Call for Papers—Special Issue of American Literature: New Citizenship Studies
Citizenship remains one of the most pervasive and contested terms in literary and cultural studies. It has been both idealized as the remedy for the struggles of the disenfranchised and challenged as an exclusionary model of belonging built on structural inequalities and subjection. In reassessments of citizenship beginning in the 1990s, Lauren Berlant, Michael Warner, David Kazanjian, and others show how the abstractness of universalist formulations of citizenship masks the nation-state’s grounding in white heteropatriarchy. Work by Saidiya Hartman, Edlie Wong, and others has unsettled the association between citizenship and freedom by excavating the afterlives of enslavement, the failures of Reconstruction, and the forms of subjection that fetter formally free individuals, often through the mechanisms of citizenship and the language of rights. This disenchantment with formal citizenship has led some critics to abandon the concept as irredeemable, but it also has opened up new ways of theorizing citizenship. In the past few years, Audra Simpson, Martha Jones, Koritha Mitchell, and others have begun retheorizing citizenship from the perspectives and practices of those whom the state routinely refuses to recognize or protect. This work across the humanities presages a new citizenship studies that approaches citizenship as fundamentally vexed—a question to be asked and work to be done, rather than a destination to be reached.
Building on our own work (Hyde and Spires) and other recent scholarship that takes citizenship as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, this special issue of American Literature formalizes a “new citizenship studies” that centers the voices, practices, and expressive cultures that legalistic understandings of citizenship tend to marginalize. Law-centered accounts of citizenship often treat literature (broadly conceived) as a response to and protest against the state. This approach celebrates literature’s revisionist power, but it also privileges the law as the primary source of citizenship’s meanings. This special issue begins with the premise that an approach to citizenship grounded in literary and cultural studies can offer new insight into citizenship’s past, present, and future. This methodology is all the more urgent today.How, for example, have literature, art, print culture, and material practices helped to shape broad social, cultural, and legal assumptions about citizenship? What new methods and stories emerge when we move beyond the traditional focus on normative white heteropatriarchal logics? How can literature and the arts help us orient or destabilize current debates around immigration, Indigenous sovereignty, mass incarceration, and policing? How have artists understood and mobilized their work as spaces for imagining belonging or refusal?
From David Walker’s Appeal (1829) and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (2014) to battles around voting rights, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and Black Lives Matter, people continue theorizing new models of citizenship even as they criticize its exclusionary history. In this spirit, this special issue takes citizenship less as a stable category or guarantor of rights and more as a contested terrain through which access, privilege, and resources are navigated. We welcome essays that examine citizenship through a variety of methodological and conceptual approaches, including but not limited to Indigenous studies; critical race studies; gender, sexuality, and trans studies; Black studies; Latinx studies; ethnic studies; Caribbean studies; queer theory and queer of color critique; Afropessimism; environmental studies; postcolonial and decolonial studies; and disability studies.
Topics might include:
· Literature’s role in creating and influencing models of citizenship within and beyond the state
· Civic practices and aesthetics of formally and informally disenfranchised groups
· Alternative frameworks to citizenship (e.g., kinship, personhood, subjecthood, sovereignty)
· Citizenship and borders (e.g., migration, enslavement, removal, statelessness, documentation)
· Citizenship’s forms (e.g., novel, poetry, conventions)
· Citizenship’s performances (e.g., activism, theater, affect, spectacle)
· Citizenship’s entanglements (e.g., settler colonialism, racism, sexism, property, biopolitics, white supremacy)
Submissions of 11,000 words or less (including endnotes and references) should be submitted electronically at www.editorialmanager.com/al by June 9, 2022. When choosing a submission type, select “Submission-Special Issue-Citizenship.” For assistance with the submission process, please contact the office of American Literature at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-684-3396. For inquiries about the content of the issue, please contact the coeditors: Carrie Hyde (email@example.com) and Derrick R. Spires (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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