NeMLA Panel 2024: Censorship on My Mind: Politicization in Education and Publishing

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Lane Glisson / Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 


Masha Gessen, in her book Surviving Autocracy, wrote that “Trump’s autocratic attempt began with a war on words.” Other politicians followed Trump’s playbook by repurposing terms like woke and critical race theory to ban the teaching of Black history and systemic racism. The arousal of fears by Fox News, talk radio, and the religious right created an environment that prepared the ground for the current censorship laws that are now being passed. PEN America’s 2023 Index of Gag Orders lists the introduction of 96 censorship bills that would dictate what can be taught in K-12 schools, colleges and universities. During the first half of the 2022-23 school year, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 1,477 instances of individual books banned, affecting 874 unique titles, an increase of 28 percent compared to the prior six months, January – June 2022.

Due to the efforts by right-wing activist organizations such as Moms for Liberty, librarians and educators that provide sex and gender-themed books in their collections have been labeled groomers or pedophiles, and exposed to public harassment. This school year, numerous states enacted “wholesale bans” in which entire classrooms and school libraries have been suspended, closed, or emptied of books, permanently or temporarily. Teachers and librarians in several states have been directed to catalog entire collections for scrutiny within short timeframes, under new laws that have been written using vague language that is difficult to interpret.The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations are challenging classroom censorship laws in Florida, Oklahoma and New Hampshire, hoping to set precedents that stem the tide of censorship in other states.

This session welcomes papers on censorship and free speech, from local, national, or global perspectives. Scholars and creative writers who are researching and writing about our current situation of censorship or one from the past from around the globe are invited to submit abstracts. Research on the erasure of women's, nonconforming, or BIPOC perspectives are welcomed. 

Abstracts are due Sept. 30, 2023 and should be uploaded at Northeast MLA website here:

Questions can be addressed to: