International Conference

20-21 February 2017, WWU Münster

Since political theorists Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman observed a “return of the citizen”, an “explosion of interest in the concept of citizenship” in the political and social sciences in 1994, the concept has been heatedly debated as a tool of critical analysis not only in the social sciences but also – and increasingly so – in literary and cultural studies. In contrast to political theory, we might however speak not so much of a ‘return’ of the citizen in literary and cultural studies, but of an arrival of the citizen and of citizenship in the early 2000s: Questions of representing and reconceptualizing the relationship between individuals, groups, and the nation (as well as the nation state) found citizenship increasingly a productive term to negotiate questions of belonging, affiliations and membership and to reflect on the ways in which literatures negotiate, question, envision, or deconstruct notions of citizenship in a variety of historical and geographical contexts.

This conference takes this ongoing debate as a starting point for a reflection on the past, present, and future of citizenship both in literature and in literary studies. By bringing together scholars well established in literary citizenship studies and related fields such as law-and-literature, diaspora studies, literature and nation, and literary sovereignty, it will provide a platform for critically exploring potential future trajectories, both thematically and with regard to ‘citizenship’ as a concern for literary studies. Thematically, it looks at the role and function of citizenship in literature – as a topic, as a metaphor of belonging, or as a concept capturing the function of literature as part of societal discourses. At the same time, it also critically re-evaluates the theoretical discussion of citizenship as a concept in literary and cultural studies. Thus, the conference sets out to reflect both on the ways in which literatures negotiate, question, envision, or deconstruct notions of citizenship in a variety of historical and geographical contexts and on the question of the analytical benefit of citizenship as a category of scholarly inquiry.