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17th Borders and Crossings Travel Writing Conference: Travelling differently

Expressions of interest for potential publication
This conference was to be held in July 2020 in Australia, a settler-majority nation on Aboriginal land located at the intersection of Asia and the Pacific. Its theme focuses on differences and diversity in the means and experiences of travel.

Update from the committee

With effect from Monday 16 March 2020, all events hosted on our campuses including student, academic and public events, and conferences are cancelled or deferred until further notice. Read more about the University’s advice regarding COVID-19.

For this reason, along with funding shortfalls and ongoing health and safety concerns, we have had to cancel the Borders and Crossings Travel Writing Conference. 

Expressions of Interest: Publication on conference themes

With the goal to continue with the conference virtually with concrete research outcomes for all, we are planning to produce a series of publications that will feature proposed conference papers and those of invited speakers.

We welcome expressions of interest in prospective publications – please contact:


The first of the ‘Borders and Crossings’ conferences, a series devoted to the international, interdisciplinary study of travel writing, was organised by Glenn Hooper and Tim Youngs, and held at Magee College, Derry in 1998. Travel literature was at that time far from mainstream as an area of academic research, but the intervening two decades have witnessed a major shift in attitudes towards the genre, with the emergence of dedicated journals, scholarly associations and other academic apparatus associated with the building of a new field.

Borders and Crossings has played a catalytic role in these processes as it has provided a forum for scholars across a range of disciplines and from a wide variety of national contexts to meet regularly, to explore an increasingly rich corpus of travel writing, and to debate its centrality to the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Key dates

  • Call for papers: Open November 2019 
  • Proposals of abstracts close: 15 March 2020
  • Notification of abstract acceptance: from 16 March 2020
Registrations and special pre-conference events have been cancelled.

Keynote speakers

  • Mónica Szurmuk, CONICET/Universidad de San Martín, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Claudia Durastanti, Italian writer and translator
  • Charles Forsdick, James Barrow, Professor of French, University of Liverpool
  • Leah Lui-Chivizhe, The University of Sydney
  • Xu Xi, celebrated Hong Kong author



We welcome a diverse range of sub-themes and ideas, including the following suggestions.

How have borders changed? How are they changing? What makes them more or less porous? What factors impact on who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’?

Much of our world has been shaped by north-south interactions, but north-north interactions continue to dominate the global cultural conversation at the same time as south-south interactions are emerging as new vehicles for political and cultural exchange.

How do contemporary shifts in political, economic and cultural power impact on the ways in which ideas travel?

In countries such as Australia, Indigenous people have travelled lands and continents for millennia, but modern societies create new challenges: those of displacement and ‘exile within’. Other racialised minorities, and indeed women and LGBTI populations, also face different challenges in travelling, whether material (personal safety, less access to the means to travel), psychological, cultural or symbolic. 

A country such as Australia is well-placed to know how the transport of animals around the globe has impacted on ecosystems, cultures and economies in our Anthropocene age. How do animals feature in travel writing? What symbolic roles do they play?

Asylum seekers, Indigenous peoples and all others displaced due to a range of natural and human-made catastrophes experience travel differently from those who have a choice in the matter. How is their experience documented and imagined?

Humans are collectors – whether purchasers or plunderers – and transporters of things. What do ‘travelling objects’ come to symbolise in the ways we talk and write about travel?

Travellers – whether human or inanimate, whether exiled or ‘born displaced’, whether in times of war or times of peace – also experience return, in life and after death. What is the place of repatriation in our cultural narratives?

Languages also travel the globe, often becoming means of literary expression as second or third languages of the writers. Words also travel through translation, or travel from orality to page as written forms are developed for traditional languages. How does the language of expression impact on the ways in which we write and read about travel?

Our artistic traditions, from visual arts through to performance and cinema, have developed rich hybridities through the travel of styles and models from one culture to another.

In our internet-facilitated age, virtual travel is a reality for many, not only vicarious tourism but also the virtual transnational workplace.

Stories of travel lie at the core of science-fiction and fantasy writing. Indeed, one cannot imagine other universes without travelling to them.

Our age has seen an explosion of philanthropic travel, and documentation thereof, whether through a growing body of testimony by volunteers working for NGOs or through the ubiquitous imagery of philanthrocapitalists travelling the Third World. When is one "travelling for others"? How does the narrative of travel change?

From the plague to cholera to AIDS to H1N1 (the virus that caused the pandemics of Spanish flu in 1919-1920 and swine flu in 2009) to Ebola, the world has experienced its share of pandemics. Travelling diseases become imbricated with the history of peoples, cultures, nations, and have often played central roles in travel writing, whether testimonial or fictional.

Why, and how, does one ‘teach’ travel writing? What roles does travel writing play in our curricula, whether in literature, foreign languages, area studies, international studies or history?


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Professor Bronwyn Winter
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