2021 Presidential Theme: Persistence

Judith Butler, the 2020–21 president of the MLA, has chosen Persistence as the presidential theme for the 2021 MLA Annual Conven­tion in Toronto.

The humanities is now compelled to fight for its own survival and to mark the path for persistence during intensely challenging times. Humanities scholars are especially alert to the precarity of our profession, the university, and the prospects for our students as we face contingency, attacks on academic freedom, increased anti-intellectualism, and the dominance of market values. As civil rights are suspended for individuals blocked at borders and climate change threatens the earth, how do we uncover and create practices of persistence that lead to new conditions of life in and outside the academy? As a collective potential, persistence is not primarily individual heroism. It is a force, figure, and concept bound up with endurance, survival, defiance, resistance, creating, and flourishing.

Sessions at the convention may wish to focus on the future of the humanities; the institutional and political conditions of our professional lives; contingency and pedagogy; literature and science, including the humanities and climate change; social movement literature; indigenous writing; LGBTQI literature and visual culture; black and Latinx poetry, literature, and history; disability studies; literatures of loss, resistance, and survivance; student persistence, especially of first-generation college students; potential extinction of lesser-known languages and implications for language teaching; university studies; prison writing; poetry, oral history, and life writing in the context of historical struggles against economic exploitation, apartheid, systemic racism, colonial powers and occupation; border and migration studies; performance studies; Romantic poetry, for the present; the mixed legacies of vitalism and materialism; utopia and dystopia studies; philosophy and literature; and the role of creative and critical work in the humanities in transforming public worlds.

Visit the MLA Web site to post a call for papers for the 2021 convention.