Paper abstracts are invited for an International Association for Literary Journalism Studies session entitled “Mobilities, migrants, borders, and walls: the place of literary journalism in a world in motion” to be held at the American Comparative Literature Association’s 2020 meeting at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Chicago, March 19th-22nd, 2020.

What is the place of literary journalism in a world characterized by “interconnected and intensifying flows of people, animals, goods, information, and waste”? (Nancy Cook and David Butz, Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social Justice, 3).

Few concepts capture the current moment in global history better than “mobility.” By the end of 2018, more than 70.8 million people were displaced (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), many of them fleeing the effects of global warming, itself a consequence of the world’s reliance on fossil fuels to meet its ever-growing transportation demands. Despite the easing of some restrictions which have come with globalization, not everyone today has the same capability for movement or equal rights to stay put. Since the 1990s, such concerns have been a focus of the “mobilities turn” in the Social Sciences; more recently, “mobilities paradigm” scholarship has foregrounded the study of flows of human and non-human animals, objects, goods, and ideas and their active role in constituting subjective, social, and material realities.

“Mobility,” however, is also a distinguishing feature of literary journalism, the hybrid genre which combines journalistic methods of fact gathering with the narrative techniques of fiction. From the road narratives of Hunter S. Thompson and Ziemowit Szczerek, to accounts of the inhibited mobilities of refugees and migrants about whom we read in works by Joe Sacco, William T. Vollmann, Luis Alberto Urrea, Johnny Steinberg, and, most recently, Behrouz Boochani, as well as the stories of those constrained by the poverty of congested urban spaces such as the Managua shanty town Douglas Haynes describes in Every Day We Live is the Future, movement is a frequent theme of literary journalists.

Rhetorically, moreover, literary journalism is distinguished by what Mark Kramer has called its “mobile stance,” a capacity to shift fluently between different discursive modes, combining narrative with judgement, abstraction with detail, information with experience, and logos with pathos in a way that corroborates the claim New Masses editor Joseph North made in 1935 that the writer of such stories “not only condenses reality,” but also “helps the reader feel the fact.”

Generically too, literary journalism is a bit of a wanderer, a vagrant genre, with no determinate place in library or bookstore cataloguing systems, its works constituting a sort of diaspora with no proper home except the vague and sprawling hemisphere known as “nonfiction.” In a similar way, the study of literary journalism, while accelerating in the past decade, is scattered throughout departments of journalism, communications, and language studies around the world. Even individual texts, such as the multiple iterations of Svetlana Alexievich’s Boys in Zinc, have demonstrated a dynamic, mobile quality which complicates the work of their critics.

This session then seeks to explore the ways mobility — thematically, rhetorically, generically, textually, and disciplinarily — figures in literary journalism as a global phenomenon and to consider the fittedness of this highly mobile genre to the representation of a world in motion.

If you are interested in participating in this seminar, please send a 250-word abstract of your 20-minute paper to Rob Alexander ( by September 9, 2019. Formal submissions of paper proposals must also be made to the ACLA website which will open August 31 and close September 23. You will find the ACLA website at

Please also note: the posting of this session’s call for papers on the ACLA website does not guarantee acceptance of the seminar by the conference organizers. The ACLA Program Committee typically reviews all seminar proposals during October and notifies seminar organizers of acceptance or rejection on or around December 1, 2019.

If you have any questions about this seminar, please e-mail IALJS contact Rob Alexander at