By Charles Forsdick
Following his participation in the CPS launch event in January 2016, we have invited Professor Charles Forsdick to tell us more about the postcolonial dimensions of the AHRC Translating Cultures theme and to highlight the range of exciting activities taking place under that banner.
What is your research background?
I have always sought to engage with postcolonial criticism in my research since writing a doctoral thesis on exoticism, travel and Empire at Lancaster University in the early 1990s. Challenging the Eurocentrism and whiteness of the Modern Languages curriculum has long been a key concern, and as a lecturer at the University of Glasgow from 1995, I sought to introduce as many students as possible to reading African and Caribbean literature in French. This is work I have continued since my move to Liverpool in 2001, not least in the context of collaboration with the International Slavery Museum. As a Modern Linguist, my interest has always been in understanding the ways in which postcolonialism is – to borrow Edward Said’s term – a ‘travelling theory’, that is, a body of thought whose roots emerged in French and wider Francophone contexts (in the work of Césaire, Derrida, Fanon, Foucault, Khatibi, Memmi, Sartre and others), and then crossed the Atlantic and travelled further afield to influence intellectual life in English-language (and other) contexts. That process often obscured the dynamics of translation on which it depended, and also often demonstrated a linguistic muteness that ignored Harish Trivedi’s early warnings against the establishment of a field with ‘ears only for English’. The development of Francophone postcolonial studies – a subject on which I co-edited an early volume in 2003 – was a reaction against these monolingualizing tendencies, an attempt to encourage the active decolonization of the French studies curriculum, and also an interrogation of the initially hostile reception of ‘le postcolonialisme’ in France itself. These are subjects on which I have continued to work, not least in the context of research on world literature and littérature-monde, projects developed alongside my complementary interests in travel writing and Haiti. Forthcoming books include co-edited collections on C.L.R. James’s Black Jacobins with Duke University Press and on postcolonial lieux de mémoire with Liverpool University Press.