We’ve seen a decade of re-energised racism and orientalist representation, particularly in the demonising of Muslims and Islam. Mainstream English language literature meanwhile repeatedly stereotypes, ridicules, simplifies and homogenises in its representation of non-westernised/modernised characters: it can often seem as if writers, assumed to be ‘writing back’, have taken over the mantle of orientalist representation by the west. Certain ideologies become invisible in ‘literature’; their normalised values are assumed to be ‘universal,’ and ‘humanist;’ whilst literature that questions such assumptions overtly, or presents alternative visions is branded as propagandist, ideological, polemical. This increases the need for writers, academics, activists and others with a belief in the importance of literature, in its potential to influence, inform, reflect and critique, to come together in one space and share stories, ideas and modes of resistance.
Does literature perpetuate racism, Islamophobia? What is the relationship between literature and government policies of multiculturalism, integration, assimilation, the war on terror? Where are the other stories? Can literature play a role in resistance?
These are some of the questions that we will explore in these workshops, as well as the ways in which we can create a new literary landscape. In a bid to challenge the growing professionalism and separation of fields such as writing, academia and activism, as they increasingly come to be seen as irrelevant and unintelligible to each other, we are bringing writers academics and activists together and, through conversations across ‘professions’ reviving connections between writing, activism and ideas.