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Difficult Diasporas

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Organizer: Amrita Mishra

Co-Organizer: Chienyn Chi

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The concept of “diaspora” in global north contexts often invokes communities or bodies marked by the broad category “people of color,” a category scholars such as Jasbir Puar and Anne Anlin Cheng find “difficult” as the term remains largely “critically impoverished.” Indeed, much of our traditional engagement with diasporic formations in the Global North tends to work within frameworks of the oppressions that diasporas experience: racism, non-belonging, empire. But in the face of rising far-right movements across nations of the global south– from India to Brazil to Israel– we increasingly see the ways that diasporic communities of such nations uniquely leverage their diasporic positions to expand and legitimize ethno-nationalist projects of a homeland by rendering foreign and “diasporizing” its persecuted communities. As Cathy Schlud-Vials observes, the conviction of NYPD officer Peter Liang for the 2016 murder of Akai Gurley presented a “peculiarly racialized conundrum” for the Asian American diaspora, who were largely split between supporting the fight against police brutality and calling attention to their own diasporic precarity potentially responsible for Liang’s unprecedented sentencing. The difficulty of simultaneously grappling with the oppressions that diasporic communities face and the dangers of reproducing such oppressions towards other communities in a new home or old gives shape to what this panel is naming “difficult diasporas.” Just as historian Madeline Hsu explores the process in which an “excluded” diaspora transforms into a “national” one co-opted by Cold-War American imperialism, this panel rethinks what is a “good” or "bad" immigrant and how diasporic communities have continued to be used for Empire's purposes.

The increasing instrumentalization and mobilization of being “diasporic” calls for a more critical inquiry of diaspora. We ask: how have diasporas historically been forgotten but also strategically invoked by homeland to define who and what makes up a nation? How does diasporic literary production aid and resist such projects? How do diasporas within the global south, following Francoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih’s framework of “minor transnationalisms,” complicate our theorizing of the diasporic condition and body? We welcome papers that engage with topics such as, but not limited to:

Diasporic movement within global south-south connections
Nationalizing diasporic literary and cultural productions
Diasporic sympathies for homeland fascism
Diasporizing communities within homelands
Comparative and transnational approaches to the diaspora
Contested representations of “good” and “bad” immigrants/migrants, “privilege” and “victimhood”
Difficult intimacies of nationalism, diasporization, and imperialism
Theorizing the diasporic body and condition 

Please feel free to reach out to co-organizers, Drs. Amrita Mishra and Chienyn Chi

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