Thursday, November 21, 2013

MELUS CFP for Special Issue Refugee Literature: Forty Years after the Vietnam War

From  MELUS guest editors Marguerite Nguyen and Catherine Fung:

"As we approach the fortieth anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, scholarship on refugees of the war continues to flourish. This special issue of MELUS proposes the notion of “literary refugee studies” as a field through which to reassess the current state of Vietnam War scholarship and refugee studies. We have seen historical, sociological, and political research on refugees that delineates the overwhelming power that national and international institutions and policies have to shape refugee experience. Examinations of cultural texts by and about refugees,which usually operate within existing rubrics of American, Asian American, and postcolonial literary studies, often treat the refugee as a subject determined by established teleologies of nationhood and citizenship. Thus as scholars including Thomas A. DuBois and Yen Le Espiritu point out, refugees remain relatively “passive” figures, if not of policy, then of our scholarly gazes that reproduce the refugee as an object of investigation.

Building upon Espiritu’s call for a “critical refugee study,” this special issue of MELUS seeks papers that begin to theorize the refugee as a cultural figure and refugee cultural production as a body of work that intervenes in the ideological and teleological underpinnings of existing approaches to narratives about the war and/or the refugee experience. We seek essays that examine the refugee as an active participant that uses aesthetic means to inform, push against,and redefine the mechanisms that construct him or her as a subject. In so doing, we propose Literary Refugee Studies as a discrete field from which to develop new theoretical paradigms and methods of inquiry. In considering the “refugee narrative” as a representational mode, we ask what narratological strategies authors use to represent refugee subjectivity. In considering the“refugee aesthetic” as a form, we ask whether refugee culture can be identified not only in thematic terms (displacement, trauma, survival, belonging, etc.) but also in terms of formal elements. Finally, we ask what might define “refugee literature” as a genre and what its relationship to existing generic categories might be.

We welcome papers that explore:
  • what comprises a “refugee aesthetic” in terms of literature, drama, performance, film,television, music, art, photography, etc.
  • the relationship of “refugee literature” to existing generic categories of American literature, ethnic American literature, postcolonial literature, world literature, diasporic literature, etc.
  • the heterogeneous trajectories of migration to the US, which includes not only Southeast Asian refugees or nations but also refugees from other countries displaced by the Vietnam War.
  • various Vietnam War refugee spaces such as the transit camp, the sea, the ship/boat, the prison, the urban landscape, etc.
  • how cultural texts represent the “problem” of refugees, war, genocide, forced migration,resettlement, deportation, etc.
  • different dimensions of refugee subjectivity, including the carceral, violent, victimized,grateful, etc.
  • the refugee’s relationship to regimes of state violence (authoritarian, humanitarian, racial,or neoliberal).
  • how refugee spaces and times disrupt the space-time of the nation-state.
  • the spatiotemporal dimensions of refugee status and subjectivity—whether one is
    perpetually a refugee or ever ceases to be one.
  • generational dynamics of refugee literature.
Please submit papers of 7,000 to 10,000 words (including notes and works cited) to: Catherine Fung ( and Marguerite Nguyen ( All submissions will go through MELUS’s normal refereeing process. Papers under consideration at other journals or previously published in any form will not be considered.

Deadline for submission is: June 30, 2014. 

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