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Introduction on Literary internationalism (and Women Internationalism) Women International Democratic Federation


Literature was a powerful medium to nourish and mobilize international solidarity against colonialism and empires; for example, a conference of literary internationalism was held in the early twentieth century in Baku, Azerbaijan (1919), and it continued to play this role during the non-alignment movement (NAM) against Cold War bipolar dynamics. In particular, the Lotus Award from the Lotus Magazine collectives based in Beirut and Cairo was a key player of cross-continental writers in NAM project contesting the dominant literary scene centred around Western empires, such as Nobel Prize. But while Lotus Magazine and the Lotus Awards galvanized anticolonial Third World writers, there hardly featured any women and/or feminist non-heteronormative writers within the legacy of anti-colonial and anti-imperial literature. None of Lotus awardees list woman writer. Although there is critical research that unveiled history of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) that is not to be remembered as merely western women led movement (works by Haan, Armstrong, McGregor), this research does not focus on the scene of literary internationalism that women writers were outspoken or vigilant. Further, women and/or feminist (non-heteronormative) writers are hardly visible in the archives of Asian-African writers conferences (AAWC), except for Audre Lorde who wrote about her participation in one of the AAWC conferences in Uzbekistan, an account of which is published in her work Sister Outsider, or even in chronicles of Lotus Award recipients. Uncovering the erased memory of women writers does not merely fill the lacuna of gender representation premised on binary gender system. Doing so offers, rather, a springboard for reconstructing literary scenes and products of decolonial worldmaking history beyond reductive centrality of heteronormative masculinity. Clark’s work helps contextualizing the beginning of literary internationalism from Baku conference up to burgeoning Third World literary internationalism. Fezjula’s work provides a framework to make invisible women writers legible.

Primary text

Clark, Katherina. 2021. “Introduction” in Eurasia Without Borders: The Dreams of a Leftist Literary Commons 1919-1943. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Pp. 1-42.

Fejzula, Merve. 2022. “Gendered Labour, Negritude and the Black Public Sphere” Historical Research vol 95 no 269. Pp. 423-446

Week 1 - Why this Syllabus