Panel Proposal for MLA 2021, Toronto: The Other in Narratives of Rival Nations

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Lissi Athanasiou-Krikelis
contact email: 

The Other in Narratives of Rival Nations

This panel seeks papers that examine the representation of the ethnic Other in literatures of rival nations or ethnic groups in twentieth and twenty-first century children’s and young adult fiction from around the world. How is the ethnic Other presented to young readers, and how are children initiated into certain cultural, political, national, or historical ideologies of the rival nation? 

For Homi Bhabha in “DissemiNation,” the national self cannot be defined on its own: “The identity of cultural difference cannot […] exist autonomously in relation to an object or a practice ‘in-itself’… It is constituted through the locus of the Other…” (312 –313). Similarly, in The Ethic of Identity, the anthropologist and philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah declares that “cultural norms are, after all, constituted not only by what they affirm and revere, but also by what they exclude, reject, scorn, despise, ridicule” (139). Appiah’s quotation may suggest that the Other or the Other’s norms are often viewed in belligerent terms; however, such an assumption may not be universally true. The panel seeks to investigate the variety of such portrayals, guided by the overarching question, “how is the ethnic Other depicted?” which should incite the more exploratory question, “why?”

Although the panel’s purview may fall under the categories of postcolonialism and neocolonialism, the main interest lies in pairings of nations whose political and social histories intersect whereas their cultural sensibilities may diverge. How does children’s literature weave the ethnic Other into its fabric for its young audience? Does it include the Other in order to vicariously define the national self, and if so, how is the national self meant to be conceived? If there are different ethnic Others, how does their representation differ? In other words, is the Eurocentric Other portrayed in a different light than its Middle Eastern counterpart? Does the Other represent the sovereignty of his/her nation, or is he/she individualized? What may such distinctions suggest? The historical novel for children and young adults may be the first place to look for instances of the Other. Nonetheless, in the diverse cities around the globe, the ethnic Other may be a neighbor, a classmate, or a distant relative, and may, therefore, reside outside a historical context.

Works Cited

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. The Ethics of Identity, Princeton UP, 2005.

Bhabha, Homi K. “DissemiNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation.” Nation and Narration, edited by Homi K. Bhabha, Routledge, 2015, pp. 291-322.


Panelists may consider the following points:

  • the ethnic Other as representative of his/her nation
  • the ethnic Other informing or contesting ideologies about the national self 
  • borders, topology, geography and the sensibility of the ethnic Other
  • the Other’s culture, history, religion
  • the ethnic Other in non-historical fiction, such as school curriculums, travel narratives, biographies
  • picture book illustrations and the depiction of the ethnic Other
  • the reductive Other in non-fiction: picture book biographies of national heroes
  • war trauma and the portrayal of the ethnic Other
  • trauma studies: being the ethnic Other
  • gender roles and the ethnic Other
  • the child-versus adult, ethnic Other
  • historical retellings about the identity of the ethnic Other
  • the ethnic Other as peripheral character


Please send 500-word abstracts and a short bio to lathanas@nyit.eduby March 1st.

The panel is co-sponsored by the Children’s Literature Association and the Modern Greek Studies Association and is a guaranteed panel.