European Studies and Dutch Crossing.

Nicoletta Pireddu is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and the Inaugural Director of the Georgetown Humanities Initiative. Her research interests include European literary and cultural relations, transnational identity construction, migration, and Mediterranean and island studies. Among her most recent books are the edited volume Reframing Critical, Literary, and Cultural Theories: Thought on the Edge (2018), andThe Works of Claudio Magris: Temporary Homes, Mobile Identities, European Borders (2015).



For more information, please get in touch with Jesse van Amelsvoort via