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This article attempts a reassessment of the political aspirations within Agha Shahid Ali’s poetics through a close reading of The Country without a Post Office. Although Shahid’s formal innovations have often been prioritized over his political commitments within scholarly evaluations of his work, I contend that in this collection, Agha Shahid Ali practices a “poetics of rupture”: holding themes of coherence and disruption, continuity and breakage, the global and the local in sustained tension with each other throughout the volume. Forged through a political commitment to represent Kashmir in crisis, his poetics of rupture is simultaneously formally founded on breakage and discontinuity, and itself ruptures, as I eventually propose, the very binaries (poetics versus polemics, personal versus political, local versus global) that shadow political poetry. I demonstrate the specifics of Shahid’s poetics of rupture through an analysis of his work with literary allusions and poetic forms. Eventually, this article contends that recognizing the political import of his poetics of rupture has consequences for our recognition of the crisis in Kashmir itself and the ethical and formal possibilities surrounding the representation of this crisis.
Situated within contemporary studies of Cormac McCarthy’s work, this article argues that existing discourse around Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian suffers from a lack of critical engagement with the novel’s racial and colonial politics. Using racial capitalism as a framework, the article posits that McCarthy’s novel can be read not only as a story about American storytelling traditions, but how these traditions are themselves contingent on the reproduction and reification of white supremacy. This rereading of Blood Meridian additionally takes into account how the novel’s narrativization of white supremacy and settler colonialism manifests in both the novel’s form and content, arguing that the novel stages encounters with blackness and Indigeneity to mimic the mechanisms through which white supremacy was (violently) produced.
During the so-called “era decolonization” in Africa, few historical events held more salience than what is most commonly known as the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya (which covered the period from 1952 to 1960). This article examines not only how tropes about the nature and origins of Mau Mau were and are deployed across different semiotic landscapes, but also the ways in which their operations are made manifest through practices of reading. I argue that we should consider the idea of Mau Mau—whether it be central to a text or present a mere detail—as a catalyst through which broader claims are made, especially as they relate to the nature of history and the semiotic dimensions of the events that populate it. This article shows this through conducting a “tropology” of Mau Mau, in which the suffix -ology underscores reading its tropes as a particular mode of studying it.
The idea that (semi-)peripheral societies might follow developmental pathways distinct from those prescribed by globalization has been explored at length in the last twenty years by scholars such as G. G. Alcock, Rem Koolhaus, Jane Guyer, AbdouMaliq Simone, Achille Mbembe, and Sarah Nuttall. For scholars who have celebrated these kinds of sociality, the informal economy—as Keith Hart has called it—represents Gordimer’s “space that lies between camps”: an alternative social velocity to both the corrupt or “can’t do” state and global capitalist modernization. But more and more South African writers are using their work to interrogate the idea that living in the interstices of institutions such as the state, traditional community, and capital is in fact liberatory or counter-hegemonic. In this article I argue that Masande Ntshanga’s 2014 novel The Reactive is the paradigm of the “disaffection” of present fiction—as Ivan Vladislavić describes it—with contemporary South Africa.
In this article I show how ubiquitous hybridity is in cultures. It is enabled by layers of population movements and contacts since the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa around 50,000 years ago. I demonstrate how hybridization has proceeded in the emergence of creole language varieties and show that the same process has also driven, for instance, the emergence and differential evolution of English and the speciation of Vulgar Latin into the Romance languages. Differences in outcomes are determined by the specificities of the contact ecologies, including population structure, differences in the demographic proportions of the populations in contact and power relations between them, as well as patterns of population growth, among other factors. I argue that hybridity is not unique to languages. It is conspicuous in other domains of culture, including cuisine, music, clothing fashions, and technologies, for example. I submit a uniformitarian approach inspired by evolutionary biology to better understand how hybridization occurs.
Recent years have seen a resurgence of scholarly interest across disciplines around the concept “creolization” even as there has been some pushback against this development in other academic quarters. This article contextualizes this state of art around “creolization” and presents an analytical overview of the term’s discursive history. First, I discuss the appearance of the term creole in several areas of the world as an epiphenomenon of the first wave of European expansionism from the fifteenty century onward. Second, I track the emergence of “Creole” as an analytical category within nineteenth-century philology and its further development within linguistics. Third, I focus on milestones in the move of “creole” to “creolization” as a category for theorists of culture. Finally, I discuss recuperations of creolization as a theoretical model, including my own work that articulates it together with theoretical approaches to archipelagos.
The terms creolization and hybridity are neither parallel nor interchangeable. The former cannot be fully understood without taking into account its historical background and geographical context so that creolization is a phenomenon of exchange and transformation that is indispensable to understanding the New World experience. Hybridity, on the other hand, claims to provide a framework for avoiding the binaries of colonialist thinking, enabling agency particularly in postcolonial contexts involving subaltern subjects. Such a reading posits contact and chaos, cultural relativity, exchange and transformation as key tools in a polyvalent system of thought. The resulting nonbinary, archipelagic framework leads to the concept of archipelic rather than continental thought, transcending the universalist presumptions of the either/or and revising and rewriting traditional notions of boundary and location.
“What took place in the Caribbean,” writes Édouard Glissant, “which could be summed up in the word creolization, approximates the idea of Relation as nearly as possible.”1 For Glissant, the word creolization condenses the history of the Caribbean. This is a history characterized by trans-border connections, culture flows, and the transregional movement of people and capital.2 As the first region to be colonized by Europe in the sixteenth century and the last one to be—incompletely—decolonized in the twentieth, the Caribbean has been shaped by the worldwide demand and supply of colonial labor. It was the destination of nearly half of all the enslaved Africans trafficked into the New World between 1492 and the end of the nineteenth century; of significant numbers of indentured and contracted European laborers during much of the same period; as well as of indentured Indian, Chinese, and Indonesian workers after the formal abolition of slavery at the end of the nineteenth century.3 Subsequently, the first half of the twentieth century saw the emergence of a circuit of intra-regional migration of a labor force to the larger Caribbean islands where US-led corporations operated. After World War II, when labor from the non-independent territories of the Caribbean was recruited to rebuild the postwar economies of western Europe and the United States, the region turned into a source of transcontinental emigration.4 On account of this history, the Caribbean has been theorized in terms of transculturation, creolization, and hybridity; concepts such as “remittance societies,” “circular migration,” or “diaspora,” widely used in transnational studies, have also been coined in relation to the Caribbean.5 More than these other terms, however, the concept of creolization has come to condense both the sedimentation and ramifications of this history.
Literary culture after 1945 took shape in a context where a handful of colonial empires were replaced by (at present count) nearly two hundred sovereign nation-states whose domestic politics, foreign policy, and cultural life were profoundly shaped by their relationship to the Cold War superpowers. One of the striking features of the historiography of this post-1945 world is that its two most salient themes—the Cold War, and decolonization—have so often been treated in isolation from each other. Postcolonialism and Cold War studies have, as Monica Popescu tells us, followed “separate, largely non-intersecting paths” (6). Yet even a superficial summary of the key geopolitical developments of the postwar period suggests that the Cold War and decolonization are not just interconnected, but mutually determining. When you take into account the decolonizing world, in some places afflicted by devastating proxy wars in this period, it must be said (it has often been said) that the Cold War was cruelly misnamed. This dual history has shaped our political language. A term like the West, as it is used in academic debates as well as in political, journalistic, and policymaking fields, developed its particular set of associations by contrast with the communist Eastern bloc on the one hand and with the (post)colonial global south on the other. Yet these two versions of the non-Western don’t always line up: although anticolonial movements often sought to align themselves with the international communist movement, many proudly independent postcolonial nation-states were explicitly anti-communist (like the neoliberal regimes in Singapore and South Korea). Other postcolonies grappled with the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China as a colonial power.