CFP — Re-visiting the Black Atlantic: Gender, ‘Race’ and Performance


International Conference

Re-visiting the Black Atlantic: Gender, ‘Race’ and Performance

11 and 12 June 2019, University of Liverpool, UK 

2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Paul Gilroy’s pioneering The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge University Press). This conference aims to commemorate and dialogue with Gilroy’s seminal study, one that continues to serve as a reference point for scholars working on the intersection of the African diaspora, cultural production and issues of identity. The event will foreground the ongoing contribution of Modern Languages to studies of the Black Atlantic, encouraging approaches that privilege linguistic sensitivity and are open to multilingual understandings. Furthermore, this conference aims to build on Gilroy’s ground-breaking study by specifically addressing the issue of gender and female performance, and by extending the focus from the Northern Hemisphere to embrace lesser-explored south-south cultural dialogues and exchanges beyond the Anglophone worlds. The conference will bring together scholars working in Francophone, German, Lusophone and Hispanic Studies, as well as African diaspora studies and Anglophone literary and historical studies, and will advance discussions of the construction and performativity of ‘race’ in a trans-Atlantic context from a comparative perspective. 

Keynote speaker:  Dr. Mónica Moreno Figueroa, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Cambridge.Dr Moreno Figueroa’s research has primarily developed around three areas: the lived experience of ‘race’ and racism; feminist theory and the interconnections between beauty, emotions and racism; visual methodologies and applied research collaborations. She has focussed on Mexico and Latin America more broadly. The interest in researching the ‘qualities’ of the lived experience of racism, has taken her to the study of the everyday, the relevance of emotions and affect, as well as issues around visibility and embodiment. Now she is exploring issues of institutional and structural racism as well as the challenges for anti-racist action in mestizo (racially mixed) contexts. For more details see

The conference programme will include 20-minute papers. We also welcome innovative ideas for panel discussions (maximum three speakers). Please specify which you are applying for in your abstract. We hope to publish a selection of revised conference papers in a peer-reviewed journal or as an edited collection after the conference. Some post-graduate bursaries will be available to cover conference fee, domestic travel and accommodation – please indicate your eligibility in your abstract.

Please send abstracts of between 200 and 300 words to along with a short biography by Monday 14th January, 2019.  

Conference organisers: 

Dr Lisa Shaw, Reader in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool 

Professor Alan Rice, Professor of English and American Studies, Director of the Institute for Black Atlantic Research, University of Central Lancashire 

Adjoa Osei, AHRC-funded PhD student in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool, who is researching how Afro-Brazilian transnational performers participated in, and contributed to, various cosmopolitan intelligentsias and political global circuits, focusing on the period between 1920 and 1940.  

Supported by the Institute of Modern Languages Research’s Regional Conference Grant Scheme

A crisis in ‘coming to terms with the past’?

Call for Papers
A crisis in ‘coming to terms with the past’?  At the crossroads of translation and memory
1-2 February 2019  Senate House, London

Over the past decade, a particular notion of ‘coming to terms with the past’, usually associated with an international liberal consensus, has increasingly been challenged. Growing in strength since the 1980s, this consensus has been underpinned by the idea that difficult historical legacies, displaced into the present, and persisting as patterns of thought, speech and behaviour, needed to be addressed through a range of phenomena such as transitional justice, reconciliation, and the forging of shared narratives to ensure social cohesion and shore up democratic norms. Such official and international memory practices tended to privilege topdown cosmopolitan memory in an attempt to counter the bottom-up, still antagonistic memories associated with supposedly excessive effusions of nationalism. In a context of the global rise of populist nationalisms and of uncertainty linked by some politicians to migration, this tendency is increasingly being challenged, capitalizing on populist memory practices evident since the 1980s and creating what might be seen as a crisis in this liberal approach to ‘coming to terms with the past’. 
Yet rather than rejecting a politics based on such ‘coming to terms’, new political formations have in fact increasingly embraced it: a growing discourse of white resentment and victimhood embodied in the so-called ‘Irish slave myth’, the wide visibility of the ‘History Wars’ controversy in Australia, legislation such as the Polish ‘Holocaust Bill’, or the withdrawal of African states from the International Criminal Court are evidence of the increasing impact of a new politics underpinning memory practices, and reveal the ways in which diverse populist and nationalist movements are mobilizing previous tropes. Moreover, these new memory practices increasingly have their own alternative internationalisms too, reaching across or beyond regions in new transnational formations, even as they seemed to reverse the earlier ‘cosmopolitan’ functions of memorialization.
Scholars have for a time noted a renaissance of these memory politics in various regions, but an interconnected globally-aware account of this shift remains elusive. Building on an ongoing dialogue between two AHRC themes, Care for the Future and Translating Cultures, we aim to bring together the approaches of both translation and memory scholars to reflect on the transnational linkages which held a liberal coming-to-terms paradigm together, and to ask whether this is now in crisis or undergoing significant challenge. The event will reflect also on the ways in which institutions such as museums, tourist sites or other institutions are responding to the emergence of these new paradigms. 

The conference seeks to historicize and chart the translations, networks and circulations which underpin these new memory paradigms of nationalist and/or populist movements across a range of political, cultural and linguistic contexts, welcoming contributions that chart its ideological origins and growth in transnational terms; address the ways it draws on techniques and tropes of former paradigms; analyse its relationship to new ideological formations based on race, nationalism and gender; and chart its current international or transnational formations. 

Scholars might reflect on these themes in terms of:
• Education, museums, memorials and archives; 

• Material cultures;

• Legal, economic and political discourse; 

• Dark tourism and travel; 

• Digital technology;

• Performance, rituals and new heritage practices;

• Actors and agents, e.g. migrants, activists, politicians;

• The growth of transnational networks or the translation of this new challenge, across borders. 
We particularly encourage individual case studies focusing on a range of ethnic, cultural and national themes to foster a truly global and transnational discussion.
The conference is jointly organised by two Arts and Humanities Research Council themes: Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past, which affords an opportunity for researchers to explore the dynamic relationship that exists between past, present, and future through a temporally inflected lens, and Translating Cultures, studying the role of translation in the transmission, interpretation, transformation and sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives.

Proposals of no more than 300 words, and a short CV, should be sent to by 15 November 2018.

Funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are available, but we ask that potential contributors also explore funding opportunities at their home institutions.

Launch of Common Cause report on BME community-university partnerships

The Common Cause project emerged from the AHRC/ESRC ‘Connected Communities’ programme and responds to evident gaps in University/community engagement identified in the Creating Living Knowledge report. Common Cause has allowed also close collaboration with the AHRC ‘Translating Cultures’ theme, a portfolio of now 120 projects exploring the need for research that studies and furthers communication and understanding between, across and within different cultures. Several of those projects – a large grant, Researching Multilingually, that has allowed researchers at the University of Glasgow to work with organisations such as Pan-African Arts Scotland; a partnership between Liverpool Hope University and Milpfest, Indian music and arts organisation – have been key case studies in the work underpinning this report. Much of the work of ‘Translating Cultures’ has focused on the diversity of the UK: working in linguistically superdiverse communities to understand new forms of communication that emerge when over 50 languages are spoken; collaborating with poets and musicians to translate into creative practice research on translation and multilingualism; reflecting on social cohesion, and foregrounding the work on those histories, memories, languages and cultures that are key to understanding how this might be enhanced.

‘Translating Cultures’ reflects in a single thematic programme many of the wider concerns of the Arts and Humanities: across the Arts and Humanities, we deal with diverse histories, often engaging with those of minoritized communities and grappling with the legacies of colonialism and slavery; our disciplines teach and study a range of languages, including increasingly those community languages often marginalized in policy and formal education; we gather and analyse the narratives recounting the experiences – individual and collective – of our fellow citizens; we focus on artistic production, with an increasing interest in community-led projects.

None of this work is possible without connections with a breadth of communities in the UK, including BME communities. We are increasingly understanding the importance of collaboration / co-creation, not only as means to enhance the impact of research but also as a key element of the design of research itself. We still, however, have a long way to go. The Common Cause report is essential reading for all researchers in Arts and Humanities. It does not, however, make for comfortable reading: it is not surprising that this is on occasion a story of deep mistrust, of structural inequalities, of universities operating as unwelcoming and often inaccessible white spaces, of low levels of BME staff amongst faculty, of patchy cultural competence among academics. But it also provides a positive blueprint for the future, with new forms of brokerage and support, identification of new spaces of engagement, suggesting fresh ways of discerning mutual interest and discovering common ground. The report contains clear guidelines on running projects successfully, on communication and relationship building, on recognising community expertise, on having difficult conversations, on working in multiple languages, in short: on changing the university and on changing the ways in which it engages with the communities of the UK in their rich breadth and diversity.

Common Cause outlines the possibility of a more inclusive set of Arts and Humanities research practices, engaging equitably with minority ethnic communities, seeking sustainable ways of working together, harnessing the often-unrealised potential for collaboration and partnerships across the full range of disciplines we represent. The report is essential reading for all researchers, community groups, funders and administrators committed to furthering these goals.

Translating Cultures: French Caribbean History, Literature and Migration

Translating Cultures: French Caribbean History, Literature and Migration
Monday 24 September 2018, 10.15 -17:00, British Library Knowledge Centre
A study day organised in partnership with the AHRC ‘Translating Cultures’ theme, the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library and the Institut français
This study day brings together leading specialists to uncover the rich and diverse cultures of the  French Caribbean and its diaspora. Themes include history, heritage and migration, literature and translation, and visual arts.
Full programme below, and details of registration here:
The study day is organised in the context of the British Library exhibition ‘Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land’.  The exhibition, in the Entrance Hall Gallery, is free to visit and is open from 9.30am:
10.15-10.45         Registration. Tea/Coffee (Dickens Room)
10.45-10.55         Welcome: Janet Zmroczek (Head of European and Americas Collections, British Library)
10.55-11.40        Keynote: H. Adlai Murdoch (Tufts), ‘Introduction to the Francophone Caribbean: a comparative perspective’
11.40-11.45        Break
11.45-12.35        Panel 1: History, heritage and migration
With Sophie Fuggle (Nottingham Trent), Antonia Wimbush (Birmingham), Emily Zobel Marshall (Leeds Beckett) (Chair: Gitanjali Pyndiah)
12.35-13.05         Elizabeth Cooper (British Library) ‘Introduction to the British Library’s current Entrance Hall exhibition ‘Windrush: Songs in a Strange
                                Land’’ (Chair: Phil Hatfield, Eccles Centre, British Library)
13.05-14.00         Lunch. A sandwich lunch will be provided.
14.00-15.00         Panel 2: Francophone Caribbean Literature 
With Jason Allen-Paisant (Leeds), Vanessa Lee (Oxford), Kathryn Batchelor  (Nottingham)
15.00-15.30        Tea/Coffee
15.30-16.30        Jessica Oublié (Author) and Marie-Ange Rousseau (Illustrator): Presentation of the graphic novel Peyi An Nou (‘Our Country’)  (Editions Steinkis) (Chair: Charles Forsdick)
The presentation will be in French and an English version will be supplied.
16.30-17.00        Jean-François Manicom (Acting Curator, International Slavery Museum, Liverpool) ‘Visual arts in the Caribbean’ (TBC)
17.00-18.00        Wine reception sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies
Organisers: Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool/AHRC) and Teresa Vernon (British Library)
The study day is followed by a French Caribbean evening at the Institut français at 19.00.  In partnership with Festival America, the AHRC and the British Library,  this will be an exceptional opportunity to hear Dany Laferrière talk about his writing and in particular ‘The Enigma of the Return’ (MacLehose Press). The talk will be followed by a music session with Guadeloupean drummer Arnaud Dolmen, after an introduction to ‘jazz creole’ from journalist Kevin Le Gendre. Please note that a separate ticket is required for this event:

Workshop report — Refugees in Literature, Film, Art, and Media: Perspectives on the Past and Present

Guest blogpost by Lida Amiri, workshop organizer:

Writing on the Wall festival, Interdisciplinary Workshop and School Reunion “Refugees in Literature, Film, Art, and Media: Perspectives on the Past and Present”

The international workshop, held on 17 May 2018, was not only a major academic and artistic event, but also a key date for the global Afghan Diaspora: two secondary school friends, hitherto deprived of any reunion, met again for the first time. At this interdisciplinary event, part of Liverpool’s annual literary festival, all delegates shared the moment, when Atiq Rahimi and Wali Ahmadi, former students at Lycée Esteqlal, Kabul, saw each other for the first time after approximately 40 years.

Former asylum seeker and current University Liverpool PhD candidate, Lida Amiri, delivered the workshop’s welcome speech, a captivating piece entitled ‘I was a refugee before I was born’. It was appropriate that the event took place at the Kuumba Imani Millenium Centre, where Chief Executive Officer Michelle Charters introduced delegates to the ambitions of this community centre located in one of Liverpool’s most diverse districts. There was further local engagement with asylum seekers through SOLA ARTS, the leading refugee arts organisation on Merseyside, introduced by Managing Director Adele Spiers and Tony Luna, who spoke of their work with individuals who have survived traumatic experiences and also presented their annual festival, FESTIVAL 31. The local STAR group, part of the nation-wide ‘Student Action for Refugees’, was introduced by Deputy Director Emily Crowley, who shared the charity’s ambitions to raise awareness and change the asylum system. The Writing on the Wall co-director Mike Morris underlined the necessary focus on migration as the rationale behind this year’s festival theme ‘Crossing Borders’.

The diversity of disciplines included in the event allowed a dialogue between different contributors, from artists to academic scholars, on the representation of refugees across a variety of media. Internationally acclaimed Franco-Belgian photographer Frédéric Lecloux shared his recent work, in which he revealed the atrocious living conditions of Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar, raising concerns about crimes against humanity amongst this globalized workforce.

The first academic panel chaired by Prof. Charles Forsdick (Liverpool University), included papers by Dr. Dominic Davies (City University, London), Dr. Emma Bond (University of St. Andrews), and PhD candidate Catrin Evans (University of Glasgow), who introduced cultural production beyond literature (comics, performance and digital media), vividly addressing the discrimination and perilous journeys of asylum seekers. In the second academic panel, which was chaired by A/Prof. Wali Ahmadi (University of California, Berkeley), PhD candidate Caterina Scarabicchi (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Dr. Michael Perfect (Liverpool John Moores University) presented their readings of refugee representation in literature. While both panels explored alternative refugees’ experience, embracing a heterogeneity of ethnic groups and religious beliefs, Daniel Trilling responded to academic studies with his experience as an acclaimed investigative journalist. Not only did Trilling detail the in-depth research underpinning his publication Lights in the Distance. Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe, a work that seeks to counter dehumanizing discourses relating to refugees, he also explained the difficulties of reporting against persistently sensationalist storylines in much of the media.

Writer and chairperson of ‘Afghan Community & Cultural Association of Ireland’ Nasruddin Saljuqi offered revealing insights into Afghanistan’s art and literature, which painted the war-torn society in a different light. This overview of the country’s historical and cultural context served as the ideal introduction to the work of Prix Goncourt-winning author and cinéaste Atiq Rahimi. Rahimi delivered the event’s outstanding and moving keynote ‘Ecrire l’exil’ in its original French version, whilst audience members could read along a projected English translation, ‘Writing Exile’, provided by the event organiser, Lida Amiri. In his speech, the award-winning author addressed figuratively, and at times humorously, his journey from Afghanistan to France and its implications for him as an artist.   

In the post-keynote discussion, the audience was able to engage with the author, whose responses were interpreted from French and Dari/Farsi into English by Lida Amiri, who also offered additional cultural information and amusing instances of codeswitching. Part of the final panel was a discussion with Rahimi’s school friend, Wali Ahmadi, who has studied Rahimi’s literary work and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity the panel afforded him to direct his questions on language and creativity at the author personally. This final panel connected a refugee’s journey, characterized by on-going uncertainty of belonging and other profound challenges of living in the diaspora, with the persistent significance of artistic interpretation. Atiq Rahimi responded to audience questions about how being multilingual influences his writing and personal life while also addressing intriguing concerns such as: in which language does a multilingual person dream?


This interdisciplinary workshop was supported by the ‘Student Action for Refugees’ society as part of the 2018 Writing on the Wall festival ‘Crossing Borders’. It was sponsored by the University of Liverpool, the Centre for the Study of International Slavery and the AHRC ‘Translating Cultures’ theme. 

The Leathes report at 100: reassessing a vision for languages

The Leathes report at 100: reassessing a vision for languages

The British Academy, Friday 25 May 2018

Further details, including registration, available here.

The publication in 1918 of ‘Modern studies, being the report of the Committee on the Position of Modern Languages in the Educational System of Great Britain’ marked an important moment in the establishment of Modern Languages as a distinctive discipline in UK Higher Education. Written in the context of the final years of the end of World War I, the report balanced concern about the ‘neglect of Modern Studies’ and advocacy for an ‘ideal of humane learning’ with consideration of the practical measures required to build the specialist study of languages in the aftermath of conflict.

Known subsequently as the ‘Leathes Report’ after its author Sir Stanley Leathes, the document set out a foundational vision for Modern Languages that sought to avoid a number of the traps into which the field would subsequently fall: most notably perhaps, it proposed a unified understanding of the field that avoided the methodological nationalism and chronic extroversion that have often transformed diversity into fragmentation; it sought to articulate a clear disciplinary identity that would allow Modern Languages to operate as an equal alongside a range of other academic fields; and it foregrounded the need for outsider perspectives that would allow Modern Linguists to maintain a sympathetic but never sycophantic relationship to their object of study, avoiding attempts to replicate other methodologically nationalist approaches such as Germanistik or Lettres Modernes.

A century after the publication of Leathes’s report, this workshop seeks to assess the document’s impact, to explore the opportunities inherent in the vision of Modern Languages it outlined, to identify the convergences and divergences between issues raised in 1918 and those we face now, and to reflect on the importance of the questions it raises about the purpose, place and mechanisms of education for Modern Languages now.

Further details, including registration, available here.

Visualizing Toussaint Louverture

In the context of the British Museum exhibition on Toussaint Louverture (open till 22 April), I have published a blog post on the museum site on visual representation of the Haitian revolutionary leader. A fuller version of the text appears below.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, Saint Dominigue (now Haiti) had achieved the status of France’s richest colony. Sugar, coffee, cotton and indigo produced by the enslaved population made a significant contribution to the wealth of France. Although resistance to slavery – through poisoning, infanticide and everyday acts of disruption – had long been widespread, this was brutally policed, and any challenge to the plantation system was violently repressed. The Revolutionary events in France provided the context, however, for more systematic and sustained struggle for emancipation. This was led initially by the free coloured people of Saint-Domingue, whose aim was equality with the colony’s white inhabitants, but these events spread from August 1791 to a wider revolt among the enslaved black population. The events that would become the Haitian Revolution were led by Toussaint Louverture, a formerly enslaved man who would rise to the rank of Governor-General of the colony. Louverture led his armies in a struggle against the British, French and Spanish, and eventually sided with France to abolish slavery – including in the neighbouring Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic), which he occupied to unite the island of Hispaniola.

Louverture’s success riled Napoleon Bonaparte, who sent an expeditionary force in 1801, under the command of his brother-in-law General Charles Leclerc, to re-establish French rule and restore slavery. Louverture was arrested in May 1802, and exiled in France where he died in prison in the Jura in April the following year. Meanwhile, understanding the intentions of Leclerc’s occupying force, Louverture’s general Jean-Jacques Dessalines reignited the revolutionary struggle, defeated the French at the Battle of Vertières in November 1803, and went on to declare Haitian independence on 1 January 1804. Haiti became the first independent black republic in the world, and the second nation in the Western hemisphere (following the USA) to gain its independence in an anti-colonial war. Unlike the American and French Revolutions, however, the struggle in Haiti was motivated by a quest for universal as opposed to selective emancipation. This aim was rooted in an inclusive understanding of human rights that extended to all, and depended on the ending of both colonial hegemony and enslavement. Known in Haiti as the ‘Precursor’, Toussaint Louverture is celebrated widely as the military genius, political strategist and diplomatic tactician who transformed a revolt into a revolution, and laid the foundation for Haitian independence. His world historical achievement served as an inspiration and warning across the Americas, and continues to motivate radical and anti-racist movements throughout the world. He has been widely represented, in the two centuries since his death, in literature and historiography. This blog post provides an overview of his re-figuring in the visual arts.


The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art has recently acquired Lubaina Himid’s Toussaint L’Ouverture, a mixed media portrait of the revolutionary leader from 1987 that uses a collage of words from contemporary newspaper headlines – ‘RACIST’, ‘TORTURE’, ‘ABUSE’ – to underline the contrast between the promise of universal emancipation won by the Haitian Revolution and the persistence of inequalities relating to race and ethnicity in the modern world. ‘The news wouldn’t be news,’ writes the artist in the piece, ‘if you had heard of Toussaint L’Ouverture.’ Inspired in other works by her reading of C.L.R. James’s Black Jacobins, Himid also produced a series of watercolours on the Haitian revolutionary leader, ‘Scenes from the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture’. This is in part a playful domestication of her subject’s life in which, bringing Louverture’s wife into the frame, she asks: ‘but who does the laundry?’ In another piece, ‘What are monuments for? Possible landmarks on the urban map’, Himid subverts conventional city guidebooks by raising a statue of Louverture in Trafalgar Square, using the imagined presence of the revolutionary leader to foreground alternative Black histories of European capitals. Taken together, this is work that not only challenges the silencing of Haiti in British historiography (an amnesia all the more surprising given the key role played by British troops in the struggle against Louverture between 1793 and 1798 in revolutionary Saint-Domingue), but also stresses the continued relevance, for parallel struggles today, of the historic Haitian fight against both slavery and colonial hegemony.

The award of the Turner Prize to Himid in December of last year has brought her oeuvre to the attention of a wider audience, and in the process has increased general awareness of the stories of the Haitian Revolution. It is important to stress, however, that Himid’s representations of Louverture are part of a wider and eclectic catalogue of visual re-figurings that began to be produced – as prints, or frontispieces to early biographies – during the revolutionary’s life time, and then proliferated post mortem as his reputation continued to grow. There are no surviving formal portraits of Louverture, meaning that much commentary on these images focuses on questions of the true likeness of their subject. For instance, illustrations in an account of the Revolution by a British army officer present in Saint-Domingue at the time, by Marcus Rainsford, are often thought to have been drawn from life, but it is the distinctive profile of a lithograph by Maurin, produced thirty years after Louverture’s death and rejected as a likeness by its subject’s surviving son Isaac, that has achieved iconic status. Stories of newly discovered contemporary paintings of the revolutionary leader are not uncommon, but of equal importance for those interested in the afterlives of Louverture are the many visual representations produced subsequently. These range in tone from the parodic to the celebratory, from Cham’s caricatures in Le Punch à Paris in 1850 to much more recent works by Kimathi Donkor, Edouard Duval-Carrié and Ulrick Jean-Pierre.

One of the most striking contributions to this catalogue of representations is Jacob Lawrence’s ‘Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture’, produced in 1938 in the final years of the Harlem Renaissance and in the wake of the U.S. occupation of Haiti. The artist is remembered for a series of painted biographies, including those of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and John Brown, but what is memorable about the original panels of the Louverture series is the way in which they illustrate the continued transnational impact of Haiti in debates about African-American identity. Lawrence describes being inspired by orators on street corners in Harlem invoking the example of Toussaint Louverture, and his forty-one episodes tell the story of a country colonized and of a people enslaved – but also of the inspiring role of the revolutionary leaders in shaping a revolution that culminated in the declaration of Haitian independence by Dessalines on 1 January 1804.

In the context of the wider corpus of visual representation of Louverture, Lawrence’s series arguably plays a pivotal role. It is in dialogue with earlier representations of the Haitian Revolutionary leader, a number of which the artist consulted in the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library (now the Schomberg Center): the striking profile of the Haitian revolutionary in image 20 (currently on display at the British Museum in Room 3) is, for instance, drawn from Maurin’s lithograph, and image 26, a three-quarter portrait of Louverture at the capture of Mirebalois, is reminiscent of the earlier work of Edinburgh artist John Kay from 1802 (Kay’s etching is also on display in Room 3). Yet, at the same time, the adoption by the series of a comic book aesthetic (in terms of formal devices adopted, as well as the sequential narrative it deploys) anticipates subsequent accounts of the Haitian Revolution and the lives of its leaders in bande dessinée and other graphic genres. For in the two centuries since his death, each generation has complemented literary and historiographic re-figurings of Toussaint Louverture – and of the radical implications of the struggle he led – with parallel retranslations of his life and influence into new graphic forms.

Alongside the visual representations of Louverture in the work of leading contemporary artists such as Donkor, Duval-Carrié and Himid, the revolutionary leader is increasingly pictured in popular culture, in the ‘Corpse Talk’ strip by Adam Murphy in issue 152 of The Phoenix, in Drums of Freedom, the visually rich biography of Louverture by the Guyanese comics creator Barrington Braithwaite, and in a new graphic history of the Haitian Revolution by Rocky Cotard and Laurent Dubois. The increasing visibility of Louverture as global revolutionary figure suggests that he is progressively achieving a transcultural iconicity that is perhaps only rivalled by that of Che Guevara; but such ubiquity is accompanied by clear challenges: does it imply the final stage in what David Scott sees as Louverture’s conscription to forms of neo-colonial modernity; or does it contain the residual potential for reignition, in the present, of the Haitian revolutionary’s struggle for universal emancipation and for ‘Liberty and Equality to reign’, not least in Haiti itself?

Charles Forsdick is co-author, with Christian Hogsbjerg, of Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in an Age of Revolution (Pluto, 2017). The biography contains a dossier of recent representations of Louverture, including works by a number of the artists mentioned in this post.

UN International Mother Language Day: Translating Cultures and the Salzburg Statement for a Multilingual World

“In today’s interconnected world, the ability to speak multiple languages and communicate across linguistic divides is a critical skill. Even partial knowledge of more than one language is beneficial. Proficiency in additional languages is a new kind of global literacy. Language learning needs to be expanded for all – young and old.

However, millions of people across the globe are denied the inherent right to maintain, enjoy and develop their languages of identity and community. This injustice needs to be corrected in language policies that support multilingual societies and individuals.”

A statement that urges individuals, corporations, institutions and governments to adopt a multilingual mindset was  launched on UN International Mother Language Day, 21 February, by a team of global thinkers that includes members of “Transnationalizing Modern Languages”, one of the AHRC “Translating Cultures” large grant projects.

Professor of Translation Studies at Cardiff University and “Translating Cultures” CI, Loredana Polezzi, is co-author of ‘The Salzburg Statement’, a call to action penned by a team of international policy makers, industry experts and academics to celebrate and promote language diversity, tackle language discrimination, and develop language policies that advance multilingualism.

Millions of people worldwide are unable to access language learning due to a range of contemporary societal issues that include poverty, lack of education, displacement and geographical location.

There are currently 7,097 languages spoken across the world but almost half of them are due to die out within a few generations. Unfortunately, only a few hundred languages are currently integrated into our global education systems and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

The statement, which is backed by Microsoft and the British Council among others, calls for this to be corrected in a variety of ways. It encourages a revision in policies in order to promote multilingualism positively; active support of language rights, diversity and citizenship in official documentation and public messaging; the tackling of all instances of discrimination associated with language; a recognition of the high linguistic capital of minorities, migrants and refugees; and the vital importance of translation and interpreting to ensure equitable participation in multilingual societies. To achieve this a number of key stakeholders are being targeted. These include teachers, community workers, non-governmental organisations, media, governments, business, and aid and development agencies.

Professor Polezzi said: “Everyone can take action to ensure that the richness and diversity of our languages are safeguarded for future generations. ‘The Salzburg Statement’ is putting multilingualism back on the agenda before it is too late.  We need language policies across society that recognise the importance of language education and support multilingual communities and individuals.”

Professor Polezzi said: “Everyone can take action to ensure that the richness and diversity of our languages are safeguarded for future generations. ‘The Salzburg Statement’ is putting multilingualism back on the agenda before it is too late…”

CFP: Borders and Crossings Conference, 13-16 September 2018, Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, Croatia.

2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the inaugural Borders and Crossings conference held in Derry in 1998.

Subsequent symposia have been held in the following locations:

Brest, 2000

Versailles, 2002

Ankara, 2003

Birmingham, 2004

Palermo, 2006

Nuoro, Sardinia, 2007

Melbourne, 2008

Birmingham, 2012

Liverpool, 2013

Veliko Tarnovo, 2014

Belfast, 2015

Kielce, 2016

Aberystwyth, 2017

I’m delighted to see the Call for Papers for the 2018 conference in Pula, Croatia.

Borders and Crossings Conference, 13-16 September 2018, Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, Croatia.

Conference language: English (with the possibility of panel sessions in Croatian, Italian and German)

Deadline of abstracts: February 20th, 2018

Notification of acceptance: March 10th, 2018

This is our invitation to scholars with an interest in the study of travel, travel writing and tourism, to the 2018 edition of the Borders and Crossings Conference series. The conference will be held in Pula, a city with ancient origins: a town of fugitives, the mythical refuge of the Argonauts, which has been for centuries a perfect stopping point for boats sailing along the eastern coast of the Adriatic from Venice and Trieste to Dalmatia and the Levant. Its great abundance of monuments and the beauty of its bays have often been described in European travel books. Join us and explore one of the most interesting historic cities in Europe and its turbulent history, as well as the nearby Brijuni Islands, a national park and one of the first modern tourist destinations on the Adriatic.

Proposals for 20-minute papers and for panels of 3 speakers are sought from scholars working in all areas of travel and tourism studies, including literary studies, history, geography, art history, translation studies, anthropology, history and media studies. This event is also open to the creative arts, and we are actively seeking expressions of interest from artists, working in any medium, who would like to actively participate in this conference. Paper proposals from any time period or geographic context are warmly welcome, as are proposals by established scholars, early career researchers, graduate students and independent scholars.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Transnational mobility through time and space: trade, pilgrimage, tourism, migrations
  • The origins of tourism and travel culture(s)
  • The Mediterranean as a space of intensive cultural encounters and exchange
  • Development of modern tourist destinations – comparative and transnational perspectives
  • European travellers in Istria and Dalmatia
  • Imperial Eyes – the traveller and the travellee in postcolonial travel writing
  • Travel and/in translation
  • Travels between East and West: crossing borders
  • Travelling in the age of wars and revolutions
  • The city in literature
  • Travel writing and the creation of national and transnational identities
  • Trailing famous travellers: itineraries and cultural routes
  • Travel journalism and multimedia
  • Teaching travel and tourism studies: intercultural competences
  • Travel, travel writing and/in minority languages
  • Travel and environment

Please send proposals of approximately 250 words for a single paper or up to 500 words for a panel proposal, complete with a short bio note and your academic affiliation to Nataša Urošević (, before February 20th 2018.

Information about accommodation and the conference fee will be e-mailed to all potential participants in March. Postgraduate students and unsalaried participants will pay reduced fees.

Reggae Innovation and Sound System Culture

Reggae Innovation and Sound System Culture
MARCH 21st-22nd 2018
Birmingham City University and The University of West Indies are delighted to announce a forthcoming international conference on reggae culture and sound system innovation, and give notice of a forthcoming call for conference papers. Information on submission processes will be published in December. The conference will be hosted in The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire at BCU, with its world-leading concert venues and conference facilities. The conference will also allow you entry to a number of planned reggae events and performances.

Running alongside the Arts Council-funded Let’s Play Vinyl sound system touring exhibition, hosted by Birmingham City University, the conference will engage academics with the wider sound system culture. The exhibition features specially commissioned photographs of a new generation of sound system operators, toasting and ‘build your own’ system workshops, and the opportunity for all ages to play records on a traditional reggae sound system, designed and built for the exhibition.

The Reggae Innovation and Sound System Culture International Conference builds upon recent meetings of the Reggae Research Network (held throughout the UK in 2017), the Bass Culture Research Project and associated events, and the forthcoming Strictly Vinyl Sound System Outernational #4 in January at Goldsmiths, University of London, which aims to establish new approaches to reggae culture research.

This Reggae Innovation conference promises to be a landmark event in reggae culture research, highlighting the music’s subgenres, crossovers, mashups, intersections, and innovations, featuring international academic guests and musicians. The conference will discuss reggae innovation, in particular theoretical and practical expressions of how innovation plays out through music and popular culture.

Collectively, these events mark the first stage of a series of research and external engagement activities to investigate music diversity, cultural innovation, and visualisation. Like this conference, forthcoming events will place the spotlight on music heritage and innovation through a series of workshops and plenary sessions on visual culture, technology, and new collaborations.

We would particularly welcome proposed papers that address the following conference sub-themes:

·      Innovation through heritage, from mento to dancehall .

·      Innovation for heritage beyond dancehall.

·      Reggae musicians and innovation case studies.

·      Reggae, music, and gender.

·      Reggae and the music industry; new forms, new marketing, new audiences.

·      Jamaica and diasporic sonicities.

·       Reggae new music, new media, new technologies.

·      Exploring reggae’s inner and outer spaces and locations.

·      Reggae in and out of popular music studies.

·      Creativity: from theory to practice; methods and processes.

·      Reggae in transition: reinventing reggae- reconfigurations, collaborations, and crossovers.

·      Reggae futures.

We would also welcome presentations made through innovative uses of media, music and technology alongside traditional formats. Presentation proposals from musicians are welcome.

Abstracts for individual or panel presentations of no more than 300 words per presentation, supported by a short biography no longer than 75 words per speaker, should be submitted to the conference organisers for international peer review. Details of the submission processes and deadlines will be published later in December.

Book launch: Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions

Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions

by Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg (Pluto, 2017)

 BOOK LAUNCH, 12 noon, Sunday 1 October 2017

NEWS FROM NOWHERE, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool L1 4HY


 “In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of the black liberty in St. Domingue—it will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.”


 “This exciting new biography of Toussaint Louverture seeks to reclaim him from conservative revisionist interpretations. Inspired by C.L.R. James and informed by the latest research, Forsdick and Hogsbjerg deliver a spirited, nuanced profile of this great revolutionary leader. The book provides a fascinating analysis of the range of reactions to Toussaint, from Wordsworth in 1802 to contemporary comic books and rap.”

Alyssa Sepinwall, California State University San Marcos

Come and join the authors to discuss their new book

Refreshments available

Further details:

Translating Development

A free seminar with the support of the AHRC and the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR)

October 12th, Senate House, London: 1-4

This seminar will provide a forum for translators working in the area of development and NGOs to talk about their work, and discuss the challenges it involves. It will bring key translation studies specialists and trainers into dialogue with practitioners, and will inform broader translation networks about translation in the field of development.

For more information and registration, see:

Brexit, linguaphobia and the politics of multilingualism

Many thanks to Caio Iwan of BBC Cymru Wales for the invitation to write a blogpost for Cymru Fyw on current questions of linguaphobia in the Welsh context and beyond: Y Gymraeg a thwf ‘linguaphobia’. An version in English is available below.

Shortly after the EU referendum, Professor Yaron Matras of the University of Manchester wrote a blogpost on linguaphobia for the Manchester Policy Blog. Discussion below of several of the initial examples of recent political pronouncements on language in the UK are developed from this source.


The politicization – and often demonization – of domestic multilingualism during the 2016 EU referendum campaign is now well documented.

Growing hostility towards those speaking languages other than English was not only evident in widespread verbal abuse and even a series of criminal assaults, but also increasingly present in political discourse.

Already in February 2014, the then UKIP leader Nigel Farage had supplemented his customary xenophobic rhetoric with an attack on audible minorities when he claimed that he felt ‘awkward’ when he could hear no English being spoken while travelling on a train from London to Kent.

In the same year, Farage claimed there were ‘entire areas in our cities where nobody speaks English’, a telling indication of the inability of many in the UK to understand that a national culture does not equate to a single national language, and that – by extension – the richness cultural diversity is invariably accompanied by linguistic diversity.

This ethnolinguistic nationalism that presents the UK as exclusively Anglophone has seeped into the policy sphere, where attention to language in recent years has tended to be informed by a dangerously ideological monolingualism.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles included in December 2012, among his ‘50 ways to save: examples of sensible savings in local government‘, the suggestion that local authorities should no longer provide documents in languages other than English because translation ‘undermined community cohesion and encouraged segregation’. In the same paragraph, provision of translation was linked to ‘ giv[ing] community grants to organisations which promote segregation or division in society’, with the mealy-mouthed proviso that ‘in the constituent nations of the United Kingdom outside England, there are additional legal requirements to translate documents into other native languages of the United Kingdom’ (with the implication that provision in minoritized languages is a legal burden rather than a positive social good).

Two years later, Prime Minister David Cameron similarly saw multilingualism as a threat, claiming in the face of any real evidence that there is a direct correlation between the amount of English spoken by Muslim women in the UK to their likelihood to be resilient ‘against the messages of Daesh’.

Such statements cross party political lines, and were not uncommon under previous Labour governments, with both Tony Blair and David Blunkett being on record for associating ‘Britishness’ with an ability to speak English.

As Farage’s comments about his own feelings of awkwardness make clear, public transport has often been the shared space in which such incidents of linguistic prejudice have occurred.

A widely reported example in June 2016 underlined the complex misconceptions that such incidents often entail.

A passenger on a rail replacement bus between Cardiff and Newport reported shortly before the EU referendum that a Muslim woman talking with her son was told by a stranger that she ‘should really be speaking English’.

Informed by another traveller that the woman was speaking Welsh (and not, as the man clearly assumed, Arabic), the humiliated linguaphobe was left muttering to himself.

This was not, however, an isolated incident.

The result of the EU referendum appears to have legitimated a wave of prejudice against speakers of languages other than English, a tendency of which the Polish community were particular victims, with attacks on cultural centres as well as on individuals.

In several high-profile cases – such as the murder of Arkadiusz Jóźwik in Harlow in August 2016 – it became apparent that belonging to an audible minority was becoming increasingly dangerous, meaning that multilingualism has increasingly been pushed from the private into the public sphere.

What these examples illustrate are the entanglements of the multiple languages spoken in the UK.

The 2001 census in England and Wales provided for the first time detailed evidence of the everyday practice this linguistic variety, revealing the superdiversity increasingly evident in many urban areas.

What is striking in the complex linguistic ecology of 21st-century Britain and Ireland is the juxtaposition of ‘minoritized’ or ‘heritage’ languages – such as Cornish, Scottish Gaelic, Irish or Welsh – with languages associated with more recent migrations from Europe, Africa, Asia or elsewhere.

Research suggests quite clearly that new arrivals to the UK require linguistic support for a relatively short period, and that such provision clearly accelerates social inclusion.

What remains unpalatable for a significant minority of the population is the fact that such inclusion does not imply an adoption of Anglophone monolingualism, but means that many retain the right to a functional bilingualism or multilingualism according to which – as is the case in most other parts of the world – people deploy a repertoire of languages according to the situations in which they find themselves.

The clear prejudice against those speaking languages other than English are increasingly described by the term ‘linguaphobia’.

The concept was first adopted in the 1950s – by analogy with other academic phobias – to suggest a militant monolingualism manifesting itself as a failure in, avoidance of and a hostility towards learning other languages.

Post-Brexit, the concept increasingly describes an ideological phenomenon that judges national belonging in terms of the exclusive use of the English language.

The most prominent media attention in this area has focused on so-called ‘community’ languages, ranging from Arabic to Polish, questioning the right of speakers of languages other than English to express themselves openly in the public sphere, but equally apparent is a parallel hostility to the indigenous languages of the UK.

This is not least evident in ideological monolingualism of recent attacks on Welsh in the English media, seen for instance in a deeply flawed account of bilingual education in The Guardian or a critique of the Welsh language act in The Times.

Such linguaphobia fails to acknowledge the historic multilingualism of the UK, and the associated right of people to be educated in and to live their lives in languages other than English.

It also reflects the persistent failure to see the existence of multiple languages – in schools, in universities, in businesses, in public services – as a social and cultural resource, rather than an impediment to some dangerously reductive monolingual myth of national cohesion.

CFP on Contemporary French Poetic Practice

Nina Parish (University of Bath) and Emma Wagstaff (University of Birmingham) are delighted to invite article proposals for an Autumn 2018 guest-edited special issue of L’Esprit Créateur on the theme of ‘Poetry’s Forms and Transformations’.

The poetic practice of the last twenty years in France takes multiple forms. The definition of poetry is expanding to take account of its porous boundaries with other art forms, practices and genres, whose own boundaries and definitions are also challenged and expanded. This special issue will examine the connections between poetry and other disciplines and creative practices. The volume will not simply propose that poets engage with the work of other practitioners. The AHRC Translating Cultures workshops from which it emerges (see revealed that the relation between poetry and other creative practices produces new artistic forms rather than dialogue, and poetic objects emerge that are more than written texts inspired by other media. Poetry leaves behind the format of the written collection to extend into other domains, and poets reflect on that phenomenon in their texts or in parallel to them, thinking about what other forms and practices do to transform poetry. Among the most recent manifestations of innovative poetic forms are poets’ explorations of the possibilities afforded by digital technologies, not merely to aid the dissemination of their work, but rather radically to transform our understanding of performance, exhibition and publication.

We invite proposals for articles in English that examine contemporary (post-2000) French-language work in which poetic practice engages with other creative practices or disciplines to produce new forms, and would be particularly keen to receive proposals on poetry’s involvement with dance, architecture, or film. We welcome proposals on French-speaking practitioners not based in France as well as on female-authored creative work. Abstracts of around 250 words should be sent to and by 30 September 2017. The deadline for final articles (c. 6000 words) to be submitted will be 31 January 2018.

CFP: 11th Liverpool Travel Seminar: ‘Travel, Text and Image’


‘Travel, Text and Image’: Liverpool, 23rd September, 2017.
The eleventh annual Liverpool Travel Seminar – a collaboration between University of Liverpool, Liverpool Hope University and Liverpool John Moores University.

The Liverpool Travel Seminar is a collaborative and interdisciplinary research forum launched jointly by Liverpool Hope University, the University of Liverpool, and Liverpool John Moores University in 2007. It provides a constructive environment in which colleagues from Liverpool’s universities with interests in travel and travel writing discuss the latest developments in their fields whilst reflecting on possible future directions. The Seminar provides a cross- and inter-disciplinary research infrastructure, permitting cross-institutional dialogue and research collaboration in Liverpool itself. At the same time, it aims to expand national and international networks of scholars working on travel and associated fields.

This year’s symposium – dedicated to ‘Travel, Text and Image’ – will take place on Saturday 23rd September, 2017. The Keynote speaker is photographer Frédéric Lecloux, currently Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the University of Nottingham, who will be speaking about his work including a recent project tracing the travels of Nicolas Bouvier in Nepal.

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers which address the general themes of travel, text and image, including (but certainly not limited to) studies of travel photography, book illustrations, carnets de voyage, cartography, posters and other visual ephemera, rhetorical strategies including ekphrasis, the iconographic potential of the digital… We welcome papers from diverse disciplinary perspectives, exploring a variety of theoretical frameworks, cultural contexts and historical periods.

For further details, please contact the Seminar organisers: Professor Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool;; Dr. Zoe Kinsley (Liverpool Hope University; or Dr. Kate Walchester (Liverpool John Moores University;

Please send abstracts of 300 words and a bio of no more than 60 words by August 18th, 2017.