In the Shadow of Empire? Situating Black British Writing

Friday 22 and Saturday 23 September 2023

Venue: London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Rd, London EC1R 0HB



As an area of study, ‘Black British Writing’ – despite neglect of the field as an object of study by Anglophone Arts/Humanities research communities in Britain – currently attracts global interest. The neglect is especially regrettable given the growth in visibility of Black British writers, including the 2021 Nobel Laureate, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and considering the creation of the first postgraduate programme in Black British Writing (Goldsmiths, 2015).

Through the historical perspective of 400 years of contested writing, this conference will focus on situating the field in relation to the Humanities, critical thought, a continuously changing understanding of the signifier ‘Black’, and the impact of UK publishing politics on Black British writing.


Our ‘situating’ project builds on pioneering research and teaching interests established on both sides of the Atlantic. This includes the co-founding, teaching, and inaugurating of the UK’s/world’s first Black British Writing postgraduate programme, following on, and interlinking with the teaching and researching of Caribbean and diaspora literatures.

Similarly, the part played by Africa is certainly also key to the corpus. That such intersections with Black British writing speak to transglobal connections and complexities, helping to define the body of work and its wide-ranging transcultural influences, goes to the heart of the concerns of the conference. We are especially interested to include Black voices that remain largely missing from the UK’s scholarly debate. The conference therefore invites researchers and Black British writers alike to present new thinking about Black British writing (all genres).

The conference aims to:

  • Promote dialogue between specialists that include Black British writers and scholars
  • Reflect critically on the many intersections and meanings of diaspora and diasporic frames of analysis in Black British literary and cultural criticism


Areas of interest might include but are not limited to: 

  • The legacies of Empire on Black British Writing
  • The nature of Black Britishness and its negotiating between the very different locations to which Black British writers are attached and represent
  • Considerations of Ventriloquism and/or Allyship: their impact on Black British Writing
  • Black British Writing in relation to generation, gender, religious affiliation, sexuality, and political ideology
  • Black British Writing, its entanglements, and their meanings
  • Black British Writing constructing and reproducing Black British culture
  • Blackness, mythology, and its impact on literary production
  • The UK and the politics of Black publishing
  • The UK academy and Black British Writing

Proposals can include:

  • Individual presentations (up to 20 minutes): Please send a 300-word abstract and a short (100 words) author bio.
  • Panel discussions/roundtables (up to 45 minutes + 15 minutes for Q&A): Please send 500-word abstract (including rationale) and a short bio for each confirmed panelist.
  • Creative presentations (up to 15 minutes): Please send a synopsis, short bio, and a link to where we can see/read examples of your work.


All proposals should be submitted by Monday 31st July 2023 (extended deadline). Decisions will be announced as soon as possible after the extended deadline.


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