Concourse: 01/17/22


Monday, January 17, 2022

EXTENDED DEADLINE: Contested Solidarities: Agency and Victimhood in Anglophone Literatures and Cultures


Sinan Antoon (Iraq/USA) | Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria) | Blessing Obada (Germany/Nigeria) | Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya) | Michael Rothberg (UCLA) | Arundhati Roy (India)

Extended deadline for individual papers and panels: 15 February 2022

If Anglophone literatures and cultures worldwide once sprang from a contested terrain of solidarities emerging in the shadow of colonialism, many of them have been struggling with the legacies of these solidarities, with ideals of liberation that turned into new forms of oppression, and with the clamorous or muted appeal of old and new victimhoods for more than half a century now. Ethnic, racial or national victimhood and solidarity have been invoked in a cynical politics of exclusion all over the globe – from an aggressive assertion of Hindu hegemony in India to the militant Buddhism in the guise of nationalism in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the abuse of anticolonialism as an ideology of oppression in Zimbabwe. In a quite different setting, victimhood has also become a mainspring of the anxiety-infested xenophobia spawned by right-wing populism in contemporary Europe. At the same time, the oppression of minorities and the plight of political, economic and environmental refugees has generated new forms of sociality as well as solidarity.

While the 21st century has seen the exhaustion of ‘enchanted’ or ‘unconditional’ solidarities rallying around idealized images of oppressed ‘postcolonial’ or ‘third world’ collectivities, sections of academia continue to see ‘resistance’ as form of catharsis, or even a panacea for a myriad of victimhoods and grievances. Yet, Anglophone literary texts and cultural productions themselves have long since engaged in self-reflexive encounters that have undermined trite formulations of perpetrators and victims and have explored the tribulations of what Michael Rothberg has recently called ‘implicated subjects’ (2019): all modern subjects are involuntarily implicated both in the history of oppression and victimhood, often simultaneously – not only in the formerly colonizing, but also in the formerly colonized regions of the world. More often than not, these implications, which call for a ‘disenchanted’ or ‘conditional’ solidarity that holds the abuses of victimhood in the name of agency accountable, cut across habitual East/West or North/South divides: as large parts of the world are rightly admiring civil resistance against the current military rulers of Myanmar and deploring the overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi, the memory of how her own government was complicit with the persecution of the Rohingya minority in Burma seems to be waning. At the same time, European admonitions to respect democracy and protect the Rohingya refugees are timely but hardly beyond reproof given the background of calculated misery in its refugee camps in the Mediterranean and unceasing daily deaths at its external frontiers.

The 2022 Annual Conference of the Association for Postcolonial Anglophone Studies (GAPS) will engage in a wide-ranging reassessment of implicated subjects, of the uses and abuses of victimhood, of different forms of agency, and of the manifold implications of English as a medium of literary and cultural expression in anglophone literatures, cultures and media. Participants are invited to scrutinize fictional encounters with ‘internal’ forms of oppression, with the ‘enemy within’ (Nandy) and ‘the danger of a single story’ (Adichie), or the excessive display of wealth and power by local bourgeoisies (Mbembe). They are also encouraged to engage in a self-reflexive discussion on the role of ‘unconditional’ and ‘conditional’ solidarities in Anglophone literary cultures and on the role of victimhood in recent debates on globalization, world literature and the Anthropocene. Furthermore, participants may wish to tackle the new solidarities expressed through concepts such as cosmopolitanism (Appiah), Afropolitanism (Selasi), conviviality (Gilroy) or environmental justice and to explore the role of anglophone literatures and cultures as ‘resources of hope’ (Raymond Williams). Participants are further welcome to focus on transitions from a politics of victimhood to a poetics of agency in anglophone literatures and cultures and to scrutinize the role of English in plurilingual contact zones across the world.

We invite contributions exploring the conference theme in areas such as:
⦁ Internal rifts: the struggle against oppressive populisms and authoritarian power in anglophone literatures and cultures
⦁ Unfinished business? The role of national and other liberations in contemporary literature and cultures
⦁ Three decades of Postcolonial Studies: Past and present understandings of agency and victimhood
⦁ Neoliberal and other capitalisms: critiques of globalization and populist resentment
⦁ The poetics and politics of indigenous sovereignty
⦁ Uneasy linkages: indigeneity and migration
⦁ Intimate enemies: “Traitors” in contemporary anglophone literatures and cultures
⦁ Civil war and after: reconciliatory imaginaries in literature, film and other media
⦁ Beyond victimology: war narratives in a decentred world
⦁ Convivial imaginaries: Resources of hope in Black and Asian British cultural production
⦁ Old and new South-South relations in anglophone studies
⦁ Victims or perpetrators? Implicated subjects in the Anthropocene
⦁ The New Anglophones: English-language writing in the Arab world
⦁ Comparisons: Franco-, hispano- and anglophone literatures in the contact zone
⦁ Teaching complexity: implicated subjects as a challenge to pedagogical practice

Work in progress in anglophone postcolonial studies – including M.A./M.Ed., PhD and Postdoc projects as well as ongoing research projects in general – can be presented in the “Under Construction” section, for which poster presentations are also welcome.

Conference Format:

Given the current dynamics of the Covid 19 pandemic, it is unlikely that we will be able to organize the conference as a full presence event. However, we remain hopeful that a hybrid format with some delegates and speakers being present at Goethe University and others joining via a video system will be possible. We are also prepared to set up the conference as a fully digital event if necessary. The final decision on the conference format will be taken at the beginning of the academic summer term at Goethe University and communicated by 15 April, 2022 at the latest.

Conference Fees:

Conference fees for those participating in presence at Goethe University (in case this will be possible) are:

GAPS members*                    Non-members/non-presenters

90 € employed **                    100 € employed **

45€ students                           50€ students

* all presenters, excluding invited speakers, are required to be GAPS members. GAPS membership form can be obtained here.

**full-time faculty and employed postdocs

For those participating digitally, there will be no conference fees.

Conference Registration:

Conference registration will open on 1 March, 2022. All conference delegates, including those participating digitally, will need to register. Access to all conference events will be possible after registration only.

If a hybrid conference format is possible, payments for those attending the conference at Goethe University will have to be made after 15 April, 2022. In this case, an early-bird rate will be available until 1 May, 2022.

Conference Dinner / Hospitality:

If a hybrid conference format is possible, delegates attending the conference at Goethe University will be informed about the conference dinner and hospitality arrangements by 15 April, 2022.

Conference convenors:Dr. Pavan Kumar Malreddy and Prof. Dr. Frank Schulze-Engler, Institute for English and American Studies, Goethe University Frankfurt.


Contact Info: 

Pavan Malreddy & Frank Schulze-Engler

Institut für England- und Amerikastudien
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1
D-60629 Frankfurt a.M.

Office: IG-Farben-Haus, 4.156