CFP for Proposed ACLA Seminar: “Global Literary History and Peter J. Kalliney’s The Aesthetic Cold War (2022)”

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Jap-Nanak Makkar, University of Kentucky
contact email: 

It is a commonly adopted procedure within postcolonial studies to situate literary objects of the colony in relation to the cultural heritage of the colonizer. Whether read under the “writing back” rubric, or as instances of “hybridity” and “creolization,” postcolonial texts are commonly conceived in terms of an exchange taking place between center and periphery. But recent work on “the global cold war” (Westad 2005) promises to overturn conventional protocol. As a result of this paradigm, we have begun to view the postwar years as characterized by a global contest between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. And as noted by scholars of late, it was a contest that helped to create the so-called “Third World” (Westad), leading ultimately to the formulation of “cultural policies” that “shaped” third-world literature (Popescu 2020) as well as to the renewal of the global South into a site of “radical knowledge production [in the late 20th century]” (Yoon 2019).  

Peter J. Kalliney’s forthcoming book, The Aesthetic Cold War: Decolonization and Global Literature (Princeton, October 2022), participates in this conceptual upheaval. The book demonstrates that when independence-era writing is refitted on a broader map, one that includes the geopolitical rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union, it appears to be the first phase of “global literature.” Accordingly, the “aesthetic cold war” emerges as a “distinct phase of global literary history.” Presenting materials from newly opened archives, The Aesthetic Cold War reveals that the US and the Soviet Union maintained programs of either cultural diplomacy or coercive control to influence the first generation of postcolonial writers. But it ultimately finds that literature allied with neither side neatly, opting for more creative solutions. Thus The Aesthetic Cold War offers a nuanced view of midcentury literature, framing it as a corpus that strove for distinction as it navigated political pressures.

This seminar invites papers that elaborate on the book’s main topics, engage its arguments and/or consider the utility of the “global cold war” as a framework for future research. Participants will give 20-minute remarks, focusing on themes previously neglected by postcolonial studies and brought into view by “the global cold war” more generally or The Aesthetic Cold War in particular.  You might consider any of the following as you prepare your abstract:  

-       Cultural institutions, conferences, journals or residency programs sponsored by the U.S. or the Soviet Union 

-       The relationship between anti-colonial genres (prison writing, the bildungsroman, the manifesto) and the Cold War  

-       South-South solidarities and their relationship to the Cold War 

-       Does the framework of a “global cold war” help us to reconceptualize how postcolonial literature relates to “modernism,” “socialist realism,” and “autonomy”? 

-       What sorts of configurations of “global literature” are opened up by The Aesthetic Cold War in particular, and/or the “global Cold War” more generally? 

-       What constitutes “non-alignment” in a literary text, in an author’s career, or aesthetic ideology? What makes a text appear ideologically compromised, partisan, propagandistic?

-       What sort of approaches to literature—formalist, historicist, sociological, comparative --best advance the research agenda represented by “the global cold war”? What, if any, are the methodological implications of accepting the thesis of the global cold war? 


Please write to Jap-Nanak Makkar at with any questions. The deadline for the submission of paper abstracts is Monday, October 31, 2022, and the portal to submit is here. I welcome inquiries about appropriate paper ideas and strongly encourage graduate students to apply.