MLA 2020 CFP: Settler Colonialism in Southeast Asia
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This special session of the MLA Southeast Asian Forum seeks to interrogate settler colonialism through a diverse range of Southeast Asian literary and cultural texts. We are particularly interested in texts that illuminate the reconfiguration of place, power, and politics in the region, both past and present. By “place” we mean the specific sites – local, national, regional, rural, urban, physical or metaphorical – which have been crucial both to the formation of settler colonialism and/or to decolonial efforts in the region. Similarly, our use of “power” and “politics” refers to the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality that inform how rights and resources are controlled by settler colonialism, and how they are renegotiated by political, artistic, and activist interventions.
This session is inspired by recent scholarly conversations about Asian settler colonialism and its implications in Southeast Asian Studies. While discussions of Asian settler colonialism has been most fruitfully developed by scholars such as Haunani-Kay Trask, Candace Fujikane, Jonathan Y. Okamura, and Dean Saranillio in the Pacific context, particularly in Hawai‘i, there are increasing efforts to consider Asian settler colonialism in Asia. In Archiving Settler Colonialism (2019), a recent anthology edited by Yu-ting Huang and Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, the editors observe the variegated performances of settler colonialisms across the globe and envision more robust future engagement with settler colonial analytics from different regional foci. Settler colonialism, as invoked by Huang and Weaver-Hightower, is “a distinct governing structure in which settler-invaders colonize by replacing Indigenous peoples on Indigenous lands” (3). Further, as theorized by scholars including Patrick Wolfe and Lorenzo Veracini, settler colonialism is enacted by settlers who “rather than ruling over the natives in a political hierarchy… seek to eliminate Indigenous peoples’ majority, to produce Indigenous lands as possessable…and to position themselves as the authentic and future ‘indigenes’ of the new world” (Huang and Weaver-Hightower 3). Yet, as Huang and Weaver-Hightower’s edition also attests, settler colonialism does not manifest uniformly across geopolitical and historical contexts, and settlers’ projects of place-making always unfold in conjunction with enduring indigeneity and other locally-specific geopolitical and social dynamics.
This session directs critical attention to how Southeast Asian cultural texts and contexts shed light on the particular settler colonial, immigrant, and Indigenous hierarchies that continue to inform the multilingual and multiracial dynamics of the region. Because “settlement is maintained precariously through the persistent replaying of settler myths throughout history and into contemporary times” (Huang and Weaver-Hightower 3), we are especially interested in the precarity of settler colonialism in Southeast Asia and in relation to diasporic Southeast Asian communities. We welcome papers that illustrate how cultural texts spanning different time periods and genres signal the shifting iterations of settler colonialism: the establishment and maintenance of settler-colonial culture and control; the assertion of Indigenous agency and resistance; and the constant renegotiation of place, power, and politics.
Please send 300-word abstracts and 100-word speaker bios, as well as any questions, to Sheela Jane Menon (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 15, 2019. Please note that speakers whose papers are accepted for this session will need to become members of the Modern Language Association by April 7, 2019 in order to participate in the conference itself.