27-29 July 2023 (Newcastle, UK)


Transnational Turns in Children’s Literature


A number of edited volumes and special journal issues within children’s literature have noted the need to develop a broader international perspective in the field, departing from an Anglo-American interpretation of “childhood” or “children’s literature.” In John Stephens’s Subjectivity in Asian Children’s Literature and Film, he calls for culturally specific studies of non-European children’s literature, which acknowledge that Western conceptions of subjectivity are “not portable” and require unique theories and approaches that attend to these differences. In her study of Chinese children’s literature, Shih-Wen Sue Chen adds that a transnational lens reveals the connection of people and places across time and space, drawing attention to the constructed nature of childhood across cultures. Building on the work of Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Chen underscores how these transnational flows are multidirectional.


While these calls for change within children’s literature are welcome, they are also only one among many “transnational turns” within the field. In the early twentieth century, for instance, authors and illustrators, many of whom were immigrants themselves, brought Chinese views of cosmopolitanism with them upon their migration to the United States and imported these ideas and values into children’s books for young Americans. Similarly, there were international movements in librarianship, which were reflected in both American and European collections, with Jella Lepman, the founder of the International Youth Library in Munich, being one key figure. Reflecting the diversity of professions within the field, these examples demonstrate early efforts to move beyond a national framework in children’s literature.


At the same time, a broadening of the perspective on these global changes in the field reveal that others were hard at work reshaping understandings of children’s literature and childhood. Lu Xun, author of “What Does it Mean to Be a Father Today?”, was part of a larger movement to record and trace the child’s unique characteristics and needs. These initiatives, while documented in studies of Chinese children’s literature, such as Claudia Nelson and Rebecca Morris’s Representing Children in Chinese and U.S. Children’s Literature, still do not feature in histories of child study from the twentieth century, despite being contemporaneous with influential contributors to the movement that include Sigmund Freud and G. Stanley Hall.

We therefore invite papers that engage in historical and interdisciplinary perspectives on “transnational turns” in children’s literature, attending to previous attempts to encourage international exchange within the field and also to the theoretical or methodological issues raised by such comparative work. Around the world, the global circulation of American and European texts, often imported into countries within the Global South, problematize these exchanges. We encourage conference attendees to consider how these forms of exchange move in both ways, challenging narratives that assume a unidirectional flow of ideas and concepts about childhood and children’s literature. In this vein, we suggest, but are not restricted to, the following topics:



  • Alternative histories of children’s literature
  • · Transnational or international initiatives within the field


  • · Child-led activist movements that move beyond the nation
  • · International efforts to protect children’s rights (especially those that consider alternative frameworks to well-known organizations such as the United Nations)


  • · Critical reflections on global market trends in children’s publishing
  • · Unique case studies or new methodologies for developing a more inclusive children’s literature in the global market


  • · Reflections on approaches to analyzing transnational childhood
  • · Application of critical theories that support a transnational approach to childhood and/or children’s literature


Proposals for complete panels and individual papers will be accepted beginning on 1 September 2022 until the submission deadline of 16 December 2022. 


Instructions: Proposals for complete panels (of three to four papers and a designated chair) and for individual papers will be accepted. Individual proposals for presenting a paper (20 min. max) will require an abstract (250 word max) and a brief presenter bio (100 word max). Panel proposals will require a panel description (100 words), abstracts (250 word max) for 3-4 papers (20 mins max), and brief bios (100 word max) for each presenter and a designated chair. Submission of complete panels is highly recommended and is likely to increase the acceptance rate. For those submitting panels, please read the advice for panel submitters below. Organizers will be asked to indicate in which of the 4 streams above the paper or panel belongs. Individual presenters will be asked about their willingness to serve as a panel chair, if needed. For all applicants, you should indicate if you are applying for an online or in-person session. If there are special considerations (e.g., where only a single presenter of a panel must present online), please indicate this at the bottom of your proposal and we will do our best to accommodate these requests.


Advice For Panel Organizers


Because this is a hybrid conference, we strongly encourage panel organizers to ensure they have a diverse set of panelists. Given the theme, we encourage you to consider, in particular, geographical representation on your panel. We understand that global movement means that where a scholar is affiliated or geographically located is not fully reflective of their background, and in these instances the organizer might indicate each scholar’s credibility to cover a particular topic in the presenter’s biographical sketch.


All proposals should be submitted to by the CFP deadline using the subject line ICLS2023 Submission.

Bilingual CFP (English/Chinese) PDF 193Kb

You may access the bilingual version (English/Chinese) of our CFP by clicking on the hyperlink above.