CFP - Refugee Voices in Contemporary Literature. For Special Focus Section, Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature (6/1/2023) (Jan. 2025)

deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature
contact email: 

Call for Papers for Special Focus Section (January 2025)

Refugee Voices in Contemporary Literature

Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature


This special focus section of Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature highlights the ways refugee authors tell stories of displacement, while engaging with issues of representation, authenticity, voice, the politics of refuge and humanitarianism, and the paradigms of victimhood and rescue. In response to the “problem-oriented approach to refugees,” the growing interdisciplinary field of critical refugee studies (CRS) aims to highlight the resilience and creativity of refugee communities: “a humane and ethical site of inquiry that re-conceptualizes refugee lifeworlds not as a problem to be solved by global elites but as a site of social, political and historical critiques that, when carefully traced, make transparent processes of colonization, war, and displacement” ( This framework and others reframe analyses of literature of displacement: to complicate traditional paradigms of victimhood and rescue (critique of humanitarianism), present nontraditional figures of refugee affect (e.g. the “ungrateful refugee,” Dina Nayeri), excavate additional knowledge of refugee experiences, and shift focal points from suffering to resilience. Considering the continued relevance of refugees as those who are both “invisible and hypervisible” (Nguyen 15), this special issue seeks to remedy the imposed “condition of voicelessness” of those who have been displaced by highlighting their narratives (Soguk 294). The contributions to this issue should engage with critical frameworks that center the creative work of refugee authors and artists, while acknowledging the complexity of what it means to be displaced in the contemporary era. 

The editors welcome articles that explore topics and concepts related to the opening of critical refugee studies in German Studies as well as in Francophone and Hispanic cultural production, and comparative studies.


Themes for contributions may include, but are not limited to:


  • figures of displacement and placelessness
  • intertwined histories of flight, colonialism, and imperialism
  • gratitude and the “ungrateful refugee” (Dina Nayeri)
  • the “good” refugee 
  • concepts of livability 
  • refugee refusal
  • technology and flight
  • the place of the camp
  • statelessness, human rights and refugee rights in literature
  • forced displacement and intersections of Indigenous studies and refugee studies


Please submit an abstract of 350-500 words along with a brief biography to Kathryn Sederberg ( and Rebekah Slodounik ( by June 1, 2023. Notifications of acceptance can be expected by June 15, and complete manuscripts of 6,000-8,000 words, formatted in MLA style (see formatting guidelines), will be due by October 1, 2023. Founded in 1976, the journal Studies in 20th and 20st Century Literature became open access in 2014, and charges authors no fees.


Guest Editors: 

Kathryn Sederberg, Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of German Studies, Kalamazoo College

Rebekah Slodounik, Assistant Professor of German Studies, Bucknell University


Works Cited

Espiritu, Yên Lê, Lan Duong, Ma Vang, Victor Bascara, Khatharya Um, Lila Sharif, and Nigel Hatton. Departures: An Introduction to Critical Refugee Studies. Oakland: U of California P, 2022.

Nayeri, Dina. The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You. New York: Catapult, 2019.

Nguyen, Viet Thanh, ed. “Introduction.” The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. New York: Abrams Press, 2018, pp. 11-22.

Soguk, Nevgat. “Border’s Capture: Insurrectional Politics, Border-Crossing Humans, and the New Political.” In Borderscapes: Hidden Geographies and Politics at Territory’s Edge, edited by Prem Kumar Rajaram and Carl Grundy-Warr, Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2007, pp. 283-308.