Contested Solidarities:
Agency and Victimhood in Anglophone Literatures and Cultures

32nd Annual Conference of the Association for Anglophone Postcolonial

Studies (Gesellschaft für anglophone postkoloniale Studien / GAPS)

Goethe University Frankfurt, 26-29 May, 2022

Wednesday 25 May

7pm, Conference Warm Up, Venue: Zur Sonne, Berger Str. 312, Frankfurt

Thursday 26 May

8:30 – 10:00

Conference Office

Conference Registration

9:30 – 10:00

Room 823

Opening Ceremony

Enrico Schleiff, President of Goethe University Frankfurt

Cecile Sandten, President of GAPS

Kathrin Bartha-Mitchell, Pavan Kumar Malreddy, Frank Schulze-Engler, Conference Organizers

10:00 – 11:00

Room 823

Geoffrey Davis Memorial Lecture:

Harshana Rambukwella (Open University Sri Lanka)

Deep Solidarity? Reflections on Post-colonial Solidarities in a Moment of National and Global Crisis

Chair: Frank Schulze-Engler (Frankfurt)

This talk explores what solidarity might mean in the current geo-political context through the specific example of postcolonial Sri Lanka, which is experiencing an existential threat unprecedented in the country’s contemporary history. Mired in a deep and intractable economic and governance crisis the country’s future looks dark. But in spite of this despondent outlook, a youth-led protest movement, that transcends the many institutional, social and economic fault lines, that have characterized Sri Lanka’s postcolonial history has emerged. I argue that this movement represents a form of ‘deep solidarity’ that stands in contrast to other iterations of solidarity such as enchanted and disenchanted solidarities and vertical and hierarchical solidarites that are often marred by instrumentalist motives shaped by geo-political power and other forms of instrumental power structures. Exploring both the actual protest movement and literary entanglements with the notion of solidarity, I offer a series of critical reflections on the limits and possibilities of solidarity in postcolonial societies and argue that deep solidarity is a tenuous and at time idealistic but nevertheless morally and even pragmatically superior alternative to other ways in which solidarity has been imagined.

Harshana Rambukwella is professor in English at the Postgraduate Institute of English, the Open University of Sri Lanka. Currently, he is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen) in Vienna and will take on another Visiting Fellowship at the University of Zurich later this year. He the Sri Lanka Chair at the South Asia Institute in Heidelberg in 2019 and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Human Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the author of The Politics and Poetics of Authenticity: A Cultural Genealogy of Sinhala Nationalism (UCL Press 2018) and has published in journals such as boundary 2, the Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of Commonwealth Literature and Postcolonial Text among others. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Sociolinguistics and serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Harshana is active in the promotion of Anglophone literature as a Trustee of the Gratiaen Prize for English creative writing instituted by Michael Ondaatje and is also a member of the State Literary Panel of Sri Lanka. With a primary focus on postcolonial literature and theory, Harshana’s work is interdisciplinary in nature and spans fields such as sociolinguistics, nationalism and history.”

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break

Panel 1, Moving the Center: Affect, Implication, and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures (I)

11:30 – 13:00, Room: 1.811

Chair: Delphine Munos (Liège and Ghent)

Bastien Bomans (Liège)

Rhizomatic Reading/Feeling of the Wor(l)d: Unex­pected (Queer) Connec­tions in David Chariandy’s Soucouyant

“First theorized by Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze (A Thousand Plateaus, 1980), the philosophical concept of the ‘rhizome’ suggests epistemological connections that draw on multiplicity, non-linearity and de-hierachization, rather than traditional modes of knowledge that follow constructions in ‘arborescence’. In the Caribbean context, the rhizome is associated with Edouard Glissant’s use of the concept to describe the multifaceted and complex intricacies that shape the creole identity (Poétique de la Relation, 1990). In Thiefing Sugar: Eroticism Between Women in Caribbean Literature (2010), Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley connects rhizomatic relations with queerness by highlighting Glissant’s neglect of “interlocking mangrove vines as a space for viewing a multiplicity of desires” (24) in his conceptualization, that is, his blindness regarding the intersections of race with other identity ‘roots’, such as gender and sexuality. Strikingly, the rhizomatic model undeniably shares similarities with queer thinking, namely, with its destabilization of binary thinking, its focus on fluidity and its ceaseless epistemological (re)evaluations of the margins.
With the above conceptualizations in mind, this paper proposes a reading of David Chariandy’s Soucouyant (2007) that foregrounds rhizomatic connections arising from the text. Soucouyant tells the story of an unnamed, mixed-race young man who, after two years of absence, goes back to his family house to take care of his mother. The elderly black Trinidadian woman emigrated to Canada and now shows episodes of ‘dementia’. Shifting between the past and the present, as well as between Trinidad-and-Tobago and Canada, the narrative is fragmented by the characters’ memories and traumatic experiences of oppression. While the structure of the narrative already shows deconstruction and non-linearity, I specifically focus on the ‘poem’ of the narrator’s lost brother (71), forgotten after many years in the dark basement of the house. In the novel, the ‘poem’ stands out for its unexpected, ‘peculiar’ aesthetics. The assemblage shaped by the handwritten words almost resembles a graffiti that might seem hard to decipher because of its misspellings and seeming disorder.
I argue that this poem transcends the novel in its integrity. It creates a web-like constellation of affective connections, not only between the characters’ experiences, between the characters’ and the readers’, but it also broadens its scope to social struggles that are less explicitly discussed. Indeed, more than only referring to the missing poet’s experience of racism in Canada, the words presented in the poem trigger other associations: They simultaneously echo earlier and further passages in the novel, but they also dialogue with the reader’s own positioning in and feeling of the wor(l)d. By ‘moving’ forwards and backwards through the narrative, the reader spins a rhizomic reading of Soucouyant – in this case, one that binds the feminist, queer and ecocritical with the anti-racist, anti-colonial and diasporic approaches – that engages with the potentialities of entangled solidarities.

Bastien Bomans (he/him) is a PhD candidate at the University of Liège working in the postcolonial research unit CEREP ( and in the research group Feminist & Gender Lab. His thesis, which is provisionally entitled Queer Kinships: Critical Promiscuities of Desire in the Trinbagonian Literary Imagination, sheds light on various novels by writers from Trinidad-and-Tobago and its diaspora. His PhD project aims to present a multidimensional reading of Trinbagonian ‘queer’ books that intends to foreground the literary intersections between the critique of heteronormativity with other critical paradigms, such as decolonialism, feminism, ecocriticism, ableism or specism. Bastien’s research interests include post/decolonial, Caribbean and diasporic theories and literatures, as well as feminist, gender, queer and LGBTQIA+ studies.”

Cedric Van Dijck (Ghent)

Mud-besmeared Hulking Forms: Affect and Agency in Mulk Raj Anand’s War Trilogy

“This paper explores affective encounters with soil and mud in Mulk Raj Anand’s First World War trilogy: The Village (1939), Across the Black Waters (1940) and The Sword and the Sickle (1942). It asks how and why these modernist novels continuously show peasants planting their feet in the moist earth of the Punjab, alongside scenes of sepoys delving through the mud of No Man’s Land. Sticky encounters with a substance as sticky as mud, I argue, function as sites for a post/colonial critique of war, throwing the colonial soldier’s loss of agency into sharp relief. Mud serves as a tangible entry point into this specific experience since both colonialism and war turn around questions of land (as it was seized, torn apart, lost). In making this case, I read Anand’s trilogy alongside visceral entanglements with the soil in the war poetry of Thomas Hardy, Rupert Brooke and T.S. Eliot. The point this paper raises it twofold. First, I want to highlight the political uses of affective entanglements—the tenuous boundary between subject and object—in (colonial) war writing. Second, I want to shift scholarly attention away from modernism’s clichéd investigations into shell-shocked minds and towards its unexplored fascination with the war’s affectively charged material culture. With such a shift in focus—towards the affective, the material—comes a more expansive understanding of what constitutes the colonial war archive (Boehmer 2015, Das 2018).

Cedric Van Dijck is a postdoctoral fellow in English Literature at Ghent University. He is the author of Modernism, Material Culture and the First World War (Edinburgh UP, forthcoming), and a co-editor of the Edinburgh Companion to First World War Periodicals (Edinburgh UP, 2022) and The Intellectual Response to the First World War (Sussex, 2017). His writing on modernism, war and affect has appeared in PMLA, Modernism/modernity, Modernist Cultures, Mekong Review and the Times Literary Supplement. “

Panel 2, Ecological Solidarities, Vulnerabilities and Resistances, Part I:

Climate Vulnerability

11:30 – 13:00, Room: 823

Chair: Jennifer Leetsch (Bonn)

(15 min. papers)

Baldeep Kaur

Wetland Futures: Narratives of Colonial­ism’s Ruderal Ecologies in the Climate Crisis

“This paper learns from work in the fields of discard studies, environmental humanities, and literary studies. I begin with a discussion on waste colonialism while engaging with the existing body of work on this subject in the field of discard studies. Current understandings of waste colonialism revolve around the use of land as sink – where settlers use colonized land for settler goals, and the laying waste of land is part of the project of imperial expansion. Following from this, I observe the uneasy position of minor places and peoples in relation to existing definitions of colonial waste (and wasting away) that don’t quite fit into these categories: they do not exhibit the usual symptoms of devastation or damage, and instead exist in various stages of preservation. Consequently, I argue for the alternative theory of discards that can accommodate these conflicted nuances. Proceeding with this analytical framework of colonialism’s life after obsolescence via its infrastructural discards, I bring it to the ecology of the Niger Delta as depicted in Helon Habila’s novel Oil on Water. Instead of a spatial analysis of the delta I opt for an infrastructural analysis of its disturbed ecology where organic matter mixes with discarded petro-infrastructure. Finally, I expand this into a study of the situation of wetlands in a longer corpus of writing from colonial narratives to climate fiction.

No bio”

Alisa Preusser (Potsdam)

“Is It a Climate Change Crisis or Is It a Kinship Crisis?” Environmental In/ Justice and Solidarity in the Waste­Lands

“This paper takes its cue from understanding climate change as a “kinship crisis” (Allen 2012; Debicki 2015; Whyte 2021) that has deep colonial roots in the dispossession and displacement of Indigenous peoples, the destruction and pollution of their lands and waters, as well as the violent disruption of Indigenous kin relations (Byrd et al. 2018; Davis & Todd 2017; TallBear 2016). In reading the wastelands as a central site of both forcefully disrupted kin relations and of Indigenous peoples resisting (neo-) colonial kin relations, I use both waste colonialism and kinship as analytical tools to examine the wastelands/Lands in Indigenous poetry, focusing on CHamoru writer Craig Santos Perez’s work in conversation with poetry by Joy Harjo (Muscogee) and Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner (Marshall Islands).
For such a reading I draw primarily on Indigenous studies, foregrounding the work of Indigenous creative and critical writers, but also on insights from settler-colonial studies, waste/discard studies, and ecocriticism in order to interrogate waste colonialism in its discursive, epistemic, and ontological dimensions. At the same time, I seek to pay close attention to the ways in which Indigenous writers resist the wastelands and reclaim the wasteLands through anti-colonial, non-extractivist land relations in their works and, in so doing, also call on the reader to enter into corresponding reading relations. In examining the ontological position of these poets as writing from the wastelands/Lands, I am therefore also interested in the possibilities and limits of “uneasy” solidarity (Tuck & Yang 2012) and “critical co-resistance” (Coulthard & Simpson 2016) in scholarship as Indigenous poets call for and imagine forms of environmental—meaning social and ecological—justice. Such questions of “uneasy” solidarity, after all, also play out in Indigenous studies’ uneasy relationship with postcolonial theories (Byrd & Rothberg 2011).

Alisa Preusser (M.A., M.Ed.) is a PhD researcher and lecturer in American Studies at the University of Potsdam. She has previously taught and worked as a research assistant at the University of Muenster and the University of Augsburg. Her current research examines Indigenous literary interventions into waste colonialism as embedded within questions of environmental in/justice. Her research interests include Indigenous studies, decolonial and postcolonial studies, ecocriticism and waste studies as well as border studies, focusing on North American contexts and transoceanic perspectives.”

Trang Dang
(Nottingham Trent)

Indigenous Resistance and Kinship in Cherie Dima­line’s The Marrow Thieves

“This paper examines how Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves (2017) interrogates the colonial exploitation of Indigenous peoples and their lands, and how it remedies the havoc that this exploitation wreaks on these humans and nonhuman others. It focuses on the important roles played by multiperspectivity and the genre of dystopian speculative fiction in Dimaline’s exploration of different people’s stories, and the suffering they undergo due to social and environmental injustices. This paper also builds on contemporary debates surrounding the Anthropocene by Indigenous scholars, such as Robin Wall Kimmerer, Zoe Todd, and Vanessa Watts. Kimmerer’s account of the Windigo represents the colonial greed for continuous abuse of land, bodies, and lives of Indigenous peoples seen in The Marrow Thieves. Todd’s criticism of the universalisation of the term ‘Anthropocene’ exposes the uneven implication of humans in the forces that engender environmental disasters, helping to shed light on the same issue that Dimaline brings to the centre of attention. Watts’s concept of ‘Place-Thought’ accentuates the inseparable link between lands and human and nonhuman agencies, crucial for exploring Dimaline’s response to said issue.
This paper demonstrates that The Marrow Thieves emphasizes the inextricable intertwinement between problems of oppression against nonhumans and those against historically marginalised human populations. This emphasis enables critical reflection on how to untwine this intertwinement as the novel shows how Indigenous peoples possess powerful survival strategies—in their dreams, tradition, and language—that can ‘start the process of healing.’ It is this process, a path to Indigenous resistance and kinship, that Dimaline asks both Indigenous and non-Indigenous readers to turn to in the fight for social and environmental justices.

Trang Dang is a Vice Chancellor’s Studentship PhD student at Nottingham Trent University. Her PhD project focuses on Jeff VanderMeer’s weird fiction, exploring narratives of co-existence between humans and nonhumans and the role of new weird novels in portraying the current climate crisis through the lenses of Object-Oriented Philosophy and the Anthropocene discourse. Her work on the topics of animal literature, utopian/dystopian fiction, and American culture has appeared in academic journals such as Exclamat!on: An Interdisciplinary Journal and Messengers from the Stars: On Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her main research interests are contemporary cli-fi, critical theory, and continental philosophy. “

Hannah Nelson-Teutsch (Würzburg)

Towards a Scrappy Approach to Reading in the An­thropocene

“Min Hyoung Song persuasively articulates the significance of attentiveness in an age of climate crisis by observing that “paying attention and sharing what has been observed are actions, just as much as scientific research, activism, and the Hydra-like task of reorganizing how human societies operate” (3). Song is speaking here, only somewhat obliquely, of the act of reading. Song conceives of “developing a practice of sustaining attention” (3) as the work of the study of literature; and yet, literary criticism in general – and postcolonial literary criticism in particular – has, by and large, failed to attend to the ways in which reading climate fiction as a critical act often perpetuates the extractive modes and paranoid logics that are observed and critiqued within the texts themselves.

A paranoid reading, as theorized by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, is that which operates by way of a “hermeneutics of suspicion” (3) oriented towards revealing practices and processes which have been deliberately obfuscated. Paranoid reading has been vital to postcolonial literary criticism as it attends to the anticolonial epistemologies that Empire works to suppress. And yet, as Sedgwick herself observed, paranoid reading “may have had an unintentionally stultifying side-effect: [paranoid reading] may have made it less rather than more possible to unpack the local, contingent relations between any given piece of knowledge and its narrative/epistemological entailments for the seeker, knower, or teller” (4). Conversely, the turn towards reparative reading initiated by Sedgwick engages “the many ways selves and communities succeed in extracting sustenance from the objects of a culture—even of a culture whose avowed desire has often been not to sustain them” (35). Reparative reading has meaningfully transformed postcolonial literary criticism without ever fully attending to the ways in which reading operates on and in the textual environment as well as “outside in the dappled world” (Latour, qtd. in Whatmore). In other words, as postcolonial ecocriticism “[extends] postcolonial methodologies into the realm of the human material world” (De Loughrey and Handley (4) attending to the ecocritical practice of reading as it operates in the Anthropocene becomes increasingly vital.
And so, I propose composting as a postcolonial reading practice for the Anthropocene. Composting operates by way of the logic of the scrap – neither drilling down nor lingering at the surface, but rather, as Donna Haraway puts it, “chipping and shredding and layering like a mad gardener” (57) in a process of decomposition, saturation, and rearticulation that is fleshy and putrid, nurturing, revealing, and revolutionary all at once. By drawing together Jamaica Kincaid’s “In History” and A Small Place, Jenny Offill’s Weather, the activist poetics of the climate marches – what Diana Taylor might call the repertoire of climate writing – and one of my most cherished WhatsApp group chats, I mean to explore reading climate fiction as a transformative praxis that materially and discursively reshapes the Anthropocene.

Hannah Nelson-Teutsch is a PhD candidate and lecturer in the department of American Studies at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg. Working within the Environmental Humanities Class at the graduate school, Hannah’s doctoral thesis considers the making and meaning of apocalyptic landscape in the American context throughout what Wai Chee Dimock has termed “deep time” (3). Hannah has authored scholarly articles for publications such as The Sage Handbook on Nature and COPAS. She is currently co-editing a volume that engages the climate crisis through creative approaches to academic writing to be published with Würzburg University Press and developing interests in ethics of care, commoning, and material poetics for publication in alternative media environments.”

Panel 3, Mobilities and Contested Identities

11:30 – 13:00, Room: 1.801

Chairs: Sheelalipi Sahana (Edinburgh) and Michelle Stork (Frankfurt)

(15 min. papers)

Marian Ofori-Amoafo (Bayreuth)

Beyond “Victim Diaspora(s)”: Aesthetic Solidarity, Mobility, and Agency in Con­temporary Anglophone Immigrant Novels

“The African diaspora has long been shrouded in the cloak of a “victim diaspora” (Cohen), a
legacy of transatlantic slavery, colonialism, and their afterlives. This way, an identity of
victimhood is enforced on people of African descent, which tends to delimit the frames of
reference from which Afro-diasporic migratory experiences are examined (Goyal). However,
contemporary anglophone Afro-diasporic writers expand such bounded and narrow views.
Some have viewed the Afropolitan as promoting elitist mobility and as averse to African
situated literary practice in certain extremes. Likewise, some misconstrued postblack/post-soul in their earlier developments as post-race and contemptuous of civil rights struggles that
enabled their aesthetic freedoms. Despite the criticism against these two concepts, I show the
usefulness and parallels between the aesthetic frames of the Afropolitan (Selasi) and postsoul/
postblack aesthetics (Ashe) to interrogate the itineraries of these new migrants. Moreover,
I examine how they focus on individual portraits to give faces to the faceless and often onesided narrative (Adichie) of African migration. Through aesthetic liberation, they foster
nuanced readings and forms of agencies via material and immaterial mobilities and migration
in the literary texts. The novels conversely restage the conventional “coming to America”
narrative to represent varied experiences rather than simply a tragic or heroic trajectory. Mbue’s narrative, for instance, signals multiple dreamers, and so migration to America does not always redeem an assumed desolate immigrant. This paper, therefore, examines how contemporary anglophone immigrant novels, such as Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers (2016), NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (2013), and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016), renegotiate and recast multidirectional migratory mobilities, foreground the “frictions” (Cresswell) of mobility, and the inequalities of agency from which fresh understandings of solidarity, agency, and identities emerge.

Marian Ofori-Amoafo is a PhD candidate in American studies. She has worked as a research assistant at the Chair of American Studies/Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at the University of Bayreuth. Her core research areas are spatial, mobility, and diaspora studies focusing on African American and Afro-diasporic literatures. Her dissertation project examines twenty-first century anglophone novels of slavery, which re-narrate and thematises slave history. Her work interrogates the “afterlives” of transatlantic slavery on Afro-diasporic descendants by showing their processual continuities and emphasises the transnationalism of Atlantic slavery. From June 2022, she will join the American Studies/Cultural and Media Studies department at the University of Passau as a research associate on the BMBF-funded project “‘Welfare Queens’ and ‘Losers’: a Critical Race and Intersectional Perspective on the U.S. American Welfare State”.”

Michelle Stork


Constructing Middle-Class Identities and Solidarities via Automobility in Goyal’s Indian Road Novel Colour­ful Notions

“Mohit Goyal’s Colourful Notions (2017) is one of few road narratives set in India. Arguably aimed at a middle-class Indian audience, it shows that the road novel genre is significantly transformed outside of the U.S., where scholars continue to locate it (cf. Brigham 2015). Colourful Notions follows three twentysomethings on their culinary road trip to 25 places in India. Belonging to India’s middle-class themselves, the two protagonists Ab and Sasha and the latter’s girlfriend Unnati seek excitement and fulfilment on the road. On their trip, they fashion themselves as explorers of the Indian nation, seeing and documenting “their country’s culture, heritage and beauty” (3). Undergoing an identity crisis after quitting his job as marketing manager, Ab and his friend Sasha are left with good prospects of becoming successful entrepreneurs at the end of the novel. This reclamation and reinforcement of their class identities is at the heart of the story.
The novel closely links the automobility of the trio to their middle-class existence in an Indian nation-state marked by internal differences, religious rifts and ongoing discrimination of lower caste members and women under Modi’s government. In my paper, I argue that the novel rarely critiques these divides, constructing instead an image of India in which a multicultural halva shop – bringing together the best food the nation has to offer – can peacefully exist under much more complicated political realities. These rifts, while shining through on a number of occasions, are mostly contained in the narrative in order to maintain the character’s claim to a secure position in society. Thus, the characters can be read as participating in a certain type of “boutique multiculturalism”, as Stanley Fish (1997) terms it, by displaying tolerance and diversity without making it come into conflict with Hindu nationalism. Thus, this road novel assuages potential anxieties of a middle-class Indian readership by creating a form of ‘exclusionary solidarity’.

Michelle Stork studied English Studies, Moving Cultures, Comparative Literary Studies and History of Art at Goethe University Frankfurt and Universiteit Utrecht. She holds an M.A. in Moving Cultures – Transcultural Encounters and an M.A. in History of Art, both from Goethe University Frankfurt. Her PhD project aims at reading road narratives in fiction and film across the Anglophone world from a transcultural perspective. Since November 2020, Michelle holds a scholarship with the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes).”

Sigrid Thomsen


“You no deserve I speak to you in Spanish”: Mecha­nisms of Linguistic Exclusion and Inclusion in Junot Díaz

“In his fiction, Junot Díaz pays particular attention to the way his mostly Dominican-Americancharacters talk to one another, as they frequently mix English and Spanish in their speech. I see this code-switching between the two languages as not just a result of their history of mobility – their or their families’ moves from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. – but also as a kind of mobility in itself, as characters continue to navigate and negotiate their mobile location on the level of a sentence. Additionally, the characters’ language use at times functions as a mechanism of inclusion and, more commonly, exclusion. This linguistic exclusion can take the form of characters sizing up each other’s language skills and finding them lacking, or of characters carefully deciding which language to speak to which person. This act of choosing a language can be a value judgement, as when one character admonishes another “You no deserve I speak to you in Spanish,” thereby excluding the other person from both a community of Spanish-speakers and a community of people deemed worthy. In my talk, I aim not only to analyze such overlaps of linguistic mobilities and mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion, but also to excavate how Díaz subverts these mechanisms. I argue that while Díaz casts these moments of exclusion as being painful, acute, and of real significance for his characters, he at the same time embeds them in a world in which English and Spanish come together in vibrant, surprising, indeed joyful ways. Through the linguistic mobilities of his characters and of his prose, Díaz not only renders visible processes of exclusion and the limits of community but, by creating a textual world in which a variety of languages and registers exist side by side, upends them.

Sigrid Thomsen is PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Vienna and a member of the Research Platform Mobile Cultures and Societies. From June 2022 to February 2023, she will be undertaking research at Columbia University in New York as a visiting scholar. In her doctoral thesis, Sigrid studies imaginative mobilities in contemporary Caribbean diaspora literature. She holds an MA in Comparative Literature (Africa/Asia) from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London and has bachelor’s degrees in Comparative Literature and in Philosophy from the University of Vienna. Sigrid has published on Caribbean diaspora literature, Mobility Studies, and comics. Her co-edited volume Cultural Mobilities Between Africa and the Caribbean came out with Routledge in 2021.”

Sheelalipi Sahana


Negative Agency and Negotiating Power in Indian Women’s Travel Narratives

“In the decades leading up to India’s independence and the decades that followed in the postcolony, the anxiety surrounding the future of a new nation arguably translated into the
consecration of a “new modernity” through a “new patriarchy” (Partha Chatterjee). A
dichotomisation of spheres into the private/public tasked (Hindu) women as keepers of the
home’s “essence” while men commanded the material terrain of the world outside. Muslim
women were left out of this hegemonic nation-building process due to their perceived
“nonmodern” status which effaced their subjectivity and excluded them from the modern
nation. Their imposed ‘victim’ status by Hindu ethno-nationalists sustained the stereotype of
the “oppressed veiled woman”. However, women not only challenged these spatial boundaries by crossing them as “participants in a dialogic process” (Priyamvada Gopal), but also confronted modernity. This paper will analyse the ways in which Muslim women wrote and conceptualised their ‘encounter’ with modernity.
By reading agency not exclusively as ‘resistance’ but as ‘negotiation’, I show how the short stories of Rashid Jahan and Ismat Chughtai subvert the static narrative of women’s lives by portraying them as physically and theoretically travelling from the private into the public
spaces. In Chughtai’s “A Morsel” (1950s), the protagonist’s daily commute on public transport, namely the bus, functions as the site where she chooses which aspects of modernity to accept and to reject. In Jahan’s “A Trip to Delhi” (1931), the protagonist’s train journey to sightsee Delhi results in her discomfort, leading her to return home. In both stories, the public space is hostile to their presence, with mobility leading to encounters with modern aspects of life that are counter-intuitive to the needs of these two women. Women’s negotiations often lead to inconclusive outcomes due to the macro-policies in place in the nation. My presentation will explore this “negative agency” — “absence of acquiescence” (Rajeswari Sunder Rajan) — as a tool used in women’s travel narratives to combat the victim-status accorded to women in India.

Sheelalipi Sahana (she/her) is a doctoral candidate in English Literature at The University of Edinburgh. Her research interests lie in gender studies, travel writing and postcolonial spaces. For her thesis, she is working on the intersectionality of agency and spatial modernity in Indian Muslim Women’s Writing. Her recent article on Material Agency in domestic women’s fiction was published in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing:”

Panel 4, Implicated Subjects: Theory and Practice

11:30 – 13:00, Room: 1.812

Chair: Cecile Sandten (Chemnitz)

Robert Kusek (Krakow)

Unlikely Comrades? South Africa, Poland, and the Solidarity of “Implicated Subjects”

“Although Michael Rothberg’s The Implicated Subject (2019) does not make overt connections between South Africa and Poland, its discussion of William Kentridge’s Drawings for Projection (2009-2020) and the Warsaw Ghetto (which Rothberg considers an “enduring focus of multidirectional acts of memory that engage with the transnational legacies of colonial and racial violence” [124]) suggests that South Africa and Poland might deserve a comparative and transnational analysis – one that would not only acknowledge similar modes of implication in the history of violence, inequality, and persecution, but also identify and scrutinise a cultural solidarity that existed between South African and Polish (or Central European) “implicated subjects” prior to the demise of apartheid and the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The aim of this paper is thus to investigate how a number of white South African writers and artists attempted to negotiate their subject position, as well as their forms of implication in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa by referring to Polish traumatic experiences – particularly by studying and commenting on the works of Polish writers implicated in their own histories of injustice and past/present systems of oppression. While discussing the selected works of Lionel Abrahams, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, William Kentridge, and Stephen Watson and their “dialogue” with the likes of Zbigniew Herbert, Czes?aw Mi?osz, and Wis?awa Szymborska, the paper will argue that Poland and its literary production should be recognised as South African literature’s “potential history” (Ariella Aïsha Azoulay). What is more, it will contend that the very dialogue which originates in the horizontal exchange between South African and Central European minor literatures (and cultures) should be recognised as a form of transnational cultural solidarity between “implicated subjects”.

Robert Kusek (Ph.D, D.Litt), Jagiellonian University Professor, Department of Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture, Institute of English Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. His research interests include life writing genres, the contemporary novel in English, new nature writing, queer heritage, as well as a comparative approach to literary studies. He is the author of two monographs, including Through the Looking Glass: Writers’ Memoirs at the Turn of the 21st Century (Jagiellonian University Press, 2017), and several dozen articles published in books, academic journals, and magazines, as well as co-editor of fourteen volumes of articles, most notably Travelling Texts: J.M. Coetzee and Other Writers (Peter Lang, 2014). He was a researcher in a number of Polish and international projects – currently he is a principal investigator in the National Science Centre funded project entitled “”(Un)accidental Tourists: Polish Literature and Visual Culture in South Africa in the 20th and 21st Centuries.”

Jarula MI Wegner


The Implicated Object and the Irritating Subject of Power: Michael Rothberg’s The Implicated Subject in dialogue with Hazel Carby’s Imperial Intimacies

“Questions of identity, reason and power are central to the consideration of subjects seeking agency to establish, negotiate and contest solidarities, regardless whether they are perpetrators, victims or bystanders. In 2019, two critically acclaimed publications offered widely circulated, heatedly debated and theoretically significant contributions to these questions. Michael Rothberg’s The Implicated Subject and Hazel V. Carby’s Imperial Intimacies have much in common as both focus on subjects facing racialized, colonial, capitalist and other forces, seeking ways to challenge these and negotiating power to find agency.

The two texts also differ in important ways. While The Implicated Subject offers an extended
theoretical reflection on and analysis of artworks, Imperial Intimacies presents an extended historical study as a personal memoir. While the former introduces and elaborates the concept
of the implicated subject, the latter traces the author’s ancestors on both sides, the father’s and the mother’s, in Jamaica and Britain. Rothberg’s concept of the implicated subject enables a close analysis of the memoir, while Carby’s tale, in turn, offers ways to reconceive concepts of identity, reason and power embedded in the theory of the implicated subject. The implicated subject highlights the importance of reflecting on one’s own embeddedness in power structures. Yet I argue that—notwithstanding the author’s insistence—the concept of implication is in the last instance paralyzing. Carby’s historical study, in contrast, although unfolding a dizzying panorama of oppressive forces and structures, also offers a more nuanced analysis of identity, reason and power. The concept of implication, I argue, engenders an object of reflection, but in order to turn it into an effective political resource, it is necessary to reconceive its concepts of identity, reason and power.

Jarula M. I. Wegner lectures at the Institute of English and American Studies at University of Frankfurt, Germany. He is Editorial Board member of the Festival Culture Research and Education network, co-founder and speaker of the Global Memories Working Group at the Memory Studies Association and co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Memory Studies Group
at the Frankfurt Humanities Research Centre. He holds degrees in Chinese (BA), German (MA) and English (MA and PhD) with a doctoral thesis on “Transcultural Memory Constellations in Caribbean Carnivals: Literature and Performance as Critique.” He has been Visiting Scholar at Columbia University (USA), the University of Warwick (UK) and the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine (Trinidad and Tobago). He has published with international, peer-reviewed journals, such as, ARIEL, Caribbean Quarterly, Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, Journal of West Indian Literature and Memory Studies.”

13:00 to 14:00 Catered Lunch (pre-order only)

Panel 5, Narrative Agencies (I)

14:00 – 15:30, Room: 1.811

Chair: Ulrike Pirker (Düsseldorf)

Felipe Espinoza Garrido


“Just remember not to believe every­thing you read”: Variations of Victim­hood and the Ambivalence of Agency in Sara Col­lins’s The Confessions of Frannie Langton

“In her fictitious Regency prison memoir, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins charts the journey of her eponymous protagonist from Jamaica’s plantation economy to metropolitan London and, eventually, to the Old Bailey where she awaits execution for murder. While the novel is marked by fractured traumatic memories, shows Frannie Langton’s horrific experiences of enslavement, and steers towards her certain death, her story, however, is not one of crude victimization. As this paper argues, Frannie Langton makes visible and renegotiates literary conventions of racialised and gendered victimhood that reduce agency to formulaic notions of ‘writing back’ or to a redemptive overcoming of suffering. Herself implicated in the dehumanizing protocols of slavery, ambiguously attached her erstwhile enslaver, and embroiled in an affair with her employer’s wife, Frannie Langton constantly probes the limits of how we imagine subjectification and implication across the British Empire. Set in a London that recognizes the increasingly well-documented and above all heterogenous Black metropolitan presence, Frannie Langton furthermore interrogates simple dichotomies between colonizer and colonized/enslaver and enslaved to represent a variety of engagements with imperial power structures. As it delineates a wide spectrum between resistance and (at times even willful) cooptation, its attention to varying intersectional struggles amongst its Caribbean and/or Black British characters also articulates solidarity as always already entangled with systemic imbalances of power and hegemony. As such, Frannie Langton works towards the unmaking of (trans)atlantic imaginations that – seemingly benevolently – essentialise their marginalized protagonists in the tradition of abolitionist sentimentalism.

Felipe Espinoza Garrido is Assistant Professor for English, Postcolonial and Media Studies at the University of Münster, from which he holds an MA in Political Science and a PhD in literature and film studies. He previously taught media and cultural studies at the University of Dortmund. Specializing in popular culture and postcolonial studies, he has recently published on Black British pop fiction and Afrofuturism, neo-Victorian imaginations of race and gender in television and in contemporary museum culture, Minstrelsy in Disney, as well as Latin American post-exile cinema. He is co-editor of Locating African European Studies: Interventions, Intersections, Conversations (Routledge, 2020, w. Caroline Koegler, Mark U. Stein and Deborah Nyangulu) and Black Neo-Victoriana (Brill, 2022, w. Marlena Tronicke and Julian Wacker). He is currently working on a monograph on empire imaginations in Victorian popular women’s writing. “

Miriam Fernandez Santiago


Internal Rifts. M.G. Sánchez’s ‘Post­colonial Crip’ in Gooseman (2020)

“Within the wider frame of current postcolonial literature, Sánchez’ novel demands the creation of its own subgenre: the postcolonial crip. Although the action starts telling Johan Guzmán’s childhood in Gibraltar, most of the novel describes Gooseman’s experiences as a diasporic subject in multiethnic Britain. Code switching between English and Spanish is more accentuated in the Gribraltar episodes where Llanito (Johanito)–is spoken by all characters–and it gets more sporadic in Britain as it gets restricted to Johan’s homodiegetic narrative, with no distinguishing criteria for its use. In Gibraltar, cultural hybridity is restricted to the Andalusian-Gibraltarian blending of family names, cuisine, TV programs, sports, religion or education, by which the identity allegiance of Gibraltarians is sometimes described as paradoxically hilarious and sometimes ironically despised. In Britain, Johan’s accent continuously betrays his colonial condition, which is either condescendingly perceived as an exoticism by the economically and culturally privileged or xenophobically identified as a sign of inferiority by the British Chavs.
The novel itself can be read as a catalogue of multicultural stereotypes, including religious confession, clothing, speech, food, and neighborhood. No matter the social class of the characters or settings described, the stereotype is always negative, contributing to the sombre prism through which Sánchez develops his social satire. There is virtually no character in the novel that is not described as a stereotype, with a strong emphasis on their origin, skin colour, and cultural bias. The general picture of this postcolonial Britain in globalization is constructed around its diasporic nature, which is always the source of alienation, segregation, discrimination and distrust. This negative representation of British hybridization is ambiguously positioned as the cause and effect of Johan’s progressive moral and physical degradation. As the story of his life is told retrospectively, its main character’s psychological disability strongly mediates his account of the world and himself.
Since very early in his life, Johan internalizes the negative stereotype that society projects upon him, which diminishes him as a schoolboy, a family member, a Gibraltarian, and a foreigner, emasculating and disabling him as a young man in the process. This internalization not only results in the strong feelings of self-hatred that make the Gibraltarian inflict self-harm upon his body, but also to bring about himself all the misfortunes that Sánchez throws upon him by means of logical cause or fatidic chance. As the novel develops, Johan himself becomes a catalogue of physical and psychological disabilities that somehow embodies the social maladies of his time: he becomes the satirist and victim of his own social satire. The character of Johan Gooseman thus functions within the novel as what Mitchell and Snyder (2000) have called “narrative prosthesis,” a metaphorical device that triggers plot and builds its tension on the abnormalcy or aberrancy of a disability that stands a symbol of social collapse. Against the xenophobic backdrop of pro- Brexit nationalist ideologies – Johan’s disappearance takes place in 2017—this case of narrative prosthesis allows labelling the novel as “postcolonial crip.”

Miriam Fernández Santiago is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Granada (Spain), where she teaches graduate and postgraduate courses on critical theory, postcolonial narrative and the cultures and literatures of English-speaking countries. She is the current lead researcher of research group “Studies in Literature, Criticism and Culture” (Ref. GRACO-HUM 676). At present, her research interests include Critical Posthumanism, Trauma, Vulnerability and Disability Studies.”

Deniz Gundogan Ibrisim


Implication as an Aesthetic Paradigm in the Anthropo­cene: Pakistan Anglophone Literature

“This paper examines Pakistan Anglophone literature and its manifestation of implicated subjects1 in the age of the Anthropocene. In particular, this paper analyzes the work of Uzma Aslam Khan and her writing with regard to changing human-nonhuman, women-nature relationships. I argue that her novels The Geometry of God, Trespassing, and Thinner Than Skin can be read as “Anthropocene trauma,” which generates varied accounts of militarization and ecocidal development projects that have dramatically disrupted and traumatized the ecologically-vibrant human and nonhuman communities in Northern areas of Pakistan.
In this context, this paper traces how Uzma Aslam Khan’s novels make visible material and ideological co-optation of the environment within the overlooked acts of violence, such as rhetoric of development, deforestation, erosion of grazing land, shrinking, and contamination of waterscapes as well as the impact of consumerism and tourism. While these acts showcase political manipulation and abuse of the perpetrator-victim dichotomy, I argue that they foreground “implication” as an eco-ethical intervention, and more importantly as an aesthetic paradigm for radically rethinking of accountability for the past and present in the neocolonial and neoliberal urban Pakistan and its outskirts.
What is more, in Aslam Khan’s novels, we see numerous female characters depicted from and within different social classes, religions, cultures, and geographies. The presentation of the varied women characters is eco-politically constructed in the neoliberal Pakistan; thereby, their politically constructed lives deeply affect their relationship with their natural environment and lethal warfare as well implicated subjects of neoliberal modes of development. Ultimately, the women characters, I claim, demonstrate environmental resilience to anthropogenic environmental disasters, offering a corrective lens to the entangled unequal world we grapple with.

Deniz Gündo?an ?bri?im is a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Gender and Women’s Studies Center of Excellence (SU Gender) at Sabanc? University.  She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. As a comparatist literary scholar by training, her research lies at the intersection of Anglophone postcolonial literature, Middle Eastern literature, cultural trauma and memory studies, and environmental humanities. In addition to a comparative focus on trauma and violence representation in postcolonial Anglophone and Middle Eastern literatures, her research and teaching is informed by narrative theory, feminist and queer narratology, animism, and critical posthumanism. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright-IIE, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars, The Institute for World Literature (IWL), and several Washington University fellowships. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as European Review, The Journal of World Literature, as well as edited volumes such as The Routledge Companion to Literature and Trauma; Animals, Plants, and Landscapes: An Ecology of Turkish Literature; Subaltern Women Studies; Mapping World Anglophone Studies: English in a World of Strangers. Currently, in addition to her MSCA fellowship at SU Gender, she serves as the official Management Committee Member for Turkey of the Cost Action Project: CA20105 – Slow Memory: Transformative Practices for Times of Uneven and Accelerating Change (2021-2025). She also acts as the Grant Writing Coordinator in this action.”

Panel 6, Ecological Solidarities, Vulnerabilities and Resistances, Part II: Multi-Species Encounters

14:00 – 15:30, Room: 1.812

Chair: Jennifer Leetsch (Bonn)

(15 min. papers)

Apala Bhowmick


Mechanics of Authoritarian Power and Collapsing of Species Boundaries in Ahmadou Kourouma’s Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote

“Given the recent resurgence of discussion around the biopolitics of conflict under dictatorships in postcolonial geographical contexts, my paper aims to expand the conversation to include animal subjects of manmade violence in the novel Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote (trans. Frank Wynne, 2003) by Ahmadou Kourouma. The essay will parse questions of animality, demonstrating how species boundaries are collapsed, by virtue of shared embodied losses encountered by human and nonhuman animals, after violence has been effected upon their bodies by the same set human perpetrators—chiefly, by the figure of the hunter-dictator, Koyaga. Koyaga is consciously modelled upon authoritarian personalities—Mobutu Sese Seko, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, Idi Amin—are some of the names Kourouma mentions in an interview with Jean Ouédraogo. I will examine how the imaginative universe of the novel represents the workings of power in an authoritarian state, and the ways in which the species boundaries between human and nonhuman animals are levelled, time and again, under such a regime.
Although the depiction of nonhuman animal figures is largely fabulist, Kourouma does attach a significant amount of cognition and rationality to the behaviour of animals, as well as being careful not to place them against a framework of hierarchy where the human is inherently superior than their nonhuman counterparts. Fanon, too, is opposed to drawing lines of hierarchy between nonhuman and human animals in The Wretched of the Earth. Both Kourouma and Fanon seem to be working against the watertight distinctions of animality drawn by Giorgio Agamben where he places the human animal in a higher position than the nonhuman animal, in the social organization of living actors in the environment. I will be referencing Frantz Fanon, Achille Mbembe, Cajetan Iheka, and Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra—among several other interlocutors—to unpack my thesis in this paper.

Apala Bhowmick is a PhD student in the Department of English at Emory University, Atlanta, USA. She works on representations of the natural environment and animality in African, South Asian, and Caribbean cultural artefacts produced in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”

Christina Slopek (Düsseldorf)

“Making Generative Oddkin”? Female Bodies as a Site of Connectivity in Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light

““It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; [i]t matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories” (Haraway 2016, 12). In the vast interdisciplinary field we now call the environmental humanities (cf. Oppermann/Iovino 2017), a rapidly growing number of pieces of fiction engage critically with climate change, the role of the human, their relation to nature and the non-human as well as with questions of agency, victimhood and solidarity in the Anthropocene. Bringing to the fore how unevenly the weight of Anthropocene climate change is borne across the planet, Rob Nixon’s “environmentalism of the poor” (2011) has made clear that it is largely the historically and economically dispossessed, erstwhile colonized Global South that suffers the most from environmental destruction.
Haiti is one of these ex-colonies in the Global South that still bear the consequences of colonialism on the levels of identity, infrastructure and economy. Likewise, Haiti is also one of the regions that have repeatedly made headlines in recent years for the natural disasters it was shaken by (cf. Lyons 2017). One of the most powerful voices of Haitian literature, Edwidge Danticat writes about a small, impoverished fishers’ village and its connection to the sea, nature and animals in Claire of the Sea Light (2013). Importantly, human characters in the novel do not live in isolation from animals and nature but depend on and coexist with them, which forges unlikely forms of solidarity and (thus) interrogates anthropocentric notions of agency. This paper aims to bring together central insights from the fields of environmental humanities and material feminism in order to explore how the female body in Claire of the Sea Light is implicated in processes of “multispecies worlding” (Haraway 2016, 105). While ecological concerns as such remain only tentatively articulated in Danticat’s novel, I hold that symbolism, rhizomatic narrative structures (cf. Deleuze and Guattari 1987) and the use of semantics on the level of form and connections between female humans and the more-than-human on the level of content in Claire of the Sea Light emphasize interspecies relationality and construct female bodies as a site of connectivity and ecological solidarity.

Christina Slopek is a PhD candidate at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany, where she also works as lecturer and research assistant in the department of Anglophone Literatures and Literary Translation. Christina Slopek is writing a PhD project on psychologies in postcolonial fiction and her overall research interests include postcolonial, queer, trauma and interspecies studies. Christina Slopek has published in Anglia and Gender Forum; a number of chapters in edited volumes are currently under review.”

Kylie Crane (Rostock)

Cross-Species Imaginaries in the An­thropocene: Tade Thompson’s Worm­wood Trilogy and SF-Worlds-Beyond-Us

“The Anthropocene, amongst other things, asks us Homo sapiens to think of ourselves as a species. Much of the critique directed at this ‘basic’ assumption addresses the unevenness of responsiblity, and the (sometimes concomitant) unevenness of precarity that ensues. At the same time, we are not singular, ourselves, neither in our present presence, nor in our historical becomings. And our impacts similarly extend beyond our bodies, our kin and our ken.
Science fiction, through its various generic conventions, provides for a stage for exploring many of these dimensions of the Anthropocene: It enables challenges to time, to species, to causalities, to space-time coherences, and also to singularity. Tade Thompson’s Wormwood trilogy engages several non-linear metaphors in engendering a nonhuman other, most specifically internet networks and fungi becoming. The alien sentience rendered in the trilogy  offers an amorphous and yet simultaneously very concrete ‘other’ against which humans must rally, themselves at the brink of the threat of extinction. Wormwood’s xenosphere—an atmosphere permeated with ‘xenoforms’, a kind of alien fungi which can interact with humans—constitutes only one of the many ways in which this SF world challenges the modes with which we organise our knowledges of our world.
This paper thinks through human others with the Nigerian setting of the Wormwood trilogy, bringing postcolonial critique together with material cultures in an analysis of SF.

Kylie Crane is Professor of British and American Cultural Studies at the University of Rostock. Her most recent publications include a co-edited volume Minors on the Move: Doing Cosmopolitanisms, an article on the “Movements and Makings of Tomato” (Anglistik), and one called “Fungi Thinking: Random Considerations” (Comparative Critical Studies).”

Arunima Bhattacharya (Leeds)

Island Ecologies and the Indian Nation State: Andaman Islands in Glorious Boy and Latitudes of Longing

“This paper aims to read two novels, Shubhangi Swarup’s Latitudes of Longing (2018), and Glorious Boy (2020) by Aimee Liu, narratives set in the Andaman Islands, on the Bay of Bengal. In this paper I aim to read how the novels play off the anthropological scientific documentation and interpretation of the complex socio-ecology of these islands and their indigenous forest tribes against the use of narrative time and form derived from local indigenous understanding of time and community mediated through a spiritual and generational experience of the island ecology.
Set amidst the context of the Second world war, the Japanese occupation of the islands, and the post-independence consolidation of the Indian nation state this paper investigates how the island communities are represented in relation to mainland India through an archipelago politics of existence and imposed seclusion in contrast of the mainland mobility networks. Aimee Liu’s Glorious Boy delves deep into the anthropological methods of colonial ethnography, documenting experience of a different way of life, the protagonist compares it to, ‘entering a time capsule’. On the other hand, Swarup’s novel Latitudes of Longing (2015) approaches the complex history of the islands by translating its political and ecological issues across the scalar differences in geological time which manifests as tsunamis and earthquakes that characterise the islands’ climate vulnerability. In this paper I will trace and interpret how the novel introduces literary and aesthetic possibilities of translating deep time and planetary history into the cultural modes through which we process crisis socially and emotionally.
The paper is an exploration of the novel form that offers a reading of the themes of survival of oceanic indigenous life systems within the mainland oriented conceptions of sovereignty, territoriality and “progress” drawing on imperial legacies inherent in the postcolonial nation state’s view of island ecologies.

Arunima Bhattacharya is a postdoctoral research assistant on the AHRC-funded project The Other from Within: Indian Anthropologists and the Birth of a Nation at the School of History in the University of Leeds. She completed her PhD in English Literature from the University of Leeds and was the Anniversary Fellow at Institute of Advanced Studies in Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh where she continued as a Visiting Research Scholar. Her publications include a forthcoming chapter titled, “Producing the Colonial Capital: Calcutta in Handbooks” in Other Capitals of the Nineteenth Century which she is also co-editing, and a chapter titled “Everyday Objects and Conversations: Experiencing ‘Self’ in the Transnational Space of the United Kingdom” in Asian Women, Identity and Migration: Experiences of Transnational Women of Indian Origin/Heritage (Routledge). “

Panel 7, Beyond Victimhood in African Literature

14:00 – 15:30, Room: 1.801

Chair: Dieter Riemenschneider (Frankfurt)

Alex Wanjala (Nairobi)

Agency for the Victims of the Post­colonial Condition in Kenya? Yvonne Owuor’s Dust

“This paper revisits the Kenyan writer Yvonne Odhiambo Owuor’s first novel in order to interrogate how in its unveiling of Kenya’s colonial history through a focus on the family of Aggrey Nyipir Oganda, the novel suggests the reasons for the unraveling of the country’s common fabric of nationhood as well as the disruptions in the notions of home and family that result from events that transform the lives of the characters in the novel. The paper further explores how in contemporary times, the trauma that is related to the country’s colonial past is deemed to continue haunting the characters in the novel through a postcolonial condition characterized by dispossession, corruption, and the slow violence of environmental degradation. The paper intends to demonstrate that an understanding of the message in the novel is key to unraveling some of the reasons behind the frustration and the violence that characterizes Kenyan politics, leading to social strife and disorder, especially during the period of conducting the general elections, which incidentally are scheduled to be held in August 2022, and that in narrating this trauma, Yvonne Owuor intends to give a voice to the silent majority that has borne the brunt of this situation since the country’s independence.

No bio “

Silke Stroh (Münster)

Re-imagining Zimbabwean and Global Crises: Victim­hood and Agency in Tendai Huchu’s short fiction

“While Tendai Huchu has been recognised as a major voice in Zimbabwean literature for quite some time, scholarly discussion of his work has so far mainly focused on his novels The Hairdresser of Harare (2010) and The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician (2014). This paper, by contrast, provides a detailed consideration of his short stories, where Huchu pursues alternative strategies to explore the complexities of post-millennial realities in Zimbabwe and beyond. Partly, this is achieved through a generic shift which moves beyond the predominantly realist mode favoured in his earlier novels, to also explore science fiction and fantasy as a means of (re-)negotiating contemporary social problems and the ways in which these are usually perceived. This also entails imaginative re-engagements with contested tropes of victimhood and agency. In this context, key themes include the legacies of colonialism and civil war, false promises of independence and disenchantment with the post-colonial state, autocracy and intra-national oppression, global capitalism, ecological crisis, artificial intelligence and cyborg technology.

Silke Stroh has taught at the universities of Frankfurt, Giessen, Mainz, Basel and Münster, where she has recently completed her post-doctoral thesis on Narratives of Transmigration: Multiple Movement and Cultures of Memory in the British Colonial Diaspora. Her other research areas include postcolonial and diaspora theory, the relationship between minority issues and national identity, Scottish Studies, Black and Asian British as well as African literature and culture. She has published two monographs, Uneasy Subjects: Postcolonialism and Scottish Gaelic Poetry (2011) and Gaelic Scotland in the Colonial Imagination: Anglophone Writing from 1600 to 1900 (2017), as well as the co-edited collections Hybrid Cultures – Nervous States: Britain and Germany in a (Post)Colonial World (2010), Postcolonial Translocations: Cultural Representation and Critical Spatial Thinking (2013), Empires and Revolutions: Cunninghame Graham and his Contemporaries (2017), and The Black Diaspora and Germany (2018).”

Tanaka Chidora

(Zimbabwe & Frankfurt)

The Parenticide of NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (2013)

“We Need New Names extends a subversive literary tradition that we see in Marechera and Vera, a tradition of various forms of killing (patricide in Marechera, and infanticide in Vera) as a way of challenging parents’ monopoly of birthing children and creating/destroying the children’s futures. In NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel, the children are named Darling (who is nobody’s darling), Godknows (because the parents do not), Freedom (who is buried under the debris of state violence), Bornfree (who is killed for asking for change) and Bastard (a bastard offspring of local and global tyrants). They need new names in two major ways: first, in their game of ‘country game’, they choose any other European or American country which is not Zimbabwe (which they call a ‘kaka’ country); second, in a game in which they attempt to abort Chipo’s pregnancy (Chipo is raped by a grandparent), they assume the new names of American stars from the reality TV, ER. This search for new names is symbolic in that it prefigures future movements when the children become adults. But it is also a parenticide of sorts because the children are taking care of and re-naming themselves. They have subverted the talismans of parental power and surveillance by symbolically killing their parents. The children in We Need New Names are no longer the priority of a nationalism whose propagators are concerned with maintaining their power or killing those who challenge it. The children’s non-membership to a nationalism that has made them destitute means that they have to facilitate their own membership to their own spaces, many times imagined using Bakhtin’s carnivalesque, through games. Thus, the childhood subjectivities of Darling and her friends (Chipo, Sbho, Stina, Bastard and Godknows) are therefore facilitated through dislocation and re-location – dislocation from spaces of elderly supervision and re-location to their own spaces of urban undergrounds. In this paper, I use postcolonial thinking to argue that the leitmotif of re-naming in We Need New Names is of great significance. Names have a property-like potential to trade, transact and strike concessions and social value. The construction of the children’s own spaces or geographies of non-belonging also allows them to transact with the world outside the limits of the centre (represented by parents). For this, they ‘need new names’. The need for new names is, therefore, a politically subversive act and a verdict on the kind of postcolonial state Zimbabwe has become.

Tanaka Chidora is a Humboldt postdoctoral fellow researching on memory and literature in Zimbabwe. He is also a poet and short story writer with his works appearing in anthologies and literary magazines. His first poetry collection, BECAUSE SADNESS IS BEAUTIFUL? was published in 2019.”

Panel 8, Collaborations (I): New Challenges – New Potentials

14:00 – 15:30, Room: 823

Chair: Lars Eckstein (Potsdam)

Anke Bartels; Judith Coffey; Sérgio Costa; Lars Eckstein; Regina Römhild; Anja Schwarz; Nicole Waller; Dirk Wiemann (Potsdam and Berlin)

Rethinking Collaborations

“In this two-part panel, we aim to theorize emerging forms of collaboration in the current global context and begin to envision what such ‘new’ forms of collaboration may imply for practices, modes, and concepts often associated with literature, such as articulation, representation, speculation, or translation. With a panel of invited speakers and contributors, we aim to think about texts and practices in a wider sense, learning from the interaction of literature and other forms of art with activism, movement building, and political theorization. Anke Bartels ( is Lecturer of English at Potsdam University

Sérgio Costa is Professor of Sociology at the Latin American Institute and the Department of Sociology at Free University Berlin

Lars Eckstein is Professor of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at the University of Potsdam

Regina Römhild is Professor of European Ethnography at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Anja Schwarz is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Potsdam

Nicole Waller is Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Potsdam

Dirk Wiemann is Professor of English Literature at the University of Potsdam

Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez is Professor of Sociology at the University of Giessen

Max Czollek is a Berlin-based academic, author and publicist

Ira Raja is Professor of English Literature at Delhi University

Keith Camacho is Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles

Satish Poduval is Professor of Cultural Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, India

Stephen Muecke is Professor of Creative Writing at Flinders University, South Australia

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung is a Berlin-based curator, writer and founding director of Savvy Contemporary”

Fernando Baldraia (FU Berlin); Keith Camacho (UCLA); Satish Poduval (EFLU, Hyderabad); Stephen Muecke (Flinders) Video Statements

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

Panel 9, Collaborations (II): Limits and Scopes of Transaction

16:00 – 17:30

Room 823

Anke Bartels (Potsdam); Judith Coffey (Potsdam); Max Czollek (Berlin); Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez (Gießen); Ira Raja (Delhi); Regina Römhild (Potsdam); Anja Schwarz (Potsdam); Dirk Wiemann (Potsdam)


Sérgio Costa, Nicole Waller, Lars Eckstein (Potsdam)

18:00 – 19:00 Reception

19:00 – 20:30

Room 823

Literary Roundtable with Tara June Winch and Sinan Antoon

Moderators: Kathrin Bartha-Mitchell (Frank­furt) and Nuha Askar (Frankfurt)

Friday 27 May

9:30 – 10:30

Room 823

Sinan Antoon

Discursive Violence and Dismem­bered Memories

Chair: Pavan Kumar Malreddy (Frank­furt)

“Writing about a materially and discursively shattered home/land, whose history and collective memory are haunted by the scars and ghosts of dictatorship, wars, sanctions, and the aftermath of a neocolonial invasion, is a daunting task. Iraqi poets (as well as writers and artists) have had to confront this in the last three decades. The question of and the quest for the mode through which one can approach and represent Iraq and navigate its history, or how Iraqi subjects are constructed or destroyed are themselves recurring tropes. There are many Iraqs, each imagined and re-membered by deploying and centering a certain historical narrative and privileging and foregrounding a particular iteration of the Iraqi subject. The spectrum ranges from sectarian imaginaries, further fueled by the institutionalization of political sectarianism post-2003, to iterations of ethnocentric, and nationalist, Islamic, or pan-Arabist ones. These narratives of the past accrue even more significance as a refuge when the very existence of the nation-state is threatened, or its genesis questioned, as was the case after 2003. The fragmentation and dismemberment, not only of bodies and communities, but of geographic and sociopolitical spaces and cultural memories, incite an intense longing for the perceived protection of the nation and its narratives and foundational myths. My remarks will address these questions in the works of the late Iraqi poet, Sargon Boulus (1944-2007), to trace how he navigates these dire straight and confronts a history of internal and external violence and competing victimhood without elisions or ideological appropriation.

Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist, translator, and scholar. He was born and raised in Baghdad where he finished a B.A in English at Baghdad University in 1990. He left to the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. He was educated at Georgetown and Harvard where he obtained a doctorate in Arabic Literature in 2006. He has published three collections of poetry in Arabic; Mawshur Muballal bil-Hurub (Cairo, 2003,)Laylun Wahidun fi Kull al-Mudun (One Night in All Cities) (Beirut/Baghdad: Dar al-Jamal, 2010), and Kama fi ‘l-Sama’ (As in Heaven) (Beirut/Baghdad: Dar al-Jamal, 2019). His first novel, I`jaam (2003), has been translated into English as I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody (City Lights, 2006) as well as Norwegian, German, Portuguese, Italian, and Persian. His second novel, Wahdaha Shajarat al-Rumman (The Pomegranate Alone) (Beirut: al-Mu’assassa al-`Arabiyya, 2010, Dar al-Jamal, 2013), was translated by the author and published by Yale University Press in 2013 as The Corpse Washer. It recently appeared in Malyalam (tr. N. Shamnad) from Green Books in Kerala, India, Turkish as Yalnız Nar, (tr. Süreyya Çalıkoğlu) from Aylak Adam, and Macedonian. It was translated to French by Leyla Mansour and published by Actes Sud in 2017. The French translation won the 2017 Prix de la Litterateur Arabe for the best Arabic novel published in France. It was long listed for the Independent International Fiction Prize in 2014, won the Best Arab American Book Award in 2014, and the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Literary Translation. His third novel, Ya Maryam (Ave Maria) (Beirut: Dar al-Jamal, 2012, 2013), was shortlisted for the 2013 Arabic Booker. It was published in Spanish as Fragmentos de Bagdad by Turner Libros in May 2014, English as The Baghdad Eucharist (tr. Maia Tabet) by Hoopoe Fiction, 2017, and Persian (tr. Mohammad Hazbaie) by Hirmand, 2019. His fourth novel, Fihris, was published by Dar al-Jamal in January 2016 and was longlisted for the Arabic Booker. The English translation, by Jonathan Wright, was published as The Book of Collateral Damage by Yale University Press in 2019. Antoon’s translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s last prose book In the Presence of Absence, was published by Archipelago Books in 2011 and won the 2012 National Translation Award given by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). His co-translation (with Peter Money) of a selection of Saadi Youssef’s late poetry, Nostalgia, My Enemy, was published by Graywolf in November 2012. His translation of Ibtisam Azem’s novel, The Book of Disappearance, was published by Syracuse University Press in June 2019.His poems and essays (in Arabic) have appeared in as-Safir, al-Adab, al-Akhbar, Bidayat, al-Hayat, Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, Masharef and (in English) in The Nation, Middle East Report, Al-Ahram Weekly, Journal of Palestine Studies, The Massachusetts Review, World Literature Today, Ploughshares, Washington Square Journal, the Guardian, and the New York Times.

He has published academic articles on the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, Saadi Youssef, and Sargon Boulus and on the history and politics of Iraq. His book The Poetics of the Obscene: Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) is the first study of the 10th century poet Ibn al-Hajjaj.

Sinan returned to his native Baghdad in 2003 to co-produce and co-direct a documentary film about Iraq under occupation entitled About Baghdad (InCounter Productions, 2004).

In 2016/2017 Antoon was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. He has served on the juries of the National Book Award and the Pen Prize.

Antoon is an Associate Professor at New York University’s Gallatin School and co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya. You can follow him on twitter: @sinanantoon

10.30 – 11.00 Coffee Break

Panel 10, Victims and/or Agents? The Limitations of Empathy in Postcolonial Fiction and Non-Fiction

11:00 – 13:00, Room: 823

Chair: Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp (Bonn)

Jaine Chemmachery


Victimhood and Agency in Contexts of Colonisation and Migration: Sunjeev Sahota’s Year of the Run­aways (2015) and Shailja Patel’s Migritude (2010)

“In this paper, I wish to examine two literary works to question the victim/agent paradigm, Sunjeev Sahota’s Year of the Runaways (2015) and Shailja Patel’s Migritude (2010). The first offers interesting material to discuss the agency – sometimes limited but not inexistent – of Indian migrant characters (refugees, economic migrants, etc.) who are nonetheless victims of racism, but also of caste prejudice in the UK. The idea underlying this work is to complicate both figures of “victim” and “perpetrator” as characters in the novel do not abide by a simplistic scheme where the victims would be the Indian characters and the perpetrators, the British ones. Some of the Indian protagonists also engage in criminal actions (theft, sexual assault) and other characters – sometimes British, sometimes Indian – exert pressure over the novel’s migrant characters. This urges us to investigate further the use of the terms “victims” and “agents” as if they were strict opposites. My aim is to respond to Ethel Tungohan’s call to “debunk notions of migrant victimhood” (Disturbing Invisibility 176) without overlooking the complex living conditions the characters are experiencing. This reflection will also be articulated with current discussions about intersectionality and poverty. Considering Migritude, I wish to discuss more specifically the in-between zone between victimhood and agency occupied by women under contexts of colonisation and immigration. I particularly aim to consider anger, resentment and complaint as potent sources of agency, both visible in testimonial acts and artistic endeavour. Stringer’s work, in particular her assertion that victims can be “agentic bearer[s] of knowledge”, will serve as theoretical framework in my analysis, as well as Sara Ahmed’s Complaint! (2021). The two works will also be analysed in regard to the solidarities, sometimes fragile, that may be built on the diegetic level between members of various communities but also through the acts of writing and reading. The paper will thus also offer some reflections about the concept of empathy.

Jaine Chemmachery is Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures at Sorbonne Université. She wrote a PhD dissertation on R. Kipling’s and S. Maugham’s short stories on Empire and the relation between colonialism, modernity and the genre of the short story (2013). Her main research fields are colonial and postcolonial literatures, Victorian and Neo-Victorian literatures, and modernity. Her current research focuses on mobility studies, body studies and the representation of precarity/precariousness in literature. She has co-edited with Bhawana Jain a collected volume entitled Mobility and Corporeality in 19th to 21st century Anglophone Literature: Bodies in Motion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021). “

Cédric Courtois

(Université de Lille)

“I am a survivor”: The Victimhood and Agency of Boko Haram Abductees and the Poetics/Politics of Empathy

““I am a survivor”: these are some of the Nigerian protagonist’s words in Irish writer Edna O’Brien’s Girl (2019), a novel about Nigerian/Hausa women abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents in Northwestern Nigeria. In fact, these words are uttered by an American nurse who takes care of the protagonist, a young woman kidnapped by Boko Haram, after she escaped from the grip of the Islamic fundamentalist/Jihadist group among which she underwent horrific sexual violence. By writing “I am a survivor”, the protagonist repeats and, maybe, to some extent, appropriates this “status” of survivor that shows that she “has a knack for pulling through adversity”. Later in the same chapter however, the aforementioned nurse addresses her:“‘Oh, you poor child… you’re hurting… you’re hurting’”, which emphasises her vulnerability as a (voiceless) victim, and therefore reduced her to the status of infants, of a voiceless and passive victim, something that can also be found in the very title of the novel. This exemplifies the conundrum at stake: who gets to be called a victim or an agent and by whom? What can be said about the possible counter-narratives of these victims possibly turned agents? For indeed, according to Anne-Kathrin Kreft and Philipp Schulz, “the lived experiences of victim-survivors of conflict-related sexual violence rarely fit neatly into one single box, or story-line of either victim or agent”. This paper therefore aims to analyse how some works of fiction challenge the concept of victimhood. Girl, by Edna O’Brien, alongside a selection of poems, short stories, and non-fiction published in a Nigerian anthology entitled The Markas: An Anthology of Literary Works on Boko Haram (2019), will be addressed in this paper. I will argue that most of these works challenge the passivity and voicelessness associated with the so-called victims of conflict-related sexual violence and explore forms of (female) solidarity and empowerment. To some extent, they also “explore the power of silence in a world where voice is too often privileged as the ultimate sign of power” (Parpart and Parashar, 2019). Alongside the analysis of what I will call an “ethics of alterity” (Lévinas), I also propose to study the formal ways in which empathy is created in these works through, for example, an exploration of the differences brought by the choice of the short story vs. the novel or poetry, of the different narrative choices made–internal/external focalisations, first or third-person narration…)–, what I will call an „aesthetics” (and possibly, “aesthesis”) of alterity. I also aim to show the limitations of such choices, that might be considered as counterproductive when it comes to triggering empathy among the readers who might reflect upon their positionality through the experience of what Dominick LaCapra calls “empathic unsettlement”, “a virtual experience through which one puts oneself in the other’s position while recognizing the difference of that position and hence not taking the other’s place “.

Cédric Courtois is Senior Lecturer in Cultures of Anglophone Countries at the Université de Lille, France. He specialises in Nigerian literature, which was the focus of his PhD dissertation on the contemporary Nigerian rewritings of the Bildungsroman. He has published various articles and book chapters on mobility studies, refugee literature, and LGBTQ studies, among others. His research interests include postcolonial literatures, decoloniality, transnationalism, transculturalism, gender studies.”

Vanessa Guignery

(École Normale Supérieure de Lyon)

Victimhood, Agency, Vulnerability: Por­traits of Delhi Manual Workers in Aman Sethi’s A Free Man (2011) and Mridula Koshy’s Bicycle Dreaming (2016)

“This paper will examine the ways in which the concepts of victimhood and empathy are challenged in Aman Sethi’s literary reportage, Free Man (2011), which focuses on the lives of manual workers in Bara Tooti Chowk, an Old Delhi labour market, and in Mridula Koshy’s novel Bicycle Dreaming (2010), in which the protagonist’s father is a kabaadiwalla in Chirag Dilli in Delhi (a waste or rag picker). These works of non-fiction and fiction by Delhi-based authors feature people or characters from the working class, who are economically, socially and geographically marginalized in India and suffer from the economic changes affecting Delhi in the early 2000s, and yet are essential to the city’s functioning. On the one hand, they can be considered as the victims of a social and economic system which exploits and invisibilizes manual workers, and their portrayal may elicit or invite affective and cognitive empathy which involves “sharing the feelings of another as a means of coming to an appreciation of the other” (Weiner and Auster, “From Empathy to Caring”, 2007). However, and despite their social vulnerability, some of these people and characters do not consider themselves as victims and instead insist on their agency, asserting the strength of their freedom and resisting the “lines of articulation or segmentarity” through which their lives and identities have been “territorialized” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 4, 10). In Free Man, the main protagonist exercises his freedom by leaving the confines of Bara Tooti Chowk at times, changing jobs or deciding not to work on certain days. He also resists journalist Aman Sethi’s “demand for narrative” (Derrida, “Living On”, 78), a “single story” (Adichie) that is liable to appeal to empathetic or compassionate readers. In Bicycle Dreaming, the waste picker’s daughter takes pride in wanting to ride a bike like her father and become India’s first kabaadiwali, thereby challenging the frontiers of gender and thwarting social expectations. Both of these books therefore point to the complexity of the social situations they depict and expose the limits of both the concept of victimhood and that of empathy (including the “narrative empathy” analyzed by Suzanne Keen in Empathy and the Novel). Bearing in mind cultural, political and intellectual discourses that extol the “virtues of renouncing victimhood” (Rebecca Stringer, Knowing Victims 3) and challenging the strict dichotomy between active agents and passive victims or what Gudrun Dahl has called “the Agents Not Victims trope” (2009), this paper will examine the ways in which, despite the social, economic, gender and caste pressure exercised on manual workers in Delhi, which places them in a situation of vulnerability and precariousness, the latter struggle to maintain agency and autonomy both individually and collectively through acts of solidarity and care within and beyond their communities (with limitations, as will be shown). The paper will thus also explore the ways in which, as suggested by Joan Tronto, Marian Barnes (Care in Everyday Life) and other care theorists, empathy may give way to an ethics and practice of care which does not entail paternalistic modes of domination from privileged caregivers to victimized care receivers (Fiona Robinson, “Paternalistic Care”), but relies on “an interdependent and mutually constitutive relationship between self and other” (Marcia Morgan, Care Ethics and the Refugee Crisis 12). Such mutuality and reciprocity further challenge the dyadic dichotomy between victims and agents.

Vanessa Guignery is Professor of Contemporary English and Postcolonial Literatures at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon and the President of the French Society for Contemporary English Studies (SEAC). She is the author of monographs on Julian Barnes (2001, 2006, 2020), B.S. Johnson (2009), Ben Okri (2012) and Jonathan Coe (2015), and the editor or co-editor of several collections of essays on contemporary British and postcolonial literature (notably on Ben Okri, Janet Frame, Nadine Gordimer and Caryl Phillips, and on such topics as the poetics of voice and silence, hybridity and fragmentation). She is currently editing a special issue of the journal Études Anglaises on contemporary Nigerian literature and writing a book on Kazuo Ishiguro’s creative process through an analysis of his archives. She will be a visiting researcher at the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities in New Delhi in January-April 2022. “

Fiona McCann

(Université de Lille)

Affective Political Agencies in Cauvery Madhavan’s The Tainted (2020)

“Irish-Indian author Cauvery Madhavan’s third novel, unlike the previous two, is a historical fiction which traces Irish-Indian connections in the 20th Century and which was published exactly 100 years after the events which inspire part of the novel. The Tainted has two diegetical strands, one set in 1920 and the other in the early 1980s and sets out to highlight convergences in responses and resistance to violent British colonial rule. Madhavan rewrites the historical episode of the Connaught Rangers mutiny and in this blending of fact and fiction, raises a series of uncomfortable questions on victimhood and agency in postcolonial contexts and the complex legacies which prevail even decades later. This paper will explore the ways in which Madhavan harnesses affective agencies and the codes of contemporary romance fiction so as to underscore a more pointedly political agenda which reconfigures the very notions of victimhood and resistance in an Irish-Indian context and points towards an ethics of care as a means of transcending the limits of empathy.

Fiona McCann is Professor of Postcolonial Literatures at the Université de Lille, director of the research centre CECILLE (UR 4094) and the President of the French Society for Postcolonial Studies (SEPC). She has published widely on contemporary Irish, South African, and Zimbabwean literatures in English and is the author of a monograph (A Poetics of Dissensus: Confronting Violence in Contemporary Prose Writing from the North of Ireland, Peter Lang, 2014) and the editor of The Carceral Network in Ireland: History, Agency, and Resistance, Palgrave, 2020). Her current research projects are twofold and centered on the one hand on decolonial pedagogies of care and, on the other, on the poetics of care and representations of waste in contemporary postcolonial literatures.”

Panel 11, Refugees, Exiles and Border-Crossers

11:00 – 13:00, Room: 1.811

Chair: Silke Stroh (Münster)

Deepmala Mahato and Abantika Chakraborty

(Mahishadal Raj College)

Solidarity on the Margins: Corporate Aggression and Indigenous Identity in Ranendra’s Lords of the Global Village

“After the introduction of a neo-liberal economy in India in the 1990s, multinational companies take entry in different corners of the country much like authoritarian agencies controlling the lives of indigenous communities. In the name of setting Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the mining areas and remote hinterlands which are mostly habitats of the tribal people, the global corporate agencies start playing aggressive roles in urbanizing those places and it often results in the violent dissolution of indigenous culture and identity. This trend has well been represented in a number of Indian Anglophone literary productions ranging from Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things) to Siddhartha Sarma (Year of the Weeds). These writers have shown how the already marginal indigenous positionality is becoming more vulnerable on the face of aggressive corporate economy. The everyday struggle of a marginal tribal community, their sociality and unique solidarity to save the indigenous traditional culture and identity from extinction have been showcased by the Indian indigenous writer Ranendra in Lords of The Global Village (2017) in an exemplary manner. In this proposed paper, we concentrate on the issue of tribal solidarity of the Asur community (a tribal ironsmith community in the Chotanagpur Plateau in Eastern India) whose struggle to survive against the corporate aggression of a multinational company known as Vedang, has been delineated by the novelist in a shocking manner. The Asur people, according to the traditional Hindu myths described as “dark-skinned giants with protruding teeth and horns growing out of their heads”, appear to the common people as antagonistic to the Hindu Gods, and this misconception further isolates them from other tribal groups/mainstream people around. The solidarity of the Asur people appears precisely as a clan-oriented unification and in this point, they suffer a double marginalization. This paper also deals with the Asur community’s unified struggle to establish their “human” identity against the mythical demonic representations. Although the struggle of the mythical tribal community of the Asurs to save their indigenous identity and culture results ultimately in devastation, the commotion creates a hope for the future generations who resolve to continue the disparate struggle against the corporate aggression and the acquisition of their lands. We would finally focus on the nature of the state-sponsored violence unleashed on this indigenous community to point out the violation of human rights and simultaneously, to emphasize the contradictory ideas of socio-economic development promised by the state and corporate agencies at the cost of indigenous culture and identity.

Deepmala Mahato is a state-aided college teacher at the Department of English of Mahishadal Raj College, and a PhD Scholar at Prabhat Kumar College, under Vidyasagar University. Her topics of research interest are Transculturalism and Cosmopolitanism, Indian Literature and Globalization, Ecocriticism and Animal Narratives etc. She has contributed to several national and international conferences by presenting her research papers.

Abantika Chakraborty is an early-career scholar and also a state-aided college teacher at the Department of English of Mahishadal Raj College. Her topics of research interest are Travel literature, Indian Literature and Globalization, Tribal Studies, Multiculturalism etc. She has presented at national and international conferences and published research papers.

Asis De and Maitrayee Misra

(Mahishadal Raj College)

“Bastuhara” to “Immigrati”: Resistance and Refugee Solidarity in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide and Gun Island

“Postcolonial Anglophone literatures have long deployed the tropes of cross-border migration, refugeehood, homelessness and asylum as means to describe the plight of minoritarian agency and its persecution in the erstwhile homeland. However, the ground realities of refugees’ plight across the globe are very different from one instance to the other. Though refugees exist throughout human history, it is after the imperial collapse that the term “refugee” finds currency in South Asia. In his fictional works, the eminent Indian littérateur Amitav Ghosh does not address the refugee scenario as never-ending crises but as something fundamental to the human condition of the Indian subcontinent in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From the spectacle of the Indian post-Partition “Bastuhara” (homeless) refugees rowing boats in The Hungry Tide (2004) to the sight of the economic “Immigrati” on the blue boat stranded in the Mediterranean on its way to Italy in Gun Island (2019), Amitav Ghosh’s treatment of the refugees, their sociality and solidarity has accommodated multiplicity of vision.
This paper attempts to show how the issue of refugee solidarity finds very different expressions in the face of resistance and securitization— from the state-sponsored genocide of refugees in the regime of a left-wing government (The Hungry Tide), to the right-wing resistance denying the entry of Asian and African immigrants stranded on the Italian coastline of the Mediterranean (Gun Island). We would also show how politicization of the issue of sheltering and socializing the refugees affects the dynamics of refugee solidarity: the indifference of the civic society to the violent atrocity against the poor, homeless ethno-religious refugees in the island of Morichjhãpi in the Sundarbans (The Hungry Tide) stands in sharp contrast with the support extended even to illegal immigrants by the human rights activists despite the strong opposition of “right-wing, anti-immigrant groups” in Italy (Gun Island). Finally, with references to these two novels we would point out how digital media appears as more powerful tool than any doctrinaire political ideology of the ‘dispossessed,’ in managing the migrants’ sociality and solidarity in this twenty-first century.

Asis De is Associate Professor of English, Head of the Department of English Language and Literature (UG and PG), and Director of Research (Humanities and Social Sciences) at Mahishadal Raj College (NAAC Accredited ‘A’ Grade), West Bengal, India. His basic area of research is the study of Identity negotiation in diasporic cultural spaces with references to Anglophone Indian and World literatures. In several publications and conference presentations in Asia (India, Nepal and Bhutan), Africa (Egypt and South Africa), the United States and Brazil, and Europe (Belgium, Germany, England, France, Scotland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Austria), he has worked on the issues of dislocation and migration, cultural identity, transnationalism, ecological humanities, kinship studies, and disability studies in Anglophone Asian, Caribbean, African and Australian literatures. He also acts as the Secretary of the Postgraduate Council (Addl. Charge) at Mahatma Gandhi University, West Bengal, India. He is a life member of IACLALS and a regular member of EACLALS, PSA, GAPS, SIEF, and MESEA.His latest publication is: [Amitav Ghosh’s Culture Chromosome: Anthropology, Epistemology, Ethics, Space (Leiden and Boston: Brill) 2022]””

Maitrayee Misra is Assistant Professor (Ad-Hoc) of English in the Department of English and Foreign Languages, Guru Ghasidas Vishwavidyalaya (A Central University), India. She specialises in Postcolonial Anglophone literature and Culture Studies with particular reference to fictional narratives of Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, Caryl Phillips and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In her publications and conference presentations in India, Nepal, Egypt and Europe [Gottingen, (Germany), Oviedo (Spain), Sheffield (England) and Graz (Austria)], she has worked on issues like diasporic dislocation, cultural memory, cultural space and transculturality, ecological ethics in Postcolonial Anglophone literatures. To her credit, she has a chapter in – A Companion to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, edited by Ernest N. Emenyonu (James Currey: USA, 2017). She has been awarded two Research Fellowships in 2015 and in 2017 by the University Grants Commission, Govt. of India. She is a member of several eminent research organisations like PSA, EACLALS, IACLALS (life member), SIEF, GAPS and MESEA.”””

Mursed Alam

(Gour College, Gour Bang)

Ethnocratic Populism in a Postcolony: Lynchings, Barecitizens and the Search for New Solidarities

“The paper proposes to investigate the ethnocratic turn of Indian democracy and the majoritarian violence the Muslims of India face today. Violence on Muslims in India range from hate crimes, branding them as ‘enemy-within’, open calls for genocide, and cultural invisibilisation to attempts to dismember their citizenship claims. Scholars have tried to analyse the events in contemporary India through the categories of ethnic democracy (Jaffrelot, 2021), majoritarian state (Chatterjee, Hansen and Jaffrelot, 2019), right-wing populism (Gudavarthy, 2018), Hindu rashtra (Patel, 2021), undeclared emergency (Narain, 2022), or passage to despotism (Choudhury and Keane, 2021). The paper would work through these analyses to understand how such this majoritarian/ ethnocratic shift of Indian democracy threatens to reduce the Muslims of India to what, extending Agamben’s concept of barelife, we can say bare-citizens- formal citizens without protective rights or whose citizenship claims are precariously held. This paper would take into account two recent cases from contemporary India- the recent spate of lynchings in which the overwhelming majority of the victims were the Muslims and the Dalits; and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 which is often compared to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 because of its perceived discrimination against the Muslims. The paper would further try to analyse the possibilities and limitations of forging solidarities in the face of majoritarian/ ethnocratic populism as seen in protests against the lynchings and during what is variously called the anti-CAA protests, anti-NRC protests or citizenship protests. The paper would draw on Zia Us Salam’s Lynch Files: The Forgotten Saga of Victims of Hate Crime (2019) as well as on pamphlets and booklets published by various groups fighting against NRC (National Register of Citizens) and other archival resources to substantiate its arguments.
Mursed Alam teaches as Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Gour College, University of Gour Banga, India. His areas of research include subaltern studies, Islamic traditions in South Asia, literary and cultural history of Bengal Muslims etc. He was awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust fellowship in 2018 for archival work in the British Library. He is the managing editor of Kairos: A Journal of Critical Symposium and one of the founding members of Postcolonial Studies Association of the Global South (PSAGS). He has contributed articles and book reviews in journals such as Postcolonial Interventions: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Rethinking Marxism, Economic and Political Weekly, South Asia Research, Contemporary South Asia etc. He can be reached at “

Panel 12, Beyond Victimology: War Narratives in a Decentred World

11:00 – 13:00, Room: 1.812

Chair: Geoff Rodoreda (Stuttgart)

Lukas Lammers

(FU Berlin)

Triangulating Histories – Contested Solidarities: Anglophone Fictions of World War II in East Africa

“Santanu Das, one of the most prominent scholars working on the experience of colonial troops, notes that “the colonial home-front, particularly in Asia and Africa, remains one of the weakest links in First World War history.” He complains of a “[l]ack of adequate or accessible source-material, coupled with Eurocentricism” (100). Work on the Second World War seems to lag behind even this. It may be partly in response to this remarkable “[l]ack of adequate or accessible source-material” and its exclusion from public discourses that a number of postcolonial writers have produced extended literary accounts of the colonial home front, depicting the direct and indirect impact of the war and its aftermath on non-European theatres of war and (post)colonial subjects. World War II has thus emerged as an important site of memory especially among a postmemorial generation of postcolonial writers who address an increasingly international or ‘global’ audience. Recently three novels centered around the First and Second World War in East Africa have received significant critical acclaim: Nadifa Mohamed’s Black Mamba Boy, Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King and Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Afterlives. While the three texts are quite different in scope, style, and geographical focus, they can all be seen to contribute to a “transition,” as it is phrased in the CFP, “from a politics of victimhood to a poetics of agency.” They do so partly by decentering or rather re-centering narratives of the Second World War as well as leading readers into the muddy waters of a war that from its beginning involved the massive recruitment and deployment of colonial troops. All three novels can further be shown to enquire into “the role of English in plurilingual contact zones across the world” as they ‘triangulate’ different histories. The novels by Gurnah, Mengiste, and Mohamed are particularly noteworthy for the way they scrutinise the complicated entanglements of subjects drawn into wars that were – unlike dominant, Eurocentric narratives – always inflected by colonialism and that invariably involved divided loyalties. The paper will draw on Michael Rothberg’s notion of multidirectional memory to show how the novels move beyond the logic of memory as a “form of a zero-sum struggle for preeminence” (2009, 3) in which different national memories rival for dominance and towards a more inclusive, potentially reconciliatory view that occasionally quite literally ‘triangulates’ different histories, throwing into relief the connections between Ethiopia, Italy, Germany, Somalia, Tanzania, and the UK. This triangulation also complicates our understanding of victims and perpetrators – roles that often appear to be comfortingly stable both in national(ist) histories and in postcolonial discourse. In this sense, the novels point ‘beyond victimology’. Ultimately, the paper is not so much interested in the representations of war per se; instead, it hopes to present war as an ambivalent social nexus and as a critical perspective.

Lukas Lammers is Assistant Professor at Freie Universität Berlin, where he teaches English literature and cultural studies. His research focuses on historical fiction, questions of cultural memory and identity, early modern drama, World War II, and processes of decolonisation. His monograph Shakespearean Temporalities was published with Routledge in 2018. He is coeditor of Shakespeare Seminar and is currently working on a book project entitled “The Colonial Home Front: Writing World War II Across the Colonial Divide.” He has written on the historical novel and transnational memory, and postimperial nostalgia in the works of Jane Gardam.

Victoria Herche


“Sometimes it’s better to forget”: Ethnic literature and Literary Ethics in Nam Le’s Short Fiction

“In 2008, Vietnamese-born Australian author Nam Le published The Boat, a collection of seven short stories set around the world, to great critical acclaim throughout the Anglophone world. The collection’s cosmopolitanism, set in places such as Colombia, New York City, Iowa, Tehran, Hiroshima, and small-town Australia, is connected by the stories’ shared negotiation with the figure of the refugee. While the collection has been marketed as ‘international’ or ‘cosmopolitan fiction’, Nam Le’s stories pointedly engage with the potential danger that narrating migrant lives in the name of international solidarity can easily be oversimplified, commodified and compartmentalized as ‘ethnic literature’. By referring to the story most closely linked to Le’s own biography, “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice”, this paper engages with Le’s self-referential and critical response to ‘ethnic literature’, its economy, and ethics. The story presents a metafiction about a young writer who chooses to write about his Vietnamese father’s wartime experience and thereby debates the question of who is ‘allowed’ to tell such stories, and how to provide responsible representations of traumatic experiences. The author openly rethinks his own position as ‘ethnic writer’ and how to resist or comply with the pressure to essentialize one’s own ethnicity in order to be successful in the global literary market. Nam Le’s work thereby offers a counter-discourse to the compartmentalization of the (victimized) migrant experience and reassesses the role of cultural ‘authenticity’ and understandings of agency in Anglophone literatures and cultures.

Victoria Herche is a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer in the English Department at the University of Cologne. She is the Public Relations Coordinator at the Centre for Australian Studies (CAS) in Cologne and assistant editor of Anglistik: International Journal of English Studies. Her first monograph is titled The Adolescent Nation: Re-Imagining Youth and Coming of Age in Contemporary Australian Film (Universitätsverlag Winter, 2021). Her research interests include Australian Literature and Film, Indigenous Studies, Post-Colonial Theory, Migration and Refugee Studies, Popular Culture and Psychoanalytic Theory. “

Alessandra Di Pietro


Reversing Victimology: Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King as a War Narrative of Female Agency

“Maaza Mengiste’s second novel, The Shadow King (2019), is a fictional retelling of the Italo-Ethiopian War (1935-1936), which focuses on the role the so-called “Forgotten Black Women” (Mengiste 2019) had during the conflict. If war narratives are often told from the perspective of the male gaze, Mengiste’s novel reverses such common practice by recounting the tale of the Ethiopian women who fought against the Italian soldiers. Even though at the beginning of the novel the female characters appear as victims of a patriarchal society, the author de facto constructs a narrative of female agency that goes beyond victimology: once the war breaks out, the women actively refuse the submissive role imposed on them by society, instead taking up arms to fight the invaders. In this sense, by unveiling the forgotten history of Ethiopian women soldiers, Mengiste’s novel also defies “the danger of a single story” (Adichie 2009). This paper analyses how the female characters in the novel transition from a condition of victimhood to a politic of agency, defying the constrictions of both their own patriarchal society and of the foreign gaze of the colonisers.

Alessandra Di Pietro earned a Master of Arts in Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures (special qualification in English Literature) from the “d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara, Italy. Since August 2019 she is a PhD student at the University of Bern, Department of English and a member of the doctorate program in Global Studies at the Graduate School of the Humanities. She is currently working on her PhD project Opening Up Worlds: Rethinking Anglophone World Literatures and Female Authorship Within The Global Literary Market (working title). As a PhD student, she attended various international conferences. She also published reviews in RSV. Rivista Studi Vittoriani and in The Gissing Journal. Research interests: Anglophone literatures of the 20th and 21th centuries; Postcolonial theory; Gender studies; World literature; (Sub-saharan) African literature.”

Nuha Askar

Who is the Enemy? Disassembling Post­colonial Binaries by Self-reflexivity in What Strange Paradise (2021)

“This paper attempts at approaching postcolonial literary texts other than in the tradition of the writing-back paradigm. The ‘compartmentalized world’ of colonizer/colonized gave rise to an imaginary Manichean world “where all that is white is good and all that is black is bad” (McCoy, 2011). Substantially, the slashed binary mushroomed to subsume other curtailments such as us/them breeding eventually an essentialist binary of agency/victimhood. Modern anglophone literatures largely inspect modes of displacement of this model by shedding light on the different intensities on both sides of such divides. Parochial narratives of good/evil have collapsed and more self-reflexive literatures are flowering. In effect, writers exquisitely venture to examine the nuances, the multiple stories of a world inhabited by both ‘honest villains’ and wicked angels. In the same vein, contemporary Anglophone Middle Eastern writers have examined the sterile national unity projects, making space in their fictions to think out the impossibilities of these projects and accountabilities for the decrepit regional stability. Above all, they rethink the fragmented social bonds of a segmentary society torn up by linguistic, ethnic and religious discrimination. And thus, they complicate the struggle scene by inquiring about ‘the enemy within’ and the vehement antipathy among internal actors. In this paper, I am keen to show how Omar El Akkad, in his novel What Strange Paradise (2021), mediates the various stories of victims and predators on both sides of the slashed binary. He neither demonises the ‘other’ nor idealises the ‘us’, but rather draws a tapestry of intertwining complicating worlds. The novel turns a deathscape into a death-escape. It is a fictionalised rendition of the widely known story of the Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on the Greek seashore after a journey with his parents and several others on one of the death-boats in 2015. El Akkad’s readers remain, in the end, unsettled by several questions. For example, is the responsibility for the deathscapes of illegal migrants on the Greek seashores singular? For we meet precarious, fickle, self-reflexive characters drawn as being implicated in their prolonged existential ordeal of dislocation and (dis)belonging(s). Reasons beyond their misery are neither simplified nor presented as prejudice against an ‘other’; instead, they are investigated in the narrative to show the multiple horizons and depths of the problem.

Nuha Askar is a PhD candidate at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She studied Anglophone Literatures, Cultures and Media at Goethe University and graduated with a Master degree in 2019. Her dissertation examines internal struggles in the Middle East mediated in contemporary anglophone narratives of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Her fully funded project is entitled “”Beyond the Single Story of the ‘Arab Nation’: Narrating Internal Dissent in Anglophone Middle Eastern Literature””. She is also a writer of several texts and short stories on exile, refugees and migration, most of which are published in local German newspapers and collected on her blog “

Panel 13, Convivial Imaginaries: Resources of Hope in Cultural Production

11:00 – 13:00, Room: 1.802

Chair: Kerstin Knopf (Bremen)

Jan Rupp (Heidelberg)

Contested Solidarities and Hospitable Form in World Refugee Life-Writing

“Refugee life narratives present a topical and challenging body of 21st-century Anglophone literatures. In the face of material and legal constraints for refugees to speak, their life stories are frequently facilitated by new networks of solidarity to protest hostile immigration regimes. These invariably complex constellations of telling – involving refugees, activists, lawyers, translators and go-between writers, among others – are contested both from without and within. Grappling with xenophobia and postcolonial necropolitics, refugee life narratives have also encountered scepticism over the question of who can speak as/for refugees and confronted elusive multidirectional linkages with earlier bodies of migrant literature. However, in the absence of rights and representation, life-writing offers an important refuge itself, resulting in innovative forms of fictional accommodation (cf. Woolley 2014), emic and etic narratives (cf. Whitlock 2021), or auto- and heterobiography in relational mnemohistories (cf. Rupp 2021).
Further mapping this growing network of hospitable form, the proposed paper will survey a broad spectrum of non-fictional to fictional(ized) life-writing of Arab and Middle-Eastern refugee migration in works like the multi-volume Refugee Tales (Herd & Pincus 2016-19) or Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West (2017). I will then focus on a close reading of Behrouz Boochani’s prize-winning autobiographical account No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (2018), with a particular view to the role of media and translation in new Anglophone writing. Engaging North-South as well as South-South relations in a dialogue, I argue that refugee narratives cover important new ground for life-writing while registering the impact of world refugee systems, as an emergent body of Anglophone world literatures yet to be fully accommodated.

Jan Rupp has served as interim professor at the universities of Frankfurt, Giessen, Heidelberg, and Wuppertal. He is the author of Genre and Cultural Memory in Black British Literature (2010) and a second monograph on representations of ritual in modernist Pageant Fictions (2016). His research interests include the contemporary novel, cultural memory studies, narrative theory, intermediality, ritual in literature, and (neo-)Victorian studies. He has published widely on diasporic British as well as postcolonial Anglophone writing and theory, including on didactic perspectives of the literature classroom. Among his current work is a project on figurations of world writing and environmental memory in literatures of the Global South.”

Asli Ergün (Frankfurt)

The Italian Restaurant Around the Cor­ner: Convivial Encounters and New Soli­darities in Nikita Lalwani’s You People

“According to the UN Refugee Agency, the number of forcefully displaced people doubled since 2010. These developments have created a political minefield in the European context by now. Beside parties in the public discourse who describe themselves as victims in order to promote politics of exclusion, others point out the irony of this mind-set and suggest their implication (Michael Rothberg, 2019) in the current affairs. While these two sides engage in a spectacular tug of war, hardly ever including displaced people in the discourse themselves, the realm of the ordinary daily lives of individuals (Ndebele, 1994) within European societies develops its own momentum. This paper zooms in on these social negotiation processes in the ordinary realm that follow the ongoing trajectories of globalization and the rising number of displaced people. I propose that in this regard conviviality (Gilroy, 2004), a regular feature of everyday life, is unlocking the potential to form and reform solidarities even in the microcosm of one’s own neighbourhood. In Nikita Lalwani’s You People (2020), for example, new solidarities evolve in the transcultural and convivial environment of a London Pizzeria named Vesuvio. The restaurant is mostly, yet not exclusively staffed by undocumented migrants, for whom the charming and enigmatic proprietor Tuli provides the assistance that the bureaucratic machinery denies them. The first-person narration alternates between the new arrival Shan, a Tamil refugee, and the 19-year-old, transcultural waitress Nia, who fled from her alcoholic mother. Though both have lived through an unbearable situation, they are far from being unidimensional victims. They managed to escape, claiming agency. Grappling with the guilt of leaving loved ones behind increases their willingness to walk into morally questionable and dangerous terrain which, in turn, challenges their alleged victimhood further. My paper provides an in-depth analysis of the moral ambiguity of implicated subjects within the frame of forced displacement and highlights the transformative power of a shared, unifying convivial space. Despite the title playing into the established public narrative, the novel allows for a reading that centres on solidarity through conviviality and kindness. Compassion and humanity, both of which are self-reflexively questioned, ultimately bridge the gulf between the characters and with that the novel suggests new standards for societies of our time.

Asli Ergün is a PhD candidate at Goethe University in Frankfurt on the Main. She majored in English Studies, Philosophy and Education at Goethe University and holds a state examination for teachers. Her dissertation Discovering Europe’s Convivial and Transcultural Ordinary in a Multipolar World examines social imaginaries from the British and European context that turn away from migratory exceptionalism and appreciate novel modes of the ordinary.”

Elisabeth Knittelfelder (Graz)

Reimagining Care, Community, and Activism in Mojisola Adebayo’s The Interrogation of Sandra Bland (2017), Yaël Farber’s Nirbayah (2012), and the Workshop Play #JustMen (2018)

“In times of extreme crisis, whether it is anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, gender-based violence, or environmental injustice, the importance of care work, of community, and of hope has to be recognised as being prerequisites to muster the resources to navigate and survive these conditions of uncertainty and emergency. As Robin D. G. Kelley proclaims, the catalyst for political engagement has never been misery, poverty, and oppression but hope. Love and imagination are the most revolutionary impulses available to us. This paper discusses care, community, and hope as radical activism in the works of Mojisola Adebayo, Ya?l Farber, and in the communal workshop performance #JustMen. These playwrights and performers operate on the intersection of Global North and Global South and organically merge ritual, storytelling, political activism, and (female and gendered) care work in their performances. Each of the three plays is a reaction and response to global injustices, The Interrogation of Sandra Bland (2017) addressing anti-Black racism, Nirbayah (2012) and #JustMen (2018) negotiating gender-based violence from different perspectives. These plays translate hope and imagination to move from a politics of victimhood to a poetics of agency and healing. Accordingly, Kelley affirms, “poetry is the only way to achieve the kind of knowledge we need to move beyond the world’s crises”.

Elisabeth Knittelfelder holds a PhD in English and American Studies from the University of Graz and is an awardee of the Marietta Blau-Grant and the Post-DocTrack Fellowship. She spent extended research periods at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa and at Potsdam University in Germany. Her work exists at the convergence of literary studies, cultural studies, and performance studies, global feminism, decoloniality, Black studies, and dramaturgies of cruelty and trauma. Her current research explores the nexus of intersections between necrocapitalism, crisis, and violence towards aspects of (global) migration, (colonial) border epistemologies, climate justice, and (decolonised) trauma studies. Her research, writing, and pedagogy are committed to social justice and negotiate literatures and performances in/of crisis through a decolonial and global feminist perspective. She is a lecturer at the University of Graz and at the University of Vienna. “

Tatjana Milosavljević Mijučič (Novi Sad)

Of Friends and Foes: Recovering the Community in Zadie Smith’s NW and Swing Time

In the past two decades, Zadie Smith’s fiction and non-fiction have been acutely interested in the erosion of social solidarity, especially in the British context. In one iteration of this interest, her writing has engaged with neoliberal conceptions of meritocracy that clash with the limitations of race and class, and as a result, untie the bonds of intimate friendships and local communities. Thatcherism has introduced a new structure of feeling in the 1980s, to borrow Raymond William’s term, which placed emphasis on individual responsibility, self-help and competitiveness within a meritocratic framework, in contrast to the ethos of community-building that marked the earlier post-war settlement (Hall 1990). Theorizing this reinvented Britain of Foucauldian entrepreneurs of the self, a society that remakes workers as entrepreneurs, citizens as consumers, and subjects as projects (Han 2017), thinkers have noted that the idea of meritocracy has lamentably been co-opted as a divisive tool of inequality and class privilege (Littler 2017). It has also been established over the years and across disciplines that hyper-individualist forms of agency diminish the spaces of social solidarity, leaving many in disempowered and precarious positions (Fisher 2009; Gilroy 2013; Gilbert 2014).
Smith often revisits the intricate relationship between individual responsibility and structural inequality in fictions that probe the limits of meritocracy. Her novels NW (2012) and Swing Time (2016) have been particularly invested in recovering race and class as meaningful concepts that continue to frame not just agency, but also personal ethics. Both texts have ethically ambiguous characters who become socially abject (Tyler 2013) and stigmatized as wasted humans (Bauman 2007), because they fail to construct socially desirable life-narratives within the world of the text. These unruly and thus unreadable anti-subjects such as Nathan in NW and Tracy in Swing Time embody the demonized underclass, a class that is impervious to the discourse of aspiration nation. Moreover, both novels foreground childhood friendships that dissolve later into adulthood as the boundaries between victims and villains, and between friends and foes become intensely blurred. This paper argues that Smith’s novels weave friendships across social divides and across decades, within minutely localized time-spaces of north-west London neighbourhoods, in order to analogize the wider experience of the breakdown of communities along race and class lines. Against the trend for individualism, however, Smith ultimately argues that these precarious friendships of differently precarious subjects are the only hope for endangered communities, i.e. for recovering agency against the disempowering forces of fragmentation. The cerebral, yet fractured narrative fabric of NW could be read as a capitulation before these forces in this novel. However, the paper also seeks to show that embracing experientiality (Fludernik 1996) and narratorial responsibility in the form of realist first-person story-telling, coupled with Swing Time’s more hopeful conclusion, is conducive to a narrative of collective experience and common values in the latter text, i.e. to a narrative construction of a community.

Tatjana Milosavljević Mijučić has graduated from Albert-​Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in 2013 at the programme MA in English Literatures and Literary Theory under the mentorship of prof. Monika Fludernik, and she holds another MA degree from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia, in the area of critical discourse analysis. In Freiburg, she worked as a graduate tutor for the course Introduction to Literary Studies, while for the last nine years she has thought general English at Educons University in Serbia. In 2016, she was the only doctoral student from Serbia to be awarded Erasmus+ grant for a research semester at Middlesex University, London. Her forthcoming doctoral dissertation draws connections between the discourses of neoliberalism in contemporary Britain and the politics and aesthetics of select black and Asian British texts since the 1980s until the present day.”


Panel 14, Moving the Center: Affect, Implication, and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures (II)

11:00 – 13:00, Room: 1.801

Chair: Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp (Bonn)

Jennifer Leetsch (Bonn)

‘The Power to be Affected’: Love, Desire and other Sticky Feelings in Postcolonial Literature

“The title of this talk is borrowed from Michael Hardt’s 2015 essay “The Power to be Affected”, in which he engages with one of our most perceptive theorists of affect, the late Lauren Berlant. In the essay Hardt describes the power to be affected as the power to act – to be affected is not a weakness, but a strength – and names “pain, pleasure, frustration, and longing as […] tracks we can follow to understand how people manage in this world to create new intimacies, new bonds, and new forms of life” (215, cf. also Berlant 2011). Affect proliferates in institutional contexts just as much as in intimate relations, in sexual encounters and aesthetic experiences as much as in political affairs and economic struggles. Thinking about affect as not only embroiled in the intimate and private, but as speaking to politics, empire and power structures is the core tenet of postcolonial affect studies – a much-needed countermove against the universalism of Eurocentric studies of affect (cf. Gunew 2020).
Postcolonial affect studies has often focused on “negative” affects – shame, fear, trauma. This talk turns towards love as sticking to both the negative and the positive, the regressive and the revolutionary. As Jennifer Nash succinctly points out, love “can be deployed to shore up heteronormativity, to re-energize dominant narratives of romance, and to advance claims to power” (2013, 19). Sara Ahmed, in the same vein, gestures towards the often-insidious normative power love potentially holds. In The Cultural Politics of Emotion, she excavates the structures and functions of powerful feelings such as love and hate, attraction and fear, desire and disgust, and explains that while “love may be crucial to the pursuit of happiness, love also makes the subject vulnerable, exposed to, and dependent upon another” (2014, 125). Love is deeply implicated in the scripts of racial and gendered power relations. While often thought of as apolitical, an affective dimension into which you enter almost unwittingly, what Ahmed, Nash and others have shown is that instead, love is inherently political and politicised.
This means, however, that love can also emerge as a way to think through non-sovereign, dissident identity formations. Love can function as a tool to re-appropriate and to rebuild certain power relationships; and it harbours the potential to destabilise restrictive orders. bell hooks and other philosophers of post- and decolonial love (Nash, Macharia, Ureña) have recognised the capacity of love as ultimately transformative of structures that underlie harmful processes of neo-liberal globalisation, racism, inequality and heteronormative restriction. The radical love-politics articulated by these scholars entails not only a reparative practice of the self but also a communal, relational strategy for constructing political communities. For hooks in particular, love is the possibility to connect and to find oneself in that which is other, in the one who is other: “When we choose to love we choose to move against fear – against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect – to find ourselves in the other” (2000, 93). Love is an exchange that makes possible to see and recognise one another, however faulty that vision may be.
Linking these complicated, sticky complexities of love to a selection of postcolonial literary texts which present love stories that are deeply entangled within twenty-first-century realities of migration and displacement, reveals an urge in postcolonial literature of moving beyond a familiar insistence on processes of alienation or rupture and towards a new, reparative emphasis on connection and intimacy – an urge to imagine possible inhabitable worlds through the power to affect, and to be affected.

Jennifer Leetsch is a postdoctoral research fellow at Bonn University’s Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies. She is currently working on a postdoctoral project which intertwines forms and media of black life writing with nineteenth-century ecologies in, of and after the Plantationocene. Her first monograph on Love and Space in Contemporary African Diasporic Women’s Writing was published with Palgrave in 2021. She has published and forthcoming work in, among others, Interventions, EJES, the Journal of the African Literature Association and Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and is currently co-editing a volume on migration imaginaries across visual and textual spheres (De Gruyter).”

Caroline Kögler (Münster)

Implicated Affect, or: Traumatic Attach­ments – Historical Perspectives

“Focussing on colonial literary renditions of enslavement, attachment, and subjugation from the long eighteenth century, my contribution to this panel seeks to complicate the understanding that love or romance are easily and adequately understood as necessarily empowering. This perspective, which is born from the research for my second book, Emotion’s Empire and the Rise of the Novel. Cultural Politics of Attaching, Grieving, and Coping in the Anglo-Atlantic 1688-1847 (under review), specialises in depictions of enslaved-enslaver relationships that eighteenth century novels often idealised within narcissistic imperial-patriarchal tropes such as the ‘grateful slave.’ Such tropes fundamentally romanticised white subjugating power but also—or so I argue—valorised an oft-ignored side-effect of traumatic abuse: traumatic attachments that arise in abuse victims towards the abusive party as part of a coping mechanism. Thus merging research on narcissistic imperialism (e.g. Drichel, Spivak, Koegler f/c) with theories on affect (e.g. Ahmed, Butler), the history of emotions (esp. Boulukos), and research on traumatic bonding (e.g. Shaw), I argue that in discussing the centrality of affect for empowerment in the postcolonial setting, it is important to keep in view how emotions that are so often perceived to be positive—particularly love and/or attachment—also played and continue to play a much more sinister role in relationships that are marked by stark power hierarchies. Indeed, it is in wrenching away affect from the calibrating, abusive powers of imperial-patriarchal world-making that attachments can unfold their empowering capacities in postcolonial conditions, and perhaps only then.

Caroline Koegler is Assistant Professor of British Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Münster; in the summer semester 2022, she is serving as acting chair of British and Anglophone Literature and Culture at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Caroline’s research specializes in literature and culture from the long eighteenth-century to the present, including, as particular foci, emotion, the rise of the novel, colonialism and postcolonialism, economic criticism, the digital literary sphere, and the Atlantic world. Her work has appeared in journals such as NOVEL. A Forum on Fiction, Women’s Writing, and Interventions. She is co-author of Are Books still ‘Different’? Literature as Culture and Commodity in a Digital Age (under contract & submitted with CUP), author of Critical Branding. Postcolonial Studies and the Market (Routledge 2018), co-editor of Locating African European Studies: Interventions-Intersections-Conversations (Routledge 2020) and of Writing Brexit. Colonial Remains (Routledge 2021). Her second monograph Emotion’s Empire and the Rise of the Novel. Cultural Politics of Attaching, Grieving, and Coping in the Anglo-Atlantic, 1688-1847 is currently under review. “

Bénédicte Ledent (Liège)

Liberating structures of feeling in Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge and A Distant Shore

“Anglo-Caribbean author Caryl Phillips has often fictionalized the encounter of individuals belonging to different genders, racial groups and cultures. Several of his novels, which are known for their subtle explorations of mental states, bring side by side a white woman and a black man who both display affective disorders, leading to depression and alienation. Cambridge (1991) and A Distant Shore (2003) are cases in point. The former, taking place on a Caribbean plantation in the 19th century, focuses on an English planter’s daughter and an African slave, while the latter, set in 20th century-England, stages the meeting between a white retired teacher and a black refugee. These characters’ mental issues have often been analyzed separately. For example, the black character’s inner turmoil in the second novel has been explored through the lens of trauma (Jain, 2018), while the white woman’s malaise has been read as abandonment neurosis (Su, 2018). This paper intends to demonstrate that it is worth going beyond this form of critical discrimination and rather focus on what brings the two protagonists together at the emotional level, on the “sensory entanglements” at play between them, with a view to outlining a form of virtual and conflicted solidarity, which only empathetic and serious readers are able to achieve.
Far from universalizing feelings and emotions and erasing cultural differences, then, such an approach is meant to show how these narratives, which have already been described as “unsettling the Manichean allegory” (Swanson Goldberg, 2010), complicate the traditional ethics of otherness and allow readers to focus on the protagonists’ shared outsiderness and thereby get rid of the postcolonial critical straightjacket. Particular attention will be paid to the role that form plays in offering such a possibility of liberation, for example the juxtaposition of narratives that both echo and contradict each other in Cambridge, and the alternating zooming in and out on the characters’ experience via first- and third-person chapters in A Distant Shore. As Stephen Clingman has very concisely put it, there is in Phillips’s writing “a connection between certain structures of feeling and certain structures of fiction” (The Grammar of Identity, 2009, 77).

Bénédicte Ledent is honorary professor at the University of Liège, Belgium, and is a member of the postcolonial research group CEREP ( She has published extensively on Caryl Phillips and other contemporary writers of Caribbean descent. She has worked on several editorial projects, the latest of which is a special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, co-edited with Daria Tunca and devoted to postcolonial biographical fiction. She is co-editor with Delphine Munos of the book series Cross/Cultures (Brill).”



13:00 – 14:00   Lunch in the University Canteen (Self-pay)



Panel 15, Moving the Center: Affect, Implication, and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures (III)

14:00 – 15:30, Room: 823

Chair: Timo Müller (Konstanz)

Delphine Munos (Liège and Ghent)

This is Not Postcolonial Literature: Happi­ness, Ambivalence, and Senti­mentality in Chick-Lit of the Global South (on Anita Heiss’ Not Meeting Mr. Right, Anuja Chauhan’s The Zoya Factor, and Cynthia Jele’s Happiness is a Four-Letter Word)

“Spearheaded by the success of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary (1996), the “chick lit wave” or “chick-lit pandemic” (Donadio) has translated into huge book sales even if the genre is generally denigrated by critics, who view it as “the ultimate example of […] a mass culture produced for mindless, passive consumers” (Hollows). Recently, however, critics have revalued the genre, which is seen to reflect and illuminate the so-called ‘post-feminist’ challenges facing contemporary young women who navigate the conflicting legacies of second-wave feminism and patriarchy in ‘first-world’ contexts, and who juggle careers and relationships, independence and commitment. Contrary to the assumption that chick-lit fiction is primordially Western-centric, ‘local’ versions of the genre are now blossoming in developing countries and non-western places such as India, China, Southern Africa, Australia, or Saudi Arabia, which calls for a re-assessment of the genre’s complicities with globalizing forms of ‘post-feminism’.
Taking Indian, Aboriginal Australian, and South African chick lit as case studies, my paper investigates the ways in which chick lit from the global South bears witness to the formation of new middle-class subjectivities in non-western postcolonial contexts while re-politicizing the genre, using its conventions to highlight matters of local and global entanglements in the contemporary moment. Referring to post-liberalization India, Suman Gupta (2016) contrasts ‘postcolonial’ Indian literature in English (aimed at an international market) with Indian commercial fiction (geared towards an English-speaking local readership) and remarks that the latter “makes a claim of local rootedness within a global publishing template”. My paper will argue that such an in-built tension between “local rootedness” and “global template” also translates in the affective realm, causing the protagonists of Anita Heiss’ Not Meeting Mr. Right, Anuja Chauhan’s The Zoya Factor, and Cynthia Jele’s Happiness is a Four-Letter Word to inhabit ambivalent affective assemblages mobilized, on the one hand, by context-specific models of femininity and agency, and on the other, by the Western globalizing fantasy of ‘the good life’ and its post-feminist language of ‘choice’. Lauren Berlant (2008) associates US chick lit with a “complaint narrative” in which ambivalence – which she presents as “the opposite of happiness” – signals “the unfinished business of sentimentality,” that is, an ongoing attachment to “disaffirming scenarios of necessity and optimism”. But I will contend that chick lit from the global South does just the opposite, keeping sentimentality in check and gesturing towards happiness through a final disentangling of consumer-friendly and community-friendly constructions of female subjectivity.

Delphine Munos works in the Modern Languages Department at the University of Liège, Belgium, where she is a member of the postcolonial research group CEREP. She is also a Visiting Professor of English Literature at the Department of Literary Studies, Ghent University. A co-editor (with Bénédicte Ledent) of the book series “Cross/Cultures: Readings in Post/Colonial Literatures and Cultures in English” (Brill) and the author of After Melancholia (Brill/Rodopi, 2013), a monograph on Jhumpa Lahiri, she specializes in Anglophone postcolonial literatures and US ethnic literatures, with a special focus on ‘minor-to-minor’ interactions between different postcolonial places and minority histories. She has published articles in journals such as Postcolonial Text, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, and Journal of Postcolonial Writing and co-edited journal issues for South Asian Diaspora (with Mala Pandurang: 2014; 2018) and Journal of Postcolonial Writing (with Bénédicte Ledent: 2018; Routledge 2019). Her research interests include postcolonial and minority literatures, memory and trauma studies, psychoanalysis, narrative theory, affect theory as well as born-digital literatures. She is currently working on two research projects; the first one looks at born-digital literatures and online book talk in the global South and the global North; the second one investigates the intersection of affect theory and postcolonial literatures.”

Marie Herbillon (Liège)

Dancing for Salvation: Performance and the Trans­formative Power of Affect in J.M. Coetzee’s The Death of Jesus

“In The Death of Jesus (2019), J.M. Coetzee pursues and broadens the reflection he initiated with the first two novels of his recent trilogy, namely The Childhood of Jesus (2013) and The Schooldays of Jesus (2016), which arguably allegorised migration: after leaving Novilla, the town in which they had been ascribed a new identity and requested to start a new life, a boy and his surrogate parents have settled in the equally strange Estrella, where they have attempted to make another new start.
In these novels, Coetzee’s meditation on migration and history is closely interrelated with the postcolonial spaces in which his plots unfold. These seemingly bloodless and ahistorical urban environments, whose inhabitants appear to have been washed of memory and supposedly harmful human passions, are, in fact, not entirely bereft of historical, artistic and emotional substance. Indeed, the otherwise “sleepy provincial city” (29) of Estrella at least has an Academy that teaches children the art of dance in an effort to reawaken buried “memories of a prior existence” (The Schooldays of Jesus 244) – and to gesture towards more intangible human emotions. For the most part, the final text in Coetzee’s ‘Jesus’ trilogy depicts the Academy’s most gifted student’s harrowing struggle with a mysterious disease – a gradual body paralysis to which the young and vibrant David will eventually succumb.
In this paper, I will examine the ways in which Coetzee associates the idea of artistic performance, not only with the need to confront history and, in particular, repressed memories in possibly traumatic postcolonial contexts, but also with the arousal of potentially transformative affects that may crystallise into acts of faith. Despite his premature death, which may have prevented him from delivering – except through the example he set when performing – the clear message his contemporaries may have expected from a saviour, David’s legacy is quite considerable. In this regard, we will see that, as a dancer and an adoptive son, he has the power to “exalt […] everyone whose life he touched” (152), thus acting as a catalyst for aesthetic emotions and other change-inducing affects that his unforeseen disappearance only exacerbates. In addition, I will focus on the crucial role this “exceptional” (21) being plays in Coetzee’s critique of Cartesianism and the wide-ranging consequences of the typically Western dissociation between mind and body.

Marie Herbillon lectures in the English Department of the University of Liège. A member of Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherche en Études Postcoloniales (CEREP), which she currently co-directs, she has completed a PhD entitled “Beyond the Line: Murray Bail’s Spatial Poetics” and published articles in international journals such as Commonwealth: Essays and Studies, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature and Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature. She is also the new general editor of the Journal of the European Association for Studies of Australia (JEASA). Her research interests include postcolonial (particularly Australian) literatures, spatial studies, ecofeminism, autobiographical studies, trauma studies, cultural history, translation studies and intermediality. Her current research project addresses the themes of history and migration in J.M. Coetzee’s late fiction.”



Panel 16, The Poetics and Politics of Agency

14:00 – 15:30, Room: 1.801

Chair: Gigi Adair (Bielefeld)

Hannah Pardey


A Poetics of Digital Agency: Adichie, Braithwaite, Nwaubani

“In the last decade, the rapid proliferation of digital media has invigorated the already extensive contributions of African writers to Anglophone world literatures. Sharing an occupation with mobility and migration, a “capacity for constant innovation” and the “extension of the possible” (Mbembe and Van der Haak 2015, n.pag.), African fictions and new media technologies form a mutually constitutive relation. Recent scholarship has investigated the ways in which the digital realm shapes the aesthetics and politics of African literary production – and vice versa. Contemporary Nigerian authors have taken centre stage in these critical debates. Accounting for “the majority of most-talked-about writers in Anglophone African literature,” Nigeria also represents one of “the most digital hubs on the continent” (Adenekan 2021, 8), with more than half of the (mostly urban) population owning internet-enabled devices (see Adenekan 2021, 13; Guarracino 2014, 5). Taking special interest in regional networks, scholars like Shola Adenekan and Stephanie Bosch Santana have focused on the online production of poems, short stories or fictional diaries to stress that the digital sphere offers “an alternative to mainstream ideologies, and an opportunity to create new forms of expression” (Adenekan 2021, 10) as it allows (aspiring) writers to circumvent conventional literary gatekeepers and establish more direct communication channels with their readers.
By contrast, my contribution examines three ‘extroverted’ Nigerian novels (see Julien 2006) to challenge such conceptions of the digital as a non-hierarchical and potentially liberating space. Scrutinising the digital mode in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013), Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer (2018) and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s I Do Not Come to You by Chance (2009), I contend that the novels negotiate their position in a global (that is, US-based) new media economy, inviting us to reconsider the power inequalities of the world-literary market (see e.g. Brouillette 2007) in the digital age. Incorporating experiments with the blog format, Adichie’s novel conceptualises blogging as a “raw and true” (Adichie 2013, 295) mode of communication that, permitting instant and continual reactions from “readers […] all over the world” (Adichie 2013, 304), anticipates the affective reading communities which dominate the discussion of Americanah on Goodreads, YouTube and other social media platforms. Braithwaite’s text engages Facebook and Instagram as a means of both investigating and disguising crime, suggesting that digital media facilitate possibly deceptive constructions of self and other. In a similar vein, Nwaubani’s tale about a so-called 419er, i.e. an Internet fraudster, indicates that new media technologies may redefine global economic hierarchies, contesting the kind of transnational solidarity that is envisioned in Adichie’s text. Taken together, the three novels develop a poetics of digital agency that remains critical about its transformative potential.

Hannah Pardey, M.A., is a lecturer and doctoral candidate at the University of Hanover (Germany). She teaches British literatures and cultures from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century with a strong focus on postcolonial literatures in English and theories and methods of (digital) literary and cultural studies. She has published articles and book chapters on the intersections of postcolonial cultural studies, digital reception studies, middlebrow studies and the history of emotions. Her dissertation project, “Middlebrow 2.0 and the Digital Affect: Studying Postcolonial Readers in the Internet Era,” concerns the material conditions of producing, distributing and consuming the new Nigerian novel online. “

Clare Kelly


Authorial Agency and the Postcolonial Literary Archive: The Sale of Amos Tutuola’s Manuscripts to the Harry Ransom Centre

“One result of the emergence of postcolonial literature as global literary genre in the second half of the 20th century, is that literary archives of canonical postcolonial writers have become financially valuable in the global cultural marketplace. David C. Sutton notes that this high market value is one of the factors that makes literary archives “diasporic” in nature because, as Ibironke puts it, “the treasures of culture gravitate toward power.”1 The impact of this gravitational pull is clear when we consider that the archives of canonical postcolonial authors such as Chinua Achebe, Derek Walcott and Wole Soyinka, are concentrated in the institutions in the Global North, a fact which gives credence to Joseph Slaughter’s assessment that “the core […] is the core not because it is the source of things, but because it is a collection of things.”2 However, unlike ancient cultural artefacts such as the Benin Bronzes, which, due to their uncoverable genesis, represent the artistic achievements of a people not a person, literary manuscripts are personal property. Drawing primarily from understudied archival correspondence, this paper uses the sale of the manuscripts of Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard and The Wild Hunter in the Bush of Ghosts as a case study to consider the cultural position of the author within the context of the postcolonial literary archives. In the debates that surrounded the sale of his manuscripts, Tutuola is regularly conceived as a victim of exploitation. There are two camps split according to their assessment of his “victimhood”: his advocates within the Nigerian literary establishment argue that he is being manipulated into selling his manuscripts abroad for a pittance, while the American scholar Bernth Lindfors contends that he is being forced to forgo financial security for the sake of someone else’s patriotism. However, despite the various victim narratives that surround him, Tutuola’s correspondence reveals the way in which he carved a space in which to assert his agency as an author and redefined the very premise of literary archives by creating a “new” manuscript when one was lost.

Clare Kelly is a second year PhD student in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin under the supervision of Dr Sarah Comyn. Her research is concerned with how African authors who bring with them practices and tenets of oral tradition, defamiliarize dominant models of literary property and facilitate the imagining of new systems of cultural production and exchange. Her thesis focuses on the work of D. O. Fágúnwà, Amos Tutuola, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Akwaeke Emezi. Clare holds a BA in English Literature and Ancient Greek from Trinity College Dublin and an MA in World Literature from the University of Oxford. She is in receipt of an Ad Astra scholarship from UCD and is a resident scholar at the UCD Humanities Institute. Before beginning her PhD, she worked as a Media Assistant at The National Archives in Kew, London.”

Miriam Hinz


“The trump card that God has wedged in between their legs”: Solidarity and Agency in Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street 

“Historically, colonial powers have established white masculinity as the norm while black femininity has constituted its deviant ‘Other’. Although multiple black feminist movements have acted against the invisibility and/or (re-)victimisation of black women (cf. e.g. Collins 2009), stereotypes about the black woman as hypersexual object of male pleasure prevail, rendering black women particularly vulnerable and excluded from society. This vulnerability is especially exposed in the context of sex work in Europe, which is shaped by heavy normative implications and imbued with narratives of inferiority and shame. Besides psychological effects on those subjects, their bodies are exposed to the exoticising, objectifying, and commodifying gaze of the (dominantly) white male clients, leaving many women behind with a fractured sense of self.
Nigerian-Belgian author Chika Unigwe, in her novel On Black Sisters’ Street, rewrites dominant narratives about black women in prostitution and introduces new perspectives on solidarity and agency in sex work. Centred on four black women who are trafficked to Belgium to work as prostitutes, the novel evokes a sense of solidarity as an essential survival strategy. Furthermore, by voicing their stories, the women regain their agency. Countering the prevailing marginalisation of black female sex workers, On Black Sisters’ Street puts the women centre stage and subverts normatively defined and stereotyped narratives about black women’s (involuntary) prostitution. Finally, formal choices such as multiperspectivity, non-linear timelines, and the use of Nigerian Pidgin-English support and attest to an aesthetics of solidarity and agency on the level of form.

Miriam Hinz is a PhD student and research assistant at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf in the department of Anglophone Literatures/Literary Translation. She has specialised in the field of postcolonial literatures and her main research interests lie in postcolonial, gender and spatial studies, and the intersections of these. Her PhD project focuses on gendered configurations of cosmopolitanisms and pays particular attention to female Black British protagonists. She teaches literary seminars for B.A.-students on the topics of postcolonial theory, gender studies, and space. An article on Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr Loverman as a queer subversion of the European Bildungsroman was published in Postcolonial Interventions in January.”


Panel 17, Moving Solidarities and Affective Alliances in Contemporary Afro-diasporic Literature and Performance

14:00 – 15:30, Room: 1.812

Chair: Ellen Grünkemeier (Bielefeld)

Emilia María Durán Almarza (Oviedo)

Gestures of Contested Solidarities in Contemporary Afro-diasporic Collective Theatre

“Emilia María Durán-Almarza engages the contested notions of solidarities produced in and through contemporary Afro-diasporic collective theater. Her presentation will focus on a critical assessment of the gestures of decolonial solidarity as they emerge in recent collaborative creative projects by Honey Pot Performance (Chicago, US), the Sistren Theatre Collective (Jamaica) and PISO Proyecto (Puerto Rico). Working through the lenses of transnational Black feminist and decolonial onto-epistemologies, this presentation will suggest approaching their theatrical productions through the concept of “worldtravelling” (Lugones) as tool to explore the relational, affective, and coalitional politics embedded in their creative praxis and the ways in which they enact implicated alliances among local and transnational collectivities.

Emilia María Durán-Almarza is Associate Professor of English at the University of Oviedo, Spain. She specializes in postcolonial writing and performance. In this field, she has authored a monograph Performeras del Dominicanyork: Josefina Báez and Chiqui Vicioso (PUV 2010), edited several volumes, such Diasporic Women’s Writing. (En)Gendering Literature and Performance (Routledge 2014), Debating the Afropolitan (Routledge 2019) and Performing Cultures of Equality (Routledge 2022); and published several articles in international peer reviewed journals. Her recent work focuses on the exploration of relational ethics in the work of contemporary postcolonial performers.”

Elena Igartuburu (Oviedo)

Moving Bodies, Moving Words: Dance, Grief, and Redaction in Dionne Brand and Edwige Danticat

“Elena Igartuburu analyzes the role of dance and movement in creole senses of belonging in Edwige Danticat’s After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel (2002) and Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of no Return: Notes to Belonging (2001). These texts suggest the complexity of Afro-diasporic subjectivities and ideas such as return, solidarity, and coalition by using dance and movement as mediators of physical, emotional, and political proximity and detachment, as well as practices of joy and grief (Muñoz 2009). Contextualizing these negotiations within the history of Black radicalism and Afro-diasporic solidarity that crosses the US, Canada and the Caribbean (Edwards 2003; Lamothe 2008), this paper proposes dance and movement as inscribed by/in “wake work” (Sharpe 2018) — the emotional labor of relational politics marked by the afterlife of slavery, including colonialism and US imperialism. Wake work emerges as a practice for the production and reproduction of contested solidarity and provides opportunities for the annotation and redaction of dominant discourses and personal narratives.

Elena Igartuburu is a Post-Doctoral fellow in the Department of English Studies at the University of Oviedo, hosted by Research Group Intersections. She has been a Teaching Associate at UMass Amherst and a Visiting Scholar at SUNY New Paltz after graduating summa cum laude from the Gender and Diversity PhD program at Universidad de Oviedo in 2015. Her current research focuses on race, gender, movement and dance in contemporary US and Caribbean texts from the perspective of Performance Studies and Queer and Gender Studies.”

Ángela Suárez Rodríguez (Oviedo)

Hopeful Solidarities and Resistance in the Contempo­rary African Novel

“Ángela Suárez Rodríguez’s presentation will focus on the critical and comparative analysis of narrative solidarities in NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (2013) and Imbolo Mbue’s How Beautiful We Were (2021). Attention will be paid to the depiction of collective practices of solidarity and resistance arising from their protagonists’ “capacity to aspire” (Appadurai 2013) in necropolitical environments. The discussion will highlight how, in order to consider Bulawayo’s and Mbue’s protagonists as actors of hopeful solidarity and resistance, there is a need to recognize them as emotional subjects whose “affective practices” (Wetherell 2012; Wiesse 2019) defy precarious social conditions. Drawing from recent conceptualizations of Black subjects as “affective agents” (Palmer 2017) within the project of decolonizing Affect Theory (Gunew 2009), this analysis will engage in reconfigurations of victimhood and agency as they emerge in the selected novels, pointing to the ways in which hopeful gestures of affective solidarity function as “resources of hope” (Williams 1989) and critical praxis.

Ángela Suárez-Rodríguez is Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of English Studies at the University of Oviedo, Spain. Her PhD thesis explores contemporary Afrodiasporic women’s writing, with a focus on contemporary West-African novelists. She is working on completing a research monograph based on her doctoral investigation. Her research has been published in leading national and international journals such as the Journal of Postcolonial Writing and Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies.Her current research focuses on the study of practices of solidarity and resistance as portrayed in recently published works by African and Afrodiasporic authors. For this, she draws primarily from Black feminist theories of solidarity and new critical insights into the “affective turn” from feminist, postcolonial, decolonial and critical race studies.”



Panel 18, Narrative Agencies (II)

14:00 – 15:30, Room: 1.811

Chair: Jan Rupp (Heidelberg)

Eva Ulrike Pirker, Tasun Tidorchibe (Düsseldorf)

The Agency of Words: Rereading Ama Ata Aidoo’s Works of Fiction through a New Formalist Lens

“Over the decades, the debate on form (and for that matter the formal method) has largely been Western-centered and has tended to superimpose concepts of form emerging from the Western context on other cultures in Africa and elsewhere thanks to (Western) notions of artistic universality and transcendence. This universalization however narrows the scope of the discourse on form and creates the single story syndrome and its attendant dangers echoed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TED Global event in 2009. To stem this tide and provoke a paradigm shift, my PhD research project, titled “Revisiting Formalism from a West African Perspective: Konkomba Folktales across Generations and Cultural Contexts,” seeks to interrogate the form-content correlation in formalism from an Afrocentric perspective by employing the explorative technique of foreignized translation (Venuti) and a culturally-sensitive new formalist criticism of folktales of the Konkomba people of northern Ghana. Among other things, the research interrogates, by teasing out classical and contemporary formalistic thoughts, the applicability of Western concepts of form (and formalist approaches generally) in predominantly orally-based contexts like those from which Konkomba folktales emerge. It particularly explores what aspects are lost in the process of theory transportation and how Western formalist concepts could be translated, transposed, and complemented in order to account for the orality and specificities of orally-based literatures like these Konkomba folktales. Such an investigation, geared toward formulating a culturally-sensitive critique and expansion of new formalistic currents, will ultimately unearth certain structural patterns pointing to similarities and/or differences as well as the core variables inherent in these Konkomba folktales as far as their formal aspects and renditions are concerned, which will consequently help gain a better understanding of how various literary, oral, social, and cultural forms contribute to and shape meaning in them. Above all, such an investigation will productively inject a novel (West African) perspective into the prevailing largely Eurocentric approach to studies in form and the formal method in general. I propose to present a progress report on this PhD project, tracing the rise and development of the formal method and its concepts of form from its classical times in Russian formalism to its contemporary state in New formalism. Such a report will ultimately showcase the limitations of the formal method and its Western concepts of form in orally-based African contexts like the Konkomba folktales I am studying, which will consequently give impetus to my proposal that New Formalism be complemented to account for the orality and cultural specificities of African oral literatures such as Konkomba folktales.

Tasun Tidorchibe is a PhD student of the Heinrich Heine Universität. His PhD research examines form from a West African perspective by critically interrogating the various forms at work in folktales of the Konkomba people of Ghana. His research seeks to expand the frontiers of New Formalism to account for the orality and culture-specificity of African oral artforms such as Konkomba folktales. Tasun is a KAAD scholarship holder.

Eva Ulrike Pirker teaches Anglophone Literatures and Literary Translation at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. She has authored and co-edited books and journal issues and published numerous articles in the fields of Anglophone, Postcolonial and Black British Studies. Her current research and teaching projects centre on intermediality and cultural translation. “

Silvia Anastasijevic


Beyond the Victim-Perpetrator Para­digm: Overcom­ing ‘Single Stories’ through Humor

“In her TED-talk “The Danger of a Single Story”, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie cautions against narrow and one-dimensional conceptualizations of identity, namely ‘single stories’ such as the ‘poor African’ for instance. While such reductionist portrayals of identity are clearly unrealistic and problematic, they are nevertheless frequently used, especially when it comes to discourses that classify people along the lines of victims and perpetrators. Even when the status of victimhood, for example, is not enforced from the outside as a means to take away agency but rather self-imposed and claimed in order to gain political power, the consequences of such narrow representations of identity are potentially disastrous. After all, when “a people [are shown] as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, […] that is what they become” (Adichie 2009). Moreover, such single stories can easily lead to the creation and perpetuation of stereotypes, particularly in regard to humor. The issue “with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story” (Adichie 2009). However, identities are manifold, as they can be influenced by historical circumstances, culture, gender, class, interests and more. Accordingly, “there is never a single story about any place” (Adichie 2009), person or culture. What this implies is that the more ‘stories’ are known and told about a certain person or community, the more accurate their representation becomes, especially when taking into account that rather than being an unmoving reality, identity “is built up and changes throughout a person’s lifetime” (Amin Maalouf 2000, Engl. translation). With these changes, our ‘spheres of knowledge’ can also be transformed, as elaborated on by Drew Hayden Taylor in connection to humor and cultural appropriation. This also has an impact on which stories or jokes one is permitted to tell without encroaching “on another person’s (or culture’s) sphere” (Taylor 2005). In this paper, the focus will be on the ways in which humor as a medium with its inherent transgressiveness can disrupt and overcome single stories. The analysis will include examples from various genres including drama, young adult fiction, and film.

Silvia Anastasijevic is a PhD candidate and adjunct faculty at the Department of New Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She began working on her dissertation after having completed her M.A. degree in English and American Studies with a thesis on apocalyptic narratives in contemporary American literature and film. Her dissertation focuses on the forms and functions of transcultural humor in the Anglophone world. The primary material of her project incorporates examples from traditional media such as literature or drama, and new media, such as memes. Her research interests include humor and comedy in various forms, postcolonial and transcultural studies, Indigenous literatures and cultures as well as media studies. Anastasijevic co-edited the special issue “”Moving Centers & Traveling Cultures”” in Kairos: A Journal of Critical Symposium (2019). “

Laura A. Zander


Cautious Hope and Broken Promise – Haunted Imagi­naries in Recent South African Fiction

“In a little over two years, South Africa will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the end of apartheid, the country’s first all-race elections and South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. Whereas, by now, the transition period is long over, South Africa remains a comparably young democracy that has only just begun to overcome its colonial legacy. While equality has, thus far, only been realized in a legal sense, common justice – or so it seems – has yet to be put into practice on a much broader scale.
In 1999, Nadine Gordimer – South Africa’s grand dame of literature and perennial chronicler of apartheid – published an essay collection entitled Living in Hope and History, a collection which testified to almost half a century of history. Her title persuasively addressed this very tension between a decisive hope for a better future and the continuous claims of apartheid history; whether the injustices of apartheid of 1959, her shocking account of the bans on literature in the mid-1970s, or the South Africa of 1994 as a country free at last on that first day blacks and whites voted together.
Recent South African fiction still reflects this persistent struggle to shed the last remnants of the apartheid past, oscillating between broken promise, historical realities and cautious hope. Damian Barr’s You Will Be Safe Here (2020) stages the victims of the past as perpetrators of the present, as it records various legacies of abuse, redemption, and postcolonial trauma. In Barr’s fictional universe, the past inevitably comes to haunt the present, a notion that his novel shares with Damon Galgut’s The Promise, which won the Booker Prize in 2021. Equally concerned with a haunted present, Galgut’s novel chronicles a diminished family’s legacy, once again living proof to the fact that there is no healthy existence in a society corrupted at large. Whereas both novels deal with various ‘implicated subjects’ in their attempt to face guilt, trauma and the effort to come to terms with the past, they also inquire – albeit for the most part only cautiously – into a futuree less haunted by apartheid, into writing for and writing about what was once envisioned as the rainbow nation.”



15:30 – 16:00   Coffee Break



16:00 – 17:15 Goethe University Westend Campus Tour



17:30 – 19:00

Room 823

Roundtable with Michael Rothberg

Michael Rothberg (UCLA), Theses on Differentiated Solidarity and the Implicated Subject

Panelists: Laliv Melamed (Groningen) , Harshana Rambukwella (Open University Sri Lanka), Tanaka Chidora (Zimbabwe/ Frankfurt)

Chair: Pavan Kumar Malreddy (Frankfurt)



19:15  Conference Dinner (pre-order only)

Saturday 28 May

Panel 19, Colonial and Postcolonial Memories

9:30 – 11:00, Room: 1.811

Chair: Jarula Wegner (Frankfurt)

Rita Maricocchi


(Trans)national Memory and Implication in Priya Basil’s Video Essay “Locked In and Out”

“In her video essay “Locked In and Out”, published in 2020 in conjunction with the highly contested opening of the Humboldt Forum, Priya Basil observes how the museum forces “a repositioning of self within entangled histories that stretch in all directions from the belongings held there.” Basil proceeds to create an alternative museum space with her video, one which explicitly implicates the museum visitor (and video viewer) in the historical demands and present responsibilities that emerge both from the objects held there and previous incarnations of the Berlin Palace. Drawing on Michael Rothberg’s concept of the implicated subject as “neither a victim nor a perpetrator, but rather a participant in histories and social formations that generate the positions of victim and perpetrator” (2019, 1), Basil’s narration and visualization of how she approaches and eventually enters the Humboldt Forum, both as a (British) postcolonial subject and a German citizen, can be read as a negotiation of her subjectivity and implicated-ness in relation to national histories of colonialism and fascism. The palimpsestic visual and verbal narration of the video essay makes space for multiple claims on the past, including a reflection on the United Kingdom’s refusal to institutionalize memories of its colonial past, Germany’s carefully cultivated memory culture in response to the Holocaust and National Socialism that does not extend to colonialism, and Basil’s personal family memories of colonialism and migration. This paper will thus consider the text at the intersection of Rothberg’s conceptualizations of multidirectional memory (2009) and the implicated subject (2019), exploring the capacity of the video essay to interweave German and British memory cultures and thereby facilitate a transnational and multidirectional remembering of perpetration and victimhood. Multiply and ambivalently located, Basil reveals the ways in which implication and solidarity can work across national boundaries to destabilize subject positions, particularly in a postcolonial context. While the museum space is irrevocably haunted by a complex history (and present) of imperialist perpetration, it is also rendered a potential site for decolonial agency, to be found, in part, by challenging the selective and insistently national memory of the museum.

Rita Maricocchi is a research assistant and PhD student at the Chair of English, Postcolonial and Media Studies at the University of Münster. A graduate of the National and Transnational Studies MA program in Münster, she wrote her thesis on the topic of German identity and postcolonial entanglements in Birgit Weyhe’s graphic novel Madgermanes. Her PhD project focuses on intersections of the Anglophone and Germanophone in the (postcolonial) German literary and cultural sphere. Additional research and teaching interests include multilingual literature, postcolonial museum studies, and comic studies. “

Sayan Chattopadhyay

(IIT, Kanpur)

Neoliberalism, International Charity, and the Pre­modern: A Reading of Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter

“In this paper I explore how, under the neoliberal regime, capitalism and international charity combine with each other to create and sustain a nexus of super-exploitation in the global South. I do so by providing a reading of Anuradha Roy’s 2015 novel Sleeping on Jupiter which I supplement with an analysis of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s concept of the “premodern”. Spivak’s concept of premodern is primarily associated with the new ways in which international division of labour started getting organised from the 1970s.  This was when production of commodities began shifting away from the industrialised regions in the global North to places like Mexico, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and China, where labour regulations were either already weak or were progressively weakened during the last quarter of the twentieth century. This shift was complemented in the global North by the transformation of its metropolitan cities like London and New York into centres of financial capitalism. I argue that Roy’s novel presents a significant critique of the embeddedness of international charity within this economic palimpsest of neoliberal capitalism through its intriguing depiction of a new-age ashram in India where indigenous patriarchy, sexual exploitation, commodity production, and international charity seamlessly merge into one another. I suggest that Spivak’s concept of the premodern, if expanded, supplies a powerful theoretical tool with which to unravel the intricacies of this entanglement between patriarchy, neoliberalism, and international charity. In the first part of my paper, I unpack the Spivakian concept of premodernity and show how the violence and exploitation underlying the premodern space is framed both by the economic logic of neoliberalism and the intervention of big charity money flowing from the global North to the global South. I then use this theoretical lens to explore Roy’s depiction of the premodern space in her novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, in the form of an ashram of a new-age Indian guru. I conclude the paper by discussing the theme of traumatic memory in Roy’s novel and the ways in which it complicates the ethical task of reading the inscription of premodernity within the text of neoliberal capitalism.

Sayan Chattopadhyay is Associate Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He received his doctorate degree from the University of Cambridge in 2014. He was the recipient of the 2010-2013 Smuts Cambridge International Scholarship and was the Baden Württemberg visiting fellow at the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg in 2017. His research has been primarily in the area of Indian middle-class self-fashioning and its literary manifestations. His latest publications include the book Being English: Indian Middle Class and the Desire for Anglicisation brought out by Routledge in 2022.”

Oluwadunni Talabi (Bremen)

Recipes for Colonial Undoing: Reading New Narra­tives of Africa-centred (Un)Gendered Realities in Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater

“The past decades have witnessed writers of African descent like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Flora Nwapa, Ama Ata Aidoo, Mariama Ba, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Atta, Chika Unigwe etc concern themselves with the historical predicament of African countries and contemporary re-configurations, not least of which are transatlantic slavery, colonialism, imperialism, neo-colonialism, transnational anti-black racisms, hetero-patriarchy, internal sociopolitical disruptions, diasporic subjectivities, neoliberalism and global capitalism. While these issues remain very relevant today, especially considering the continuity of unequal power relations between the Global North and previously colonized countries, which has only been re-configured to reflect the “story of a progressive modernity” (Butler 2008), the recent years have witnessed a crop of new writers of African descent emerging on the literary scene.
These crop of writers like Akwaeke Emezi, Tomi Adeyemi and Nnedi Okorafor are engaging with the politics of agency differently, in ways that do not centre the west and its catastrophic impact on indigenous spaces, socio-cultures and identities. While these writers, writing and publishing in the west, are of self-acclaimed hyphenated identities, their writings are heavily influenced by African-centred ontology — committed to the excavation of indigenous pre-colonial ontologies to write new stories, realities, and ways of being that extends beyond colonial and postcolonial boundaries of subjectivities that have plagued postcolonial subjects and discourses, since the cataclysmic history of imperialism and its attendant social and cultural transformations. To this end, my essay engages with Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel, Freshwater to explore the ways in which Emezi uses the legend of Ogbanje derived from Igbo ontology, to conceptualize and focalize (un)gendered realities that have been predisposed to misunderstandings and mortifications within western/colonial hegemonic epistemologies. Ogbanje, an expression in the Igbo culture, is used to refer to children who are destined to repeatedly die and be reborn by the same mother. This belief is however not limited to the Igbo culture, as there are other linguistic labels used to describe this phenomenon across various indigenous cultures in Nigeria. Using Ngugi’s prominent essay “Decolonising the mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature” to read Freshwater, I will use the Ogbanje legend and its linguistic variants across other afro indigenous cultures to examine how Afro indigenous (un)gendered socio-cultures have historically engaged with the constellation of alterity, unpredictability, deviation, nonnormativity and non-conformity in a child’s becoming. Thus, offering possibilities for an African ontological explication of ‘alterity’ or non-binary identities within the discourse of gender, sexuality and modernity. My essay is founded on my belief that the understanding of every subject matter is always impacted by tools (theories and concepts) deployed in the analysis. So, engaging with this topic is a step to envisioning gendered liberational futures through an indispensable Afro-cultural perspective.

Oluwadunni Talabi is a 3rd year Doctoral candidate at the University of Bremen, with a master’s degree in National and Transnational studies from Westfälische Wilhelms Universität, Münster. My research to date has focused on the intersectionality of gender and Blackness. And I draw from multiple disciplines and theories for my interrogation into this discourse.”



Panel 20, Arab Anglophone Interventions

9:30 – 11:00, Room: 1.802

Chair: Nadia Butt (Gießen)

Saleh Chaoui


Ensouling Agential Praxis in a Secular World: A Sufi Spiritual Turn in Leila Aboulela’s The Kindness of Enemies

“This paper investigates Leila Aboulela’s novel The Kindness of Enemies, focusing on how the protagonist, Natasha, reconciles her present crisis, engendered by Islamophobia in the wake of 9/11, through constructing an agential praxis oriented by Sufism. Aboulela composes her story in two narratives, one historical and the other contemporary, by morphing a reconceptualization of Jihad in a way that challenges fundamentalist definitions. Through the story of the Sufi Imam Shamil, Aboulela offers a revisionist reading of history by juxtaposing Islam and political resistance, not in the form of the twenty-first-century radical Islamist groups (Isis and al-Qaeda) but as a vehicle to challenge and resist imperial oppression through the principles of Sufism. In the novel, the history professor Natasha Wilson Hussein’s quest for identity is intertwined with the story of Shamil, the Sufi leader. In this paper, I will highlight how Aboulela presents Sufism as a galvanizing force of agency by emphasizing its role in curbing extremism and challenging the hegemony of radical Islamists’ claims to represent authentic Islam. I argue that Aboulela’s novel maps out a turn towards spiritual traditions of Islam as transformative and liberating forces, which affords her characters a spiritual spatial horizon to ensoul the concept of agency.

Saleh Chaoui is a PhD candidate in the British and American Studies program of the Doctoral School of Literary and Cultural Studies, University of Debrecen, Hungary. He has his MA in Cultural Studies from the University of Fes, Morocco. His research focuses on the return of religion in postcolonial literature, particularly the interplay between Sufism and identity politics and the experience of diaspora in contemporary female diasporic writings. His academic research areas include postcolonialism, diasporic fiction, religion, gender studies, cosmopolitanism and migration.”

Aya Chelloul


Wealth, Loss, and Islamic Faith in Leila Aboulela’s novel Minaret.

“During a time when the prevalence of stories about muslim fundamentalism, extremism and its misogynistic, oppressive treatment of women, Leila Aboulela’s Minaret (2005) complicates this stereotype by offering a different view. She does so through a woman, a figure long seen as the obedient mute, draped in black, living under the mercy of the father, brother, and son. By plotting the story around the five pillars of Islamic faith, Aboulela displays an alternative understanding of how Najwa, a muslim woman, grapples with faith, and the potential freedom and liberation it can bring about. Najwa submits to various constraints both in her home country, Sudan, where she led her life as a socialite, and as an immigrant in London, where she became a housekeeper. Najwa is enmeshed not only within patriarchal social structures in Sudan and in London where faith is instrumentalised to wield social power, but is also victimised by the political and economic instabilities generally experienced in both places. Aboulela here plays with the riches-to-rags motif, one that is present in Islamic teachings, deconstructs the binary of the West as liberating and the East/Islam as oppressive, and most importantly, shows the complexities tied to the Muslim woman’s subjective experience. This paper argues, then, that Minaret, despite its main character’s implication in patriarchal ideology and her complex presence within these forces, presents in the end faith as new way to negotiate subjugation. Leila Aboulela, as an Arab writing in English, consequently adds another voice to the mosaic of stories about immigration, loss, transformation and faith.

Aya Chelloul is a first year PhD student at the University of Szeged in Hungary. She is an awardee of Stipendium Hungaricum, an Algerian-Hungarian cooperation scholarship. Her research interests include Orientalism, gender, and diasporic writing.”


Panel 21, Canons and Counter-Canons

9:30 – 11:00, Room: 1.812

Chair: N.N.

Mridula Sharma


Colonial Currencies of Nationalism in the Postcolonial State: Questions of Nationality and Citizenship

“Nationalism offers to its committed adherents a sense of collective belonging that bypasses individual differences. Discourses on anti-imperialism reveal that its foundational premise extends the problem of homogeneity from its definitional apparatus to the public imagination. The contingency of nationalism on the construction, development, and sustenance of divisive binaries leads to the repeated invocation and abuse of the Other, promoting the misconception that the Other poses the threat of contamination to an otherwise homogenous national republic. What makes the authority of nationalism particularly dangerous is its ability to provoke and strengthen violence, both immediate and systemic, against the Other on the assumption that the Other inheres the capability to exercise influence. Its incompatibility with the preservation and potential exercise of the Other’s agency summons a renewed engagement with postcolonial concerns. Public spaces in contemporary India foster a pattern of non-negotiation in which religious binaries get immediately politicised to ‘collectively’ address the problems that the homogenous privileged majority of the nation confronts. Religion becomes a token to revisit and reiterate the trauma of the post-colonial partition, complicating ideas of citizenship, belonging, and nationality in a postcolonial nation founded on a partition mediated by religious separation. How can we discuss the unsettling of nationalism and its superficial claim to the ontological stability of borders and identities when, say, Muslim Indians are asked to ‘go back’ to Pakistan in their everyday reality? How can postcolonial theory mediate a sustained conversation on nationalism and the empire in relation to India, a country whose histories of colonialism are accompanied by haunting presents of occupation in Kashmir? Is the register of nationalism even accessible to Kashmir, given nationalism’s troubled relationship with colonialism and its complex intersection with religion? My presentation negotiates with these questions as it traverses colonial and independent eras to examine state authority. I occasionally refer to Daniel Sukumar’s Poems for Pyres to assess realities of state sanctioned oppression.

Mridula Sharma is currently working on a book-length manuscript. Her work has been accepted by publishers such as Routledge, University of Delaware Press, and Vernon Press, among others. Her research interests include postcolonial critical theory, modernity, and pedagogy.”

Thayee krishna


The Poetics and Politics of Postcolonial Shakespeares

“Shakespeare, during the colonial rule became the quintessence of Englishness and a measure for humanity itself. The British during the time appropriated Shakespeare to legitimise their colonial enterprise. The meaning of Shakespeare’s plays were derived to establish colonial authority. Intellectuals and artists from around the globe responded to such a Shakespeare in a variety of ways. Rather than resisting the coloniser’s literature on them, some of them appropriated Shakespeare as their comrade in anti-colonial struggles by offering new interpretations and adaptations of his work. As the opening decade of the twentieth century receded, there was a growing popularity of Shakespeare as a global icon, a celebration of the Bard as the playwright of the world, and furthermore, a growing representation of Shakespeare as an international cinematic presence. This shift of focus of Shakespeare from a ‘colonial icon’ to a ‘global icon’ can be only understood in the context of bourgeois capitalism and an increasingly globalized world of market driven economy. Through this paper, I would like to examine the way, Jayaraaj, postcolonial auteur derelicts the dialectics of the West and the East in the Malayalam movie Kaliyaattam, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello by not only eschewing the collocation of meanings associated with the global icon, but also by provincializing the Bard through portraying him in images of rampant cultural chauvinism. The connotations of Jayaraaj’s deeply political act can only be understood with reference to the nuanced socio-political and cultural history of Kerala. Kerala was the first ever state in India, as well as in Asia to elect a Communist government into power. During the reign of the Communist government, the state witnessed a phenomenal popularisation of Shakespeare among the masses of Kerala through the secularised variant of an indigenous devotional story telling form called Kathaprasangam by a card holding Communist V. Sambasivan. At the hands of Sambasivan, Othello was given a Marxist twist. In Sambasivan’s adaptation of Othello, female characters like Bianca, Desdemona and Emilia were empowered and dignified and given greater agency. Othello’s rising into power as the commander of Venice’s armed forces is elucidated with respect to the Marxist idea of class struggle. Jayarraj’s adaptation of Othello, on the other hand, is marked with innumerable registers of the ‘Hindutwa’ ideology. The ‘rise’ of the Hidutwa forces in Kerala was an epiphenomenon of the decline and eventual demise of Communism in Kerala during that point in history. In the movie Kaliyaattam, Thamara (Desdemona) wears a vermillion mark on the parting of her hair. This vermillion mark, common in North India for centuries, was promoted in Kerala by the Sangh Parivar as part of its Agenda of Hindu consolidation. As a result, a colonial literary icon of immense artistic value is reduced into a tool of propaganda in the ideology of a postcolonial elite. So, even though globalization act like a centripetal force bringing the world together to make the idea of the global village a reality, some regional configurations of Shakespeare can be understood not through the dialectics of the West and the East, not even through the template of Global South-South relationships, but through the dichotomic existence of warring local political ideologies. In this deterritorialization of the self from the neo-colonial hegemony of the West, the regional configurations of Shakespeare commits a border crossing of sorts, enabling itself in a surfacing of ideological power limited to the localized geographical area in question.
The textual travels of Othello, from the Centre to the Periphery makes the original text, an echo chamber of repetition and resonances, giving Shakespeare’s oeuvre a rhizomatic quality. In the plateau of the East, the Shakespearean text subverts the hegemony of the pivotal Shakespeare, essentializing what Ottmar Ette calls, ‘survival knowledge’. Through this paper I would like to conclude that, the Post-Colonial condition is not just applicable to Postcolonial Anglophone Literatures. The aftermath of colonialism has left its imprint on vernacular literatures as well, imbuing them with an inherent postcoloniality. So when we address the question of the shift from ‘postcolonial’ to ‘world anglophone’, we cannot forget vernacular literatures, because even though written in regional languages, in terms of the essentializing qualities, ‘world anglophone’is what they are. If language is essentially a conversation (Derrida), with the ability to supralinguistically overhear oneself, what we can over hear in the regional registers of vernacular literature is the complex social habitats of global Englishes. So even for the Vernacular Literatures, postcolonial is what they are and world anglophone is what they do.

Thayee Krishna has a BA (H) in English from St.Stephen’s College, New Delhi ( India)and an MA in English from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi ( India). She is a bilingual poet and writes in Malayalam and English. Apart from Shakespeare and Cinema, her research interests include, James Joyce, Modernism , English Novel , Narrative Theory and Phenomenology. She is currently teaching at Delhi University, India.”

Ivan Stacy


Subversion Subverted: 2016 and the Reactionary Appropriation of the Carnivalesque

“One of the most striking images of 6 January 2021 was that of the ‘QAnon Shaman’, now identified as Jacob Chansley, dressed in horned headgear and with his face painted, inside the Capitol building. There was something darkly carnivalesque about the riot, and this paper argues that this aesthetic aspect of the attempted coup is not incidental to political causes of the populist surge (explained, for example, by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart as a symptom of ‘cultural backlash’), but rather that a reactionary appropriation of the carnivalesque has underpinned much of the power of populist discourse over the last decade.
This paper examines this appropriation through two literary responses to the key elections of 2016: these are Douglas Board’s Time of Lies and Howard Jacobson’s Pussy. It begins by arguing that key features of Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque were previously aligned with progressive politics: the carnivalesque is based on a distinction between the ‘folk’ and officialdom, and describes the discursive tools available to those in lower social strata to challenge and subvert official discourse. These tools include public spectacles involving inversions of power, comic expressions, and profanity. Yet Time of Lies and Pussy pinpoint the way in which these tools have been appropriated by the populist right: both show the role that spectacle, comedy and profanity have played in giving malicious expression to a perceived sense of victimhood cultivated by reactionary politicians.
The paper also argues that the form and tenor of these novels – both are political satire – are indicative of the challenges involved in contesting this appropriation from a progressive position. For Bakhtin, polyphony is an essential quality of the carnivalesque, and the mixing of voices from different social strata is a central aspect of its democratic thrust. However, the satire of both Time of Lies and Pussy assumes and relies upon a critical stance towards reactionary populism on the part of their readers, and as such they do not enter into polyphonic engagement with the discourses they critique. On the basis of these limitations, the paper concludes by suggesting that responses to reactionary appropriation of the carnivalesque should go beyond description and critique, and must themselves employ a genuinely polyphonic form of discourse.

Ivan Stacy is associate professor in the School of Foreign Languages and Literature at Beijing Normal University. He is author of The Complicit Text: Failures of Witnessing in Postwar Fiction (Lexington, 2021) and has published on complicity and the carnivalesque in the work of Kazuo Ishiguro, W. G. Sebald, Thomas Pynchon and China Miéville, as well as the American television series The Wire. Ivan has lived and taught in the U.K., China, South Korea, Thailand, Libya, and Bhutan.”



Panel 22, Under Construction (I)

9:30 – 11:00, Room: 1.801

Chair: Jana Gohrisch (Hannover)

Nnaemeka Ezema


Sociopolitical Nightmare and Nativitist Longing: The Ambivalence of the Ver­nacular Cosmopolitan in Noviolet Bula­wayo’s We Need New Names

“Drawing from Noviolet Bulawayo’s pungent depiction of the horrid state of Africa in We Need New Names this paper argues that the modern African states constitute a sociopolitical nightmare that prompts exilic impulses in their citizens. The paper contends the point that the novel simply aims to satisfy an African voyeuristic appeal of the Western audience as argued by critics like Helon Habila (2013), Amatoritsero Ede (2015) Felix Ndaka (2020). Against a vast growing literary production that focuses on the global cosmopolitans of African descent that Taiye Selasie refers to as Afropolitans, Bulawayo portrays a different category of migrant Africans that are situated within the conceptual frame of Homi Bhabha’s oxymoronic term, Vernacular Cosmopolitans. This paper therefore takes a self-reflexive perspective in examining how the social crisis necessitated by leadership failure in modern African states constitute foreboding reflexes against the African homeland. It is, however, observed that challenges of integration into the mainstream culture instigate a longing for the homeland. This is why the migrants, including Darling, the child-protagonist narrator, still desire the homeland despite the relative social stability in their place of exile.

Nnaemeka Ezema holds a PhD in English from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He is a mentee of the British Academy. He is a rising scholar with special interest in global mobility, world literature and digital humanities. He won 2021/22 Andrew Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Rhodes University, South Africa.  He has published papers in reputable national and international journals in these fields.”

Saambaviy Sivaji


Memory, Agency, and Solidarity in the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Sri Lanka

“Borrowing from Pierre Nora, this paper attempts to read the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Sri Lanka as a site of memory. In doing so, it tries to emphasize the significance of the relationship between museum and memory – the relationship between the spectators, exhibits, and the architecture of the museum. This paper also demonstrates the interconnectedness of memory and history and how museum exhibits bring out the violent history of Sri Lanka; thirty years of war, numerous exoduses, displacements, human migration, and the aftermath and thereby enabling a platform for the commemoration of the victims of war which is banned by the authoritative Sri Lankan government. MMCA is the first museum in Sri Lanka dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Established in 2019, the museum holds a hundred and fifteen artworks by forty-five artists from varied backgrounds and cultures. Set on the seventeenth floor of the Colombo Innovation Tower, this museum writes history and preserves memory. The emergence of this museum at a time when public memorials and commemoration are banned in Sri Lanka is a significant milestone. The artworks on display portray stories of memory, remembrance, war, violence, suffering, and various other humane emotions. Thus, this paper examines the role of MMCA as a site of memory and how it provides a space for the marginalized communities to build collective solidarities and to commemorate the victims of the Sri Lankan civil war. The first section of this paper presents the relevance of museum studies, especially in the context of memory. It begins with an introduction to museum studies, how it emerged as an important discipline in the twentieth century, and then traces the relationship between museum and memory. The second section of this paper illustrates the theoretical foundations of this paper– sites of memory, postmemory, collective memory, and history. The third section of this paper introduces MMCA. The fourth section of this paper presents a detailed analysis of the selected exhibits of MMCA. I have divided the exhibits into memory artifacts and photographs. The final section of this paper presents the conclusion derived from the analysis. I acknowledge that as MMCA is a newly founded museum in Sri Lanka, there is a lack of studies on this museum. This paper is one of the first studies on MMCA and has been written with limited resources.

Saambaviy Sivaji is presently reading for her master’s degree in Anglophone Literatures, Cultures and Media in Goethe University. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree in English from University of Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2018. Her areas of research interests include Memory Studies, Transcultural Literature, Diaspora Studies, Translation and Interpretation, Sociolinguistics, Second Language Acquisition, Bilingualism and Translanguaging.”

Vahid Aghaei


An Exploration of Michael Rothberg’s Concept of the “Implicated Subject” in Ian McEwan’s Saturday and Edward Ball’s Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy

” Michael Rothberg’s concept of the implicated subject has a manifold dimension and the degree of implication of individuals differs as he has formulated in his recent book, The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators (2019). Above all, he concludes that the implicated subject should not be romanticised nor should it be celebrated. One should aim to “transfigure” it by moving toward collective action that could potentially lead to solidarity. Solidarity alone is inadequate; it is not an end goal. Overall, an implicated subject is expected to acknowledge her/his implication and aim at eradicating the traces of past injustices that still linger on at the present. Henry Perowne, the ordinary protagonist of Ian McEwan’s novel, Saturday (2005), is a successful neurosurgeon who resides in modern day England. As a white male figure, he seems to be a beneficiary of an upper middleclass that has emerged out of Britain’s historical past which is replete with injustices and inequalities. Nevertheless, he does go through a series of sporadic self-reflections that vaguely depict him as an implicated subject. For instance, he does worry about the war in Iraq and the destabilising aftermath that ensues in the Middle East. He is also acutely aware of his role as a neurosurgeon in London with the many benefits he gets to enjoy. Nevertheless, he remains too absorbed in mundanity and does not seriously contemplate the role his country has or has had in different parts of the world or even in its own history. In his historical family narrative, Edward Ball straightforwardly introduces himself to be an implicated subject in contemporary times. The story in Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy (2020) mainly revolves around his great grandfather, Constant Lecorgne. Ball recreates horrid acts of racism carried out by members of his own extended family. By retelling the facts derived from a mosaic structure of substantiated evidence, Ball does not mean to absolve himself in the present. He cannot be taken to court for the crimes that were committed by his ancestors, but as the main narrator, Ball does confess that he is still implicated in his present-day life. A striking feature of Ball’s historical narrative, as well as many other works of him, prove that he has accepted the responsibility to transfigure his implication into something more concrete. He is by no means naïve to think that the injustices of the past could be set right with ease. Time after time he has acknowledged that people like him, or a significant segment of the white population in the US, are still beneficiaries of the white supremacist acts that were committed in the past. By juxtaposing Ball’s with McEwan’s text, I will argue that one can transfigure implication by excavating a horrid past. This could provide a space for deeply entrenched wounds which can begin to heal. It might even ultimately help us go beyond concepts such as victims and perpetrators (as Rothberg’s subtitle suggests) and pave the way toward altruism, no matter how difficult and farfetched it may seem. Vahid Aghaei has an MA in National and Transnational Studies: Literature, Culture, Language from Münster University. He also has a BA (Urmia University) and MA (Tehran Azad University) in English Language and Literature. His first MA thesis, “An Existentialist Reading of the Selected Short Stories by J. G. Ballard”, was completed in 2017. His recent thesis, “The Ethics of Life Writing and the Ethics of Immigration: Narratives of the Undocumented in America” was successfully defended in 2020. Aghaei was accepted to participate in the annual GAPS conference (2020) at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. The title of his paper for that conference was “Joseph Caren’s Theory of Social Membership against Contingent Belonging”. In the GAPS conference (2021) hosted by Oldenburg University, he presented his unfinished paper entitled, “Moral Indeterminacies and Discernments pertaining to Colonialism in Africa: From Joseph Conrad to J. G. Ballard”.”

Tasun Tidorchibe


Revisiting Formalism from a West African Perspective: Konkomba Folktales across Generations and Cultural Contexts:” A Progress Report

“Over the decades, the debate on form (and for that matter the formal method) has largely been Western-centered and has tended to superimpose concepts of form emerging from the Western context on other cultures in Africa and elsewhere thanks to (Western) notions of artistic universality and transcendence. This universalization however narrows the scope of the discourse on form and creates the single story syndrome and its attendant dangers echoed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TED Global event in 2009. To stem this tide and provoke a paradigm shift, my PhD research project, titled “Revisiting Formalism from a West African Perspective: Konkomba Folktales across Generations and Cultural Contexts,” seeks to interrogate the form-content correlation in formalism from an Afrocentric perspective by employing the explorative technique of foreignized translation (Venuti) and a culturally-sensitive new formalist criticism of folktales of the Konkomba people of northern Ghana. Among other things, the research interrogates, by teasing out classical and contemporary formalistic thoughts, the applicability of Western concepts of form (and formalist approaches generally) in predominantly orally-based contexts like those from which Konkomba folktales emerge. It particularly explores what aspects are lost in the process of theory transportation and how Western formalist concepts could be translated, transposed, and complemented in order to account for the orality and specificities of orally-based literatures like these Konkomba folktales. Such an investigation, geared toward formulating a culturally-sensitive critique and expansion of new formalistic currents, will ultimately unearth certain structural patterns pointing to similarities and/or differences as well as the core variables inherent in these Konkomba folktales as far as their formal aspects and renditions are concerned, which will consequently help gain a better understanding of how various literary, oral, social, and cultural forms contribute to and shape meaning in them. Above all, such an investigation will productively inject a novel (West African) perspective into the prevailing largely Eurocentric approach to studies in form and the formal method in general. I propose to present a progress report on this PhD project, tracing the rise and development of the formal method and its concepts of form from its classical times in Russian formalism to its contemporary state in New formalism. Such a report will ultimately showcase the limitations of the formal method and its Western concepts of form in orally-based African contexts like the Konkomba folktales I am studying, which will consequently give impetus to my proposal that New Formalism be complemented to account for the orality and cultural specificities of African oral literatures such as Konkomba folktales. Tasun Tidorchibe is a PhD student of the Heinrich Heine Universität. His PhD research examines form from a West African perspective by critically interrogating the various forms at work in folktales of the Konkomba people of Ghana. His research seeks to expand the frontiers of New Formalism to account for the orality and culture-specificity of African oral artforms such as Konkomba folktales. Tasun is a KAAD scholarship holder”


11:00 – 11:30   Coffee Break

Panel 23, Indigenous Agency

11:30 – 13:00, Room: 1.801

Chair: Katja Sarkowsky (Augsburg)

Annika Beer


Breaking Binaries: Exploring Queer Indigenous Iden­tities in Contemporary Anglophone Literatures

“The past decades have brought forth significant changes in queer movements all over the world. Indigenous queer movements were no exception and the end of the 20th century saw the development of crucial terminologies such as the pan-tribal term two-spirit in Native American/First Nations communities, and the rediscovery-cum-transformation of the ancient M?ori word takat?pui in Aotearoa New Zealand. These terms were instrumental in breaking binaries such as that of ‘the past’ and ‘the present’ (used to signify a contrast between precolonial times and the status quo nowadays, often tinged with sentimentality or, worse, a sense of victimisation), and facilitating a sense of identity that is both aware of ancestral legacies and unwaveringly progressive. By uniting the empowering elements of global queer solidarity, trans-Indigenous networking (cf. Chadwick Allen 2012), and specific local cultural histories, queer indigeneity becomes thus a space where the borders between the personal and the political (yet another binary) are no longer separate and unique, complex self-concepts and worldviews can develop. With such multi-layered identities that draw from a plethora of influences, other binaries become obsolete, too. In my paper, I analyse the subversion of said binaries by utilising literary representations of queer Indigenous agency and innovation in the past twenty+ years – spanning from Cree writer/playwright Tomson Highway’s 1998 novel Kiss of the Fur Queen to the 2021 publication Out Here: An anthology of Takat?pui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa, edited by Chris Tse and Emma Barnes.

Annika Beer majored in English Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, with minors in American and Scandinavian Studies. Her MA thesis explored transindigenous queer perspectives in novels by Tomson Highway and Witi Ihimaera. She plans on pursuing a PhD with a thesis on representations of MMIWG2S (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People) in literature, theatre, film, and other media, focussing on countering victimological narratives.”

Angela Benkhadda


Survivance and Sovereignty in Native American Histo­rical Fiction

“U.S.-historiography has long been dominated by settler colonial mythologies of progress. The indigenous perspective on the country’s colonial past, however, has been marginalized within the discipline (cf. Dunbar-Ortiz 13, Killsback 85, Miller 2), which continues to affect the position of Native Americans in the present, who often find themselves stereotyped or put in positions marked by victimry, conceptualized as either anachronistic remnants of the past or as completely assimilated into a settler colonial modernity (cf. Rifkin 5). Native American historical fiction operates within this gap in official historiography in order to assert indigenous survivance – “an active sense of presence, the continuance of native stories, not a mere reaction, or a survivable name” (Vizenor vii) – through historical imaginaries that are shaped by oral traditions and indigenous temporal sovereignty (cf. Rifkin). Indigenous historical narrations, hence, function as to open up alternatives to victimry as well as agency, a concept that has received substantial criticism among indigenous scholars (cf. Dunbar-Ortiz 5, Killsback 89). My paper shines light on this genre, which so far has received sparse critical attention, examining the literary strategies employed to contest the official historical accounts that have shaped the cultural imagination of North American indigenous peoples and to engage in the work of reconstructing indigenous historical imaginaries. Through selected close readings of works such as N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969), James Welch’s Fools Crow (1986), and Diane Glancy’s Pushing the Bear (1996), my paper will demonstrate how literary strategies such as fragmentation, magic realism, and indigenous language fragments serve to defamiliarize colonial histories and to assert Native American survivance and sovereignty.

Angela Benkhadda is a PhD student at the University of Bonn and a research assistant at the DFG Research Training Group 2291 Contemporary/Literature. She earned her B.A. in “English Studies” and “Languages and Cultures of the Islamic World” from the University of Cologne (2016) and her M.A. in “North American Studies” from the University of Bonn (2019) with a thesis on gender and genre in the Canadian short story cycle. Her PhD project explores the negotiation of conflicting epistemologies in Native American historical fiction and the role of contemporary political discourses in the representation of the past. Her research interests include Native American literature, postcolonial studies, decolonization, and feminist theory.”

Angela Kölling


Uneasy Linkages: German Anti-Covid19 Measures Pro­testers Performing the Maori Haka

“The Maori Ka Mate Haka enjoys a growing popularity in German culture –most evident through it being performed in a German insurance commercial in 2017, in the protests against covid-19 measures in 2020, and in the police procedural TV show Tatort (Folge 1151 “Der feine Geist”) in 2021, but also a growing number of shamanic life-coaching and private Youtube-videos. Analysing these appearances, as well as the responses they provoke, this paper articulates the complexity that marks the cultivation of otherness as an attribute of commercial branding, self-innovation and societal transformation. The analysis will draw comparisons with Hartmut Lutz´s investigations of “indianthusiasm” (2002, 2020) asking, whether the Ka Mate-Maori are the new Winnetou-Indianer. But it also wants to engage more deeply with what might be considered a wider movement of the decolonising indigenisation of Germany. For this, a discussion of philosopher-biologist Andreas Weber´s essays “Indigenialität” (2019) and “Sharing Life” (2020) serves as a starting point. Weber, who defines “indigenous” as “living in reciprocity with a specific biosphere”, embeds descriptions of indigenous epistemologies within an argument for “turning the gaze around” and decolonising western thinking from cognitive hegemony: “Through the western cognitive mindset, we deny all embodied beings their healthy capacities – including ourselves.” (“Sharing Life”, 47) Within the latter essay, Weber also addresses the unevenly distributed material and emotional consequences of the covid19 pandemic. Although Weber does not explicitly address the growing polarisation of government and anti-vaccination protesters in Germany, his explorations of reaching societal transformation through a combination of subjective empiricism and poetic objectivism offer an intriguing opportunity for addressing the uneasy linkages we are witnessing now and which build the foundation for the post-pandemic world through an embodied, inter-subjective rationale. Particular attention will be paid to how Weber is (re-)translating his work from the germanophone into the anglophone discourse.

Angela Kölling is professor for anglophone studies at the Johannes Gutenberg-University  Mainz/Germersheim. Her research focuses on translation as catalyst for societal transformation and how relations of uneven power can enter into a state of unsettled-ness from where cross-cultural learning and teaching relationships are imagined and realised. “


Panel 24, Violence and Survivance

11:30 – 13:00, Room: 1.802

Chair: Roman Bartosch (Cologne)

Peri Sipahi


“not yet / under water” – Rejecting Victimhood and Negotiating the Impli­cated Subject in Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner’s Ecocritical Poetry

““not yet / under water” (ll.111-112), emphasises the Marshallese poet, performance artist and environmental activist, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, in her poem “Two Degrees”, referencing the vulnerability of her home to sea level rise due to the current anthropogenic climate crisis. Already in 2014 the IPCC reported that by 2100, sea levels could rise up to roughly one meter, which in case of the Marshall Islands would result in the flooding of 75% of the dry lands (Maslin 71-73). Western societies are unarguably implicated (Rothberg 1) in these acts of environmental slow violence (Nixon 2) against the Marshall Islands. Rebecca Oh recently observed that the corresponding rhetoric surrounding sea level rise projections is similarly violent. Speaking a language of extinction and victimizing Pacific nations and communities by predicting an inescapable future of soon-to-be climate refugees (597-598), the projections retain common Western conceptualisations of victimhood built around a sacrificial passivity that excludes capacities for resilience and agency (Ganteau and Onega 93). Within this context, the proposed paper presents a double focus. Firstly, it seeks to investigate the representation of the rejection of victimhood and the claiming of agency through a reading of employed motifs, Marshallese legend and visual images of the body in Jetñil-Kijner’s poetry collection Iep J?ltok (2017) as well as the video poem “Rise” (2018), produced together with Inuk writer, poet and environmental activist Aka Niviâna. Secondly, it seeks to examine how the written and video poetry negotiate the implication of Western (climate) perpetrators and simultaneously urge the same implicated subjects towards global solidarities. I argue that by establishing a clear link between the history of colonial oppression as well as nuclear militarisation of the Marshall Islands and present-day threats due to the climate crisis, Iep J?ltok and “Rise” respond to the impact of violent Pacific histories that “produce and reproduce the positions of victims and perpetrators” (Rothberg 9). Both the written poetry and the video poem thus demonstrate that the fight against the anthropogenic climate crisis for Marshall Islanders is equally a fight for (environmental) sovereignty.

Peri Sipahi currently occupies a position as research assistant at the chair for English, Postcolonial and Media Studies at the English Department of WWU Münster, where she is also enrolled as a PhD student. Her PhD project is concerned with deconstructing the (neo-)colonial discourses surrounding Anthropocene temporalities in postcolonial and Indigenous climate fiction. Consequently, her research interests lie in representations of time and temporalities, ecocriticism and postcolonial theory. Since 2020, she holds a M.A. in English Literatures and Cultures from Bonn University, where she was also employed in various positions. Additionally, she completed a M.St. in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford in 2018.”

Sanghamitra Dalal

(MARA, Malaysia)

Locating “We”: The Implicated Readers in Tash Aw’s “We, The Survivors”

“My presentation will focus on the London-based Malaysian author, Tash Aw’s latest novel, We, The Survivors (2019) in order to examine the complexities of agency and authority, appropriation and representation, under the aegis of storytelling. Constructed in the form of an oral testimony, narrated by the protagonist, a third-generation Chinese immigrant in Malaysia, Lee Hock Lye, commonly known as Ah Hock, hailing from a poor fishing village in rural Malaysia, Tash Aw’s novel is framed by the non-intrusive presence of the Malaysian scholar, a doctorate in Sociology, Tan Su-Min. Ah Hock is convicted for a culpable homicide of a Bangladeshi migrant worker, and has already served his sentence of three years in prison. Subsequently, Su-Min interviews Ah Hock as her field research project, and eventually publishes her collected material in a book-form, narrating Ah Hock’s life-story, directly through his own voice. However, during the successful book-launch ceremony, as Su-Min ecstatically remarks: “Everyone’s fascinated by your story” and Ah Hock nonchalantly observes: “I think they are more interested in your book” (Aw 239), the inevitable discordance between whose voice and whose story are being narrated has become apparent.
In the course of my discussion, I will, however, contend that Aw not only problematizes the issue of voice appropriation in storytelling, but also questions the deeply residing chasms lying inherent in the existing societal structures, which has been exacerbated by the increasing arrivals of both documented and undocumented migrant workers, along with a large number of refugees and asylum-seekers, on the Malaysian shores in recent times. Therefore, drawing from Michael Rothberg’s proposition of the implicated subject and Hannah Arendt’s views on collective responsibility, I will attempt to argue that the novel’s predominant aim is to implicate the author himself and the readers, who usually belong to the educated, upper and middle-class of the society. Even though they are not direct victims or perpetrators of such existing social fractures, but their privileged positions, their passive and indifferent attitude and being unwitting beneficiaries of such historical conditions and social formations that perpetuate this age-old inequality and injustice, hold them collectively responsible for these sustaining fault-lines, as they are also a part of the same social system. Consequently, I will indicate that Aw’s “We” implicitly endeavours to incorporate all Ah Hocks, Su-Mins, the author himself, and us, the readers, within a meshwork of difference, where we are all connected with each other in our own struggles for survival.

Sanghamitra Dalal is a Senior Lecturer at the College of Creative Arts, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Selangor, Malaysia. She completed a PhD in Postcolonial Diasporic Literature at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and had taught in Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, and in different secondary and tertiary academic institutions in India. Her research interests include postcolonial migration and diasporic literatures, with special interest in South and Southeast Asian literatures in English; transnational and transcultural literatures and cultures; and life writing. She has published articles in indexed journals and book chapters with Palgrave Macmillan and Springer Nature. She has also served as one of the judges for The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2021, organized by The Royal Commonwealth Society.”

Zoë Miller


‘A black devil kissing her sad mouth. Like you kissed mine’: Sexual and Colo­nial Violences in Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea

“In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys draws complex links between colonial and sexual violences, in both the abuse of Antoinette’s mother and the sexually violent interactions between Antoinette and Rochester. Indeed, when confronting Rochester following a ‘rough’ (p.124) and consensually ambiguous encounter, Antoinette explicitly links the two: ‘a black devil kissing her sad mouth. Like you kissed mine’ (p.121). Such equivalences of victimhood become more problematic when Rhys compares Rochester’s coercive sex with his servant, Amélie, with the use of sexual violence as a tool of oppression during slavery. Racially charged Manichean imagery and repeated motifs of destruction draw further metaphorical comparisons between colonial and sexual violence, but I suggest that these metaphors may not function equally. In other words, does racial violence function as a vehicle for the tenor of gender violence?
I suggest that a continued critical desire to locate postcolonial hybridity in Rhys’ work overlooks such questions, failing to unpick thorny racial and sexual dynamics in favour of cross-cultural “doubleness” (Uma Biswas). I will also suggest that metaphors of sexual violence form a significant blind-spot for postcolonial theory more generally, often used as an easy metaphor for colonialism (Edward Said) or subsumed into wider, national meaning (Fredric Jameson). I propose that we cannot ignore the potentially problematic nature of Rhys’ metaphors, and through attempting to unpick these intertwined victimhoods can foreground – rather than subsume – the important connections between rape, race, and colonialism.

Zoë Miller is an NWCDTP funded PhD candidate at the University of Manchester. Her thesis explores the tensions surrounding sexual violence in modernist literature, challenging critical dismissal of these images as solely metaphorical and focusing on the work of T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Jean Rhys. Her third chapter explores the intersections between slavery and sexual violence in Rhys’ work and criticism. She completed her MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture also at the University of Manchester.”



Panel 25, Intimate Enemies: ‘Traitors’ in Contemporary

Anglophone Literatures and Cultures

11:30 – 13:00, Room: 1.811

Chair: Julia Hoydis (Cologne)

Leonie John


“[H]ow dare it be his people”? Family, Agency, Terror­ism and Victimhood in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire

“In the proposed paper, I closely examine the mechanisms and vindications of allegiances as well as ruptures that occur amongst characters who are bound to one another by family ties and love in Pakistani-British writer Kamila Shamsie’s most recent novel Home Fire (2017). Dissecting the complex entanglement of religion, racism and retribution, Shamsie perceptively describes the conditions for radicalisation, which can be understood as a contemporary form of necropolitics (Mbembe). In doing so, she confutes unequivocal allocations of victim and perpetrator roles – a tactic which I intend to read through the lens of implicated subjects (Rothberg). Verging between ordinariness and exceptionalism, helplessness and agency, the story illustrates how personal experiences are irrevocably intermingled with a public political sphere. Offering a multiperspective set-up, the writer traces complex character trajectories and lays bare global interweavings as well as local reactions to illuminate life-changing experiences of trauma, injustice and sacrifice. In this way, I argue, Shamsie has written a powerful novel that animates and simultaneously complicates notions of loyalty, patriotism, justice and terrorism.

Leonie John is a postdoctoral literary scholar who recently joined the Centre of Australian Studies at the University of Cologne, where – aside from teaching and conducting research – she co-designs an online master programme for Australian studies that will soon be offered at five North Rhine-Westphalian universities. Her doctoral thesis, which she successfully defended in September 2021, centred on representations of im/mobilities in contemporary M?ori short fiction. Her current project investigates transnational conversations in twentieth century nuclear narrations. “

Durba Mukherjee

(IIT, Kanpur)

Dom Moraes: A ‘Traitor’ who ‘Fractured’ India, or an Empathizer who Felt with the Marginalized?

“This paper seeks to analyze the writings of the India-born writer in English, Dom Moraes (1938–2004), within the context of his Anglicized self-fashioning and the trajectory of Moraes’s evolution as an Indian writer representing the subcontinent for a metropolitan audience. The paper intends to do so through a close reading of his prose-writings about India. Indeed, Moraes’s writings have been variously accused by Indian postcolonial critics of disowning his belongingness to his country of origin, of upholding imperialist views about the country, and, in turn, Moraes was accused of being a “traitor”. Further, Moraes’s works have been often critically interpreted as cosmopolitan, an argument which despite being justified in itself, lends a credible dimension to the already existent opinion about Moraes being an outsider in his country of origin. However, a close reading of his texts and an understanding of his early upbringing, which extensively influenced his Anglicized self-fashioning, reveal his nuanced outlook about India. This paper, thereby, explores Moraes’s affiliation to his country of origin through the instances of his repeated returns to India, while located abroad, and his attempts to write about the same. Besides, in the final three decades of his life he permanently returned and settled within the subcontinent and vividly explored it. Moraes subtly writes about his long-term engagement with his country of origin in these last two travelogues that he co-authored with Sarayu Srivatsa. I argue that by consistently portraying a fractured country through the representation of its marginalized communities, Moraes showcases the faultlines of the nation. However, beyond this apparent representation of India, lies Moraes’s subtler association with these communities that can only be grasped on a deeper reflection. Thereby, this paper explores Moraes’s belongingness to India in the writings by examining his sympathetic reflection of the conditions of the minorities in India through the lens of a ‘felt community’ of the marginalized. I argue that Moraes associates his own marginalized status in India, in terms of his Anglicized upbringing and the random accusations by postcolonial critics of portraying his native country through the lens of colonialist discourse, with the sentiments of the marginalized and the dispossessed in India. The minorities in India like the Sikhs, the Dalits, the Muslims, whose narratives are often suppressed or outright rejected within the majoritarian, mainstream nationalist ideology, are, in turn, the communities whom Moraes empathetically affiliates to. Also, this paper seeks to examine Moraes’s Anglicized self-fashioning within the postcolonial history of the socio-cultural trajectory of Indian colonial middle-class and, consequently, his apathy for the emergent middle-class in India through the concept of ‘habitus’.

Durba Mukherjee is a senior research fellow (part-time) in the Department of HSS, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and currently teaches at Gokhale Memorial Girls’ College, Kolkata. Her topic of doctoral dissertation is “The Portrayals of India as a Physical Space: Narratives of Indian Return Migrants after Independence”. Her recent publications include:
Mukherjee, Durba (co-author Sayan Chattopadhyay). “‘Walking the Indian Streets’: Analysing Ved Mehta’s Memoirs of Return”, Life Writing. “

Kristin Aubel


We Are Doing This to Her – Victims and Villains in Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird

“British-Nigerian author Helen Oyeyemi asks complicated questions about the formation and resilience of postcolonial identities in her writing and more often than not refuses to provide easy answers. In her 2015 novel Boy, Snow, Bird, race relations in 1930s America are scrutinised through the lens of the originally German fairy tale “Snow White”. At the core of the narrative are the relationships between Boy and her daughters Snow and Bird. The white woman Boy marries into the Whitman family, which is of African-American descent but mostly “passes” as white. While her stepdaughter Snow is universally acknowledged for her “white” beauty, Boy’s biological daughter Bird is perceived as “black”. With these three characters, the novel explores racial and generational cycles of abuse, constantly recasting all three of them as both villains and victims. The novel ends, however, with a hopeful display of cross-generational, interracial female solidarity.
In the generational cycle of abuse, Boy’s mother, victimized, becomes herself an abuser with Boy as her victim. Boy, although cast as the evil stepmother to Snow White, is initially perceived to be the victim of Snow’s eerie charm. When Bird is born, however, Boy gives in to her intertextual role as villainous mother figure and sends Snow away, continuing the cycle of mistreatment and neglect while at the same time displaying interracial solidarity by choosing her black over her passing daughter.
Although Boy intends to draw a clear line between herself and Bird on the one side and all white people who would dare hurt her daughter on the other side, she often fails to recognise her role as privileged white woman when she inadvertently hurts Bird and other vulnerable black children. Snow as well as other members of the Whitman family cast themselves as heroic survivors and indulge in their privilege of passing as white, but at the same time are plagued by guilt, worrying about being deceivers and traitors to oppressed black communities.
In the end, Bird, by acknowledging her own role in placing heavy expectations on Snow’s shoulders, recognises all three of them as implicated subjects – neither and both victims and villains of and to each other. Rejecting this simple dichotomy, all three characters finally embrace the possibility of solidarity across generational and racial lines.

Kristin Aubel holds a Master’s degree in Applied Literary and Cultural Studies. Currently, she is a doctoral student at TU Dortmund University. Her dissertation project deals with transcultural transformations of myth. Kristin’s research interests include myth, identity construction, migration literature, magical realism, fantasy, and superhero comics.”



Panel 26, Archives, Nations and Invisible Communities

11:30 – 13:00, Room: 1.812

Chair: Fadekemi Olawoye (Frankfurt)

Sukla Chatterjee


The Politics of Erasure: Hunger and the Decolonial State in the Short Stories of Mahasweta Debi

“The proposed paper analyzes victimhood at the confluence of power between the decolonial state and the subaltern body through the corporeal aspect of enforced hunger and starvation. The decolonial state is also often a necropolitical state that weaponizes hunger to control, tame, and eventually wipe out specific groups that might work at cross purposes with such a state. Through a contextual and textual analysis of selected short stories by Mahasweta Debi (1926–2016), a notable activist and writer from India, the paper illustrates the failures of the decolonial state in the way hunger, violence, and exclusionary tactics have been used as a regular part of the state apparatus to subjugate and erase subaltern populations. Poverty and violence have continuously haunted postcolonial societies, where oppression manifests in simple yet myriad forms. The chosen short stories, focusing on forced starvation as a manifestation of systemic violence, illuminate the mechanisms of oppression, victimization, and necropolitics that inscribe a culture of erasure on subaltern bodies.

Sukla Chatterjee is a research associate and faculty member at the department of English Speaking Cultures, University of Bremen. She holds a Ph.D. in literature and culture studies with a special focus on South Asian women’s writings from the University of Heidelberg. Her postdoctoral research and teaching areas include postcolonial anglophone literatures and cultures. She has taught at the universities of Heidelberg, Chicago, and Bonn.”

Holly Wielechowski

(Wayne State)

Alternative Archives: “The 1619 Project” and the Battle for a National Narrative

“Following the deaths of George Floyd and others in 2020, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests began to proliferate globally. At the same time, de-commemoration attempts exploded worldwide, as activists defaced and removed statues of colonial figures and those involved in the transatlantic slave trade. These events, coupled with the publication of the New York Times’ “The 1619 Project” in 2019, led to a heated national debate in the United States about the teaching of African American history in schools, resulting in the false-flag demonization of Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a propagandistic tool. These vitriolic battles point to questions on the validity of official American history and the stability of the historical foundations of the nation itself, but also highlight competing visions about the function of history and what it essentially is.
In this article, I will argue that Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “The 1619 Project” attempts to both demythologize and rehistoricize the narrative of American history. Careful analysis of this text, along with other contemporary African American texts that seek to resituate African American history within the broader national narrative, will reveal what it means to revisualize what Hannah-Jones has termed the “origin story” of the United States. At stake in this retelling is not only the accuracy and validity of a national history, but also the power that comes with the ability to control national memory and, by implication, the national narrative. Indeed, I will argue that “The 1619 Project,” along with other contemporary works such as Yaa Gyasi’s historical fiction novel Homegoing and Claudia Rankine’s multi-genre text Citizen: An American Lyric, attempts not only what Hannah-Jones has termed an “unconventional history,” but also begins to map what I am terming an “alternative archive” comprised of cultural memory work, which sits in direct opposition to the institutional archives of official history. As such, I will also argue that this work can be read in solidarity with projects of grassroots activism, such as those that have proliferated in the wake of 2020.
Drawing on theorists ranging from Edward Said and Benedict Anderson to Ariella Aïsha Azoulay and Ana Lucia Araujo, I will ultimately argue that the cultural memory work enacted and formalized in these texts attempts the construction of a new kind of archive, one not crafted by the gatekeepers of history but by those who live and transmit it through cultural means. As such, this article interrogates alternative methods of formulating history, and stakes a claim for non-traditional archival work as a new and impactful tool in the promotion of different interpretations of a national past.

Holly Wielechowski is a fourth-year PhD candidate at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Her work focuses on memory studies as it intersects with world literature, postcoloniality, and diasporic literature. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English Literature and a Master of Arts in Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies, both from the University of Leeds in the UK. “

Margarida Pereira Martins


The Archaeology of Absence in Kamila Shamsie’s A God in Every Stone

“Approximately 1.4 million Indians were recruited to the First World War serving on the Eastern and Western fronts. Despite their role in the war and the high number of deaths, little is known or studied of the Indian presence and experience since most of the literature in English on the Great War has been narrowed down to British experience.
In a 2018 article in The Guardian by Kamila Shamsie on “Trench Brothers”, a project which involved schools and school children in the UK by focusing on the experience of minority soldiers in the War, “Trench Brothers: an ode to whitewashed war heroes” the author writes, “until recently, their [Indian] stories have been almost completely whitewashed from history” and Indian scholar Santanu Das has stated that war memories of the Indian sepoy “have been doomed to wander in the no man’s land” (Das 2018, 16). Since the early 20th century, India’s rich and diverse literary culture has included narratives of war by writers Rabindranath Tagore and his sister, Swarnakumari Devi, Mulk Raj Anand and Kamila Shamsie, among others. However, it was only recently that literary representation of the Indian recruit has provided historical insight into their experience.
According to Santanu Das, the lack of stories by Indian recruits does not mean that history cannot be rectified since “amnesia does not mean absence” (Das 2018, 16). Based on this premise, in this paper I intend to explore how representation reveals deeper complexities and anxieties on the Indian colonial experience through Kamila Shamsie’s 2014 novel A God in Every Stone.

Margarida Pereira Martins is Assistant Professor in English language, literature and culture at Universidade Aberta, Lisbon, and a researcher at ULICES (University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies) and a member of the Project, Representations of Home in Literatures and Cultures in English She has a PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies (2016, University of Lisbon) on Indian Writing in English. Her main research interests focus on anglophone literatures, mainly postcolonial and diasporic, working with theories from social anthropology, cultural studies, literary criticism and language studies in an interdisciplinary approach to the narrative. Margarida is also Associate Editor of Anglo Saxonica”



13:00 – 14:00   Catered Lunch (pre-order only)



14:00 – 17:00

Room 1.801

GAPS Annual Members’ Meeting



14:00 – 17:00 Guided Tour of Frankfurt for non-members



18:00 – 19:30

Room 823

Reception & Award Ceremony for GAPS Graduate Award and GAPS Dissertation Award

20:00 – 21:30

Room 823

The ZIAF Night of African Literature:

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Blessing Obada

Chairs: Magdalena Pfalzgraf (Saarbrücken) and Frank Schulze-Engler (Frankfurt)

Sunday 29 May

9:00 – 10:00

Room 823

Johannes Riquet (Unversity of Tampere)

“Circumpolar Solidarities, Collaborative Geographies and Indigenous Spatialities: Mediating the 21st-Century Arctic”

Chair: Kylie Crane (Rostock)

“In the context of a geopolitical (and frequently also academic) landscape that continues to relegate Indigenous actors to secondary roles (such as the Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council), the question of solidarity in and with the circumpolar world is indeed contested: when does solidarity genuinely serve the needs of Indigenous communities (cf. Tuhiwai Smith 1999), and when does it simply translate colonial power relations into new forms? And how can art generate (and, in other cases, contest) political forms of solidarity? Growing out of collaborative work within the Mediated Arctic Geographies project, this talk explores how artists from the circumpolar North have mobilised spatial and geographical registers to create circumpolar solidarities between Arctic communities, between non-Indigenous and Indigenous actors, as well as between Indigenous subjects and migrants from the so-called global South. I will develop these points by discussing examples of mediated Arctic geographies in different media including comics (Nuka K. Godtfredsen’s Greenlandic saga Oqaluttuat/Tales), film (Lucy Tulugarjuk’s magical realist story of cross-cultural friendship, Tia and Piujuq), and cartography (Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen and Inuk Silis Hoegh’s Denmark, which presents Denmark as an ice-covered Greenlandic colony). In thinking about these works, I will not only address their relational and multilayered spatial aesthetics and their connections to oral storytelling practices (cf. Teuton 2010), but also the collaborative geographies and multiple agencies in which they are grounded. Finally, I will also reflect on the methodologies that have shaped the production of knowledge within the Mediated Arctic Geographies project, which relies on collective practices of authorship, epistemological plurality, and an attempt to decolonise academic structures (Kuokkanen 2007).

Johannes Riquet is Professor of English Literature at Tampere University. He is the author of The Aesthetics of Island Space: Perception, Ideology, Geopoetics (OUP, 2019) and the co-editor of Spatial Modernities: Geography, Narrative, Imaginaries (Routledge, 2018) as well as Imaging Identity: Text, Mediality and Contemporary Visual Culture (Palgrave, 2019). His research interests include spatiality, literary geography, Indigenous literature and visual culture, travel writing, phenomenology, ecocriticism, diaspora, and mobility. He is the Principal Investigator of the collaborative project Mediated Arctic Geographies (Academy of Finland, 2019-2023) and directs the research group Spatial Studies and Environmental Humanities at Tampere University. Alongside his work on the collaborative volume The Mediated Arctic: Poetics and Politics of Contemporary Circumplar Geographies, he is also preparing a monograph on interrupted train journeys in literature and visual culture and co-editing (with Heike Härting) a special issue of the journal Transtext(e)s Transcultures ?????? entitled Im/mobilities in the Planetary Now: Migration and Diaspora in World Cinema. “

10:00 – 10:30 Coffee Break

Panel 27, Contested Borders: Agency and Victimhood in

Arab Anglophone Travel Literature

10:30 – 12:00, Room: 1.811

Chair: Arththi Sathananthar (Leeds)

Nadia Butt (Giessen)

Forms of Self-Assertion in Leila Ahmed’s Memoir A Border Passage: From Cairo to America – A Woman’s Journey (1999)

“This paper sets out to examine the memoir A Border Passage by the Egyptian writer Leila Ahmed as a striking example of twentieth-century travel literature from the Arab world. Although memoir, as the title indicates, is considered to be a work of memory, I deal with it as a travel genre as it demonstrates temporal as well as spatial journeys. Divided into two separate parts, part one of A Border Passage describes Ahmed’s childhood in relation to 1950’s and 1960’s Egypt, including important political and personal events such as the Suez Canal crisis and her final move to Cambridge; part two explains Ahmed’s life in Cambridge and her growth as an Arab academic and her migration to America. Ahmed particularly shares her alienation from her own family, especially her mother, and from the country under the popular dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the male interpretation of Islam, which she felt clearly favoured men over women in every way. My contention is that the memoir not only unfolds Ahmed’s life history, set in Egypt, England, Abu Dhabi and America, but also chronicles the different forms of self-assertion in the times of an oppressive regime in her native land. I argue that Ahmed asserts herself in four fundamental ways in the memoir: first, she writes about her rebellions and distinct approach to different events taking place in her lifetime in the domestic as well as national spheres; as a result, writing itself becomes a form of self-assertion; we as readers get to know her individual perspective on family, politics and culture contrary to history books or media; second; Ahmed presents her own view on Islam, as opposed to the male interpretation, based on the Medieval version of Islam, which denies women the right to divorce or possess property to male advantage; third, Ahmed always strives to travel abroad for her education despite having been denied possessing a passport for years by virtue of being the daughter of an engineer who has criticised the regime; fourth, Ahmed breaks several stereotypes about the Arabs in general and Egyptian women in particular in order to provide deeper insight into the various dimensions of her hometown from a new angle. To this end, I contend that Ahmed’s journey from Cairo to America demonstrates her resilience against national and cultural hurdles in her memoir as a hybrid genre criss-crossing life writing, historical documentary, memory narrative and diary format. In conclusion, I speculate on the memoir as an individual and family archive, which allows Ahmed to present and share her way of seeing and exploring personal and national histories, exercise agency and deny victimhood against all odds, and thus show courage in the face of disillusionment and disappointment.

Nadia Butt is Senior Lecturer in English in the department of British and American Studies at the University of Giessen. Having gained her MPhil degree in English at the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan, she completed her PhD at the University of Frankfurt. She is the author of Transcultural Memory and Globalised Modernity in Contemporary Indo-English Novels published in 2015. She has also taught British and Postcolonial literatures at the University of Frankfurt, the University of Muenster and the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin. In 2019, she was awarded the Stolzenberg Prize by the University of Giessen for her outstanding achievements in teaching. Her main areas of research are transcultural theory, memory studies, World Anglophone literatures and travel literatures. Her research has appeared in journals like Prose Studies, Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, Postcolonial Text and South Asian Review. Dr Butt has recently submitted her post-doc thesis, Mapping Other Routes: The Travelling Imagination in Anglophone Literatures from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (2022), at the University of Giessen. She is the editor of the special issue “Rethinking Postcolonial Europe” with the journal Postcolonial Interventions (January 2022) together with Dr Robert Clarke and Theresa Krampe. Currently, she is editing a handbook on Twenty-First Century Anglophone Novel together with Prof. Ansgar Nünning and Dr. Alexander Scherr. “

Hoda Elhadary (British University in Egypt)

The Burden of (Mis)representation in Jamal Mahjoub’s The Fugitives

“This paper investigates the different forms of (contested) borders and their significance. In a world characterized by rapid mobility, Jamal Mahjoub’s latest novel The Fugitives (2021) investigates an often-overlooked category of Arab/ African travelers: those who consciously carry the burden of representation. The novel moves between two geographic localities: Sudan and The United States of America referring to the political and religious oppression in the first and the xenophobic, hostile nature of the latter especially during the Trump administration. The Fugitives revolves around the yesteryear local jazz band in Khartoum, called Kamanga Kings (Violin Kings). The band miraculously gets invited to perform at Kennedy’s Centre for Performing Arts in the US and the novel sketches the band’s journey: re-forming, preparing, travelling, performing, and finally becoming fugitives in USA.
Laden with various forms of victimhood, the novel posits questions about the politics of home and host land and our relation to both. In addition to that and to emphasize the intentional persecution against certain countries and nationalities, Mahjoub shrewdly examines the burden of misrepresentation that casts its shadow on the band members in Trump’s America. Thus, as readers, we are engaged in a process of expanding our horizons of expectations of how the story unravels as we move between the temporal border of past and present of the band, musicians’ lives and the geographical borders of Sudan and US. Notably, in the heart of Mahjoub’s narration is an attempt to break the binary opposition and the hierarchy of spaces that are built on the premise of superiority vs. inferiority and of disparities rather than intersections.

Hoda Elhadary is the Program Director of the English Language and Literature Department, Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the British University in Egypt. She has a PhD with first class honours in English Language and Comparative Literature from the Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University. She is also a Fulbright Alumna. Her main research interests focus on interdisciplinarity using different disciplines such as cartography, sociology, anthropology and cultural studies to examine literary works in an attempt to blur the lines between the different disciplines. She has published two books: Exile and Identity: An Interdisciplinary Approach (2014) and Historiography of Partition: The Case of the Indian Subcontinent and Palestine (2020) in addition to her publications in different reviewed journals.”

Noha Hanafy (British Univer­sity in Egypt)

The Freedom and Confinement of the Journey in Hisham Matar’s The Return

“This paper attempts to examine the poetics of the journey in Hisham Matar’s memoir The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between. In his memoir, Matar narrates the story of his return to his homeland, Libya, to find the truth of what happened to his father who was targeted by the Gaddafi regime during the sixties and was subsequently imprisoned for 20 years. Throughout the memoir, Matar introduces the reader to the life the family led before, during and after the father’s disappearance. While the main focus of the memoir is the journey “back” to Matar’s homeland in Libya, the depiction of “home” in the memoir problematizes the concept as it ceases to become merely geographical. Home becomes relative and conditional as the book begets the question of the nature of the concept of belonging to a place and whether it is at all feasible. This question of the feasibility of home and belonging is depicted through the multiple journeys that Matar and his family make throughout the book for safety reasons, and also indirectly a means of finding a home that resists borders and geographical alienation. As borders are of essence in the book, the journey across continents reaffirms this notion of contested boundaries. The father’s alleged escape from prison during the Arab Spring also reinforces the idea of demolishing boundaries and finding freedom. Nevertheless, those boundaries are visibly there and are still a determent factor in the family’s fate. This oscillation between confinement and freedom significantly portrays the family’s story that constantly seems at the cusp of finding “home.” This dynamic seems to be also intertwined with the journeys taken to find the father before the decision to go back home to Libya. With the family’s constant struggle in searching for the father – who was abducted before imprisonment – the father and his legacy become a border/boundary of its own. Reading the memoir, the reader senses that this overshadowing presence of the father’s legacy is juxtaposed with his perpetual absence signaling both a struggle to find the father and escape him. Hence, the legacy of the lost father and the lifelong search become a boundary that has to escaped as well. In this way, moving from one place to another might hold within it the possibility of freedom and home. This constant shift between freedom and imprisonment (both metaphorical and literal) becomes intertwined with the poetics of journey and ultimately offers a narrative of defying victimhood and asserting agency.

Noha Hanafy gained her PhD in English from Ain Shams University. Her main area of research is poetry, modern and contemporary literature, cultural studies, translation studies, and world literature. She joined the British University of Egypt as an assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities where she has taught in the English Modules program as well as in the Faculty’s Study Skills module and Modern Literary Theories module. Dr Hanafy was awarded two grants to study in the Scottish Universities International Summer School (August 2017) and University of Naples American Studies conference/Summer school (May-June 2018).”

Panel 28, Under Construction (II)

10:30 – 12:00, Room: 1.801

Chair: Frank Schulze-Engler (Frankfurt)

Nneoma Otuegbe


Recalling Trauma: The Legacy of Slavery and Coloni­alism in Contem­porary Black Women’s Fiction

“Black history has been significantly impacted by two devastating events, namely: slavery and colonialism. Historical evidence abounds to the negative effects of the awful enterprise of human enslavement and colonialism. The long-term effects of these phenomena especially regarding black women is the crux of this study. Therefore, the horrors of slavery and the dent in the collective psyche of black women as a result of it, constitute a major part of this study while the role of colonialism represents the remainder. As a result of some of the horrific manifestations of slavery and colonialism many decades after their occurrences, black women’s identity is shaped by the traumas which are passed down from generation to generation. In order to understand these traumatic histories and some of their consequences like war, genocide and racism, this thesis proposes to explore the literary recollection of women’s historical trauma through fiction by analyzing the traumatic effects of colonialism and slavery on women in the selected primary texts. The major concern is the perspective of black women as regards those histories which may have been distorted in official accounts approved by governments for teaching in schools for example. Some more gory details of past traumatic events like the Rwandan genocide or the Nigerian civil war may be suppressed by governments over time to avoid fresh tensions among survivors or their descendants. In literary witnessing, however, those details may be documented from a colonial oppressive perspective or from the outlook of the communities who experienced them, remember and are shaped by them. Literature can therefore become a “blank screen on which the traumatic event becomes inscribed for the first time” (Laub 57) The traumas are examined, not as personal experiences, but as collective memory. Cultural trauma theorist Jeffery Alexander describes this as “a pervasive remembrance that grounded a people’s sense of itself” (4). The study of trauma as a collective instead of personal phenomenon is part of a recent effort to decolonize trauma studies in order to capture the experiences of non-Euro-American groups hitherto relegated to the margins. This is in line with the major research question of the study about how a postcolonial approach to trauma and feminist theories provides a suitable lens for studying women’s historical trauma in the chosen texts as opposed to the Eurocentric trauma models.
The black female writers selected for this study and their novels are African American Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison (A Mercy 2008), Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat (The Dew Breaker 2006, Claire of the Sea Light 2013), Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun 2009), Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga (The Book of Not 2006) and Rwandan writer Scholastique Mukasonga (Our Lady of the Nile 2014). The selected writers share some similarities especially in their commitment to inscribing black womanhood. Their novels are all fictional engagements with painful historical events connected to slavery or colonialism and they are read, in this study, as inscriptions of black women’s traumatic history in order to highlight the interconnectedness of history, trauma and the identity of black women.

Nneoma Otuegbe, PhD Candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature, University of Wolverhampton, UK.”

Mahtab Dadkhah


Role of Fictional Narratives in Com­monwealth Migra­tion and Identifi­cation: A Phenomenological Study of Indian and African Academic Migrants in Germany

“As opposed to the familiar topic of migration from the Commonwealth to the UK, migration from the Commonwealth to Germany is a research gap, despite the internationalization of the English language and the globalization of anglophone culture with a direct impact on Germany. As a new concept, postmigration theory offers perspectives on how European societies react to the increasing effects of migration and cultural diversity and how influential this reaction is for the situation of migrants in a given society. However, much less is known about the role of the post-migrant society of Germany concerning cultural identity formation/identification of the specific group of migrants from anglophone countries. Commonwealth migrants already have a mental image of Europe due to their access to globalized anglophone culture and their knowledge of the English language before migration; fictional narratives play a significant role in the formation of this mental image. Therefore, this ongoing Ph.D. project focuses on the role of mental images, formed by fictional narratives, for the migration decision-making and development of cultural identities in anglophone migrants from India and Africa in an encounter with German culture. The project also uses postmigration theory mainly as a perspective on the condition of German society in relation to the identification of the mentioned migrants. The research method for the interviews is phenomenology, in which data are gradually revealed from the qualitative analysis of interview transcriptions. Research questions are answered by deep estimation of migrants’ points of view on the research concepts. The data are collected from in-person interviews.

Mahtab Dadkhah is a PhD candidate in university of Erfurt. I have started my research from April 2019. My topic is “Power of Social Media in Forming Cultural Identities of Immigrants from India and Nigeria to Berlin”. My research focus is power of narratives and its consequences for immigrants. I have finished my Bachelor and Master in English Language and Literature in Iran with a focus on power relations introduced my Michel Foucault, have participate several conferences, and have published two papers and a book. As a profession, I was a professional translator and English teacher.
(travel award winner)”

Sania Hashmi


Managing Minorities in Majoritarian Democracies: A Necropolitical Reading of Arjun Appardurai’s Fear of Small Numbers

“In Fear of Small Numbers, Arjun Appadurai has argued that globalization in the 1990s exposed the majoritarian tendencies in liberal democratic states across the world and that a study of the darker side of globalization could expose “severe pathologies in the sacred ideologies of nationhood” (Appadurai 1). In the opening essay, “From Ethnocide to Ideocide,” Appadurai presents us with the two concepts of ‘social uncertainty’ and ‘anxiety of incompleteness.’ The contention is that there is a perpetual sense of uncertainty in national polities regarding the true nature and number of the internal other in the nation-state who is always already coming for us. This, in turn, fuels an anxiety of incompleteness that we might just be overthrown by them unless we eradicate their presence from our land and complete ourselves. The post-1989 period becomes significant for Apparadurai because the manner in which globalization organized states, markets, and ideas, worked to intensify the potential for large-scale violence by setting us on “a potential collision course between the logics of uncertainty and incompleteness, which is the road to genocide” (Apparadurai 9). It is within this framework that Appadurai analyzes anti Muslim and caste-based violence in India in his essay Fear of Small Numbers. In this paranoid system of self-determination that manifests itself in the Hindutva ideology, Appadurai finds reprieve in the BJP’s electoral loss in the 2004 national elections. However, ten years after the publication of Fear of Small Numbers, Narendra Modi rode in on a wave of unprecedented populist support to become the 14th Prime Minister of India. He had announced his intentions to run for that position back in 2002 when he presided over the mass killing of Muslims as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. It is the same event that had served as the closing bracket for Appadurai in his analysis of Hindutva politics. While focusing on Appadurai’s study of anti-Muslim violence in the aforementioned essay, this paper will use Achille Mbembe’s concept of ‘necropolitics’ to offer an alternative framework/ explanation for Apparadurai’s object of study as a means to explain the latter’s inability to envisage, comprehend, and predict the long-term consequences of that violence in the ethnonationalist formation of the modern Indian State.

Sania Iqbal Hashmi is a PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. A student of postcoloniality and biopolitics, her primary areas of interest include Theory, 20th and 21st century Anglophone novel, Indian Literature, Marxism(s), and Feminist Postcolonial Theory. She is the author of the forthcoming book Tolerant Indians with Muslim Friends: Lessons from Bollywood.”

Panel 29, Trauma, Gender and Agency

10:30 – 12:00, Room: 1.812

Chair: N.N.

Dirk van Rens

(Eastern Finland)

Fire and Water: Trauma in Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing

“In recent times, expressions and examinations of the traumas caused by slavery and its legacies—that is, (remnants of) the social, cultural, and economic structures that facilitated the slave trade and which continued long after slavery had officially been abolished, from Jim Crow to contemporary racism—have been at the forefront of public discourse. Regrettably, engaging with the way the historical traumas of slavery and its legacies affect the present day often tends to spark conflict and polarisation. The significant backlash following the removal of the statue of Edward Colston—a merchant and slave trader—in Bristol (UK) by Black Lives Matter protestors is a good case in point. So too, are the extremely hostile reactions received by academics examining the link between British country houses and colonialism (Sherwood 2022). If nothing else, these conflicts emphasise the value of considering the way contemporary Black Diaspora literature negotiates the traumas of slavery and its legacies.
In this paper, I do exactly this by analysing the role of trauma in Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing (2016). More specifically, my paper revolves around two foci:

1) How does Homegoing highlight the relevance of the traumas caused by slavery and its legacies to contemporary society?
2) How does Homegoing approach the concept of trauma and the (im)possibility of overcoming it?

For my approach of these questions, I employ recent (re)developments in the field of literary trauma theory. Having enjoyed a “tropological hegemony” since its establishment in the 1990s (Balaev 2014, 5), the traditional trauma paradigm has faced considerable criticism in recent years, as evidenced by a plethora of publications seeking to address its shortcomings, particularly its arguably Eurocentric outlook and conception of trauma as “unspeakable” (Stampfl 2014, 15) (see e.g. Craps 2013, Buelens et al. (editors) 2014, Bond and Craps 2020, and Davis and Meretoja (editors) 2020).
With recent criticism and new perspectives in mind, I take my cue from Robert Eaglestone and argue that Gyasi’s novel can be seen as an example of what he calls “‘engaged literature’ in a renewed Sartrean sense […] aimed explicitly at pricking Western consciences” (Eaglestone 2008, 82).

Dirk van Rens is a PhD researcher in anglophone literature at the University of Eastern Finland. His dissertation centres around the (re)writing of traumatic histories in contemporary black diaspora literature. Van Rens’ main research interests are postmodern–postcolonial literature (particularly historiographic metafiction), literary trauma theory, and cultural memory. His research has received funding from the OLVI Foundation and the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund.”

Sourav Kumar

Nag (Bankura)

Playing the Victim? Miya Poetry and Politics of Victim­hood

“The notion of victimhood is problematic since it is language that influences community consensus, public opinion and populist worldviews showing empathy for a person, or a group ‘unjustly’ subjected to harm, injury, loss, misfortune or deprivation. Since the domain of language is never innocent, victimhood is always open to controversies and debates. Besides, the instant circulation of the narratives of victimhood over social media generate quick-curried and generalized propaganda. Such a case in hand is that of the debate surrounding the Miya Poets of Assam’s Charchapori district. Incidentally, the term ‘Miya’ is derived from “Miyah,” meaning “gentleman.” Incidentally, ‘Miya Poetry’ is a controversial appellation ascribed to a body of poems written by some of the Bengal originated Muslims in Assam in recent times. Some of those poems triggered resistance against the implementation of the latest National Register of Citizens (NRC) while some of them, more complex, attempt to reclaim the ‘Miya’ language of poetry. The Miya poetry received accolades over many social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube. The controversy surrounding ‘Miya Poetry’ started after Pranabjit Doloi, a senior journalist filed an FIR against 10 Miya Poets condemning that the poem of Hafiz Ahmed represented the Assamese as xenophobic. ‘Miya’ or ‘Miyah’ poets have been alleged to elicit resentment among the Assamese because their poems portray Bengal originated Muslims in Assam as the state victims of racial discrimination. There is another charge that since these poems were written in the local dialect of the Miya poets instead of in standard Assamese language, they hurt the linguistic sentiment of the mainstream Assamese people. The renowned author Githa Hariharan, activist Harsh Mander, poet Ashok Vajpeyi and educationist Apoorvanand praised Miya Poetry, expressed solidarity with the Miya poets and condemned the FIRs against them in a press conference. Annie Zaidi in Bread, Cement, Cactus (2020) deals with the Miya question with empathy. On the other hand, the so-called victimhood of the Miya is drastically challenged and debated. Nani G. Mahanta in Citizenship Debate Over NRC and CAA (2021) questions the veracity of the narratives of Miya victimhood. The article deals with the politics of victimhood in reference to the Miya poetry.

Sourav Kumar Nag is an Assistant Professor and Head, Dept. of English at Onda Thana Mahavidyalaya, affiliated with Bankura University. He is an early career researcher. He has been awarded a Ph.D. degree in the year 2018 for his thesis on Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.  He has published in sundry national and international journals, translated a Bengali novella, Nalak by Abanindranath Thakur, and is working on an edited volume on the impact of pandemics on gender. He has delivered invited lectures at many colleges and universities in India. He chaired a session and delivered an article at the GAPS Annual Conference in the year 2019. “

Julia Wurr


Reproductive Agency and Victimhood: Visible Ab­sences in Fictional Repre­sentations of Commercial Surrogacy

“Oscillating between reproductive agency and victimhood as well as between invisible presence and visible absence, surrogate mothers act as the principal focus of both academic research and fictional representations of transnational commercial surrogacy. Not only is the omission of surrogate mothers as agents of reproduction instrumental in the surrogacy industry of countries such as India, but these women’s agency is often also severely limited by their precarious living conditions. Despite these severe limitations, however, reducing surrogate mothers to mere victims does not only further diminish what limited agency they have, but also perpetuates the logic of casting them as passive incubators. While analyses and representations of commercial surrogacy thus frequently address the visible absence of surrogate mothers, another group’s complete lack of agency often results in their being granted much less representational space: surrogate children, and in particular, surrogate orphans.
This paradoxical visible absence of surrogate children strongly informs Anglophone fictionalisations of commercial surrogacy. Although at first sight, surrogacy seems to be all about children, their being granted the least representational space mirrors the extent to which the interests of all other parties involved are prioritised. In fact, while novels such as Meera Syal’s The House of Hidden Mothers (2015) and Joanne Ramos’ The Farm (2019) turn the visible absence of surrogate mothers into their centre of attention and Amulya Malladi’s A House for Happy Mothers (2016) focuses on the emotions of the commissioning mother, it is only in Kishwar Desai’s Origins of Love (2012) that surrogate children (and in particular surrogate orphans) are granted any noteworthy representational space. In the other novels, ‘average’ children or surrogate orphans figure as visible absences only. In their stead, A House for Happy Mothers and The Farm feature the trope of the surrogate mother’s extraordinarily gifted biological child, while The House of Hidden Mothers portrays the extraordinarily gifted and beautiful surrogate mother as almost still a child herself. Evocative of the trope of the ‘noble savage,’ this emphasis on the extraordinary individual illustrates how in the commodifying logic of commercial surrogacy, sympathy with the deprived can only be evoked for those who are so exceptional that they are cast as worth joining the ranks of those who exploited them in the first place. Functioning as the reverse of the visible absences of children at large and surrogate orphans more particularly, this trope moreover indicates how, in the logic of commercial surrogacy and consumerist eugenics, ‘average’ or even chronically ill children are not worth reproducing. As such, this trope serves as a neoliberal euphemism which further obliterates the fate of those with neither agency nor good starting conditions. So while the novels mentioned do try to criticise the poor conditions of the surrogate mothers, by foregrounding those who are extraordinarily gifted while featuring other children as visible absences only, the texts constrict children in their fictional representations to what they are often reduced to in reality as well: commodifiable foils.

Julia Wurr is Junior Professor for Postcolonial Studies at the Institute for English and American Studies at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg. In 2019, she completed a Ph.D. thesis exploring the Neo- Orientalist commercialisation of the Arab uprisings in English, French and German language fiction. The monograph is forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press. Her current research on “”Procreation and the Postcolonial”” focuses on the aesthetic and ideological dimensions of issues such as surrogacy, childlessness – and, more generally – of natalism and anti-natalism in postcolonial fiction.”

12:15 – 13:00

Room 823

Final Roundtable

Mark Stein (Münster), Stefanie Kemmerer (Frankfurt), Alex Wanjala (Nairobi), N.N.

Chair: Frank Schulze-Engler (Frankfurt)

13:00 – 13:30 Catered Lunch (pre-order only)

Conference Ends