Call for Papers: Migration, Modernist Studies Association’s Annual Conference. Chicago, 4-7 November 2021

The city of Chicago was a major destination of the Great Migration, the mass exodus of African Americans from the Jim Crow South to the industrial centers of the North from 1916-1970. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election and ensuing developments in U.S. immigration policy, Chicago has been declared a sanctuary city for migrants and asylum-seekers. The MSA 2021 conference on Migration in Chicago aims to highlight the creativity, energy, and inspiration that the Great Migration brought to the city’s modernist culture, but also the racialized discrimination and persecution that confronted African American migrants in Chicago and other northern and western destinations. In addition to domestic migration, the conference invites new work on the making of the American city by waves of immigrants from Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa—in the case of Chicago, from the trading post of founding settler Jean Baptiste Point du Sable to the city’s famous lakefront skyline and its world-class museums, universities, libraries, concert halls, theatres, and jazz and blues clubs. To accompany the conference the Newberry Library has scheduled an exhibition, “Chicago Avant-Garde,” curated by Liesl Olson, which will showcase the radical experimental culture that emerged in Chicago across a range of artistic media during the first half of the twentieth century, focusing on the contributions of women to this cultural efflorescence.

MSA 2021 will take place in the historic Drake Hotel, located on Chicago’s beautiful lakeshore near many of the city’s attractions and safe, convenient public transportation for destinations further afield. Renamed “The Drayton,” the Drake inspired an early scene in Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing in which two mixed race women, both passing as white, risk exposure and expulsion by taking tea on the Drake’s whites-only roof terrace. This terrace is now long gone, along with the segregation rules that limited its clientele to whites. But the racialized discrimination dramatized in Passing, which shaped Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods, persists in downtown Chicago amidst the glamorous stores of the Magnificent Mile and the city’s vibrant restaurant scene, itself a beneficiary of migration. Though we chose the Migration theme and the Chicago venue long before the pandemic, the many interrelated crises of 2020 make it abundantly clear that the history of migration is far from past but profoundly shapes the present and future of American cities.

Participants are invited to understand migration as a capacious term, enabling new conversations about the Great Migration, migration from abroad, the current global migration crisis, and the impact of these demographic movements on modernist innovation in literature, drama, music, art, architecture, and design in the twentieth- and twentieth-first centuries. Taken metaphorically, the theme of migration also embraces translation, transmission, transmediality, transnationalism, transgenderism, transraciality, and transference—the “carrying across” in all senses that the Greek root of meta-phor suggests.

The full call for papers is available at the conference website, where you can find the instructions and the deadlines for submitting proposals in different formats for participating in the conference.

  • Individual Paper Proposals for MSA Panel Streams, deadline: 9 April 2021
  • Panel Proposals, deadline: 9 April 2021
  • Roundtable Proposals, deadline: 9 April 9, 2021
  • Workshop Proposals, deadline: 23 April 23, 2021
  • Digital Exhibits and Posters, deadline: 23 April 23, 2021

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