A critical reading of the unstable structures that organize biological and social life
This timely and radically interdisciplinary volume uncovers the aesthetics and politics of infrastructure. From roads and bridges to harbors and canals, infrastructure is conventionally understood as the public works that allow for the circulation of capital. Yet this naturalized concept of infrastructure, driven by capital’s restless expansion, is haunted by imperial tendencies to occupy territory, extract resources, and organize life. Infrastructure thus undergirds the living nexus of modernity in an ongoing project of racialization, affective embodiment, and environmental praxis. Rather than merely making visible infrastructure’s modes of power, however, The Aesthetic Life of Infrastructure brings literary methods to bear on the interpretive terrain, reading infrastructural space and temporalities to show that their aesthetic and sensorial experience cannot be understood apart from histories of production and political economies.
Building on critical infrastructure studies in anthropology, geography, and media studies, this collection demonstrates the field’s vitality to scholars working across the humanities, including in literary, visual, and cultural studies. By querying the presumed invisibility of infrastructure’s hidden life, the volume’s contributors revitalize ongoing literary debates about reading surface and depth. How, they ask, might infrastructure and aesthetics then function as epistemic tools for rethinking each other? And what urgency do they acquire in light of current crises that bear on death, whether biological, social, or planetary?
During the struggle for decolonization, Frantz Fanon argued that artists who mimicked European aestheticism were “beginning at the end,” skipping the inventive phase of youth for a decadence thought more typical of Europe’s declining empires. Robert Stilling takes up Fanon’s assertion to argue that decadence became a key idea in postcolonial thought, describing both the failures of revolutionary nationalism and the assertion of new cosmopolitan ideas about poetry and art.In Stilling’s account, anglophone postcolonial artists have reshaped modernist forms associated with the idea of art for art’s sake and often condemned as decadent. By reading decadent works by J. K. Huysmans, Walter Pater, Henry James, and Oscar Wilde alongside Chinua Achebe, Derek Walcott, Agha Shahid Ali, Derek Mahon, Yinka Shonibare, Wole Soyinka, and Bernardine Evaristo, Stilling shows how postcolonial artists reimagined the politics of aestheticism in the service of anticolonial critique. He also shows how fin de siècle figures such as Wilde questioned the imperial ideologies of their own era.Like their European counterparts, postcolonial artists have had to negotiate between the imaginative demands of art and the pressure to conform to a revolutionary politics seemingly inseparable from realism. Beginning at the End argues that both groups—European decadents and postcolonial artists—maintained commitments to artifice while fostering oppositional politics. It asks that we recognize what aestheticism has contributed to politically engaged postcolonial literature. At the same time, Stilling breaks down the boundaries around decadent literature, taking it outside of Europe and emphasizing the global reach of its imaginative transgressions.
Exploring the intersections of memory, gender, and the postcolonial, Colonial Memory explores the phenomenon of colonial memory through the specific genre of women’s travel writing. Building on criticism of memory and travel writing, Sarah De Mul seeks to open Dutch literature to postcolonial themes and concepts and to insert the history of the Dutch colonies and its critical recollection into the traditionally Anglophone-dominated field of postcolonial studies.
Interrogating current theories of cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and aesthetics in Postcolonial Studies, Decentering Rushdie offers a new perspective on the Indian novel in English. Since Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children won the Booker Prize in 1981, its postmodern style and postnational politics have dominated discussions of postcolonial literature. As a result, the rich variety of narrative forms and perspectives on the nation that constitute the field have been obscured, if not erased altogether.
Winner, MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies
Mapping literature from Spanish-speaking sub-Saharan African and Afro-Latinx Caribbean diasporas, Decolonizing Diasporas argues that the works of diasporic writers and artists from Equatorial Guinea, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba offer new worldviews that unsettle and dismantle the logics of colonial modernity. With women of color feminisms and decolonial theory as frameworks, Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez juxtaposes Afro-Latinx and Afro-Hispanic diasporic artists, analyzing work by Nelly Rosario, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel, Trifonia Melibea Obono, Donato Ndongo, Junot Díaz, Aracelis Girmay, Loida Maritza Pérez, Ernesto Quiñonez, Christina Olivares, Joaquín Mbomio Bacheng, Ibeyi, Daniel José Older, and María Magdalena Campos-Pons. Figueroa-Vásquez’s study reveals the thematic, conceptual, and liberatory tools these artists offer when read in relation to one another.
Decolonizing Diasporas examines how themes of intimacy, witnessing, dispossession, reparations, and futurities are remapped in these works by tracing interlocking structures of oppression, including public and intimate forms of domination, sexual and structural violence, sociopolitical and racial exclusion, and the haunting remnants of colonial intervention. Figueroa-Vásquez contends that these diasporic literatures reveal violence but also forms of resistance and the radical potential of Afro-futurities.
This study centers the cultural productions of peoples of African descent as Afro-diasporic imaginaries that subvert coloniality and offer new ways to approach questions of home, location, belonging, and justice.
Domestications traces a genealogy of American global engagement with the Global South since World War II. Hosam Aboul-Ela reads American writers contrapuntally against intellectuals from the Global South in their common—yet ideologically divergent—concerns with hegemony, world domination, and uneven development. Using Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism as a model, Aboul-Ela explores the nature of U.S. imperialism’s relationship to literary culture through an exploration of five key terms from the postcolonial bibliography: novel, idea, perspective, gender, and space.
Within this framework the book examines juxtapositions including that of Paul Bowles’s Morocco with North African intellectuals’ critique of Orientalism, the global treatment of Vietnamese liberation movements with the American narrative of personal trauma in the novels of Tim O’Brien and Hollywood film, and the war on terror’s philosophical idealism with Korean and post-Arab nationalist materialist archival fiction.
Domestications departs from other recent studies of world literature in its emphases not only on U.S. imperialism but also on intellectuals working in the Global South and writing in languages other than English and French. Although rooted in comparative literature, its readings address issues of key concern to scholars in American studies, postcolonial studies, literary theory, and Middle Eastern studies.
Characters with disabilities are often overlooked in fiction, but many occupy central places in literature by celebrated authors like Chinua Achebe, Salman Rushdie, J. M. Coetzee, Anita Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat, and others. These authors deploy disability to do important cultural work, writes Christopher Krentz in his innovative study, Elusive Kinship. Such representations not only relate to the millions of disabled people in the global South, but also make more vivid such issues as the effects of colonialism, global capitalism, racism and sexism, war, and environmental disaster.
Krentz is the first to put the fields of postcolonial studies, studies of human rights and literature, and literary disability in conversation with each other in a book-length study. He enhances our appreciation of key texts of Anglophone postcolonial literature of the global South, including Things Fall Apart and Midnight’s Children. In addition, he uncovers the myriad ways fiction gains energy, vitality, and metaphoric force from characters with extraordinary bodies or minds.
Depicting injustices faced by characters with disabilities is vital to raising awareness and achieving human rights. Elusive Kinship nudges us toward a fuller understanding of disability worldwide.
Terrorism is a cancer, an infection, an epidemic, a plague. For more than a century, this metaphor has figured insurgent violence as contagion in order to contain its political energies. In Epidemic Empire, Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb shows that this trope began in responses to the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and tracks its tenacious hold through 9/11 and beyond. The result is the first book-length study to approach the global War on Terror from a postcolonial literary perspective.
Raza Kolb assembles a diverse archive from colonial India, imperial Britain, French and independent Algeria, the postcolonial Islamic diaspora, and the neoimperial United States. Anchoring her book are studies of four major writers in the colonial-postcolonial canon: Rudyard Kipling, Bram Stoker, Albert Camus, and Salman Rushdie. Across these sources, she reveals the tendency to imagine anticolonial rebellion, and Muslim insurgency specifically, as a virulent form of social contagion. Exposing the long history of this broken but persistent narrative, Epidemic Empire is a major contribution to the rhetorical history of our present moment.
The logic and the interpretive resources of For the Record arise out of two entangled and minoritized historiographies: one in South Asian studies and the other in queer/sexuality studies. Focusing on late colonial India, Arondekar examines the spectacularization of sexuality in anthropology, law, literature, and pornography from 1843 until 1920. By turning to materials and/or locations that are familiar to most scholars of queer and subaltern studies, Arondekar considers sexuality at the center of the colonial archive rather than at its margins. Each chapter addresses a form of archival loss, troped either in a language of disappearance or paucity, simulacrum or detritus: from Richard Burton’s missing report on male brothels in Karáchi (1845) to a failed sodomy prosecution in Northern India, Queen Empress v. Khairati (1884), and from the ubiquitous India-rubber dildos found in colonial pornography of the mid-to-late nineteenth century to the archival detritus of Kipling’s stories about the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
"Hanif Kureishi is a proper Englishman. Almost." So observes biographer Kenneth Kaleta. Well known for his films My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, the Anglo-Asian screenwriter, essayist, and novelist has become one of the leading portrayers of Britain's multicultural society. His work raises important questions of personal and national identity as it probes the experience of growing up in one culture with roots in another, very different one.
This book is the first critical biography of Hanif Kureishi. Kenneth Kaleta interviewed Kureishi over several years and enjoyed unlimited access to all of his working papers, journals, and personal files. From this rich cache of material, he opens a fascinating window onto Kureishi's creative process, tracing such works as My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, The Buddha of Suburbia, London Kills Me, The Black Album, and Love in a Blue Time from their genesis to their public reception. Writing for Kureishi fans as well as film and cultural studies scholars, Kaleta pieces together a vivid mosaic of the postcolonial, hybrid British culture that has nourished Kureishi and his work.
Why should Salman Rushdie describe his truth telling as an act of swallowing impure “haram” flesh from which the blood has not been drained? Why should Rudyard Kipling cast Kim, the imperial child–agent, as a body/text written upon and damaged by empire? Why should E. M. Forster evoke through the Indian landscape the otherwise unspeakable racial or homosexual body in his writing? In Making Words Matter: The Agency of Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, Ambreen Hai argues that these writers focus self–reflectively on the unstable capacity of words to have material effects and to be censored, and that this central concern with literary agency is embedded in, indeed definitive of, colonial and postcolonial literature.
Making Words Matter contends that the figure of the human body is central to the self–imagining of the text in the world because the body uniquely concretizes three dimensions of agency: it is at once the site of autonomy, instrumentality, and subjection. Hai’s work exemplifies a new trend in postcolonial studies: to combine aesthetics and politics and to offer a historically and theoretically informed mode of interpretation that is sophisticated, lucid, and accessible.
This is the first study to identify and examine the rich convergence of issues and to chart their dynamic. Hai opens up the field of postcolonial literary studies to fresh questions, engaging knowledgeably with earlier scholarship and drawing on interdisciplinary theory to read both well known and lesser–known texts in a new light. It should be of interest internationally to students and scholars in a variety of fields including British, Victorian, modernist, colonial, or postcolonial literary studies, queer or cultural studies, South Asian studies, history, and anthropology.
Mongrel Nation surveys the history of the United Kingdom’s African, Asian, and Caribbean populations from 1948 to the present, working at the juncture of cultural studies, literary criticism, and postcolonial theory. Ashley Dawson argues that during the past fifty years Asian and black intellectuals from Sam Selvon to Zadie Smith have continually challenged the United Kingdom’s exclusionary definitions of citizenship, using innovative forms of cultural expression to reconfigure definitions of belonging in the postcolonial age. By examining popular culture and exploring topics such as the nexus of race and gender, the growth of transnational politics, and the clash between first- and second-generation immigrants, Dawson broadens and enlivens the field of postcolonial studies.
Mongrel Nation gives readers a broad landscape from which to view the shifting currents of politics, literature, and culture in postcolonial Britain. At a time when the contradictions of expansionist braggadocio again dominate the world stage, Mongrel Nation usefully illuminates the legacy of imperialism and suggests that creative voices of resistance can never be silenced.Dawson
“Elegant, eloquent, and full of imaginative insight, Mongrel Nation is a refreshing, engaged, and informative addition to post-colonial and diasporic literary scholarship.”
—Hazel V. Carby, Yale University
“Eloquent and strong, insightful and historically precise, lively and engaging, Mongrel Nation is an expansive history of twentieth-century internationalist encounters that provides a broader landscape from which to understand currents, shifts, and historical junctures that shaped the international postcolonial imagination.”
—May Joseph, Pratt Institute
Ashley Dawson is Associate Professor of English at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island. He is coeditor of the forthcoming Exceptional State: Contemporary U.S. Culture and the New Imperialism.
Is it possible to simultaneously belong to and be exiled from a community? In Politics of the Female Body, Ketu H. Katrak argues that it is not only possible, but common, especially for women who have been subjects of colonial empires.
Through her careful analysis of postcolonial literary texts, Katrak uncovers the ways that the female body becomes a site of both oppression and resistance. She examines writers working in the English language, including Anita Desai from India, Ama Ata Aidoo from Ghana, and Merle Hodge from Trinidad, among others. The writers share colonial histories, a sense of solidarity, and resistance strategies in the on-going struggles of decolonization that center on the body.
Bringing together a rich selection of primary texts, Katrak examines published novels, poems, stories, and essays, as well as activist materials, oral histories, and pamphlets—forms that push against the boundaries of what is considered strictly literary. In these varied materials, she reveals common political and feminist alliances across geographic boundaries.
A unique comparative look at women’s literary work and its relationship to the body in third world societies, this text will be of interest to literary scholars and to those working in the fields of postcolonial studies and women’s studies.
Despite the central role that animals play in African writing and daily life, African literature and African thinkers remain conspicuously absent from the field of animal studies. The Postcolonial Animal: African Literature and Posthuman Ethics demonstrates the importance of African writing to animal studies by analyzing how postcolonial African writing—including folktales, religion, philosophy, and anticolonial movements—has been mobilized to call for humane treatment of nonhuman others. Mwangi illustrates how African authors grapple with the possibility of an alternative to eating meat, and how they present postcolonial animal-consuming cultures as shifting toward an embrace of cultural and political practices that avoid the use of animals and minimize animal suffering. The Postcolonial Animal analyzes texts that imagine a world where animals are not abused or used as a source of food, clothing, or labor, and that offer instruction in how we might act responsibly and how we should relate to others—both human and nonhuman—in order to ensure a world free of oppression. The result is an equitable world where even those who are utterly foreign to us are accorded respect and where we recognize the rights of all marginalized groups.
Although the body has been a vast subject for postcolonial studies, few theorists have attempted to go beyond the simple mixing of races in examining the impact of colonialism on the colonized body. However, as Deepika Bahri argues, it is essential to see the postcolonial body in a variety of forms: as capable of transformation not only in psyche and outward behavior but also in flesh and blood.
European colonizers brought new ways of seeing the body in matters as basic as how to eat, speak, sit, shit, or spit. As nations decolonized, these imperialistic ideas remained, becoming part of the global economy of the body. In Postcolonial Biology, Bahri argues that the political challenges of the twenty-first century require that we deconstruct these imperial notions of the body, as they are fundamental to power structures governing today’s globalized world.
Postcolonial Biology investigates how minds and bodies have been shaped by colonial contact, to create deeply embedded hierarchies among the colonized. Moving beyond “North/South” thinking, Bahri reframes the questions of postcolonial bodies to address all societies, whether developed or developing. Engaging in innovative, highly original readings of major thinkers such as Adorno, Horkheimer, Derrida, and Fanon, this book brings an important new focus to the field of postcolonial studies—one that is essential to understanding the ideas and conflicts that currently dominate the global order.
The contentious relationship between modernism and realism has powerfully influenced literary history throughout the twentieth century and into the present. In 1930s Korea, at a formative moment in these debates, a “crisis of representation” stemming from the loss of faith in language as a vehicle of meaningful reference to the world became a central concern of literary modernists as they operated under Japanese colonial rule.Christopher P. Hanscom examines the critical and literary production of three prose authors central to 1930s literary circles—Pak T’aewon, Kim Yujong, and Yi T’aejun—whose works confront this crisis by critiquing the concept of transparent or “empiricist” language that formed the basis for both a nationalist literary movement and the legitimizing discourse of assimilatory colonization. Bridging literary and colonial studies, this re-reading of modernist fiction within the imperial context illuminates links between literary practice and colonial discourse and questions anew the relationship between aesthetics and politics.The Real Modern challenges Eurocentric and nativist perspectives on the derivative particularity of non-Western literatures, opens global modernist studies to the similarities and differences of the colonial Korean case, and argues for decolonization of the ways in which non-Western literatures are read in both local and global contexts.
The violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war takes place gradually and often invisibly. Using the innovative concept of "slow violence" to describe these threats, Rob Nixon focuses on the inattention we have paid to the attritional lethality of many environmental crises, in contrast with the sensational, spectacle-driven messaging that impels public activism today. Slow violence, because it is so readily ignored by a hard-charging capitalism, exacerbates the vulnerability of ecosystems and of people who are poor, disempowered, and often involuntarily displaced, while fueling social conflicts that arise from desperation as life-sustaining conditions erode.In a book of extraordinary scope, Nixon examines a cluster of writer-activists affiliated with the environmentalism of the poor in the global South. By approaching environmental justice literature from this transnational perspective, he exposes the limitations of the national and local frames that dominate environmental writing. And by skillfully illuminating the strategies these writer-activists deploy to give dramatic visibility to environmental emergencies, Nixon invites his readers to engage with some of the most pressing challenges of our time.
Poetry is often viewed as culturally homogeneous—“stubbornly national,” in T. S. Eliot’s phrase, or “the most provincial of the arts,” according to W. H. Auden. But in A Transnational Poetics, Jahan Ramazani uncovers the ocean-straddling energies of the poetic imagination—in modernism and the Harlem Renaissance; in post–World War II North America and the North Atlantic; and in ethnic American, postcolonial, and black British writing. Cross-cultural exchange and influence are, he argues, among the chief engines of poetic development in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Reexamining the work of a wide array of poets, from Eliot, Yeats, and Langston Hughes to Elizabeth Bishop, Lorna Goodison, and Agha Shahid Ali, Ramazani reveals the many ways in which modern and contemporary poetry in English overflows national borders and exceeds the scope of national literary paradigms. Through a variety of transnational templates—globalization, migration, travel, genre, influence, modernity, decolonization, and diaspora—he discovers poetic connection and dialogue across nations and even hemispheres.
Why are so many people attracted to narrative fiction? How do authors in this genre reframe experiences, people, and environments anchored to the real world without duplicating "real life"? In which ways does fiction differ from reality? What might fictional narrative and reality have in common—if anything?
By analyzing novels such as Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace, Zadie Smith's White Teeth, and Hari Kunzru's The Impressionist, along with selected Latino comic books and short fiction, this book explores the peculiarities of the production and reception of postcolonial and Latino borderland fiction. Frederick Luis Aldama uses tools from disciplines such as film studies and cognitive science that allow the reader to establish how a fictional narrative is built, how it functions, and how it defines the boundaries of concepts that appear susceptible to limitless interpretations.
Aldama emphasizes how postcolonial and Latino borderland narrative fiction authors and artists use narrative devices to create their aesthetic blueprints in ways that loosely guide their readers' imagination and emotion. In A User's Guide to Postcolonial and Latino Borderland Fiction, he argues that the study of ethnic-identified narrative fiction must acknowledge its active engagement with world narrative fictional genres, storytelling modes, and techniques, as well as the way such fictions work to move their audiences.
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