Postcolonial Discourse, Ethnicity, and Race in the United States: Past and Present

Postcolonial Discourse, Ethnicity, and Race in the United States: Past and Present

University of Warsaw
Institute of English Studies
May 13-14, 2010

We are proud to announce a conference that addresses the topic of a dialogue between the discourse(s) on postcolonialism and ethnicity/race in the United States. Our special key-note speaker is Professor Gerald Vizenor.

If the 1950s witnessed the forging of a link between anti-colonial struggles world-wide and ethnic movements in the United States, intellectuals of later decades have challenged what they perceived to be a simple way of relating race and ethnicity to the global postcolonialism. Nowadays scholars from various ethnic groups in the United States either suppress commonalities between postcolonialism and ethnicity/race or enthusiastically endorse postcolonial studies as offering a useful paradigm to discuss political dominance, victimization and resistance to hegemonic power.

Enthusiasts argue that post-colonial discourse provides a way out of American exceptionalism, encourages seeing parallels in the world outside the United States and leads to the strengthening of global solidarity, coalition building and comparative research. They point out that both postcolonial and ethnic studies have resorted to similar concepts such as double-consciousness, multiple identities, hybridity and/or contamination, and a “third space” that is neither essentialist, nationalist culture zone nor assimilation. Enthusiasts frequently use postcolonial studies to theorize the cultural space of exchange and resistance between the centre and the periphery, and among different ethnic groups.

Skeptics point out that applying postcolonial discourse in ethnic studies may lead to reductionism and offer a faulty perspective on ethnic identity. They warn against the danger of a hasty enunciation of the end of ethnicity in an inexorable victory of hybridity and point out that a principled rejection of ethnic difference, congruent with a post-ethnic paradigm, is at odds with an everyday practice in which racial and ethnic differences still matter.

We welcome submissions from the field of American Studies, thus encourage presentations which would use insight from political social, religious, cultural, media and literary studies. We invite papers that refer both to earlier historical periods and those that are interested in diagnosing the present moment. Theoretical analyses and case studies are equally welcome.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Postcolonial and ethnic identities
  • Postcolonialism and ethnic histories
  • Re-writing national narratives
  • Postcolonialism and/or ethnic criticism
  • The problematics of the term “post-colonialism”
  • Diaspora spaces and communities
  • Nationalism/transnationalism/tribalism/sovereignty
  • Domestic and (neo)colonial violence
  • Decolonization and resistance
  • Resistance to (neo)colonial discourse (law, politics, economy, medicine)
  • Postcolonial bodies
  • Border studies

Please send an abstract of 400 words, by 30 January 2010, to Dr. Ewa Luczak at e.b.luczak@uw.edu.pl or Dr. Joanna Ziarkowska at j.ziarkowska@uw.edu.pl

Full conference fee: 50 EURO
Postgraduate conference fee: 40 EURO – Limited places available

A selection of the conference papers will be published in a collection edited by the conference organizers.