UPDATE - UNCHAINING SELVES: The Power of the Neo-Slave Narrative Genre—A CALLALOO Call for Papers (Deadline: July 10, 2015)

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CALLALOO invites papers for a special issue on Neo-Slave Narratives guest edited by Joan Anim-Addo (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Maria Helena Lima (SUNY Geneseo).

Project Description:

Since the last decades of the twentieth century, writers across the African Diaspora have drawn on elements of the narrative structure and thematic configuration of slave narratives in their recovery of the genre.[1] The main reasons for this seemingly widespread desire to rewrite a genre that officially lost its usefulness with the abolition of slavery are to re-affirm the historical value of the original slave narrative and/or to reclaim the humanity of the enslaved by (re)imagining their subjectivity. No other genre has undergone such widespread creolization—both a process and a concept used to describe many forms of contact across a wide range of cultural and ideological formations—having become a mode shared by many cultures in an uneven yet interdependent world. The term is understood here as simultaneously descriptive and analytical: creolization emerges from the lived experience of peoples and provides a theoretical framework that does justice to the realities of subaltern lives. Compellingly, as Lars Eckstein writes, "while most colonial testimonies of slavery have long disappeared from the working memory of today's Black Atlantic societies, the prejudices and stereotypes they conveyed [unfortunately] have not."[2] Writing about neo-slave narratives, Ashraf Rushdy defines such "palimpsest narratives" as fiction in which a contemporary character is "forced to adopt a bi-temporal perspective that shows the continuity and discontinuities from the period of slavery." In these narratives, "the present is always written against a background where the past is erased but still legible."[3]

Essays should address some of the complexities of contemporary neo-slave narratives:

  • the global nature of slavery and hence the need for different representations rather than privileging the US context and perspective on slavery and slave culture;
  • the impact some of these narratives have on creating an alternative national imaginary—perhaps even a transnational imaginary;
  • the movement and multiplicity inherent to the process of diaspora permeating the neo-slave narrative genre;
  • the neo-slave narrative as a hybrid form, a combination not only of the seemingly oral and written but of various other generic modes;
  • the neo-slave narrative as post-memory—trauma survival accounts—the body as a site of memory;
  • the neo-slave narrative as "counter memory";
  • the neo-slave narrative reconceptualization of community and home;
  • the neo-slave narrative as critique of contemporary historiography—"the sea is history" in Derek Walcott's words;
  • the neo-slave narrative in queer/erotic contexts;
  • the neo-slave narrative as song (i.e. as opera, reggae, and/or dancehall songs).

CALLALOO Submission Guidelines:

Manuscripts must be submitted online through the CALLALOO manuscript submission system by July 10, 2015. Please see the submission guidelines here: http://callaloo.expressacademic.org/login.php. In order to submit a manuscript, you must register with the online system. The registration process will only take a few minutes. All manuscripts will follow the usual review process for submissions, and the CALLALOO editor makes all final editorial decisions.

Guest Editors:

Joan Anim-Addo is Professor of Caribbean Literature and Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she teaches courses on Caribbean Literature, diaspora, Black British writing, and Creative Writing. Her research focuses on literature, history, the black diaspora, feminism, and the Caribbean. She is Director of the Centre for Caribbean Studies. Her publications include the libretto, Imoinda (2008); the poetry collection, Janie Cricketing Lady (2006); and the literary history, Touching the Body: History, Language and African-Caribbean Women's Writing (2007). Her co-edited books include Interculturality and Gender (2009), Caribbean-Scottish Relations: Colonial and Contemporary Inscriptions in History, Language and Literature (2007), and I am Black, White, Yellow: An Introduction to the Black Body in Europe (2007). She is co-editor of the Feminist Review Special Issues "Affect and Creolisation" (2013) and "Black British Feminisms" (2014).

Maria Helena Lima is a Professor of English at SUNY Geneseo, where she has been teaching courses on genre, postcolonial literatures and theories, women's studies, literatures of the African Diaspora, and Black British writing and culture since 1992. Lima has published on Merle Collins, Jamaica Kincaid, Caryl Phillips, Merle Hodge, and Zee Edgell in such journals as Callaloo, Obsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora, BMa: The Sonia Sanchez Review, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, Feminist Studies, and Genre. More recently, she translated and co-edited with Miriam Alves a bilingual anthology of short fiction by Afro-Brazilian Women, Women Righting / Mulheres Escre-vendo (Mango 2005), and published entries on Andrea Levy, Dorothea Smartt, and Meera Syal in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 347: "Twenty-First-Century 'Black' British Writers" (Gale 2009). Her essay "A Written Song: Andrea Levy's Neo-Slave Narrative" was published in EnterText 9, a special issue on Andrea Levy (http://www.brunel.ac.uk/cbass/arts-humanities/research/entertext/issues/...), and her essay, "The Choice of Opera for a Revisionist History: Joan Anim-Addo's Imoinda as a Neo-Slave Narrative" was published in Transcultural Roots Uprising: The Rhizomatic Languages, Literatures and Cultures of the Caribbean (2013).


[1] Neo-slave narratives include such diverse works as

  • Alex Haley's Roots (1976)
  • Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada (1976)
  • Octavia Butler's Kindred (1979)
  • Barbara Chase-Riboud's Sally Hemings (1979) and The President's Daughter (1994)
  • David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident (1981)
  • Charles Johnson's Oxherding Tale (1982) and Middle Passage (1990)
  • Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose (1986)
  • Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987)
  • J. California Cooper's Family (1992) and In Search of Satisfaction (1994)
  • Caryl Phillips's Crossing the River (1994)
  • Louise Meriwether's Fragments of the Ark (1994)
  • Fred D'Aguiar's The Longest Memory (1994) and Feeding the Ghosts (1997)
  • Lorene Cary's The Price of a Child (1995)
  • Edward P. Jones's The Known World (2003)
  • Valerie Mason-John's Borrowed Body (2005)
  • Andrea Levy's The Long Song (2010)
  • M. NourBese Philip's ZONG! (2011)

to name only a few.

[2] Eckstein, Lars. Re-Membering the Black Atlantic: On the Poetics and Politics of Literary Memory. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. 113.

[3] Rushdy, Ashraf. Neo-slave Narratives: Studies in the Social Logic of a Literary Form. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. 5, 8.