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Literatures of Transnational Race/Critique

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Organizer: Taylor Johnston-Levy

Co-Organizer: Keru Cai

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Since the 2020 global resurgence of Black Lives Matter, race critique has been disparaged as an unwanted American export. European politicians, for example, attribute demonstrations against police brutality, the removal and defacement of monuments, and even Islamist extremism to local uptake of US race critique. Scholars and activists have sought to complicate this one-directional narrative, citing longstanding, transnational investments in global movements like decolonial struggle. Our panel will explore literary texts that similarly attempt to reconstruct the transnational life of race critique - in our own times and at earlier historical moments, in both the Global North and South. How, for example, does literature map the global existence of critical race analytics like intersectionality, blackness, whiteness, ethnicity, the social construction of race, or the permanence of racism? How does it depict the relationship between the transnational circulation of race critique and geographies of migration and displacement? And how does it capture the complex, past-future temporalities of transnationally formed critical race concepts? In considering these questions, the panel will intervene in heated cross-disciplinary debates around Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant’s 1999 claim that the global circulation of race critique amounts to American cultural imperialism. Even as we approach such one-directional and exceptionalist accounts with skepticism, we will consider both the limitations and potentials of transnationally formed race critique, which has traveled along both activist and hegemonic trajectories.



The panel will bring particular attention to the circulation of race critique beyond the transatlantic model of Ella Shohat and Robert Stam’s seminal Race in Translation, considering literary interventions in the following social questions. How has race critique developed in postcolonial contexts outside the Middle Passage paradigm? How have race categories and analytics that developed in one national context been appropriated and reworked in others, for purposes of either critique or racial domination? And how do such appropriations complicate existing critical models like orientalism and other postcolonial theories? Our exploration of such questions will emphasize the movement of ideas among geographies underrepresented in comparative race studies, such as networks across the Eurasian land mass.



Our discussion may include, but is not limited to, the following topics:



  • The contemporary global rise of right-wing populism 

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives 

  • Neoliberalism and globalization

  • Intersectional, interracial, and off-white identities

  • Gender and race critique 

  • Migration and diaspora

  • Racial and ethnic categories in the Global South

  • Transnational American Studies

  • African American thought beyond the transatlantic

  • Multilateral racial difference in the postcolony

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