The CFPs below are for a series of panels for this year’s Modernist Studies Association Conference in Toronto on October 17-20.
Indigenous Modernities and Modernisms
Marshall Berman’s description of modernity in All That is Solid Melts Into Air applies to no one so fully as to Indigenous communities impacted by over 500 years of global imperialism. Indigenous peoples experienced sweeping change across all aspects of life on a scale and with an intensity unparalleled in Europe and England, or among settler populations around the world. Longstanding, place-based lifeways suddenly became “traditions” set against the juggernaut of the new, and a ruthless version of history that consigned Indigenous peoples to the past reframed diverse nation-peoples as “primitive,” “primordial,” “antiquated,” and in all cases “vanishing” … despite the ongoing presence and resistance of Native peoples across modernity. Looking east from Indian Country, a version of the alienation and disorientation so eloquently chronicled by Kafka, Stein, Céline, Eliot and others was amplified exponentially in terms of intensity, consequences, and lasting impacts for Indigenous nations, peoples, and lands.
Given such hyper-intensive experiences of modernity, differently configured and experienced in diverse times and locales around the world, how did Indigenous writers, artists, intellectuals, and cultural producers respond? Facing the racialized discourses of modernist “tradition” and “authenticity,” in what ways and across what venues, mediums, genres, and forms did Indigenous creatives place what Scott Lyons calls their own “x-marks” on modernity? What writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, performers, radio personalities, and intellectuals have even the expanded parameters of the New Modernist Studies still not taken into account? Understood in one sense as aesthetic responses to the “anxieties” of modernity, what ideas of modernism, modernity, and “the modern” have emerged from this 500-year maelstrom of chaos, change, dislocation, resistance, resilience, and resurgence? If the history of modernity is also the history of imperialism and ongoing settler colonialism, how might an honest, sustained engagement with Indigenous modernisms and modernities—however defined—transform the field’s terms, scope, and objects of study?
The recent “global” turn in modernist studies has helped us begin to rethink what it might mean to encounter multiple modernisms on their own terms. There is no question that it has been salutary for the field, even as it has generated a plethora of new challenges and difficult questions. Among those is how the drive for a global – even planetary – conceptions of modernism and modernity collide with the incredible diversity of Indigenous peoples and their specific histories and cultural practices? How does global modernism link to petro-capitalist exploitations of Indigenous lands and peoples? How do modernist notions of cosmopolitanism map onto or contravene long-standing Indigenous patterns of trans-/international exchange? Is the expansion of modernism anything more than the offer of an exchange of prestige (the ‘modernist’ label) for postcolonial/settler colonial credibility and recognition? And at what potential expense (or benefit) for ongoing and often violent struggles over Indigenous sovereignty, self-determination, and futurity? Is it possible to conceive of transnational, geo, global, or planetary modernisms that are not already compromised by imperialism or (settler) colonialism? And how might substantive engagements with Indigenous and Settler Colonial studies provide potential avenues to begin addressing such questions?
Representing Indigeneity in Modernism
From Juan Rulfo to Joseph Conrad, from Solomon Plaatje to Albert Wendt, and from Tayeb Salih to Pramoedya Ananta Toer, modernist writers make widely varied uses of Indigenous characters in their novels. At the same time, Indigenous writers of the period—from Simon Pokagon, E. Pauline Johnson, Alexander Posey, and Zitkala-Sa to Charles Eastman, John Joseph Mathews, Mourning Dove, and D’Arcy McNickle—deliver powerful critiques of euroamerican “character” across a wide array of genres and forms. Read together, how are such figures variously represented, and what can we learn about modernist politics from those representations? If understood as figurative contact zones, how can we understand the nature of the encounters they record? Are there salient differences in how European, English, or American writers represent Indigenous populations, versus how Indigenous writers represent themselves or their euroamerican counterparts? Are most such representations tied inextricably to the imperialist ideologies still thriving in the early twentieth century, or are there avant-garde, experimental, and/or Indigenous-centered approaches that fundamentally disrupt the logics and politics of imperialist-colonialist expansion? What might such representations have to teach us about the apparently inextricable link between modernism and imperialism?
Send 250-word abstracts to Stephen Ross (email@example.com
) by 4 March 2019.