Multilingual Locals and Significant Geographies – New Approaches to World Literature

21st Meeting of the Platform for Postcolonial Readings

Thursday 27 June 2019, 10.30am-5pm
E0.09, Roeterseilandcampus UvA, Roetersstraat 11, Amsterdam

The interest scholars such as Pascale Casanova and David Damrosch took in world literature fifteen to twenty years ago has recently been criticized by, for instance, Michael Allan and Aamir Mufti as (too) generalizing and universalizing. These and other critics have started to think about location and multilingualism in order to bypass the globalizing tendencies of earlier scholarship. Already as a field world literature tends to exclude non-Western traditions, canons and languages. Francesca Orsini proposes to speak of “multilingual locals” and “significant geographies” with the aim of pluralising our understanding of world literature and foregrounding the subjectivity and positionality of its actors. After all, many of the literary works that travel beyond their original contexts of production never become visible in a truly global way, but circulate in particular geographies and across specific languages.

In this meeting of the Platform for Postcolonial Readings, we take a cue from Orsini to consider the production of world literature from the perspective of multilingual locals and significant geographies. We interrogate how these new approaches problematize and reinvigorate the concept of world literature, and examine its applicability to postcolonial studies, globalisation studies, migration and minority studies, and other fields.

Our meeting starts with a keynote lecture by Prof. Francesca Orsini, whose expertise spans the literary history of South Asia, world literature and multilingualism with a focus on the Global South. Her lecture is followed by a discussion of her ideas and by a joint close reading of essays by Orsini and other scholars. In the afternoon, we continue our exploration of world literature, multilingualism and spatiality by means of contributions on the meeting’s topic by (junior) researchers working in this field. We conclude our meeting with a joint on-the-spot analysis of a striking case-study.

(Junior) Scholars interested in presenting their research on (aspects) of world literature and multilingualism (also beyond the field of literary studies) in the light of the concerns raised above are invited to contact Jesse van Amelsvoort ( or Liesbeth Minnaard ( before 1 June 2019. A reader will be distributed in preparation of the seminar and on the day itself foods and drinks will be provided.

The meeting is open to all researchers but is specifically aimed at Research Master and PhD students working in the fields of postcolonial and globalization studies. Participation is free of charge, but please register with Eloe Kingma of NICA ( Active participation by Research Master students may be credited with 1 or 3 EC (without/with presentation). For more information, contact Eloe Kingma ( or Jesse van Amelsvoort (

The Platform for Postcolonial Readings organizes seminars for all (junior) researchers in the Netherlands and Belgium who are committed to issues of postcoloniality and globalization.

Organizers of this meeting: Elisabeth Bekers (VUB), Liesbeth Minnaard (UL) and Jesse van Amelsvoort (RUG).