CfP/CfA Veranstaltungen

Voicing ‘the Other’: Literatures Between and Beyond Appreciation and (Re-)Appropriation (ACLA seminar)

Deadline Abstract

Debates about cultural appropriation are omnipresent. Although they seem to revolve more often around music and fashion, questions such as “who has the right to write about whom and/or in what way?” are also being raised in relation to literature. While the hashtag #OwnVoices promotes books whose authors and protagonists share the same marginalized identity, it could also be argued that fiction is fiction and that it should be irrelevant who writes it, as long as it is good. However, “‘[n]o stories belong to anyone,’ may be true in spirit – in law and capital it is quite another matter. Ideas and practices and art and appearances accrue value the whiter they become, the whiter they are perceived as being all along” (Jackson:170).

Unsurprisingly, white appropriations of BIPOC characters have a long history, beginning in early modern European theater and extending far beyond Shakespeare and anglophone literature. Although world literature such as Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes and Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin undoubtedly(re-)produced exoticist and racist stereotypes, they can also be credited with giving BIPOC narrative agency or painting a critical portrait of the white majority societies of their time.

The literary representation of whiteness by BIPOC authors is a more recent phenomenon. By the 1940/50s, several texts by African American authors, including Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, and James Baldwin, focused almost exclusively on white characters. Many of these works fell into obscurity because they pose a challenge “to traditional conceptions of the African American literary canon” (Li). Outside of U.S. literature, there is surprisingly little research on the representation of whiteness in BIPOC’s literary imagination.

In light of ongoing debates on the topic, I propose a nuanced, text-based discussion of such literatures that transcend racial and cultural boundaries. This discussion is informed both by contemporary examples of literary appropriation – such as Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt, THiLO’s Der junge Häuptling Winnetou based on Karl May, or Bílej kůň, žlutej drak written by Jan Cempírek under the guise of a female Vietnamese-Czech author named Lan Pham Thi – as well as the surge of novels by authors of color exploring racism and identity politics through white characters, who sometimes engage in cultural appropriation or claim to be ‘transracial’, as in Mithu Sanyal’s Identitti and Chinelo Okparanta’s Harry Sylvester Bird. These examples raise the question: What exactly makes “voicing ‘the Other’” an act of appreciation or (re-)appropriation? Are the primary factors the (non-)correspondence of the authors’ and protagonists’ identities and unequal power relations or are there also textual markers? With the aim of initiating an interdisciplinary and comparatist dialogue, I invite papers that explore these and related questions through literary texts – old as well as new, from all genres and cultural contexts.

The panel will take place at the ACLA Annual Meeting in Chicago from 16-19 March 2023.

Please submit your abstract via the ACLA website no later than 31st October: The portal opens on 1st October.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the organizer: Sandra Folie (

Quelle der Beschreibung: Information des Anbieters


Postkoloniale Literaturtheorie, World Literature/Weltliteratur, Interdisziplinarität, Literatur und Kulturwissenschaften/Cultural Studies, Prosa allgemein
Critical Whiteness Studies / Kritische Weißseinsforschung


Übergeordnete Links



Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena (FSU)
Institut für Germanistische Literaturwissenschaft
Lehrstuhl Neuere Deutsche Literatur, Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft


Fürstengraben 18
07743 Jena
Beitrag von: Sandra Folie
Datum der Veröffentlichung: 26.09.2022
Letzte Änderung: 26.09.2022