Roundtable: "Poetics of Refuge in the United States" (NeMLA 2023, Niagara Falls, NY)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
William Arighi, Springfield College

Over the past twenty years, refugee studies has turned toward a critical encounter with the legal studies framework that had previously dominated it. Scholars such as those in the Critical Refugee Studies Collective have emphasized the position of refugee as one that creates new forms of relationship across spaces and times unbound (but not unmarked) by the state. Through recent special issues of MELUS (2015) and AmerAsia (2021), as well as anthologies of refugee writing such as The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (Abrams, 2018) and Our Stories Carried Us Here (Green Card Voices, 2021), contemporary refugee studies has challenged us not to think of refugees as objects of policy, but as subjects of making: making it out, making do, self-making, etc. This position is embedded in particular histories that cut through narratives of national belonging, even as they sometimes adopt the language of “nation” and “belonging” to articulate their presence. As the United States has been implicated in some of the most notorious refugee movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well as the fraught politics of defining refugees in relation to our national “purpose,” this roundtable seeks to explore some of the varieties of “making” (Gr. poiesis) in contemporary poetry by refugees and the descendants of refugees working in the United States. The purpose of this roundtable is to gather scholars (and poets) to work through some of the challenges and opportunities that terms like “refuge” might imply in the poetic process, and how poetics might be useful in engaging with policy around refugees, immigrants, and militarism. Speakers addressing the writing process, formal innovations, and publishing ventures of refugees and their descendants are particularly encouraged to submit, as are poets who have been or whose families are refugees themselves.