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AUP student taking a photo of the Seine during Orientation.


Travelling Texts and Translated Men: Migration and Postcolonialism across Disciplines

University Room: David T. McGovern Grand Salon (C-104)
Friday, October 14, 2016 - 22:00

Join AUP academics for a transdisciplinary one-day seminar exploring the topical issue of migration as the movement not only of people, but also of cultures, languages, and forms of “knowledge.” Well-known postcolonial scholars Gaurav Desai and Supriya Nair will jointly present the keynote lecture on textual and personal migrations in Africa and the Caribbean.  

This seminar is part of “The Politics of Translation” lecture series organised by the Center for Writers and Translators (Comparative and English Literature Department) of the American University of Paris. It aims to bring together AUP faculty and other scholars, with a special emphasis on recent and ongoing research done by AUP academics. This event thus offers the opportunity to foster intellectual exchange between departments and showcase research done within the AUP community. 

The iconic image of the migrating Trojan refugee-prince Aeneas—leading his little son by the hand and bearing on his back his father, who in turn is entrusted with the Trojan household gods—is perhaps classical antiquity’s most striking illustration of how travelling subjects carry their past and future with them. The statues of the family gods are both material objects and symbols of less tangible practices, reminding us of the rituals, religion, social mores, law, and culture that are being “borne across”—the Latin etymological root of translation—by Aeneas. Aeneas’s wanderings and ultimate foundation of Rome remind us that the Aeneid is too is a travelled text, produced through the transplantation of the Greek language and literary practices onto the Roman context. Contemplating the painting The Enigma of Arrival, V.S. Naipaul imagines a very different experience of translation awaiting a traveller from an “antique ship” who is received by a “native” in a “dangerous classical city.” His experience is one of spatial disorientation, socio-cultural incomprehension, and existential dislocation, mediated by Italian and French surrealism. Migrations of the material and non-material across space and time thus appear as fundamentally interpretative or hermeneutic undertakings. With this premise as its starting-point, this seminar asks: what happens when “texts,” taken in the broadest sense of the term, travel and migrants are translated?

The keynote lecture will be a comparative investigation undertaken through a joint-paper presented by Gaurav Desai (author of Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India and the Afrasian Imagination, 2013) and Supriya Nair (author of Pathologies of Paradise: Caribbean Detours, 2013). Desai and Nair’s co-edited anthology Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism (Rutgers University Press, 2005) has become a key reference and standard classroom text. Drawing from literature, history, philosophy, and politics, their talk will focus on the poetics and politics of migration in the Caribbean and African contexts.    

While colonial and postcolonial dynamics of power and representation will be a privileged focus, diverse approaches, contexts, and disciplines are welcome. This seminar therefore invites papers on the migration of the material and non-material from transdisciplinary perspectives including: 

archival retracing of migration complied by historians work on migration by philosophers, linguists, sociologists, anthropologists, legal experts, political scientists, and economists, among others the relationship between science and travel narratives of travel expressed through art, literature, drama as well as performative and multimedia texts

Deadline: Abstracts of 200-300 words are to be sent to before Monday 6th September. It would be helpful if those who are interested could send a simple confirmation of intention to participate to the same address before Tuesday 31st July.