Unsettling Women: Contemporary Women’s Writing and Diaspora

The second biennial conference of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association, ‘Unsettling Women: Contemporary Women’s Writing and Diaspora’ was held at the University of Leicester (UK) on the 11th-13th July, 2008.

On this page:

  • Conference summary
  • Journal special issue
  • Author interview

Conference summary

This conference looked at how diaspora has shaped contemporary women’s writing and, conversely, how women’s writing born out of diaspora has reshaped perceptions of home and nation by bringing gender issues to the fore. Delegates examined the kind of journeys undertaken by women and how they are represented in their work and how diasporic writing by women can unsettle dominant structures.

Topics included Scottish, Irish, Iranian, Japanese and Queer Diasporas, as well as Jewish Lesbian Fiction, African American Fiction, Post-Colonial Britain, Post 9/11 Narratives, Exile and Home, Fabular and Speculative Fictions, Violence, Trauma and Testimony and Writing Muslim Identities. Sixty-nine papers were delivered from scholars coming from more than 20 countries, and over 100 academics attended. The CWWN Postgraduate Prize of £100 was awarded to the best postgraduate paper.

Plenary lectures were delivered by Professor Carole Boyce Davies from Cornell University, Professor Sneja Gunew from the University of British Columbia, Professor Susheila Nasta of the Open University and Professor Deborah Madsen, from the University of Geneva. Linda Grant, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage, and Jackie Kay (MBE), winner of the Signal Poetry Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize, read from and talked about their work.

Sponsors for the event included The Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies and The English Association, both based at the University of Leicester, as well as De Montfort, Southampton, Brighton and Leeds Metropolitan Universities and the University of Salford.

Dr. Emma Parker (Conference Organiser)

Journal special issue:

A special issue of Contemporary Women’s Writing journal expanded on themes from the conference. You can access extracts and the full text of this issue (3.1, June 2009) online via Oxford Journals. The contents of the Diaspora special issue were:

Emma Parker, ‘Introduction: Unsettling Women’
Susan Stanford Friedman, ‘The “New Migration”: Clashes, Connections, and Diasporic Women’s Writing’
Sneja Gunew, ‘Resident Aliens: Diasporic Women’s Writing’
Sandra R. G. Almeida, ‘Strangers in the Night: Hiromi Goto’s Abject Bodies and Hopeful Monsters’
Susheila Nasta, ‘“Beyond the Frame”: Writing a Life and Jamaica Kincaid’s Family Album’
Claire Chambers, ‘An Interview with Leila Aboulela’
Review Essay
Ann Heilmann, ‘Elective (Historical) Affinities: Contemporary Women Writing the Victorian’
Liedeke Plate on Making the Personal Political: Dutch Women Writers 1919–1970 by Jane Fenoulhet
Tereza M. Szeghi on Footpaths & Bridges: Voices from the Native American Women Playwrights Archive ed. by Shirley A. Huston-Findley and Rebecca Howard.

Author interview:

Dr. Emma Parker interviewed Linda Grant, one of the conference keynote authors. The interview was published in full in Wasafiri 57 (2009), an issue focusing on Jewish and Postcolonial Diasporas. You can read extracts from the interview online from the University of Leicester.