CFP: Narrative, Race, and Ethnicity in the Americas

Narrative, Race, and Ethnicity in the Americas

In her landmark study of race and American literature, Playing in the Dark (1992), Toni Morrison argued that literary history has taken for granted a certain set of assumptions, including the understanding that “American literature is free of, uninformed, and unshaped by the four-hundred-year-old presence of, first, Africans and then African Americans in the United States” and that “this presence […] had no significant place or consequence in the origin and development of that culture’s literature” (4-5). Morrison’s work provides a thoughtful and insightful study of race in American narrative and has inspired a generation of scholars to continue the study of race and ethnicity in American literature. However, much of this work (but certainly not all, as evidenced by Frederick Luis Aldama’s recent collection Analyzing World Fiction: New Horizons in Narrative Theory [Texas, 2011]) tends to fall outside the scope of formal narrative studies. And just as Susan Lanser’s 1986 ground-breaking article “Toward a Feminist Narratology” has inspired scholars to explore the fruitful possibilities of a feminist narrative theory that engages an intersectional approach to issues related (but not limited to) gender, the editors hope to compile a collection of essays that similarly engages the study of race, ethnicity, and narrative in the Americas, a cultural-geo-political area that we conceive of broadly that is not simply bounded by the nation-state of the U.S. Following Aldama’s collection, we hope to provide a work that encompasses a diversity of voices, subjects, and approaches to the study of narrative, race, and ethnicity.

To that end, we invite proposals for a collection of essays that will examine the intersections of race, ethnicity, and narrative focused on texts produced by authors with cultural ties to the Americas, a region that has seen the widespread sale of African slaves, the decimation of indigenous peoples in the wake of European colonialism, the hybridization of settler-colonials with roots in Spain, and the systematic mistreatment of Asian immigrants, as well as a cultural history that has needed to be ever-mindful of that heritage. It is the belief of the editors that “the Americas” share a unified cultural history, particularly with respect to issues of race and ethnic identity, and that narratives produced by artists in many American nations reflect that shared history. As such, the editors would like this volume to include as many diverse voices, backgrounds, and identities as possible.

We seek proposals for essays that will address the various ways that the formal study of narrative intersects productively with methodologies of critical race studies, post-colonial theory, and general ethnic studies. In other words, following the example set forth by Lanser, how can issues of identity help us better understand the workings of narrative, and how can a formal study of narrative assist us in the study of narrative forms? We seek essays that engage the diversity of possible theoretical approaches, as well as works that explore a multiplicity of ethnic voices and audiences. We do not wish to define what it means to study narrative, race, and ethnicity in the Americas; rather, we hope to provide a starting point for the variety of directions such a study can take.

Proposals for essays should be between 750 and 1000 words and should clearly articulate their theoretical position and identify the narratives to be analyzed. Completed abstracts are due by March 31, 2013 and can be sent to James J. Donahue (, Jennifer Ho (, or Shaun Morgan ( We welcome questions or inquiries about this volume prior to this date, as well. Submitters will be notified about the status of their proposals by May 31, 2013 and final essays of 5,000-6,000 words will be due on January 31, 2014.

Although we do not have a formal agreement with a press just yet, an editor for the Ohio State University Press Series on the Theory and Interpretation of Narrative has expressed strong interest in reviewing this collection.

Possible topics (though others are welcome as well) include:
— the interconnections of Critical Race Theory and Narrative Theor(ies)
— the impact of Civil Rights, the American Indian Movement, or other civil rights movements on the production, consumption, or study of narrative(s)
— the intersections of Post-Colonial Theory (as it pertains to literature of the Americas) and the study of narrative
— the use, limitations, or necessary expansions to formalist approaches to the study of narrative(s) produced by People of Color (are concepts such as narrator, implied author, etc. race/ethnicity neutral?)
— are narrative approaches grounded in the study of race and ethnicity methodologically different from narrative approaches grounded in the study of gender or class; and if so, how?
— the necessary additions/revisions/etc. to cognitive and ethical approaches to the study of narrative that considerations of race engender
–the ways in which a study of narrative and race can be useful as a form of anti-racist praxis


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