ENGLISH 627 - Critical Theories and Cross-Cultural Literature
Fall 2021, Section 001 - Diaspora: Theory and Literature
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing and permission of instructor.
May be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


It has been 30 years since Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies was founded. The explosion of diaspora studies readers and the number of book titles addressing the subject demonstrate that the field has now been thoroughly institutionalized. The conventional theological reading of diaspora tied to a cycle of divinely ordained exile, suffering, redemption, and return led to a hostland-homeland, diaspora-nation binary, with the implication that a diaspora never quite loses sight of the original home and longs to return to it. Such a nostalgic trajectory has been dispelled in the increasingly complex and multipolar dissemination of numerous populations across time and space. Many contemporary theorists of diaspora deploy it as “a category of practice” rather than as a rigidly defined entity, a stance we will pursue in this course. How do we hold on to diaspora as a specific analytical concept while at the same time acknowledging its relationality to other large terms like migration, hybridity, post-nationalism, transnationalism, and globalization?

This course will begin with a review of the interdisciplinary discourses of diaspora theory, with some classics in the field, but go on to explore where the field is currently situated and what future directions it might take in the humanities. We will read a selection of major theorists of diaspora, viewing the field from a broad perspective. But the course will ultimately focus on two diasporas, African and Asian, particularly through the choice of literary texts that will help us also theorize diaspora. These include Segun Afolabi’s A Life Elsewhere; Ayad Akhtar’s Homeland Elegies: A Novel; Mia Alvar’s In the Country: Stories; and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. We will read selections from theoretical texts on diaspora that model research in the humanities (Brent Hayes Edwards, Samantha Pinto, Gayatri Gopinath, Vijay Mishra, Michelle Wright) and examine race, feminism, labor, and queer studies from a diasporic perspective. We will also read about digital diasporas. For ideas to explore a regional diaspora of your selection related to your research interests, we will read essays from Rites of Return: Diaspora Poetics and the Politics of Memory (eds. Marianne Hirsch and Nancy K. Miller), which present an array of topics and locations.

Course Requirements:

Requirements include short presentations and papers and a final long research paper, although in lieu of the long research paper, I am open to other options tailored to your specific methodology and area of interest.


ENGLISH 627 - Critical Theories and Cross-Cultural Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
Tu 4:00PM - 7:00PM

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