Conference Announcement: „Citizenship and Literature: Past Concerns, Present Issues, Future Trajectories“

Feb 20 – 21, 2017, English Department, University of Münster (Germany)

Since political theorists Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman observed a “return of the citizen,” an “explosion of interest in the concept of citizenship” in the political and social sciences in 1994, the concept has been heatedly debated as a tool of critical analysis not only in the social sciences but also – and increasingly so – in literary and cultural studies. In contrast to political theory, we might however speak not so much of a ‘return’ of the citizen in literary and cultural studies, but of an arrival of the citizen and of citizenship in the early 2000s: Questions of representing and reconceptualizing the relationship between individuals, groups, and the nation (as well as the nation state) found citizenship increasingly a productive term to negotiate questions of belonging, affiliations and membership and to reflect on the ways in which literatures negotiate, question, envision, or deconstruct notions of citizenship in a variety of historical and geographical contexts.

This conference takes this ongoing debate as a starting point for a reflection on the past, present, and future of citizenship both in literature and in literary studies. By bringing together scholars well established in literary citizenship studies and related fields such as law-and-literature, diaspora studies, literature and nation, and literary sovereignty, it will provide a platform for critically exploring potential future trajectories, both thematically and with regard to ‘citizenship’ as a concern for literary studies. Thematically, it looks at the role and function of citizenship in literature – as a topic, as a metaphor of belonging, or as a concept capturing the function of literature as part of societal discourses. At the same time, it also critically re-evaluates the theoretical discussion of citizenship as a concept in literary and cultural studies. Thus, the conference sets out to reflect both on the ways in which literatures negotiate, question, envision, or deconstruct notions of citizenship in a variety of historical and geographical contexts and on the question of the analytical benefit of citizenship as a category of scholarly inquiry.

In order to leave ample time for discussion, the number of speakers has been kept deliberately small. The following scholars will present at this conference:

  • Brook Thomas (University of California at Irvine): “The Citizen-Soldier in 19th-Century US Literature”
  • Beth Piatote (University of California at Berkeley): “Sound, Sonic Warfare, and Citizenship: Notes from Standing Rock and The Surrounded”
  • David Chariandy (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby): “Black Writing and the Limits of Citizenship”
  • Mita Banerjee (Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz): “Writing the Citizen: Citizenship, Life Writing and Disability in Jason Kingsley’s and Mitchell Levitz’s Count Us In”
  • Peter Schneck (Osnabrück University): “Natural Law and Civil Savages: Early Modern Conceptions of Colonial Civility and Citizenship”
  • Carol Fadda-Conrey (Syracuse University): “Narrative Cartographies of Citizenships and Rights in the Age of US Empire”
  • Tamar Hess (Hebrew University, Jerusalem): “Dystopia and Citizenship in Contemporary Israeli Fantasy Literature”
  • Mark Stein (Westfälische Wilhelms-University, Münster): “‘Remember the Ship in Citizenship’: Migrant Writers, Porous Texts”

Further Information and Registration
About the program and other relevant information, please consult the WWU American Studies homepage. To register, please send a short e-mail with the header ‘registration literature and citizenship’ stating your name and affiliation to this email address. There are no conference fees but in order to facilitate our planning, please register at your earliest convenience.

Travel Bursary for Doctoral Students
For doctoral students working in literary citizenship studies or related fields who would like to attend this conference, a limited number of travel bursaries are available. If you are interested, please send your CV and a short abstract of your project to this e-mail address by January 30, 2017.

Prof. Dr. Katja Sarkowsky
Chair of American Studies
English Department
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster


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