Afromodernisms 2

What’s really new? Blackness and Atlantic Modernism, 1907–61
Afromodernisms 2
What’s really new? Blackness and Atlantic Modernism, 1907–61
30 June - 2 July 2011

Symposium: University of Liverpool, UK

About the Symposium

Confirmed Keynotes: Professor Tyler Stovall, University of California, Berkeley

Afromodernisms 2 focuses on the relationship between the Afro-Atlantic and the modernist canon. Specifically, the symposium seeks to address the ways in which current configurations of modernism—the art and literature of the new—may be inflected, expanded, or even called into question by either localized or transnational Africanist interventions into the politics and culture of the first half of the twentieth century.

Call for Papers

What constitutes a ‘modernist’ response to the experience of the modern? What categories underpin the aesthetic category ‘modernism’? How might emphasis on black diapora subject positions, representations, and artistic and political interventions, inflect current canonical configurations of modernism? To what extent might black feminist positions revise or even reject the totalizing tendencies of the male voice in canonical works of black modernism, for example, Négritude?

Themes and Topics

The aims of the conference are the following:
  • to debate the tenets of modernism (its newness, breaks with tradition, interest in the exotic and the primitive, its sense of fragmentation and displacement, and the way it conceives of the individual subject) in two contexts: first in terms of the work produced by African diaspora artists and writers; second, in relation to the symbolic presence of representations of blackness in the work of Anglo-American, Caribbean and European modernists.
  • to consider the degree to which a variety of actors operating from what might be termed ‘alternative’ or ‘displaced’ metropoles interacted to produce, in Jameson’s terms, an ‘active sense’ of the history of modernity, one in which a black presence was of key aesthetic, political and cultural importance.
  • to expand Perry Anderson’s claim, directed primarily at European modernist movements, that one of the indispensible co-ordinates for locating modernism is its ‘proximity to social revolution,’ to include a range of Afro-Atlantic revolutionary positions. We therefore welcome papers that consider the range of anti-colonial and/or feminist responses to the experience of modernity operating across the Atlantic in the inter- and post-war years.
  • to reconsider the emergence of literary and artistic avant-gardes in the context of black anti-colonial, feminist, and (pan)nationalist movements, the two world wars, and, in the interwar period, against the backdrop of fascism and communism.
Individual papers and proposals for panels, in English, are invited, addressing, but not limited to the following circumatlantic themes:
  • Gender
  • Black performance/performance of blackness
  • blackness and/in visual art
  • modernism and primitivism
  • modernist landscapes and/or the city
  • science, technology and the machine
  • narrative, subjectivity, psychoanalysis
  • the politics of history
  • blackness and genre
  • island modernisms (e.g. Antillean, Irish, Cape Verdian)
  • tradition and experimentation
  • modernism, politics and the metropole (Paris, London, Mexico, Dublin, Marseille, Berlin, Hamburg, Moscow, DC, New York)
  • modernist soundscapes
  • black writers/artists in/and Europe
  • modernism and ideology
  • modernism and the canon, including the Harlem Renaissance, Négritude, and Paris Noir
  • formal innovation/ the language of modernism
  • informal networks
  • the work of ‘high’ and not-so-high modernists, for example, Eliot,
  • Faulkner, McKay, Beckett, Pound, Stevens, Williams, Hughes,  Joyce, Hurston
  • responses to revolution: Easter 1916, November 1918, Spain 1936


For individual papers, please send a working title, abstract of 250–350 words, and a biographical note to: Fionnghuala Sweeney: fsweeney@liv.ac.uk or Kate Marsh: clmarsh@liv.ac.uk

Proposal for panels should contain a panel title, working titles for individual papers, with individual abstracts of 250 words each, and brief biographical notes on the chair and/or speakers to: Fionnghuala Sweeney: fsweeney@liv.ac.uk or Kate Marsh: clmarsh@liv.ac.uk.

Proposals on teaching and curating are also welcomed, as are offers to act as chair or respondent.

Deadline for Submissions: 11 April, 2011.