** Deadline Extended ** Bridges and Borders: Navigating Problems and Possibilities in Language and Culture

deadline for submissions: 
February 5, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Carnegie Mellon University Graduate Student Colloquia
contact email: 

Bridges and Borders: Navigating Problems and Possibilities in Language and Culture

A Graduate Student Virtual Conference presented by the Carnegie Mellon University Department of English Colloquia with Keynote Speaker Jasbir Puar

April 23, 2021

The border is a powerful concept in the humanities. Both real and symbolic, borders are constructed and maintained through language, ideology, cultural production, and other structural and systemic practices. This conference seeks graduate-student work that explores the role of borders in a range of humanities disciplines. Works should engage with the problems and possibilities raised by borders or bridging borders. A thematic goal of this conference is to cross the borders that compartmentalize the brilliant research occurring in Pittsburgh, “the city of bridges.” We invite PhD and MA students from studies of literature, film and media, rhetoric and composition, cultural studies, communications, professional and technical writing, and creative writing. 

To create physical borders is to exercise power. In their very real sense, borders are political and carry material consequences. But as symbolic lines of division, borders can reflect this power. Borders reveal what it means to live as an insider or an outsider; to live within a community or at the margins of one; to live fully within a space or inhabit the in-between. Borders can, and often do, create binary spaces. And as humanists, we are challenged to find these visible and invisible exclusionary practices that create isolation and harm. 

Crossing borders opens individuals up to risk. Acknowledging this risk, recent political and social movements build bridges through commonalities and coalition-building. The Black Lives Matter movement illustrates how social causes can bridge divisions between groups of people and mobilize politically motivated communities. Shared identity is one way that borders can be bridged as individuals share access to power in spite of pre-existing social borders. And many other such discursive and cultural practices within film, literature, politics, and more exist that draw people together.

We welcome presentations that respond to any of the following questions:

  • What experiences arise from living on a borderline? 
  • How have contestations over borders created affiliations that both supersede and reinscribe national boundaries?
  • In which ways are borders being crossed or reinforced in the context of current public health debates? 
  • How is the border represented in fiction, film, and other narrative genres? 
  • What is the power of narrative forms in speaking for subaltern or marginal groups?
  • What are the politics of representation as they relate to the border, or lives on the border? 
  • How do the discourses surrounding bodies and embodiment engage or challenge border rhetorics?
  • How do borders become manifest in organizational and professional writing contexts?
  • How do the conventions of genres and disciplines help to maintain symbolic boundaries within the academy?

We invite presentations that consider the following keywords and concepts as they relate to borders: 

  • Spatial and/or symbolic borders in various disciplinary contexts
  • Border crossing and bridges 
  • Allies and allyship
  • Borders and intersections: identity and marginalization  
  • The materiality and material spaces of borders
  • Identity and coalition building 
  • Institutional power and transformation
  • Liminality and the space between borders 

For more information or to submit, visit https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/english/research-and-publications/bridges-a...