Call for Papers: Black Lives Matter and Modernist Studies

Content warning: police brutality

Modernist studies has been slow to respond to urgent calls for reform within white-dominated higher education: to decolonise, to diversify, to include. 2020 has witnessed the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the shooting of Jacob Blake and so many more, which have sparked a global sense of urgency in the fight against racial injustice. Modernist studies must acknowledge and examine white modernism’s difficult history of racism, and align itself with the Black Lives Matter movement and active anti-racism work within higher education. These imperatives are not new: students, educators and activists have been calling for decolonisation, diversification and inclusion in the academy for decades. 

We at BAMS recognise that more needs to be done to counter the whiteness of academia and of modernism studies. With this in mind, we at the Modernist Review would like to share this Call for Papers for a special issue on Black modernist studies. The concerns of this CfP are not confined to one month of TMR; this issue is part of a larger movement within modernist studies and higher education. We at TMR recognise the institutional racism embedded within academia that we, the editors, have benefitted from. As set out in BAMS’ recent statement on Black Lives Matter, we are committed to doing more: compiling resources lists, addressing how TMR operates, listening to and acting on ways to ensure that we have structural inclusivity. We stand with our American friends striking on the 8th and 9th of September as part of #Scholarstrike. We hear the #BlackintheIvory stories of institutional racism in the academy. We recognise that we need to do more.

White modernism has a history of colonial exploitation, racism and cultural appropriation. The 2015-2019 AHRC funded project Black Artists and Modernism highlighted the number of Black voices, artworks and ‘hidden histories’ that exist in archives, but have been excluded from modernism’s narratives. This special issue on Black modernist studies aims to further explore and highlight the work of Black writers, artists, thinkers and scholars in the making of modernism, and examine the state of modernist studies and the way modernism is read and taught today. We welcome articles, reviews, creative responses, personal reflections and more on topics including but not limited to: 

  • Black modernist writers and artists
  • Black Lives Matter, modernism and research practices
  • Black Lives Matter in the (modernist) classroom
  • Postcolonial theory in/and modernist studies
  • Global modernisms
  • Black modernist critics and scholars
  • Diversity and inclusivity in modernist studies and higher education
  • Modernist canons and structures of oppression
  • The Harlem Renaissance
  • Modernisms in/and the Global South
  • Intersections of race with class, gender, and nationality
  • Complaint and protest in modernist studies
  • Black Lives Matter and the imperative to decolonise modernist studies

Articles should be around 1,000 words in length, though we are happy to negotiate and discuss word counts, particularly in relation to creative responses. Our full submission guidelines can be found here. Please send an abstract of no more than 200 words to tmr@bams.ac.uk, along with a short bio, by 23rd September 2020. On acceptance of an abstract, the deadline for submissions will be 21st October 2020. 

We particularly extend this CfP to Black and BAME members of our community, and encourage educators and supervisors to pass this to their Black and BAME students.

We look forward to reading your abstracts.

Best wishes, 

Bryony, Polly, Josh & Cécile

Image credit: Aaron Douglas, ‘From Slavery through Reconstruction’, 1934

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