State of the Field: Postcolonial Literature, Dead and Alive (ACLA 2023)

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Rebecca Oh and Rose Casey / American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

Postcolonial literature has died and been resurrected more times than a zombie in modern film. Often dubbed the Franken-child of Marxism’s commitment to real material conditions and deconstruction’s obsession with textuality, postcolonial studies has been schismed between its economic and political commitments, and its preoccupation with the politics of language and translation. It also emerged alongside the rise of theories of globalization and has been a primary field for thinking about the uneven movements of local practices and global processes. More recently, postcolonial studies has transformed again, redubbed “global Anglophone” or “world literature,” terms which seek to distance themselves from postcolonialism’s earlier preoccupations while breaking new ground for thinking about the world beyond Anglo-America. Neither simply dead or alive but ever-changing, postcolonial literature’s many morphings beg us to stake stock of where the field has been and where it is going in the coming years. 

This seminar invites early and mid-career scholars to offer their takes on the state of the field of postcolonial literary studies. While such assessments are often provided by senior scholars, the angle of vision provided by rising voices is just as valuable and often overlooked. What directions, questions, and problems seem most fruitful for the field? How can postcolonial studies benefit from new methodological approaches, such as sociological studies of literature, the material turn, auto-ethnography, qualitative and quantitative research, or digital methods? How are fields like law and literature, the environmental humanities, urban studies, or economic history motoring new interdisciplinary inquires? And as extractivism, climate change, exclusionary nationalism, authoritarian regimes, and economic inequality intensify around the world, what lessons can postcolonial literature offer for new problems with old roots? We invite papers that propose interventions particularly germane to postcolonial studies' old and new commitments and papers that assess what methods, questions, objects, or epistemologies are most compelling for postcolonial studies now and to come. 

250-350 word abstracts should be submitted via the ACLA seminar portal October 1-31. Do not submit abstracts to organizers directly. For questions contact rsoh@illinois.edu.