In his 2001 book The Postcolonial Exotic, Graham Huggan describes book publishing as an “alterity industry” profiting from “the commodification of cultural difference” (12), in which authors of underrepresented backgrounds must balance their authentic stories against the norms and expectations that inherently shape traditionally published work. Particularly in the last decade, diversity politics in publishing have become a more frequent topic of discussion, from scholarly analyses of the marketability of literary “otherness” (for instance, Oana Sabo’s The Migrant Canon in Twenty-First-Century France; Anamik Saha and Sandra van Lente’s “Diversity, media, and racial capitalism”) to the Twitter hashtag #OwnVoices, coined by Corinne Duyvis to celebrate authors whose protagonists share their own identity, but which recently fell out of favor for its reductive potential. But outside of this discourse, how do writers themselves use their literature to engage overtly with this cultural turn in the publishing sphere?
This panel invites papers that examine how authors from marginalized groups display, question, and at times resist these trends in their own writing. This might take the form of autofictional or self-reflexive themes about the process of writing and publishing; stylistic choices such as strategic exoticism and staged marginality; peritext or formatting meant to influence how a text is marketed and received; the choice to write or publish in “minority” languages; or translations and their implications for the circulation of literary work. Appealing to scholarly areas including literary studies, sociology, cultural history, and postcolonial theory, our aim will be to highlight the diverse ways in which writers across the globe reckon with an industry that works both in their favor and to their detriment, that both values and regulates how they represent cultural difference on the page.