CFP: Historicizing Forms and Spaces of Refuge

The MLA History and Literature Forum invites proposals for a guaranteed panel at the 2018 MLA Convention in New York City (January 4-7, 2018).


We are seeking historically-situated papers on how literary forms construct, influence, and are influenced by spaces of refuge, asylum, sanctuary, and migration.


While recent public attention has turned toward humanitarian crises that have resulted in forced displacement, as well as debates about the legalities and moral consequences of documenting and registering immigrants, we welcome essays from a range of times and places, not limited to the United States or Britain in the present moment.


Refuge may be broadly construed as imaginary or real, temporary or permanent, bounded or unbounded, even “in transit.”


Literary forms may include, but are not limited to essays, life writing, graphic novels, historical documents, contemporary or historical performance, or traditional literary genres such as the novel and poetry.


Issues to be explored may include:


  • Processes of representing,constructing, naming, or defining spaces as sanctuary, asylum, or refuge;
  • Construction of boundaries, whether real or ideological or both;
  • Questions of exclusion, inclusion, marginalization;
  • Rhetorically marking particular spaces as separate sanctuaries for the dispossessed;
  • Repurposing existing spaces (airport lounges, farms, sports stadiums);
  • Navigating social, cultural, political spaces of refuge;
  • Exploring gender, sexuality, and race in relationship to space and place;
  • Developing a national, religious or individual identity or sense of self because of space and place;
  • Creation of spaces for revolution, activism, and philanthropy,
  • Fabrication of spaces through technology, labor, transit, or education.

300 word abstracts and brief CV by March 5, 2017 to Marguerite Helen Helmers ( Responses by March 22.

Should the proposal be accepted for the panel, you must be a fully-paid member of the MLA by April 1, 2017 (see for dues information). You need not be a current member of the MLA to submit a proposal.

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