Borders & Crossings 2022. University of Tartu. CFP

Borders & Crossings: A Transdisciplinary Conference on Travel Writing

University of Tartu

6-8 July 2022

The 2022 edition of the Borders & Crossings conference series acknowledges more than two decades of intense development in the transdisciplinary study of travel writing, which is now a well-established field of research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

The 2022 conference will take part in a unique context: that of a post-Soviet and Nordic country situated in a European geographical, economic and political context. Estonia’s history is marked by successive occupations, which could arguably be considered as a form of travel from the point of view of the occupiers. These occupations have affected travel to and from this area, and generated specific mobility, such as deportation and diaspora. This context brings our attention to restricted travels and the forms of control at work when it comes to travel. Additionally, this conference acknowledges the emergency of the ecological crisis and the pressure that travelling can put on the Earth system. With these considerations in mind, we invite conference participants to reflect on the following themes:

Travel and translation, especially concerning “small languages”

Travel to/from/around the Nordic and Baltic countries

North-north, North-south, East-west interactions

Dominant and vulnerable travellers and travellees

Travel and decolonialization

Slowness and stillness

Familiar places and microspection

Human and nonhuman travels

Travel and the Anthropocene

Travel and nature writing, ecocriticism

Fiction and reality of travel

Digital and proxy travels

Travel and diseases, cure travels and places

Images in transit

Theories of travel and travel writing

Travel and gender/sexuality

Travel journalism, guidebooks and digital media

Craft and practice of travel writing

Heritage, pilgrimage and footsteps travel

The conference will take place at the University of Tartu and is open to postgraduate students, academics, and practitioners (inside or outside academia) interested in travel writing from a broad range of perspectives. With this conference, we wish to insist on the inclusivity of this field of study and practice and welcome proposals from but not restricted to literary studies, travel and tourism studies, media and journalism studies, creative writing, history, politics, sociology, and geography, with a focus on any time period and any geographical context.

Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers or creative pieces, and for 60-minute panels of three speakers or writing workshops. Proposals of approximately 250 words for a paper (up to 600 words for a panel or workshop), accompanied by a short bionote (no longer than 100 words) including your academic affiliation (if applicable), should be sent to: 

(.doc or docx format appreciated) by 1 March 2022. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by 1 April.

Although we wish for all participants to be able to attend the conference in Tartu, we plan for a hybrid conference so that participants unable to travel can still present their paper. A publication following the conference is planned but it will entail re-submitting an article abstract for a special issue in a peer-reviewed journal.

Deadline for abstracts: 1 March

Notification of acceptance: 1 April

Conference dates: 6-8 July


Sara Bédard-Goulet ( & Julia O’Mahony (

Call for Papers: Borders & Crossings conference, University of Kent, 9th-11th September 2021 

Borders and Crossings: an interdisciplinary conference on Travel Writing, 9th-11th September 2021 

 University of Kent, Canterbury, UK 

Call for Papers 

The ‘Borders and Crossings’ international conference series is dedicated to the study of travel writing. It started in Derry in 1998 thanks to the work of Glenn Hooper (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Tim Youngs (Nottingham Trent). In the last two decades, the Borders and Crossing series has witnessed, and been a catalyst for, the growing importance of the field of travel writing across many disciplines in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.  

In September 2021, the Borders and Crossings conference will take place at the University of Kent (Canterbury, UK). This event is open to postgraduate students, academics, and creative practitioners interested in travel writing from a broad range of perspectives, including literary studies; mobility and tourism studies; digital and media studies and creative writing, among others. Proposals for papers are not restricted to a period in time or a geographical context.  

This conference comes at (what we hope will be) the end of a particularly difficult context which affected us all: 2020 brought the world to a halt and was characterised, around the globe, by illness, stillness, quarantine, and restrictions on international travel. The possibilities for (hyper) localised travel and re-engagement with nature have been unexpected side effects of the conditions of ‘lockdown’.  

We particularly welcome studies which address these issues: specifically, explorations of the importance of slowness, stalling, (re)discovery of familiar places, or stillness in travel narratives, as well as papers examining the role of illness, quarantine, isolation, and alternative modes of travel in such narratives. 

Other themes include, but are not limited to: 

  • Digital travels and proxy travels 
  • Travel writing and the senses 
  • Nature writing 
  • Human and animal travels 
  • Travel and diseases 
  • Travel journalism 
  • Travel writing and diversity 
  • Travel writing and climate change 
  • Travel writing and the planet 
  • Theories of travel writing 
  • Pilgrimage 
  • Travel writing and other media (photography, film, painting, etc.) 
  • Travel and travel writing in practice 
  • Travel writing and heritage 
  • Travels to, from, and around Kent & the Thames estuary 

We invite proposals for 20-minutes papers, creative pieces, and 60-minute panels of three speakers. 

Proposals of no more than 250 words for a paper (up to 500 word for a panel), accompanied by a short bio-bibliography, should be sent to the organizers Dr Ben Cocking ( and Dr Mathilde Poizat-Amar ( by the 31th March 2021. Notification of acceptance will be given on the 21st April 2021. 

Studies in Travel Writing special issue: ‘Vertical Travel: Deceleration, Microspection, Confinement’

Guest edited by Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool), Zoe Kinsley (Liverpool Hope University) and Kate Walchester (Liverpool John Moores University)

Travel writing is not exclusively a literature of mobility. The journeying it describes often exists in creative tension with experiences of slowness, immobility and even of confinement. Some travelogues recount (self-)imposed sojourns (e.g. Maria Graham’s Three Months Passed in the Mountains East of  Rome, or Eric Newby’s Love and War in the Apennines) while others , such as those narrating diplomatic journeys (e.g., the Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu), may become accounts of “extended stays”. There is another tradition of travel texts that recount breakdown when the itinerary stalls and grinds to a halt, as travellers (like Victor Segalen, in the midst of his Equipée) are forced to refocus on their immediate surroundings. Other travel writers explore geographically limited lives and spaces, as is exemplified by Patrick Leigh Fermor’s focus on monasticism in A Time to Keep Silence. In a much earlier text, Voyage autour de ma chambre, Xavier de Maistre turns his own confinement into a reason to explore the minutiae of domestic space.

This broad range of texts disrupts the traditionally horizontal axes of travel writing by replacing the customary emphasis on expansive movement through open spaces with a more decelerated or even sessile attention to the proximate and vertical. As such, any spatial and kinetic shift they imply is simultaneously accompanied by a radical adjustment of scale as the panoramic yields to more microscopic forms of engagement. Kris Lackey coined the term ‘vertical travel’ to describe this often unexpectedly close attention to a specific location, a burrowing into topographical or chronological detail that permits new perspectives on the exotic as well as on the everyday. Vertical travellers can be out of place (e.g., Nicolas Bouvier in the Sri Lanka of Le Poisson-Scorpion), but may equally enhance a sense of denizenship and permit close engagement with their own locality in ways that encourage (in the poetry and prose of John Clare, Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals or the travel/nature writing of Jacques Lacarrière) re-enchantment of the ordinary. Vertical travel extends also to the contemporary practice of urban exploration (UrbEx), journeying to heights and depths to gain new perspectives on the cityscape.

Replacing such phenomenological concerns with an attention to the historical and even spectral, William Least HeatMoon coined the term “deep mapping” to designate his exploration of hidden cartographic detail in texts such as PrairyErth. Jean-Didier Urbain describes the practice of “ethnologie de proximité” (proximate ethnography), and in texts such as Scarp, Nick Papadimitriou performs what he calls a “deep topography” that links the practice to contemporary forms of psychogeography. Such journeying is far from being vicarious or disembodied. It is very different, for instance, from the practice of armchair travel exemplified by Huysmans’s Des Esseintes. The imagination and the intellect play a key role, and what Michael Cronin dubs “microspection” can, like the practice of any other form of travel, involve deep introspection. Yet vertical travel is a different form of embodiment, an alternative type of sensory engagement, involving closing in, as opposed to opening out.

We invite proposals of a maximum 500 words for articles that explore the concept of vertical travel and cognate practices. We welcome studies of travel writing from a range of different historical periods and linguistic or cultural traditions. The following list is far from exhaustive, but articles may address the following topics:

  • Travel writing and confinement
  • Travel writing and quarantine
  • Vertical travel and the senses
  • Vertical travel and the histories of place
  • Travel writing, deceleration and pedestrianism
  • Travel writing and nature writing
  • The exotic and the endotic
  • Verticality versus horizontalism

Key dates: submission of abstracts (including 200-word bio-bibliography): 30 September 2020; communication of outcome to potential contributors: 21 October 2020; submission of articles for review: 28 February 2021; where appropriate, submission of revised articles following review: 30 June 2021; publication of special issue: late 2021.

Information for contributors to Studies in Travel Writing is available here:

Please send proposals to:, and

Travel writing in an age of confinement

I am very grateful to the BCLA for their invitation to contribute to the Reflections on Culture in the Age of Confinement. Copy of my response below:

I will not be travelling to Saint Malo this coming Whitsun weekend. Étonnants Voyageurs – due to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in early June 2020 – is yet another casualty of the coronavirus. An event now associated primarily with the quest for une littérature-monde en français, the festival was originally an annual gathering of the ‘grandchildren of Stevenson and Conrad’, seeking out what was initially dubbed une littérature voyageuse.

Étonnants Voyageurs was founded by Michel Le Bris, former Maoist turned nouveau philosophe, much of whose career has been devoted to challenging a perceived asphyxiation of contemporary French-language literature and to exploring ways of breathing new life and creativity into it. In a first movement, predating the turn to world-literature, this activity involved an engagement with travel writing, in the form of neglected earlier texts (ranging from Victor Segalen to Ella Maillart) as well as established and emerging contemporary voices (notably Nicolas Bouvier, Jacques Lacarrière, Kenneth White, Jean-Luc Coatalem…). The formation of a guild identity – male, white, European, with a tendency towards imperialist nostalgia – attracted robust critique, as did the romanticization, even fetishization of what Le Bris dubbed ‘le grand dehors’. The leading sociologist and semiologist of travel Jean-Didier Urbain countered this myth of the great outdoors, offering as it does spaces for solipsistic escapism, with alternative travel practices, more katabatic and urban, focused not on expansiveness but on confinement.

To Le Bris’s agoraphilia, Urbain responded with claustrophilia, i.e., an interest in vertical journeys, in burrowing down into the everyday, in achieving the forms of microspection that would later be analysed so eloquently by scholars such as Michael Cronin. These earlier debates have resonated in recent weeks with my own reflections on travel in our moment of generalized confinement and self-isolation. With even the most modest itineraries now discouraged (or at least strictly limited), we have witnessed radical changes to travel and mobility: a desire for apparently unfettered physical movement has been sublimated into various forms of vicarious travel. Navigating cyberspace, users of social media have re-created and re-lived past journeys, constructed present ones in virtual form, and imagined their possible future routes. Travel writing and travel documentaries have become a privileged proxy space to fulfil a seemingly irrepressible desire to be homo viator, to ‘frotter et limer sa cervelle contre celle d’aultruy’.

There is a need now to understand more clearly the cognitive function of the travelogue as a generator of what narratologists call storyworlds, constructed narrative spaces into which we are drawn as readers or viewers and where alternative modes of travel are still possible. The now burgeoning field of studies in travel writing has encouraged us, over the past three decades or so, to reflect on the extent to which the virtual or the vicarious provides access to other physical worlds, to consider how these modes might function anthropologically as windows on elsewhere or serve instead as mirrors in which we see reflections of our own flaws, taboos and desires. These are questions that take on a renewed urgency in an age of confinement, when the functions of travel narratives are intensified and increasingly applied to previously unimagined contexts.

Yet we might argue that these links between travel writing and confinement have always been apparent, and are not limited to our restricted circumstances as readers. The poetics of the journey have always depended on an interplay of spontaneous notation in the field and retrospective narration on return. It is the latter that links to the forms of sessility and necessary isolation that the travel writer often finds deeply frustrating. The Swiss traveller Ella Maillart repeatedly describes in her diaries and correspondence her loathing of being stuck at a desk while she produces the next travelogue without which she would be able to fund her future journeys. And there are cases where the account of the journey is itself a direct response to confinement. W.G. Sebald, at the opening of The Rings of Saturn, describes being ‘taken into hospitality in Norwich in a state of almost total immobility’, a year to the day after the walking journey through Suffolk he is about to recount. His contact with the outside world is limited to ‘the colourless patch of sky framed in the window’, a grainy photograph of which is included in the text and then woven into the palimpsest of memoryscapes that form the substance of his travelogue. This limitation of the world to what can be seen through a pane of glass resonates, in Sebald’s overactive imagination, with Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, waking ‘transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin’ and condemned to ‘look[ing] out the window at the dull weather’ – but also, as the author of The Rings of Saturn adds: ‘no longer remembering (so Kafka’s narrative goes) the sense of liberation that gazing out of the window had formerly given him’.

With confinement comes metamorphosis, transformations whose nature and extent cannot yet be easily predicted. But such interplay between introversion and extroversion, between seclusion and openness, is also embedded in the journey itself. The work of Nicolas Bouvier makes this amply clear. The Sri Lanka of Le Poisson-Scorpion is recounted by an exhausted, sick narrator for whom the island space is at once one of confinement and expansiveness. Observation of the microscopic detail of the everyday – not least the insects that inhabit Bouvier’s accommodation – leads to hallucinatory journeys in which the experience of geographical distance is complemented by the spectral return of figures from the past. Le Poisson-Scorpion might be read as an extreme form of vertical travel, the type of descent into the detail of place to which Urbain alluded by coining the term claustrophobia. Eschewing the journey’s customary focus on horizontality and expansiveness, the vertical traveller caresses, as Nabokov suggested all writers should, the ‘divine detail’ of the proximate and the everyday. It is perhaps no surprise that Xavier de Maistre’s Voyage autour de ma chambre has, in recent weeks, enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as, deprived of the possibility of physical travel, many have been tempted to become room travellers in our own right. The models for such practices in microscopic travel writing are well established, ranging from Georges Perec’s ludic engagement with the endotic in texts such as Espèces d’espaces to the deep topography of the ‘London Perambulator’ Nick Papadimitriou in a work such as Scarp. In ‘The Parish and the Universe’, the great poet of the Irish everyday Patrick Kavanagh suggests that: ‘To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience. In the world of poetic experience, it is depth that counts, not width.’ Is this the future of travel writing in an age of confinement? A narrowing of focus and accompanying expansion of possibilities that allows us to reconfigure the fundamentals of space and time?

The travelogue writing is a genre that has undergone constant reinvention, is a form that has always foretold the loss of diversity whilst recalibrating the ways we define elsewhere. I have long been wary of the ethics of metaphorizing confinement: these modes of claustrophiliac travel are, of course, nothing new to those rendered physically immobile by disability, imprisonment or other forms of confinement, reliant as a result on the imaginative possibilities of microspection in order to re-enchant or transcend the everyday. It is such practices, however, that remind us that travel writing is not only a means of compensating for our nostalgia for elsewhere, but also a way of seeking new forms of accommodation with the here and now.

17th Borders and Crossings Travel Writing conference, CFP

17th Borders and Crossings Travel Writing conference

University of Sydney, Australia 20-23 July 2020

Conference theme: ‘Travelling differently’


Conference background

The first of the ‘Borders and Crossings’ conferences, a series devoted to the international, interdisciplinary study of travel writing, was organised by Glenn Hooper and Tim Youngs, and held at Magee College, Derry in 1998. Travel literature was at that time far from mainstream as an area of academic research, but the intervening two decades have witnessed a major shift in attitudes towards the genre, with the emergence of dedicated journals, scholarly associations and other academic apparatus associated with the building of a new field. ‘Borders and Crossings’ has played a catalytic role in these processes as it has provided a forum for scholars across a range of disciplines and from a wide variety of national contexts to meet regularly, to explore an increasingly rich corpus of travel writing, and to debate its centrality to the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

In 2020, the Borders and Crossings conference will come to Australia for the second time (the first was at the University of Melbourne in 2008), and will have as its core theme the idea of differences and diversity in means and experiences of travel.

Call for papers: ‘Travelling differently’

The 2020 conference will take part in a unique context: that of a postcolonial yet white-western dominated member of the ‘Anglosphere’, situated in a South-East Asian and Pacific Island geographical, economic and political context. Contemporary Australia, and its founding settlement of Sydney, epitomise borders and crossings. It is founded on different types of travel: forced and chosen, tourism and exile, appropriation and return, movement of ideas and cultures, movement of species and their shifting environments. We thus invite conference participants to reflect on the theme of ‘travelling differently’. Subthemes can include but are not limited to

–          Redefining regions: How have borders changed or are they changing? What makes them more or less porous? What factors impact on who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’?

–          North-north and south-south interactions: Much of our world has been shaped by north-south interactions, but north-north interactions continue to dominate the global cultural conversation at the same time as south-south interactions are emerging as new vehicles for political and cultural exchange.

–          Ideas travelling: how do contemporary shifts in political, economic and cultural power impact on the ways in which ideas travel?

–          Travelling minorities: in countries like Australia, Indigenous people have travelled lands and continents for millennia, but modern societies create new challenges: those of displacement and ‘exile within’. Other racialised minorities, and indeed women and LGBTI populations, also face different challenges in travelling, whether material (personal safety, less access to the means to travel), psychological, cultural or symbolic. 

–          Animals travelling: a country like Australia is well-placed to know how the transport of animals around the globe has impacted on ecosystems, cultures and economies in our Anthropocene age. How do animals feature in travel writing? What symbolic roles do they play?

–          Forced travelling: asylum seekers, Indigenous peoples, and all others displaced due to a range of natural and human-made catastrophes experience travel differently from those who have a choice in the matter. How is their experience documented and imagined?

–          Travelling objects: Humans are collectors—whether purchasers or plunderers—and transporters of things. What do ‘travelling objects’ come to symbolise in the ways we talk and write about travel?

–          Repatriation: Travellers—whether human or inanimate, whether exiled or ‘born displaced’, whether in times of war or times of peace—also experience return, in life and after death. What is the place of repatriation in our cultural narratives?

–          Travelling words: Languages also travel the globe, often becoming means of literary expression as second or third languages of the writers. Words also travel through translation, or travel from orality to page as written forms are developed for traditional languages. How does the language of expression impact on the ways in which we write and read about travel?

–          Travelling images: Our artistic traditions, from visual arts through to performance and cinema, have developed rich hybridities through the travel of styles and models from one culture to another.

–          Virtual travel & proxy travel: in our internet-facilitated age, virtual travel is a reality for many, not only vicarious tourism but also the virtual transnational workplace.

–          Imagined universes: stories of travel lie at the core of science-fiction and fantasy writing. Indeed, one cannot imagine other universes without travelling to them.

–          Philanthropic travelling: our age has seen an explosion of philanthropic travel, and documentation thereof, whether through a growing body of testimony by volunteers working for NGOs or through the ubiquitous imagery of philanthrocapitalists travelling the Third World.  When one is ‘travelling for others’, how does the narrative of travel change?

–          Diseases travelling:  From the plague to cholera to AIDS to H1N1 (the virus that caused the pandemics of Spanish flu in 2018-2019 and swine flu in 2009) to Ebola, the world has experienced its share of pandemics. Travelling diseases become imbricated with the history of peoples, cultures, nations, and have often played central roles in travel writing, whether testimonial or fictional. 

–          Teaching travel writing: why, and how, does one ‘teach’ travel writing? What roles does travel writing play in our curricula, whether in literature, foreign languages, area studies, international studies or history?


Deadline for submission of abstracts: 1 March 2020.

For all enquiries contact Conference Convenor Bronwyn Winter:

Between geopolitics and cultural imagination: the Con Dao archipelago

Between geopolitics and cultural imagination: the Con Dao archipelago

A special thematic section of Island Studies Journal, November 2020

Guest editors: Sophie Fuggle & Kim Phung Dang

Located 230km south of the Vietnamese mainland, the Con Dao archipelago is a small yet highly significant site within the cultural imaginary of Vietnam. Historically, the archipelago was widely acknowledged as a strategic site in the middle of the South China Seas. It was visited by Marco Polo in 1294 and occupied briefly by the British East India company in 1702 (Hayward & Tran, 2014). At multiple points, it functioned as a prison including, most notably, under French colonial occupation during which time it became notorious for its harsh treatment of both political and common-law prisoners. During the American War, the island operated as a camp for political prisoners. Key political figures such as Vietnam’s second president, Ton Duc Thang, spent long periods imprisoned on the island. Today the main island of Con Son possesses multiple sites dedicated to the memorialisation of those imprisoned on the island and the brutality of the French colonial prison system is reimagined as a site of political education and struggle. 

Unlike the larger island of Phu Quoc located on the border with Cambodia, Con Dao does not currently possess the status of a special economic zone. Development of an international tourism sector remains limited yet is also perceived as key to the archipelago’s future economic sustainability. Until very recently, access to the main island, Con Son, was limited to flights from Ho Chi Minh City and slow ferries from Soc Trang and Vung Tau. In February 2019 a new high-speed ferry was launched reducing the journey from Vung Tau to 3½ hours. The impact of this increased access is likely to be significant not only in bringing an increased number of visitors to the island but in shifting the type of visitor. At present the majority of visitors to the island come from the North of Vietnam. Groups of visitors are often comprised of multiple generations of both genders. With the exception of one or two luxury resorts aimed at international, high-end tourism, the majority of accommodation offered on the island consists of small, family-run guesthouses.

Con Dao is also a hotspot for biodiversity conservation in Vietnam (Ringer, 2002). The isolation of the place helps to maintain its appearance as ‘untouched’. Most of Con Son island is managed by Con Dao national park, the second largest marine park in the country, with a total area of about 6,000 ha on land and 14,000 ha at sea (Con Dao National Park, 2019). This is home to 1,077 plant species and 160 mammal species, representing both the endemic forest and marine ecosystems in Vietnam (Con Dao National Park, 2019). Con Dao’s high biodiversity has high implications for Vietnam’s marine conservation because it has recently been recognized by IUCN as an Important Marine Mammal Area-IMMA (MMPATF, 2019). The park is conducting a project to conserve endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) by protecting their 17 laying-egg fields. It is also the only area of Vietnam where there is a population of dugong (Dugong dugon) (Con Dao National Park, 2019). Famous for its heritage and biodiversity, Con Dao can be considered as an archipelago of contrasts. Notorious prisons and cemeteries juxtapose with green forests and marine ecosystems. Visitors are offered tours to both ‘dark’ places and ‘green’ places, and tourism companies are struggling to find the right messages for both dark tourism and ecotourism. On another level, the island’s economic development appears at odds with heritage memorialization and conservation (Hayward & Tran, 2014).

This special section seeks to capture the complex identity of the Con Dao archipelago at a moment when this identity is about to undergo significant transformation. In focusing on a single archipelago, the aim is to foster interdisciplinary approaches to a small and highly contested space. Our intention is to explore the ways in which the archipelago challenges easy binaries often applied to the prison island turned holiday resort. While Con Dao has been described as Southeast Asia’s ‘Devil’s Island’ (Schneider, 2015) due to its use as French colonial prison, the presentation of the site eschews the usual forms of representation and narratives associated with dark tourism found elsewhere. The specific forms of memorial tourism which exceed a straightforward nationalist agenda render straightforward dichotomies of hell-paradise, prison-resort obsolete in this context. Historically, Con Dao has inspired a range of memoirs including those of former prisoners as well as colonial travel writers. More recent scholarly literature on Con Dao has focused on its role within a wider colonial history (Zinoman, 2001) or the tension between conservation and development (Hayward & Tran, 2014). The complexity of the space thus requires further unpacking via a range of disciplinary frameworks which might include but are by no means limited to anthropology, sociology, history, geography, politics, visual and literary cultural studies. We also invite articles which situate Con Dao within comparative perspectives both geographically, considering other islands and archipelagos located off the coast of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, and historically, exploring its role within wider networks of colonial occupation such as France’s use of islands within its system of transportation and deportation. At the same time, articles should consider the significance of engaging critically with the complex space of Con Dao for the wider context of island studies, drawing, where appropriate, on its existing literature and conceptual frameworks.

This special section will be published in November 2020 in Island Studies Journal 15(2), but individual papers will be published online ahead of print as and when the complete the peer review and editorial process. Island Studies Journal (ISJ) is a web-based, freely downloadable, open access, peer reviewed, electronic journal that publishes papers advancing and critiquing the study of issues affecting or involving islands. It is listed and abstracted in Scopus and Web of Science (Social Science Citations Index).

For further information, or if you are interested in submitting a paper, contact guest editor Sophie Fuggle ( Manuscripts should preferably be between 5,000-8,000 words and must be written in excellent English (prepared in accordance with the ISJ submission guidelines:

Submissions should reach Sophie Fuggle by 30 November 2019 at the latest to be considered for this special thematic section (please use the title ‘Special Section on the Con Dao Archipelago’ as the e-mail subject).

CFP: Framing the Penal Colony

REMINDER: Call for Papers – Deadline 30 June 2019

Framing the Penal Colony

22-23 November 2019, Nottingham, UK

Call for Papers

Whether presented as a tabula rasa onto which all the hopes, desires, pathologies and detritus of Empire might be projected, as a brilliant story of nation-state building via a hearty mix of backbreaking labour and genocide, or as an abandoned scarred landscape of failed utopian dreams, the penal colony is a space as much imagined as real. This conference will explore historical and contemporary representations of the penal colony as philosophical concept, political project and geographical imaginary. While direct challenges to existing historiographies are anticipated, the intention is to consider the role of visual culture, maps, photography, cinema, graphic novels/comics, museums in ‘framing’ the penal colony alongside literature, philosophy, politics. If the penal colony is generally considered to belong to the past, its legacy remains in the form of the prison islands and convict labour camps still operative across the globe. What can historical and contemporary representations of the penal colony tell us about its continuing legacy and what opportunities do such representations offer for thinking critically and creatively about our own ‘carceral’ present?

We welcome proposals for papers or panels. Please send 250-word abstracts and a short bio to by 30 June 2019.

The conference is funded by the AHRC as part of the ‘Postcards from the bagne’ project and will be held at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham, UK. The project blog can be visited here:

Offering ‘linguistic hospitality’: an Arabic language workshop

The University of Glasgow and the Islamic University of Gaza (Palestine) invite you to:

Offering ‘linguistic hospitality’: an Arabic language workshop

Who this is for:

the workshop is tailor-made for professionals or volunteers who work with Arabic-speaking people seeking asylum and/or people with refugee status. It will be also of interest to anyone planning to learn Arabic for education or pleasure.​


8th March 2019, 2pm –4pm​


Friends Meeting House​

6 Mount Street ​


M2 5NS ​(Map link:​


Giovanna Fassetta,

Maria Grazia Imperiale

Nihaya Jaber ​

(University of Glasgow, School of Education; UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts)

This workshop will discuss the importance of giving a space to the languages of people seeking asylum/people who have refugee status. Showing respect and appreciation for home languages people bring with them can facilitate integration and promote wellbeing.

During the workshop we will also offer a free Arabic language taster (for beginners) as an example of a refugee language that can be learnt to offer ‘linguistic hospitality’ and to move ‘towards’ someone in their home language. We will also give information on the Online Arabic from Palestine language course that was developed collaboratively by a team based at the University of Glasgow (within the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts) and at the Arabic Center of the Islamic University of Gaza, Palestine.

Tea and coffee will be available. The workshop is free of charge, but places will be limited, so booking is essential. To reserve a place, please write by the  1st of  March to

Lights in the Distance: Migration History on our Shores

Lida Amiri; Madeline Heneghan; Daniel Trilling; Arshad Isakjee; Kathy Burrell; Emy Onuora; Mike Morris (left to right) 

Guest blogpost by Beth Saunders on a recent event supported by the AHRC “Translating Cultures” theme.

On Thursday 11th October, Toxteth library hosted a very important conversation regarding two era-defining issues: migration and Brexit. Appropriately hostedby WoW (Writing on the Wall) as a part of their Black History Month series, journalist Daniel Trilling, social and urban geographer Dr Arshad Isakjee, reader in human geography Dr Cathy Burrell and PhD candidate/author Emy Onuora, joined in a dialogue exploring European migration history. All panellists were in conversation with Lida Amiri, STAR (Student Action for Refugees) member and PhD candidate, who studies literature by translingual authors of Afghanistani origin. The panel discussion covered Trilling’s latest publication Lights in the Distance, Dr Isakjee’s viewpoint on migration and memories, Burrell’s insight into European migration in relation to her recent interviews with Polish migrants and important relevant historical context about black history in Liverpool from Onuora.

What made this discussion even more special was the variety of voices that we heard. Trilling, Onuora and Amiri are, for instance, all first-, second- and third-generation refugees, from Ukraine, Nigeria and Afghanistan respectively. Voices from those with lived experiences and such close connections are necessary to conduct an appropriate and balanced discussion for a topic such as immigration. This balance helped create a more humanitarian-focused dialogue that invites those with lived experience to tell their stories.

One theory that I think is worthy of consideration stems from a humanities point of view. Isakjee voiced an interesting geographical theory that has cropped up time and time again within many international histories. To what extent is it natural that today’s asylum seekers are treated this way? All communities have certain social groups who are used as scapegoats; eventually, they are usually absorbed into what we view as ‘normal society’ and then a new group will arrive and replace the previously excluded. Will those seeking asylum eventually be absorbed as a norm of society or will they always be the scapegoat?

Initially, the event started with a speech from WOW’s co-director Madeline Heneghan, who welcomed the audience. This was followed by the event organiser Lida Amiri, who commenced the panel discussion. The conversation began with Trilling, who spoke at WoW and Amiri’s previous workshop ‘‘Refugees in Literature, Film, Art, and Media’’. Introducing his latest book Lights in the Distance, Trilling discussed his investigation into Europe’s conduct at its borders aimed at recent refugees from African and Asian continents. Trilling read a section of his volume which explained his experience with two asylum seekers in Italy. His contribution to the conversation regarding borders was very important as he had clearly well researched the topic through working closely with asylum seekers and he was able to share their stories in a sensitive and comprehensive manner.

Dr Isakjee, from the University of Liverpool, widened the conversation to identity, belonging, security and the governance of communities. His research focuses specifically on the health conditions of asylum seekers, based on interviews he conducted with those fleeing persecution across Europe. Isakjee explained ‘push back’ techniques used at many of Europe’s borders. This is when state’s governments accept asylum seekers across the border but keep them in conditions worse than the country they have fled from, smashing phones, taking away money and increasing vulnerability in order continually to push them back and away from Europe.

Next to speak was Dr Kathy Burrell, also from the University of Liverpool, who brought to the table the topic of Polish migration after World War II, through which migrants contributed to the British economy. The role of migrants as an invaluable labour force is, as Lida Amiri commented, along established and important part of European history. This was the case, for instance, with cheap labour demands in the 1960s when the Turkish ‘Gastarbeiter’ arrived in Germany. Burrell revealed her findings from interviews with migrants from different countries living in Liverpool according to which feelings of exile can be felt over generations. Lida Amiri asked Dr. Burrell to comment on experiences of post-World War II Polish migration in comparison with recently arrived refugees who are visibly different. This was an interesting angle as the former involved ‘atypical’ migration compared to how the public perceive a post-2000 refugee. This is because this migration originates within Europe rather than extending to Asia and Africa.

Author, historian and doctoral student Emy Onoura’s contribution encouraged the audience to consider immigration as a repeating, almost cyclical, historical process: from the Anglo-Norman conquest, to the Huguenots, to WW2 refugees, the Windrush generation, and to current refugees in today’s media. Across history, immigration has been as common as war, colonial expansion, natural disaster and persecution as the movement of people is a direct consequence of these events. Onoura agreed with Dr Burrell in stating that feelings of exile exist amongst second/ third generations and that many struggle with choices of allegiance.

The questions from the audience were powerful indeed. The first hand that was defiantly fired into the air came from a black female Liverpudlian, who expressed her concern about Brexit and immigration discourse. She told us that she is now scared to walk out onto the streets of acity that she called her home. A city where a group of residents have recently graffitied over and violated a public exhibition which commemorates those many people who died as a result of ‘Fortress Europe’. This in Liverpool – once the international hub for Britain, once one of the largest open borders in the whole world.

The next question was again related to Brexit. The panellists tackled the question of the causes of Britain’s departure from the EU: money versus immigration? It was mutually agreed that Brexit began as a small dispute that has since significantly erupted into an unforgettable piece of national history. Through carrying out research for my recent History degree with the University of Liverpool, where I explored decolonization of the British Empire, independence movements and the effects on the British public, I cannot express to you how deep my concern about Brexit really is. Particularly in this current climate, perhaps it as deep as the freezing cold 21-mile wide English Channel?

Words by Beth Saunders

Former co-president of STAR (Student Action for Refugees) Liverpool

BA in History with Communication and Media, University of Liverpool

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 4th March 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.

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