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This introduction discusses the conceptual and theoretical framework of The Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing, explaining the rationale behind its both linear and lateral structure as well as the selection of its contents. Flagging the difficulties of attempting to contain and articulate such an extensive, variegated, and still emerging field within ‘one’ history, it points to the complex historical and cultural pathways that have conditioned how the different strands of black and Asian writing have evolved. Written to provide readers with a cultural compass to map the often unstable political and historical contexts by which these literatures have variously been framed and named, it points to significant markers and milestones, contiguities and contingencies, which characterise the four centuries of black and Asian writing that this volume covers. One of the challenges of creating such a retrospective history has been to look both backwards and forwards, creating new literary vistas from what have often been limited critical frameworks and reductive political contextualisations.
The Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing provides a comprehensive historical overview of the diverse literary traditions impacting on this field's evolution, from the eighteenth century to the present. Drawing on the expertise of over forty international experts, this book gathers innovative scholarship to look forward to new readings and perspectives, while also focusing on undervalued writers, texts, and research areas. Creating new pathways to engage with the naming of a field that has often been contested, readings of literary texts are interwoven throughout with key political, social, and material contexts. In making visible the diverse influences constituting past and contemporary British literary culture, this Cambridge History makes a unique contribution to British, Commonwealth, postcolonial, transnational, diasporic, and global literary studies, serving both as one of the first major reference works to cover four centuries of black and Asian British literary history and as a compass for future scholarship.