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NeMLA 2020: Regional Wounds, Universal Traumas, and the Possibility of Empathy (NeMLA)

Boston, MA
Organization: Northeast Modern Language Association
Event: NeMLA
Categories: Postcolonial, Hispanic & Latino, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, Popular Culture, Literary Theory, World Literatures, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy, African & African Diasporas, Asian & Asian Diasporas, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean & Caribbean Diasporas, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle East, Native American, Scandinavian, Pacific Literature
Event Date: 2020-03-05 to 2020-03-08 Abstract Due: 2019-09-30


Amir Barati, University of Missouri-Kansas City (ab69b@mail.umkc.edu)

Maryam Ghodrati, University of Massachusetts Amherst (mghodrati@umass.edu)


Deconstructive trauma theory pioneered in the West by scholars such as Cathy Caruth and Jeoffrey Hartman has been criticized by postcolonial scholars for psychologization of traumatic experience, making it individual and linguistic rather than material and collective, while de-historicizing and de-politicizing the traumatic experience of colonized population. Recent pluralist and postcolonial approaches to trauma studies emphasize the social, cultural, and political specificities of traumatic experience.

In this panel, we aim to ask whether, in a globalizing world grappling with copious forms of traumatizing grievances (including terrorism, wars, massive displacements of refugees, rise of far-right sentiments, etc.), both deconstructivist and pluralist theories could merge to provide an understanding of trauma, its narrative, and sociopolitical dimensions. How can we consider the ongoing nature of suffering experienced by traumatic subjects and yet develop a more humane way of representation that could lead to what Dominick LaCapra termed as “empathic unsettlement”? What relations exist between the empathetic vision and prevention of suffering? Could the unbridgeable gap between the sufferer and non-survivor be bridged by the nature of its incomprehensibility? In a sense can we define suffering and pain as a universalized concept without sacrificing native cultural and political specificities?

We welcome innovative scholarly work on topics related to historical traumas experienced by non-Western communities. This includes the conflict zones (primarily Middle East and North Africa), colonial, neo-colonial and post-colonial world, border lines and immigrants, and minorities in the West.

The conference is through the Northeast Modern Language Association and will take place March 5-8th, 2020 in Boston, MA. Submissions are due: September 30, 2019. NeMLA uses a user-based system to process abstract submissions. Please submit an abstract of 300-500 words and a short bio on NeMLA’s website: https://cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/18054




Amir Barati