Freitag 18. Mai 2012 — Sonntag 20. Mai 2012 — University of Bern

Post-Empire Imaginaries? Anglophone Literature, History and the Demise of Empires

Barbara Buchenau and Virginia Richter


Call for paper closes January 31, 2012

“Post-Empire Imaginaries?” is the 23. annual international conference of the Association for the Study of the New Literatures in English (ASNEL). Organized by Barbara Buchenau and Virginia Richter at the University of Bern, May 18-20, 2012, this conference seeks to reintroduce historicity into a debate about postcolonial literatures, which has been significantly shaped by the spatial turn and issues relating to spatiality, (dis)location and globalization. While space continues to be an important parameter for postcolonial theory and practice, there is an increasing need to understand how the meanings of specific locations are constituted by the stories and histories woven around them, in other words, how spaces are the results of social and political interaction in time. To disregard the historical dimension of space is to divest it of its specificity.


The term ‘post-empire’ has been chosen to provide a sharper definition to an otherwise almost limitless field and to critically reflect upon the amount of nostalgia and commodified yearning that is still attached to the idea of empire, despite decades of cutting-edge postcolonial scholarship and theorizing. At the same time, however, ‘empire’ allows to explore the most diverse resonances, from Hardt and Negri’s Neo-Marxist model of a limitless global ‘imperium’ to specific historical formations.


The British Empire will constitute the nodal point of the conference; however, we want to open up the discussions for comparative approaches, inviting contributions that study, for instance, the afterlife of the Imperium Romanum and the Ottoman Empire in modern discourse, the impact of competitive imperialisms from the early modern period to the nineteenth century (Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, British, American imperial expansion), or the various forms of neo-imperialism (U.S.A. and China). By linking ‘post-empire’ to its ‘imaginaries’, we want to stress not only the historical and geographical variability, but also the variety of creative and psychological engagements with the idea of empire. Empire has a concrete material side, connected with administrative practices, bioprospecting, trade, linguistic, cultural, religious, and educational domination, but it is also a site of imaginary social creation, of desire, of fictions.


The three-day conference will feature

·  keynote addresses by Alfred Hiatt, University of London, Donna Landry, University of Kent, and Ann Stoler, New School for Social Research

·  a panel debate on the analytical and prospective responsibilities of literature and culture in concrete histories of empire

·  workshops for teachers of English

·  'under construction’ panels for the discussion of work-in-progress by junior and senior scholars

·  readings


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