Call for Papers: "Language and Migration: Experience and Memory"

Thursday, May 9, 2019
Call for Papers

Migration Lab: People and Cultures across Borders, Princeton University and The Study Group on Language and the United Nations announce a collaborative symposium on

"Language and Migration: Experience and Memory"

May 7-9, 2020
Part I, New York City: Thursday May 7 to Friday May 8, noon.
Part II, Princeton University:  Friday evening May 8 to Saturday, May 9, evening.

Keynote Speaker: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Aerol Arnold Professor of English, University of Southern California, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer


Language is a vital, but underexplored, factor in the lives of migrants, immigrants and refugees. It has a direct impact on the experiences and choices of individuals displaced by war, terror, or natural disasters and the decisions made by agents who provide (or fail to provide) relief, services, and status. Distilled through memory, it shapes the fictions, poems, memoirs, films and song lyrics in which migrants render loss and displacement, integration and discovery, the translation of history and culture, and the trials of identity.

This interdisciplinary, international symposium on Language and Migration will examine the role of language in the lives and works of migrants.

Part One, will consider how language affects the experiences of permanently or temporarily settled refugees and migrants, those in transit, and the larger population around them. Such groups vary by age and gender, literacy and educational attainment, culture and religion, and the political, economic and cultural contexts in which they seek to settle. They suffer from language problems, loss of language, and linguistic abuse – and their host populations are often linguistically unready to receive them, to attend to their basic needs, or to educate their children. Such linguistic problems are a major challenge to the agencies and NGOs involved.

Part Two, at Princeton University, will focus on memory in the cultural work of migrants and immigrants. On Friday evening the symposium will resume with a reading by eminent faculty novelists, followed on Saturday by a keynote address and a full-day session on memory, language, and migration. We particularly welcome papers addressing the literature, psychology, and ethnography of migration. To foster conversation across disciplinary borders, participants are strongly urged to attend both parts of the symposium.

Princeton’s interdisciplinary “Migration Lab: People and Cultures Across Borders” comprises both humanists and social scientists, while the Study Group on Language and the UN includes diplomats, United Nations staff, NGO representatives, and academics in a range of fields. Accordingly, we invite proposals from a wide variety of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and law. The following topics are of urgent interest, but others are welcome:

  • Language and the delivery of crisis aid and services
  • Language, the state, and immigration status
  • The United Nations, immigrants, and language policy
  • Language and education for temporarily settled refugees
  • Translation, interpretation, and language rights
  • Language rights and human rights
  • The protection of interpreters and translators in conflict zones
  • The economics of language policy in immigration
  • Language, criminalization, and deportation
  • Language and the Labor Market
  • Xenophobic language
  • Language, dislocation, and exile
  • Memory and witness
  • The performance of migration (theatre, video, radio drama, installations, etc.)
  • Cross-generational narratives
  • The migration of lyric in pop music
  • Translation and the trials of identity
  • Integration and disintegration in immigrant writing
  • Form and genre in the culture of migration
  • Language, prestige, and inequality
  • Immigrant voices: language, media, and multiculturalism

This symposium is co-sponsored by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies and the Esperantic Studies Foundation.

Deadline: November 1, 2019.

Please send proposals (max. 200 words) for 20-minute papers, indicating for which of the two parts of the symposium you intend your contribution, along with a cv or brief bio (50-100 words), to Prof. Esther Schor <eschor@princeton.edu>