As the international War on Terror and recent “migrant crisis” have come to dominate worldwide political conversations, the literature of migration and immigration has begun to reimagine Europe and America with the fantastical pessimism of dystopian fiction. Though a sense of immediacy and urgency marks contemporary rhetoric surrounding the state of global migration, it is imperative to understand this current humanitarian crisis to be inextricably tied to the histories of colonization and decolonization. The mass inward-bound migration of peoples to Europe and America is, in many ways, an inversion of the outward-bound movement of colonization in centuries-past. By imagining the future of the West dominated by migrants as a dystopia, the literary text seems to understand the logic of migration to be that of colonization in reverse. Thus the migrant in these texts figures as a de facto colonizer. This talk shall examine the formal turn in contemporary migrant literature as a symptom of a cultural logic that sees the present crisis to be an equal and opposite dystopian reaction to the centuries-long process of imperial expansion—thereby signaling the very undoing of western civilization.
Nasia Anam is a Postdoctoral Lecturer in the Writing Program at Princeton University. After completing her PhD in Comparative Literature at UCLA, she was a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Williams College. Her current project,Other Cities: Spatializing the Muslim Migrant in the Novel of Immigration, argues that from the post-WWII to the post-9/11 eras, the shifting representation of the Muslim migrant in Anglophone and Francophone literature encapsulates global contemporary anxieties about mobility (traveling, circulating, emigrating) and rootedness (immigrating, settling, colonizing). Her writing and reviews can be found in Contemporaries Post45, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, Interventions, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and South Asian History and Culture.