2022 Puerto Rican Studies Association Biennial Conference: Call for Papers

Moriviví: Activating Puerto Rican Futures

Conference Location: Holyoke, MA

Host Institutions: Holyoke Community College and

Springfield Technical Community College

Date: October 14-16, 2022

Submission Deadline: May 30, 2022

Upon acceptance, all presenters will be required to join/renew their membership and register for the conference by August 1, 2022.

The registration page for the conference will open on June 1, 2022.

Information on how to register for the conference will be available through our website, ricanstudies.com, and will be provided to all presenters in their acceptances.

Please send questions about the conference to ricanstudies[at]gmail.com.

Moriviví (Mimosa Pudica) is a medicinal perennial that is native to the Caribbean and Latin America and found growing on land beyond those regions. The roots, leaves, and seeds possess antibacterial, antivenom, antidepressant, aphrodisiac, anti-convulsant, anti-fertility, and anti-asthmatic properties that are activated in teas, poultices, or oils. Known by many names: “touch me not,” “live and die,” “shame plant,” “humble plant,” “sensitive plant,” and “shy plant,” the moriviví enchants us with leaflets that fold inward revealing sharp spines on the stems when touched. Moriviví—healer, teacher—grows under the shade of bushy trees and in full sun, produces pink blossoms, and appears to be dead only to revive when the source of agitation is removed or repelled. Thinking through the diverse ecologies of human and non-human resistance that surround us, we offer the moriviví as a metaphor for imagining Puerto Rican futures thriving in the diaspora and on the archipelago.

The moriviví teaches us that the performative act of dying is actually an active declaration of sentience and presence triggered by refusing non-consensual touch. Centuries of ecological, political, economic, and social turmoil stemming from the conditions of colonial capitalism position Puerto Rican’s present and future as debt, disaster, and death. For Ricans in the diaspora, those conditions are entangled with dislocation, displacement, and dispossession—destierro (Figueroa-Vásquez 2020). Whether in the archipelago or diaspora, many Puerto Ricans, especially those made vulnerable by race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class, find themselves negotiating structures of colonial violence and organized abandonment (Gilmore 2015) that seek to unmake bodies and relationships. Under these conditions, Puerto Ricans are coerced into either embracing a resilience narrative promoted by a neoliberal state (Lloréns 2021) or succumbing to the “no future” premised by state neglect. The moriviví, however, shows us the strength of refusal and charts out a path for envisioning self-defined Puerto Rican futures against the necropolitical. It offers us healing and protection, a promise of rebirth.

The Executive Council of the Puerto Rican Studies Association is excited to convene academics, practitioners, professionals, artists, and activists for an in-person conference in Holyoke and Springfield, Massachusetts in October 2022. While we welcome submissions that think through the ongoing crises of colonialism, debt, gentrification, land-grabbing, and environmental degradation, among other themes, we offer the curative (Levins Morales 1998) image of the moriviví as a way to center the possibilities of decolonial futures for Puerto Ricans beyond the limited horizon of colonial and capitalist extraction. How can Puerto Ricans embrace rebirth without falling captive to neoliberal narratives of resilience or colonialist fantasies of blank slates? We are interested in exploring the ways that Puerto Ricans, like the moriviví, endure crises (Ruiz 2019), knowing that it is possible to make “livable worlds” (Lloréns 2021) on the archipelago and throughout the diaspora. In particular, we are interested in amplifying how women, queer and trans folks, Black folks, (or, those most minoritized by gender, race, sexuality, class, and ability) activate Rican futures.

We welcome a wide range of submission topics including, but not limited to: race, disaster, debt, displacement, climate, education, labor, political economy, citizenship, agriculture, art, resistance, and abundance. We are particularly interested in submissions that engage with the following concerns and questions:

  • Territory/Destierro: Where do you root yourself when the earth you’re rooted to has been stolen, sold, or appropriated? How do Puerto Ricans ground themselves when we are often so anchored to place, yet also so untethered? What are the possibilities of attending to ecological territories of land and sea in the context of escalating climate change?

  • Bodies/Cuerpas: How do we embody the teachings of the moriviví? How has debt, disaster, death, dislocation, displacement, and dispossession affected our cuerpos/cuerpas/cuerpes—our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing? What bodies of knowledge can we produce by centering and analyzing the “Rican body” in all its diversity—the disabled body, the trans body, the Black body, the criminalized body?

  • Mobility/Desplazamiento: How do we create movement/s? To what extent is mobility to/from/within Puerto Rico and the diaspora structured by grids of difference (race, gender, sexuality, class, bodymind)? How can we interrupt mobilities and flows steered by capital, debt, austerity, climate change, and land dispossession? How can the moriviví help us imagine other flows, mobilities, and relationalities not bound by colonial capitalism?

Clearly, these are not neatly distinct categories or questions, but we offer them as guides as you conspire to create potential sessions.