From 'Where are you from?' to 'Where shall we go together?' Re-imagining Home and Belonging in 21st-Century Women's Writing

From 'Where are you from?' to 'Where shall we go together?' Re-imagining Home and Belonging in 21st-Century Women's Writing
23 September 2020, 11.30am - 24 September 2020, 2.45pm
Conference / Symposium

In this era of mass migration, questions of home and belonging emerge with new urgency in public discussion in many European nations, not least because they are being mobilised in (right-wing) populist discourse. Focusing on recent literary imaginaries and discussions of home and belonging by women writers across cultures, this conference seeks to gain an understanding of the possibilities of intervening in traditionally held ideas, and of contributing to the formation of alternative, inclusive and future-oriented conceptualisations of belonging which allow us to think ambiguous, multiple and/or shifting attachments. 

Exploring cultural enunciations that lead away from binary definitions of inclusion/exclusion, the conference will build on research on the changing concepts of home and belonging, not as idealised stability, but as fluid in terms of space and time. Home emerges as a place that can and needs to be invested with meaning and constantly (re-)negotiated. It will take into account the crucial distinction between new conceptualisations of home after voluntary migration (which may entail the concepts of agency and contingency and may thus support ideas of self-determination of belonging and transitory attachments) and the search for refuge after enforced migration, which calls for an ethics of relationality, particularly suited to recognising and building new communities or ‘collectives’ across diversity and alterity. 

The frames of reference outlined by Braidotti, Massey and Ahmed are intrinsically connected with feminist thought, and indeed, there is a tradition of enunciating alternative, more open and fluid concepts of home in women’s writing. This conference will investigate to what extent recent and current literature by female writers across languages and cultures follows in the footsteps of this tradition.

Keynote Speakers: Political scientist Bilgin Ayata (University of Graz) and the conference exhibition curators Ricarda Vidal (King’s College London) and Manuela Perteghella (Open University)

Conference Organisers: Maria Roca Lizarazu (University of Birmingham) and Godela Weiss-Sussex (Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London)


This conference will be held online over Zoom, and will combine asynchronous and synchronous elements. Contributions from participants are available via the links below as written papers, audio and video recordings. On 23-24 September, we will hold live roundtable discussions on Zoom based on this uploaded material. The discussions will assume participants' familiarity with these contributions.

Programme (PDF)

Wednesday 23 September 

11.30-12.30 BST Round Table One: Making Alternative Homes. Discussion based on:

Tünde Varga (Hungarian University of Fine Arts) and Daniela Jáuregui: Cultural Imagination: Transferring the Indigenous Everyday in Art

Anissa Talahite-Moodley (Royal Holloway, University of London): Home and Belonging in the Literature by Algerian-Canadian Women Writers

Respondent: Katie Brown (University of Exeter) 

12.30-13.15 BST: Break 

13.15-14.15 BST: Keynote Lecture 

Bilgin Ayata

 (University of Graz): Deheimatize Belonging: Resisting the Politics of Home and Homeland  

14.15-14.30 BST: Break 

14.30-15.15 BST Round Table Two. Queering Home. Discussion based on: 

Annette Bühler-Dietrich (University of Stuttgart): Beyond Home and Heterosexuality. Léonora Miano's Crépuscule du tourment (Twilight of Torment)

Respondent: Tom Smith (University of St Andrews) 

Thursday 24 September

11.00-12.00 BST Round Table Three: Longing for a (Different) Home. Discussion based on: 

Ulrike Zitzlsperger (University of Exeter): Down and Out in Berlin

Katie Brown (University of Exeter): Home as Limbo in Venezuela: A Study of the Play Ni que nos vayamos nos podemos ir

Respondent: Linda Shortt (University of Warwick) 

12.00-12.15 BST: Break 

12.15-13.00 BST: Curatorial Introduction to Conference Exhibition (which can be viewed online here)

Ricarda Vidal (King's College London) and Manuela Perteghella

 (Open University): Home on the Move - Poetry, Migration, Translation 

13.00-13.45 BST: Break 

13.45-14.45 BST Round Table Four: Displacement and Home. Discussion Based on: 

Respondent: Annette Bühler-Dietrich (University of Stuttgart)

Advance registration before 18 September 2020 is essential.

Organised by the Institute of Modern Languages Research, and sponsored by the University of London John Coffin Trust, the AHRC-funded Open World Research Initiative (OWRI), and the Leverhulme Trust. It is part of the OWRI Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community, Translingual Strand.


Elizabeth Dearnley
020 7862 8726