Program in Comparative Literature

Eighth Annual

Reflections: Identity after Crisis

September 30th-October 1st, 2011 at the University of Texas at Austin

Keynote Address by Professor Idelber Avelar (Tulane University)


From our vantage point ten years later, it is obvious that September 11th, 2001,
was more than a moment of collective tragedy -- it precipitated a fundamental
shift in the ways the United States, and to an extent, the world, understood itself.
In this sense, we join a host of societies throughout history that have sought to
reflect, revive and rebuild in the wake of large-scale traumatic events. This
conference will explore language and literature as tools in that rebuilding,
considering the many ways that the notion of crisis has intersected with ideas of
personal, national and global identity in the last decade and throughout history.
We seek to consider whether literature helps to heal the wounds of trauma or
encourages them to fester, whether it works to erect identity borders or whether
it can also act as a bridge between identities, and what the role of scholars and
educators is in shaping language and literature study in this context.

Proposals and Information:

The conference encourages participants to critically consider the words “crisis”,
“trauma”, and “response”, and to read papers that expand our understanding of
those and related terms. We invite interdisciplinary and multilingual discussions
that explore a wide range of crises and the equally diverse number of responses.
Possible topics include:

  • The formation of personal, national, and global identity, who is included
    and excluded, and how identity is perceived by others.
  • Responses to crises of national security such as September 11th, change
    of regime (in Egypt and elsewhere), terrorism, militarism, politically-motivated
    assassinations and “disappearances,” contested borders, access
    to natural resources or immigration.
  • The interaction between language instruction and security interests.
  • Responses to environmental crises such as Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes
    in Haiti, Chile and Japan, tsunamis in Indonesia and elsewhere,
    pollution, global warming, or extinction.
  • Actions taken to prevent potential crises such as Y2K, 2012, or extraterrestrial
  • Responses to violations of human rights such as slavery, apartheid, genocide,
    institutional sexism and/or racism, persecution of people of
    difference, criminal interrogations, or the consequences of despotism.
  • Responses to medical crises such as body image, eating disorders, HIV/
    AIDS, the spread of infectious disease, malnutrition, or the access to
    medical resources.
  • Responses to artistic crises such as censorship, the political persecution
    of artists, or creating art under an oppressive regime.
  • Responses made by observers rather than obvious stakeholders (for
    example, how communities have reformed themselves in response to
    crises witnessed in other communities).
  • The role of legal and diplomatic responses to crises, such as international
    crime courts, economic sanctions, or financial reparations.
  • The construction of monuments, memorials and museums such as the
    World Trade Center Memorial currently under construction or the preservation
    of conservation camp sites.
  • Depictions of crises, allegorical or otherwhise, in literature, art, music,
    film, television, architecture or other creative disciplines.
  • Explorations of post-colonialism, eco-theory, trauma theory, queer
    theory, or other related literary and/or cultural theory.

Abstracts must be submitted before August 5, 2011. To submit your abstract,
please visit our online submission site:
For additional information about the conference, please email organizers Dustin
Hixenbaugh & Roanne Sharpe at or visit UT’s Program in
Comparative Literature’s website: