DEADLINE EXTENDED: MLA Roundtable Special Session: What’s Next? Naming Post-Immigrant Diaspora Literature

deadline for submissions: 
March 27, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Diana Filar/Brandeis University
contact email: 

NOTE: EXTENDED DEADLINE, Due to the MLA's own extension of the deadline for special session applications, I have extended the deadline for this cfp, in consideration of the personal and professional turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic


On December 30, 2019, Cesar Miguel (@cesarmvm) tweeted “Diaspora is almost becoming as useless a term as immigrant.” The thread continued by distinguishing between the experiences of refugees and those who gained easier access to documentation and residence because it “benefited American/European geopolitical interests; those who make six figures in highly trained fields and those who earn way below the poverty line.” Min Hyoung Song echoed Cesar Miguel’s thoughts but with relation to terms further associated with migration, noting that we need to reconceptualize the language of migration, and Viet Thanh Nguyen chimed in to note that – as per Paul Gilroy – most terms inevitably require clarification and adjectival distinction.

They key emphases of these claims – the heterogeneous experiences of diasporic people who migrate to the US and the need for new terms to describe new circumstances – constitute the focus of this roundtable. Participants will investigate the ways in which we name, talk about, and categorize US literature by migrants, (im)migrants, refugees and/or that which we have called transnational literature, literature of the diaspora, and multiethnic literature. When and why are these terms less effective than they used to be? What use value does their historicity still offer – if any? What forms do/might these alternately named literatures take? What other terms can we propose?

Topics of particular interest include: labor and migration; climate change and migration; considerations of shifting ethno-racial constructions; explorations of different genres and forms (i.e., novel vs. poetry vs. memoir); comparative perspectives (i.e., between sending and receiving countries); generative proposals for new terminology

Please submit abstracts of 250 words to Diana Filar, by March 27, 2020.*