Seeking Refuge, 23-24 May, 2016

King’s College London

The OED defines ‘refuge’ as “the state of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or difficulty.” As this all-encompassing definition suggests, refuge is a multifarious concept, subject to many interpretations. Conditions of economic, social and political crisis in our contemporary world have, however, rendered achieving ‘refuge’ an ever more elusive state.

Against the backdrop of one of the most significant recent migrant crises in the Middle East, and a new western economic crisis which has put into question the right of owning a house, the condition of homelessness, exile, and the need of refuge have become a prominent topic in our days. The experience of exile is not only experienced in the materiality of losing one’s own home, but it can also become an existential condition which can be manifested, for example, in the experience of domestic abuse of any kind.

This conference focuses on literary expressions and interpretations of crisis, trauma, and seeking refuge. A fundamental human need, the urge to achieve safety is a thematically rich one for literature. Writing itself presents a means of seeking refuge for some; for others, the act of narration is linked to trauma, displacement or a sense of loss or absence. Through the figure of the refugee – not only the political but also the existential refugee -, concepts of borders and spaces are interrogated, and we welcome papers which interrogate the notions of both physical and psychological encounters.

Contributions from postgraduates working on literature, especially from an interdisciplinary perspective are warmly invited to investigate this theme of ‘seeking refuge.’ Abstracts from other disciplines which engage with literature are also welcome. Some topics to address, but not limited to, are the following:

– Endangered spaces, both public and private
– Encounters of literary, geographical and/or political borders between ‘East’ and ‘West’
– Architecture, literature and the condition of homelessness
– Literary genre and form as means of refuge
– Subjectivity, identity and conceptions of the nation
– Mental illness, narratives of trauma and psychological safe havens
– Representations of war and violent conflict
– Literary representations of the figure of the refugee, and reader expectations of refugee literature in the (global) literary marketplace
– Censorship, surveillance, dissent and cyberspace
– Seeking refuge across disciplines

Please send abstracts of no longer than 250 words along with a brief biographical note on the contributor(s) to seekingrefuge2016@gmail.com by February, 15th. Decisions will be communicated by March, 30th.

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