MSA 2024: Gendered Migration in Transnational Modernism

deadline for submissions: 
March 29, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Modernist Studies Association
contact email: 

Gendered Migration in Transnational Modernism

 MSA 2024, CHICAGO, NOVEMBER 7-10, 2024


Deadline for abstract submission: March 29, 2024

In the context of Modernism, the cultural phenomenon that fashions its very name on the essence of modernity, gender plays a pivotal role in directing the vectors of modernity’s motions. If Modernism is regarded as a product of a historical period, it is one that coincides with the “New Woman” of first-wave feminism. If Modernism is seen as a cultural movement ushering in new aesthetics, it is also one that witnesses the suspicion meted out to women writers, as is evident in James Joyce’s remark that T.S. Eliot was the end of the “idea of poetry for ladies.”  Modernism, an event that has traveled across different nation-state boundaries creating and influencing knowledge, is marked not just by migration but, more specifically, by gendered migration. Some better-known experiences are those of writers and intellectuals like Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, and Kay Boyle – women expatriates of the Lost Generation. Forced emigration, exiles, and exoduses, resulting from global conflicts, are further complicated by the experiences of the Othered genders. Modernism not only witnessed a disruption of national boundaries but also of gender and sexual ones. Women migrated from domestic homes to public workspaces. Queer desires and homosocial bonds were reimagined, and as Virginia Woolf’s Orlando so deftly portrays, gender was seen as migration across space, time, and bodies.

There has been persistent scholarly interest in tracing cross-cultural influences in literary production, migration, and gendered embodiment across nations. The cultural significance of transgressing national boundaries is perhaps best captured in Paul Gilroy’s foundational text The Black Atlantic (1993). Gilroy discusses how transnational frameworks can eliminate myths surrounding the “purity of cultures.” Transnational studies, therefore, mark a methodological departure from rigid “ethnic absolutism” to flexible “intercultural positionality.”

Drawing on Gilroy, our panel contends that if transnationalism allows us to think of modernity as a cultural progression that transgresses foreclosed ideas of race and ethnicity, transnational modernity becomes more fluid when paired with another equally fluid framework — gender. This panel invites paper presentations that speculate how and why gender – in its many political and corporeal forms – migrates in transnational Modernist literature. Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following questions:


  • With newness being a fundamental ethos of Modernism, how does gender function in Modernism’s migration from a traditional past to an original new?
  • How does transnational migration facilitate/prevent migrations in gender performances?
  • How is agency in transnational migration complicated by gender?
  • How do gendered migrations within trans and non-binary bodies push the boundaries of Modernist works?


We welcome proposals that address such questions and beyond. For consideration, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words and a brief bio by March 29, 2024, to Debakanya Haldar at