ACLA 2024: The Politics of Legibility, Lateness, Liberation

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

Organizers: Daimys Garcia (, Jorge Cartaya (, Ana Luszczynska (

Seminar: The Politics of Legibility, Lateness, Liberation

Deadline: September 30, 2023 at 11:59PM PST

This seminar explores the tension in registers of legibility and liberation. For example, there are many disputes among humanist, postcolonialist, decolonial scholars as to the viability of “the human” to survivant peoples as a heuristic for legibility of their histories and futurities. Similarly, debates in the environmental humanities abound concerning the term Anthropocene–inherited from natural scientists–and whether the prefix “anthropos” (Greek for “human”) can accurately represent the uneven material histories that gave rise to it. These terms have and continue to serve histories of enslavement, colonization, and extraction that enable the rise of industrialization and global capitalism as we understand it.

The bridge connecting these debates, we find, is the critical position of “lateness,” wherein scholars (of color, queer, disabled, working class, etc.) arrive at the scene after conversations have been had and the work seemingly done. Once the fields expand to include narratives of these “late” scholars, earlier interlocutors “move on” to ostensibly newer and “less exhausted” frameworks (for example, posthumanism, etc.). The reification of colonial violences as to who is represented continues. To make oneself legible within the strictures of these fields, then, is to negotiate with and participate in inherited logics, rubrics, and the congealed futures they calculated without accounting for your or other perspectives.

We resist legibility as defined solely by colonial logics while recognizing that legibility remains a condition of possibility for coalition-building and making kin across disciplines, places, and time. As scholars and activists, how, then, are we to negotiate this tension?

We welcome 300 word abstracts for papers that use literary, philosophical, cultural material–and their obvious intersections–to grapple with questions or topics such as:

  • Is the human capacious enough as a category to represent black, indigenous, Latinex, queer, and other resistant perspectives? 

  • Can the Anthropocene do justice to either the material incumbencies that constituted it as such or potential futures that redress those disparities? 

  • Why and how do these calculuses (the human, the anthropocene, etc.) become untenable for some scholars, activists, feminists, anticolonial/decolonial thinkers, etc.?

  • How can we build sustained, coalitional, and decolonial relationships that exactly sit with the dangers of legibility (thinking here with Bernice Johnson-Reagon, Glen Coulthard, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, etc.)?

  • How might literature become a generative space that imagines futures that do not shy away from these tensions but instead grapple with the possibilities of liberation from the often oppressive dynamics of representation and legibility? Which literatures do this work?

  • Topics that contend with Donna Haraway’s Cthulucene, Anna Tsing’s Plantationocene, Jason Moore’s Capitalocene in relation to questions of legibility and liberation.

  • Topics that contend with Sylvia Wynter, bell hooks, Yomaira Figueroa-Vasquez, Maria Lugones, Audre Lorde and others as they call for reimagination of categories that have historically served to oppress (the human, woman, black, difference, etc.).

  • The politics of representation, including but not limited to the relationships (and distinctions) between legibility and representation. The particular epistemological, ontological, historical, political, and ethical threads of discourses of representation and their bearing on our current political moment. Understanding legibility in terms of notions of representation in social, political, etc. spheres. 

  • Extralinguistic modes of communication–body language, touch, sound, etc.– and how they might build conditions for relation and/or liberation.

  • How “lateness” as a judgment of a scholar’s timeliness forecloses possibilities for new work in a field that has fallen out of fashion.

If this call resonates, yet you do not see your fields/works/struggles represented, please apply. 

Please submit abstracts through the ACLA portal during the submission period. If you have any inquiries, please email the seminar organizers. The seminar organizers will review all submitted papers and propose their rosters to the ACLA Program Committee after the September 30 deadline has passed.