CFP GSA 2023 "Refugee Voices: Stories of Place and Displacement" (Deadline 1 March 2023)

Kathryn Sederberg's picture


Call for Papers

Refugee Voices: Stories of Place and Displacement


German Studies Association Conference

Montreal, Canada, Oct. 5-8, 2023

Abstract Deadline: March 1, 2023


In his 2017 novel Ohrfeige (A Slap In The Face), Abbas Khider tells the story of a group of refugees navigating the asylum process in Germany. The protagonist, an Iraqi refugee, is quickly initiated by others, who advise him on the kind of narrative he will need to strategically “craft” for the judge deciding his case.  The novel’s frame narrative provides a different kind of story: the narrator has strapped his listener to a chair, and holds nothing back in his retelling of persecution, flight, and arrival in the European Union.[1] This groundbreaking novel thematizes what it means for refugee authors to have a voice, to be heard, and the conditions that prompt narratives of flight and survival in the first place. This panel focuses on refugee voices in 20th and 21st-century German-language literature and culture, in order to highlight the way refugee authors have engaged with issues of representation, authenticity, voice, the politics of refuge and humanitarianism, and the paradigms of victimhood and rescue.


In response to the “problem-oriented approach to refugees,” the growing interdisciplinary field of critical refugee studies (CRS) aims to highlight the resilience and creativity of refugee communities: “a humane and ethical site of inquiry that re-conceptualizes refugee lifeworlds not as a problem to be solved by global elites but as a site of social, political and historical critiques that, when carefully traced, make transparent processes of colonization, war, and displacement” [2].  Critical refugee studies—its critical vocabulary and framework—offers a productive means to reframe analyses of literature of displacement: to complicate traditional paradigms of victimhood and rescue (critique of humanitarianism), present nontraditional figures of refugee affect, excavate additional knowledge of refugee experiences, and shift focal points. 


We would welcome papers that highlight refugee authors in German Studies, and especially those that explore frameworks and vocabularies from critical refugee studies. Submissions may consider the following:

  • figures of displacement and placelessness
  • intertwined histories of flight, colonialism, and imperialism
  • gratitude and the “ungrateful refugee” (Dina Nayeri)
  • the “good” refugee 
  • concepts of livability 
  • refugee refusal
  • technology and flight
  • the place of the camp
  • statelessness, human rights and refugee rights in literature
  • forced displacement and intersections of Indigenous studies and refugee studies 


Please submit an abstract of 350-500 words along with a brief biography to Kathryn Sederberg ( and Rebekah Slodounik ( by March 1.  


[1] Abbas Khider, Ohrfeige. Carl Hanser Verlag, 2016.

[2] See the work of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective,; and Yen Le Espiritu, Lan Duong, Ma Vang, Victor Bascara, Khatharya Um, Lila Sharif, Nigel Hatton. Departures: An Introduction to Critical Refugee Studies. University of California Press, 2022.