Past Conferences

1964 the Commonwealth Literature Conference at Leeds

The first conference of ACLALS was held at the University of Leeds, UK, in 1964, which announced the formation of the ACLALS. The meeting was chaired by Professor A. Norman Jeffares, at which the term “Commonwealth literature” was first used; “Its proceedings were published as Commonwealth Literature, edited by John Press of the British Council” (Nandan 96).

1968 ACLALS Conference in Brisbane, Australia

The 1968 International ACLALS conference was held in Australia in Brisbane in August on the theme ‘National Identity’.

1971 2nd triennial Conference, Kingston, Jamaica

The 1971 conference of the ACLALS was held at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. At this conference, the question of the role of the writer in society was raised, and it is to this question that the first chapter is dedicated” (Sprouse 577). There has been a heated discussion among many scholars, including C. D. Narasimhaiah.Kamau Brathwaite, V. S. Naipaul, and Raja Rao also held a panel on ‘the Writer’s Function in Society’” (Wenske 121).

1974 Inaugural European ACLALS branch conference Liège, Belgium

The first conference of the European branch of ACLALS was held at Liège from 3rd to 5th April I974, the topic of which was ‘Commonwealth Literature and the Modern World’. “The conference was organized under the auspices of the English Department and the Centre d’Étude des Problemes des Pays en Developpement of the University of Liège” (Heywood 223). During this conference, scholars discussed language and literature in Africa, the recent civil war in Nigeria and the social responsibility of so-called third world writers: “This was a well-balanced conference, memorable both for its content and for the pastoral setting of the Chateau Colonster, the University’s conference center” (Heywood226).

1974 3rd triennial conference Kampala, Uganda

 The 3rd ACLALS triennial was hosted by Makerere University. “The Conference was opened by the Chairman of the Association and by Brigadier Kili, Uganda’s Minister of Education” (Gowda 220). Attendees discussed the writers’ place in society and their distance from politics. At the same time, the problems of bilingual writers, and oral and vernacular literatures were also of great interest to scholars. Although the conference in Kampala was small compared to others, participation was lively

1977 4th Triennial Conference, India, New Delhi

The fourth triennial conference of ACLALS was held in New Delhi, India, from 2 January to 8 January 1977, hosted by Professor Narasimhaiah. As the first conference that took place in Asia, there was no governing theme, but many papers focused on India’s own writing in English: “Lively debates centred on whether a writer in voluntary self-exile can contribute productively to his own national literature, whether the Indian writer in English has sold out to ‘western elitism’(whatever that is), and whether there is any true identity of feeling between the different literatures of the Commonwealth or just a coincidence of historical associations” (Niven 66). 

1980 5th Triennial Conference, Suva, Fiji

The fifth triennial conference took place at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji, from 3 January to 8 January, with the relation between language and literature as the theme. “The six-day program included eighty-nine scheduled presentations on subjects as diverse as multiculturalism and the language crisis; language code mixing and switching; colonialism, postcolonialism, neocolonialism and decolonization as themes in Commonwealth literature; and literature and language policies” (Beard 368). There were 142 delegates representing twenty-eight countries, who participated in discussions on literature of the South Pacific and African literature as well as questions of language.

1983 6th Triennial conference Guelph, Canada

The 6th triennial conference of ACLALS was held at the University of Guelph, Canada in 1983. During the conference, many scholars talked about the problem of established methods of literary study. “As John Matthews put it…’our sister discipline, comparative literature, is strong on theory, but relatively weak in practice. We are strong on practice, but weak on theory. The work is going apace, but without much attention to an enclosing framework’” (Devy 79). G. D. Killam of the University of Guelph, and an noted scholar of African literature, had been elected to chair the business meeting (Beard 370)

1986 the 7th Triennial conference Singapore

The Seventh Triennial Conference of ACLALS took place in the National University of Singapore, from 16-21 June 1986, after which the Association’s Executive Headquarters were then in the process of moving to England. At this conference, many scholars participated in discussing the status of English, such as Taban Io Liyong, who engaged in a heated debate with other attendees on this topic.

1989 Silver Jubliee Conference, 8th Triennial, Canterbury, England

The Silver Jubilee Conference of ACLALS was held at the University of Kent, Canterbury from Aug. 24-31, 1989. Focusing particularly on multiculturalism and cross-cultural connections in the Commonwealth, the conference attracted speakers and writers including Said, Derek Walcott, Micer Mugo, Anna Rutherford, Wilson Harris, and Nayantra Sahgal. There were controversies about the English literary canon and the competing definitions of classicism. “The conference was particularly significant for four reasons: it identified common interests, it defined important controversies, it established directions for future work, and it introduced new works” (Dizard 190). The proceedings of this conference, From Commonwealth to Postcolonial (1992) significantly influenced the field of post-colonial studies in Australia.

1992 9th triennial conference in Kingston, Jamaica

The 9th triennial conference of ACLALS was held at The University of the West Indies Mona campus, in Kingston, Jamaica, 13-20 August 1992. The theme of this conference was “Voyages” and scholars around the world came to participate in this gathering. Many excellent works were presented at this conference, such as Donnel’s paper. Notable papers included Alison Donnel’s “Two-facedness: Cultural Ambivalence and the Unveiling of Anglo-Centric Narratives in Jamaica Kincaid’s Fiction” and Julie Dietche’s paper Voyaging toward freedom: new voices from South Africa.”

1995 10th triennial conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka

The tenth triennial conference of ACLALS took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka in August 1995. 

1998 11th triennial conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Triennial Conference of ACLALS was held in Kuala Lumpur, December 1-6, 1998. The theme of this conference was “Sharing A Commonwealth.” According to Tan Sri Dato and Dr. Abdullah Sanusi Ahmad, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya, “This philosophy of sharing the wealth of cultures and historical experiences is the first step towards the creation of a more tolerant and dynamic world.” Terry Eagleton delivered the keynote address on the topic of “Sharing the Wealth of Theory.” There was also a strong focus on translation at this conference. “Funding for attendance at the conference was generously provided by Kuwait University” (Johae 37). Some notable attendees included Chris and Helen Tiffin, DCRA Goonetilleke, Radhika Mohanram, and Ralph Crane.

2001 12th triennial conference, Canberra, Australia

“Resistance & Reconciliation: Writing in the Commonwealth” was the theme of the 12th triennial conference of ACLALS in Canberra, Australia in 9-14 July 2001. 2001 was the centenary of the federation of the six Australian states and the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Participants discussed questions including: “How have postcolonial studies or other theoretical perspectives confirmed or challenged notions of a Commonwealth, and Commonwealth writing” and “In what ways can writing constitute forms of resistance? Or reconciliation” (Wilson 131). This was a very big conference with over 250 papers and between 5 to 6 parallel sessions. The co-organizers include Bruce Bennett, University College, and the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra.

2004 13th triennial conference, India, Hyderabad

The thirteenth triennial ACLALS conference was held on 4-9 August 2004 in the city of Hyderabad. Under the theme of “Nation and Imagination: The Changing Commonwealth,” lively debate centred on writers who are writing mainly for their own compatriots as compared to writers who are “writing back to the centre or to the former colony from which they have displaced themselves” (Trivedi 2). Papers varied considerably and tackled topics such as the relation between nation between narration, gender, immigration, culture, sports, and language. The keynote speaker was Vikram Seth, whose topic was “Commonwealth Writers Prize Winner.” The increasing attention to translation was another topic discussed at the conference, especially the rapid changes in India and Pakistan. Scholars also highlighted about the situation of dramas and plays in Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, South Africa, Canada and Australia.

2007 14th conference in Vancouver, Canada

The 14th conference of ACLALS was held in Vancouver, Canada, 17-22 August 2007. The theme of this conference was “Literature for our Times”. The keynote speaker was Jeannette Armstrong; her topic was“Literature of the Land: An Ethos for These Times.” In his introduction, Bill Ashcroft “point[ed] out that Postcolonialism is not a chronology or a specific ontology but a way of reading; a centrifugal rather than centripetal energy” (Alonso Breto 219). During the conference, topics related to language and appropriation, race and racism, ethnicity and its relation to the state, and the growing mobility of formerly colonized populations were discussed. This conference was, at that point, the largest in the organization’s 35-year history.

2010 15th triennial conference, Nicosia, Cyprus

The 15th triennial conference was held at the University of Cyprus onn 6-11 June 2010. “Cyprus, marked by political divisions and painful borders, with its layers of linguistic pasts, colonial histories, and multiple cultures, is a unique locale for reflections on tensions between intimacy and estrangement, the vernacular and the cosmopolitan” (Luo 191-192). The theme “Strokes Across Cultures” invited differing interpretations and contains multiple possibilities for examining the languages, literature and other cultural texts through which the legacy of the Commonwealth might be viewed and critically interrogated through disciplinary and interdisciplinary dialogues.

2013 16th triennial conference, St. Lucia

The 16th ACLALS triennial, whose theme was “‘The current unbroken/the circuits kept open’: Connecting Cultures and the Commonwealth,” was held in St. Lucia. “The title of the conference based on a poem by Edward Baugh is arresting indeed but the expenses involved and the problems in obtaining visas meant that ‘connecting cultures and the Commonwealth’ was achieved in a very limited manner” (Perera 689). While this was a large conference, attendance from South Asian members was sparse. A reduction in funding by the Commonwealth Foundation to ACLALS was already heralding challenges for some smaller branches.

2016 17th triennial conference, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The 17th triennial conference of ACLALS was held at Stellenbosch University, from 10-15 July 2016. Its theme was “Ideas of Postcolonial Culture: Inclusions and Exclusions”. This was the first ACLALS conference to be held on African soil since the 1970s and the first ever to be held in the Western Cape. This conference provided an opportunity to explore the dangers of ahistorical relativism, cultural appropriation, neo-colonial forms of exclusion and inclusion, and the paradoxes inherent in the concept of post-colonial and world culture.

2019 18th Triennial conference in Auckland, New Zealand

ACLALS Triennial Conference was held in July 2019 at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “This was a major international academic gathering devoted, among other things, to discussing New Zealand’s position in this ‘uncommonly flexible set of social, political, legal and economic forms of association’” (aclals.auckland.ac.nz). “That some of the organization’s national chapters this year began questioning the use of the word ‘Commonwealth’ in the organization’s title——proposing tentative plans to swap it for alternatives such as ‘postcolonial’——is indicative of a critical scrutiny in which the old metropoles are continually decentred, geographical imaginaries disorientated, settler colonies unsettled and intercontinental configurations rewired” (Davies 585). One of the keynotes, Arundhati Roy raised the question of the relationship between literature and politics, and put forward “post-colonial writing can resist and colonialism”.