Through these last days of October, before the days have shortened abruptly and autumn has bristled and rustled with its final flourish, we have watched fires blaze across the dunes near Calais, and seen bulldozers clear tents from the streets of Paris. I’ve heard people express incomprehension, disgust, disorientation, distress, and determination, still. Many registers of response in the face of an operation carried out with unfaltering singleness of intention. They form a chorus of indignation and alarm for the work we have been doing since the beginning of October with a small group of asylum seekers, some of whom have spent time in Calais, and all of whom know the vulnerability of life in the streets and camps of Paris. Our work has been quiet and protracted at times, with considerable linguistic obstacles to mutual understanding and also the difficulties of travel and keeping up with a group project when you are subjected to the vagaries of a state that leaves you without a roof over your head at 24-hrs notice, or places you in a centre miles from any public services with almost no public transport access. And it has been rich and vital too, with moments of shared animation when we’ve discovered connections between our respective languages that have sent us off on word riffs, and moments of stunned silence when one person summons the means to say some of the situations through which he has survived to find himself struggling, for weeks and months, to get a foothold in France, while remaining still deeply attached to his intention to get as far as England, and so contending too with the closing down of that horizon.
We’re going to be bringing this work and the words of these people who would do just about anything to get across the Channel, to London as part of the Being Human Festival. Those of us who are able to travel will be talking about the project in a presentation and discussion on Friday 18th November at Senate House, and then we will be sharing the work of the other members of the group on Saturday 19th November with an invitation to join your creativity to theirs in a workshop activity led by Aida Wilde, a printmaker and artist. Using a variety of materials, including paper cut outs, sticky vinyl, paint as well as cut stencils and water-based spray-paint, we will create new work based on their words. The workshop will start with a brief introduction to the project which has gathered these stories and then we will create posters and artworks inspired by their work in a continuation of the translation process. Finally we will install the results of this Paris-London collaboration as a pop-up exhibition in Senate House, University of London that will be on display for the rest of the festival.
You can read a short extract from the diary I’ve been keeping through this project here.
And for further details on our London activities, please check out the Being Human Festival website:
“Our Region’s Womb of History”: The Caribbean as Postcolonial Sea
What exactly are the boundaries of the Caribbean Sea? How has it been mapped? Why has it so often been compared to the Mediterrranean? Can it be called ‘postcolonial’ in any meaningful way and, if so, from when? What metaphors have been used by the writers of the region to capture its particularity? What is its strategic significance? These are some of the questions that this paper will address.
The Centre for Postcolonial Studies is kicking off the new academic year with another ‘Postcolonial Seas’ research seminar. To register please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
21 September 2016, 5pm, Senate House, room 243
Silent Sentinels in Seas of Sand: French Fortresses in the Sahara, 1850s to the present day
Dr Berny Sèbe (University of Birmingham)
How can empires expand into seas of sand, which by definition pose significant logistical challenges to any intruding force? How can technology compensate for the relative weakness induced by the conquerors’ limited knowledge of the human and physical geography of openly hostile spaces? From the Romans to the British, these two questions have remained pertinent
The use of fortresses in desert environments, as late modern empires started to come into contact with sparsely populated and arid areas, reflected clearly a strategy of symbolic assertion of sovereignty towards predominantly nomadic populations. At the same time, the practical benefits bestowed by secure strongholds able to shelter troops and supplies from potentially hostile forces were also significant, since they provided invading armies with useful intelligence-gathering bases, from where policing operations could be launched.
Looking at the role of fortresses and fortified outposts in the French expansion in North Africa, this talk explores the pivotal role played –in reality or in the public imagination- by military buildings erected in the vast expanses of the Sahara, from the nineteenth century to the present day.
Dr Berny Sèbe (D. Phil Oxon, FRGS, FRHS, FHEA) is a Senior Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Birmingham. He is the author of Heroic Imperialists in Africa: The Promotion of British and French Colonial Heroes (1870-1939)(Manchester University Press, 2013 and 2015) and the co-editor of Echoes of Empire: Memory, Identity and Colonial Legacies (IB Tauris, 2015). He is the principal investigator of the ‘Outposts of Conquest’ research project, which has given rise to the Empires of Emptiness circulating exhibition.
Following the launch of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies in January 2016, we have invited heads of other Postcolonial Studies research institutes, centres and networks to share information about their current research activities and to enter into the debate about the future of the field. Here, Dr Jenni Ramone showcases the activities of the Postcolonial Studies Centre at Nottingham Trent University and the Centre’s commitment to exploring the connections between activism, resistance and consciousness.
My name is Jenni Ramone and I’m Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies at Nottingham Trent University. My research interests include postcolonial and translation theories, reading cultures and the literary marketplace, and I focus in particular on the literature and contexts of South Asia, Cuba, Nigeria, and Black Writing in Britain. I am currently writing a monograph, Postcolonial Literature and the Local Literary Marketplace: Locating the Reader, contracted with Palgrave, which explores instances of reading in postcolonial literature from those four locations, contextualised within their local literary marketplaces. I co-direct NTU’s Postcolonial Studies Centre with my colleague Dr Anna Ball. The centre was established in 2000 and has been home to a number of prominent conferences as well as the journal, Interventions, which was based at NTU for a number of years. Centre members work in a number of disciplines, including English/Literary Studies, International Relations, Global Studies, Travel Writing, History, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Art, Media, and Creative Writing. The centre is currently very active and I maintain the website and Twitter account for the centre, as well as hosting the current research seminar series.
Filmmaker Perivi Katjavivi screening his post-production filmThe Unseen.
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.
The Centre for Postcolonial Studies was delighted to welcome Dr Coro J-A Juanena to the inaugural workshop on 18 January 2016, where she presented the recently-launched online platform of the Kolonialismo Osteko ikasketa Zentroa (KOIZ), located in Bilbao, Spain. Here, she shares her thoughts on the development of the initiative.
KOIZ is a young association formed at the end of 2015 with the objective of becoming a forum for the production, exchange and dissemination of knowledge of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies, through collaborative work and its articulation with other academic and professional institutions, both Basque and international. Despite coming out of different academic traditions, we consider that post- and de- colonial perspectives share the same critical view on the postcolonial condition. From both theoretical positions, it is possible to collaborate in decolonisation projects and the creation of alternatives to the different contemporary transnational realities.
Today, more pressing than ever, an epistemic and intellectual reordering is necessary; one capable of creating new theoretical and research productions about the culturally different Other. The artistic expression and creation of knowledge about the post- and de- colonial condition is a social fact in and of itself that has created and creates post- and de- colonial realities with significant social and political consequences. Sites of interpretation, exchange, self-representation and debate are necessary at a time when modernity illnesses have tended to become chronic. The history of colonialism continues to be entangled in the weave and plot of the present, therefore, decolonisation projects are urgent for building dialogic bridges between culturally different Others that work towards transnational justice. This is one of the reasons why we have created a collaborative network among social movements, researchers, professionals, students and critical institutions that are working in this theoretical field and/or seeking to develop alternative politics to the coloniality of power.
The Centre for Postcolonial Studies was delighted to welcome Professor Lucile Desblache (University of Roehampton) to the inaugural workshop on 18 January 2016, where she presented the activities of the Centre for Research in Translation and Transcultural Studies. Here, she shares her current research interest in animal representations in postcolonial literature.
Fictional beasts, figures of the Other par excellence, are generally presented as tropes of others, mirrors of human perception of alterity, rather than beings with non-human specificities.
In the postcolonial literary context, where allegory has been identified as a recurrent strategy for interrupting and transforming dominant discourses (Spivak 1999), animal representations in literature seem particularly reductive. They can be used to reinterpret tales and fables, such as creole’s rewritings of La Fontaine, and given new meanings in a postcolonial context. They can evoke a dominant subject, the ‘Same’, in opposition to the Other: dogs and horses are thus frequently represented as accessories and tools of White domination in narratives of slavery. They can appear as figures of resistance to colonialism, such as insects in some of J. M. Coetzee’s novels (In the Heart of a Country for instance). They can also appear as abused victims, often in a parallel to human pariahs (in Indra Sinha’s fable on the Bhopal disaster, Animal’s People, to take one example).
Photograph, “Group of emigrants waiting for arrival of ship,” Southhampton, England
Following the launch of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies in January 2016, we have invited heads of other Postcolonial Studies research institutes, centres and networks to share information about their current research activities and to enter into the debate about the future of the field. Responding to our questions, Professor Kendrick Oliver (University of Southampton) showcases the activities of the Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies and the importance of historical research in understanding the contemporary world.
What is your research background?
I primarily self-identify as a historian of the post-war United States, having written books on US nuclear diplomacy, the Vietnam War and the American space programme. To study US history in the post-war period is inevitably to confront the ambiguities and over-lapping time-frames of imperial power, decolonization processes and post-colonial consciousness. This was a time when Americans were, simultaneously, post-colonial, colonial, anti-colonial, and neo-imperial. American power in the post-war world took many different forms; the responses to it were similarly multivarious.
Call for Abstracts for a Special Issue of Francosphères Interconnections and Mobilities: the Pacific Francosphere
Within nationalist, border-focused frameworks, the Francophone Pacific has been painted as isolated and cut-off from its neighbours due to its linguistic difference. However, French-speaking islands have long established Indigenous connections with other sites and peoples both outside of and within the Pacific. These ancestral and historical connections, often linked to widespread ocean-going mobilities, continued throughout the colonial era and were important in the shaping of populations, cultures, languages and relationships in the region. While these links have been somewhat eroded by the uncompromising imperatives of nation-building, there has been increasing interest in rediscovering and reviving these connections and creating new pathways of exchange between linguistically diverse Pacific spaces.