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CFP: Archipelagic Thinking in Asian American and Southeast Asian Literature

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    Weihsin Gui

    Call for papers: Archipelagic Thinking in Asian American and Southeast Asian Literature (MLA 2022)

    We invite papers for a proposed session on “Archipelagic Thinking in Asian American and Southeast Asian Literature” for the 2022 Modern Language Association conference (6-9 January). The session is co-sponsored by the MLA’s Asian American Literature and Southeast Asia and Southeast Asia Diasporic Forums.

    In their introduction to Archipelagic American Studies (2017), editors Brian Roberts and Michelle Stephens refer to the Southeast Asian country of Indonesia to make their case that archipelagos are not necessarily geologically coherent entities and that “the concept of the archipelago” can “mediate the phenomenology of humans’ cultural relation to the solid and liquid materiality of geography” (7). Roberts and Stephens’s argument for a “decontinentalization” of American studies is also underscored by their reference to Indonesia as an oceanic neighbor to some of the USA’s colonial and neocolonial territories in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

    Thinking more broadly beyond the Americas, Michelle Stephens and Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel argue in their editorial introduction to Contemporary Archipelagic Thinking (2020) that “the archipelagic” can be “both a specific and a generalizable geohistorical and cultural formation”; the knowledge generated by relationships between islands and island groups “can interrogate epistemologies, ways of reading and thinking, and methodologies informed implicitly or explicitly by more continental paradigms and perspectives” and can motivate “comparative models and methodologies” (6-7).

    Taking these two recent essay collections and their provocations as a starting point, our session is interested in how archipelagos and archipelagic thinking might challenge, inflect, or reconfigure existing frameworks that connect Asian American and Southeast Asian literary and cultural studies. We are also interested in what new models and methods of relating Asian America and Southeast Asia might emerge when literary-cultural texts are read from an archipelagic (as distinct from a transpacific or diasporic or postcolonial) perspective. We especially welcome papers that discuss Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian American authors and texts, either individually or comparatively.

    Topics for analysis within an archipelagic framework include but are not limited to:

    – migration and diaspora

    – globalization and transnationalism

    – the environment / Anthropocene

    – indigenous / native subjectivities

    – settler colonialism

    – radical friction

    – aesthetic practices

    Please send abstract (300 words), speaker bio (100-200 words), and 1-page CV by 10 March 2021 to Harrod Suarez ( and Weihsin Gui ( All accepted speakers must be members of the MLA by April 1, 2021.

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