Animals of a Different Color: Animals and Race in Literature and Film

deadline for submissions: 
April 15, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
MMLA 2022 - Animals in Literature and Film
contact email: 



Call for Papers: “Animals in Literature and Film” (Permanent Panel)

Midwest Modern Languages Association

November 17–20, 2022 in Minneapolis, MN


“Animals of a Different Color: Animals and Race in Literature and Film”


This year’s “Animals in Literature and Film” panel at the Midwest Modern Language Association’s annual meeting (November 17–20, 2022 in Minneapolis, MN) invites papers engaging the conference’s theme of “Post-Now,” specifically how works of literature or film use animals as a vehicle for engaging with, responding to, and/or implicating racial/racist discourses.


The race-animal connection is certainly a problematic one but one that bears discussion. As Benedicte Boisseron has said in Afro-Dog, “Looking at connections between racism and speciesism reveals the inextricable entanglement of the black and the animal. But, even though the two may mutually— or alternately—elide each other, they can empower each other as well by turning this intersectional bond into defiance” (xix). Scholars such as Aph Ko, Glen Elder, Jennifer Wolch, and Jody Emel have all engaged with the animal-race entanglement in productive ways, and they are all invested in the dual question: what happens when we animalize race, and what happens when we racialize animals? 


The difficulty that these discussions provide interest us in our explorations of animals and race in literature and film in this panel. Why are certain animals brought to the table when it comes to racial-animal discussions, and why are others uninvited? How do our real life animal-human interactions (e.g. agriculture, science, cultural history, etc.) inform these theoretical constructions and intersections? This panel will examine these questions and others throughout history in literature and film. Potential topics include but are not limited to:


  • Race / species / breed theory

  • The history of the “white dog” in America

  • Racialized discussions of dogfighting

  • The use of race in animal representations in literature and film (Dumbo, Zootopia)

  • Zoological constructions of whiteness (albinism)

  • The transposition of exoticized animals with racialized Other

  • Racial-sexual politics (the early modern to today Western stereotype that Black men are “hung like horses”)

  • The ethics of “colonizing” animal rites and farming practices (The Cove)

  • The allegory of animal experience to reflect on Black experience (Get Out)


We invite 15-minute papers from all fields which engage this topic from a literary, cinematic, or art historical angle both in our own cultural moment and beyond it. While we welcome submissions that engage in all languages and literatures, please plan to deliver your paper in English.


Abstracts of no more than 300 words (excluding bibliography) should be sent to Jonathan Thurston-Torres ( by April 15th. Please include your name, institutional affiliation (if any), the title of your paper, and any special audio-visual needs in the body of your email. Accepted panelists will be notified by mid-May.