Current and Upcoming

Call for Papers: Literature and International Law Conference

June 15, 2020 - June 16, 2020
8:30 AM - 5:00 AM
Columbia Global Centers Nairobi, Westcom Point, 8th Fl, Block A, Mahiga Mairu Ave, Off Waiyaki Way

The past decade has seen a steady increase in interdisciplinary scholarship interested in the relationships between literature and international law. Much of this scholarship has remained deeply rooted in the home disciplines of the scholars, who not only operate with the prevailing assumptions and methodologies of those disciplines, but also tend to treat the other disciplines as stable and unproblematic. Moreover, while claiming to tell a global history, that scholarship largely repeats the Eurocentric bias that has historically characterized the fields of comparative literature and international law. In fact, much of the new scholarship on comparative literature and international law not only fails to take account of imperialism and its histories in the formation of disciplinary knowledge, it also tends to marginalize events and thinkers in the global south (including the south in the north), ignoring their roles as actors and agents of literary and legal world-making. In doing so, this new scholarship seems to be replicating the traditional prejudices of its contributing disciplines.

Over the past two years, a group of scholars from multiple disciplines and locations have been engaged in a conversation exploring the imbrications of literature and international law at the edges, and doing so in a manner that seeks to avoid these basic disciplinary blindness and Eurocentric assumptions and places the Global South at the center of their discussions. The conversation began at a workshop in New York in December 2019, and then was re-convened at a follow-up event in London in July 2019. The third and final such meeting will take place 15-16 June, 2020 at the Columbia Global Center in Nairobi, Kenya.

We would like to invite scholars from across disciplines interested in taking part in this conversation, including those who participated at the previous meetings in New York and London, to submit short proposals for papers to join us in Nairobi for a two-day Symposium. In particular, we are seeking proposals that:

  • Explore interdisciplinary interfaces among literary, historical, and legal studies, and from positions of geo-historical marginalization across the Global South.
  • Address the intersections between particular texts of “world literature” and Third World Approaches to International Law.
  • Map the theoretical and historical relationships between comparative literature and international law as world-making, world-imagining, and world-governing regimes; and consider how literature might be used to map radical alternatives to these regimes.
  • Trace the historical global flows of knowledge at the “margins” of world literary and legal space that have been overlooked in the canonical and narrow focus of the separate disciplines, as well as new flows of global knowledge among the disciplines and across (and about) the Global South.
  • Consider how the basic assumptions and doctrines of international law and comparative literature (e.g., sovereignty, self-determination, territoriality, equality of states, ethno-cultural nationalism, national languages, and rights to natural and cultural resources) were worked out historically in the Global South.

Please email proposals/abstracts and short CV to by 1 March 2020. Limited funding is available to assist scholars from the Global South with travel costs.