top of page


Join us for the 33rd annual MELUS conference in Cincinnati, OH!


March 21-24, 2019


Conference Theme: Underground Histories


Hosted by the University of Cincinnati


Hilton Netherland Plaza, 35 W 5th St., Cincinnati, OH


Deadline for Abstracts: November 1, 2018


The theme of the 2019 MELUS conference begins from the premise that a subterranean history beats below every official narrative. What stories get told? What stories get erased or moved to the periphery? How do multi-ethnic literature, film, narrative media, and performance bring to light these critical narratives?

Cincinnati is a diverse and thriving Midwestern city with a deep connection to a variety of underground histories. The city has a storied past as a hub of the Underground Railroad, as well as a complicated, contradictory, and largely-untold ethnic and racial narrative of its own. Host to a huge wave of German and German Jewish immigration during the nineteenth century, Cincinnati is the site of the nation’s first Reform Jewish seminary and home to one of its most famous bootleggers, a German immigrant who provided Fitzgerald with the model for Jay Gatsby. Directly across the Ohio River from Northern Kentucky, the city has seen multiple waves of African American migration from the South—from the dangerous travels of runaway slaves escaping across the river to the later movements of those seeking an often-elusory emancipation in the city. A number of Japanese citizens were relocated to the city after World War II, carrying with them a tragic, and often untold, story of internment and state violence.

Recently, Cincinnati has seen an influx of Latinx immigrants and become a sanctuary city, opening its borders to refugees whose stories face erasure by Trump era immigration policies. At the same time, Cincinnati, past and present, hosts demographic groups and artists less acknowledged in conventional histories. Appalachian, Affrilachian and urban Appalachian narratives have shaped Cincinnati in the twentieth century, while intersecting groups, including African Americans, have experienced disparities in policing and medical treatment, including the sponsored radiation treatments of the 1960s. All of these narratives collectively represent Cincinnati’s underground histories—as well as the centrality of untold stories to American racial and ethnic history and aesthetics.

We welcome proposals for individual papers, panels, and roundtables, as well as creative writing and pedagogical discussions, on the broad spectrum of underground histories in multi-ethnic literature, culture, and performance including, but not limited to:

  • Representations of the underground railroad

  • The collision between official and untold histories

  • Erasure and writing back

  • Disability and ethnicity

  • Underground comics

  • Refugee narratives

  • The power of outsider narratives and subcultures

  • Strategies for teaching unacknowledged histories in the classroom

  • Uncovered archives

  • Counter-canons in multiethnic literature

  • Contemporary underground movements, such as Black Lives Matter and Dreamers

  • Borderlands, migration, and other types of crossing-over

  • Mining, fracking, and underground ecological disaster

  • Transnational connections between writers and movements

  • The experience of being a writer or critic of color

  • Underground media (street art, oral storytelling, certain online communities)

  • Centering African American feminist discourses

  • Underground presses and publishing

  • Hidden histories of foodways

  • The erasure of LGBQ and Trans narratives from multiethnic histories

  • Relationship between center and periphery communities in urban space (e.g. Appalachian and black communities in Ohio, gentrification, etc.)

  • Performing otherness

  • Counter-academic discourses

  • Feminist and multiethnic intersections

  • Cool-hunting, taste, and ideas of the underground

  • Creative writing or conversations about teaching creative writing

  • "Illegal" immigration before and after Trump

We also welcome proposals on all aspects of Multi-ethnic US literature and narrative media. 

Send all proposals to by November 1, 2018. For paper proposals: send a 250-300 word abstract and a short bio; for creative work: send 3-5 poems or up to up to 5 pages of prose and a short bio; for panel or roundtable proposals: please submit no more than 500 words describing the panel and attach bios for each participant to the email.


For more information about MELUS, The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, visit For more information about the MELUS journal, visit For more information about the University of Cincinnati's English department, and its graduate programs in Literature, Creative Writing, Rhetoric and Composition, and Professional Writing, please visit 

bottom of page