CFP: Existentialism and Postcolonialism

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    Matthew Nelson

    Dear Colleagues,

    I’m writing to invite you to submit abstracts to a conference we are organizing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on “Existentialism and Postcolonialism” to be held on October 10-11, 2014.

    Postcolonial theory and existentialism have long shared a relationship of reciprocity—perhaps most famously in the case of Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre, but also in Homi Bhabha’s appropriation of Heideggerian thought, Mohsin Hamid’s re-staging of Albert Camus’ The Fall in The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), and John Edgar Wideman’s novel Fanon (2008)Isolated moments of this dialogue have received extensive discussion, but much remains to be said about the larger historical and philosophical issues at stake in their relationship. There has, moreover, been a recent resurgence of interest in existentialism, as evidenced by dozens of new scholarly monographs on and translations of works by Simone de Beauvoir, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. This general interest has yet to find its place in relation to postcolonialism. On the other hand, recent debates about the place of postcolonial theory in the 21st century make this the perfect moment to ask what points of connection might reinvigorate both fields of inquiry.

    Seizing on this moment of questioning, the goal of this conference is to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines to engage with possible ways to renew the dialogue. The following are a few possible lines of inquiry: From Alejandro Vallega’s reading of Heidegger’s “exilic thought” to the renewed focus on place and the “there” in the work of Jeff Malpas, recent Heideggerian scholarship presents new sides to Heidegger that are ripe for rethinking in postcolonial terms. What would an intellectual (counter-)history of postcolonialism or existentialism look like if read primarily as a dialogue with the other?

    We invite proposals for papers on all aspects of the intersection of existentialism and postcolonialism – its historical trajectory, as well as the limits and possibilities of continued dialogue. Possible paper topics include:

    • Postcolonial literary engagement with existentialism
    • Indigenous alternatives to existentialism
    • The role of colonialism and anti-colonial struggle in the formation and formalization of existentialism

    Please submit abstracts (250-500 words) to by July 31st, 2014. Please include your name, along with your departmental and institutional affiliations.

    Keynote Speakers: Jonathan Judaken (Rhodes College) and Yoav Di-Capua (University of Texas – Austin)

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