Di 15 Jun 2021

CFP Comparative Approaches to the Prison Literatures of the Middle East, North Africa, and their Diasporas

Special Issue of CLC Web (Comparative Literature and Culture)

Anne-Marie McManus, Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin, Germany
Brahim El Guabli, Williams College, MA, USA

Link to the CFP

It is rare that a transnational field of literary inquiry brings together survivors, professional writers, activists, translators, and scholars as prison literature does. This special issue of CLC Web invites contributions that explore the implicit comparative dimensions of prison literature as a genre and as literary-political praxis. On one hand, prison literature frequently situates its narratives vis-à-vis standards of justice and human rights that are both abstract and tangibly, although unevenly, enforced across the world. Although prison literature has long existed, its forceful emergence since the late twentieth century results from the convergence of human rights activisms both local and global in scope. These considerations open the genre to questions of circulation and translation (El Guabli 2020), and feminist agency (Slyomovics, 2005; Hachad, 2019). Moreover, comparison has taken on new meaning in the past decade, which has seen the migration of survivors and cultural actors into exile. Europe has become a core context for navigating memories of the Arab Uprisings – both their promises of change and traumatic experiences of mass incarceration, disappearance, and torture. With court cases ongoing in Germany against Syrian jailers, prison memoirs have entered media discussions of evidence and “universal” justice and become invaluable sources of knowledge about state violence. This special issue invites scholars to explore the comparative and translational dynamics of prison literature in these new diasporic contexts: in relation to the prison memory of new host nations, across generations of diasporic communities, and/or in contact with other diasporic groups.

On the other hand, prison narratives suggest modes of comparison within their poetics and prose, frequently through references to, even translations of, other prison literatures and contexts. These instances of drawing connections may suggest the formation of living archives, where prison literature passes down knowledge and experience to today’s revolutionaries (Sayed, 2012). They may also craft transnational, transregional, or global imaginaries of solidarity through the experience of incarceration – and its writing. Middle Eastern and Maghrebi prison literatures confirm that modern incarceration and prisons have been central to both authoritarianism and revolt in the region, and have given rise to distinctive, frequently transnational literary practices of memory and dissent. In today’s diaspora, activists and authors compare regional experiences and systems of incarceration to other global sites to make them legible within new host communities. While tracking such practices, how might scholarly readings of prison literature maintain critical vigilance to the genre’s reception, guarding against prison literature’s uptake as a spectacle of distant suffering (Rodríguez 2002)?

This interdisciplinary special issue of CLC Web invites scholars, survivors, writers, activists, and/or translators to center – in method, imagination, and/or political urgency – comparative narrations, geographies, politics, and histories of imprisonment in the Middle East and North Africa. The special issue encourages discussions of global solidarities and/for Middle Eastern carcerality, theories of South/South or South/North solidarities, and translations of carceral concepts across language and context. As an upsurge in prison literatures from the region since 2011 has attested, carcerality is enmeshed in broader social and political formations of neoliberal capitalism, interstate rendition programs, and authoritarianism. Therefore, novel attempts to understand political detention and imprisonment in light of the global prison abolitionist movement, prison pedagogies, and banishment and exile are also welcome.

We invite original contributions with abstracts of 250 words, a 100 word bio, and 5 keywords by December 31st, 2021; and full articles of 5000-8000 words, or critical reviews of 3000 words, by June 30th 2022.

Please contact special issue editors Dr. Anne-Marie McManus [mcan@trafo-berlin.de] and Dr. Brahim el Guabli [be2@williams.edu] with abstracts and questions.

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