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This chapter will explore the entangled histories of postcolonialism, world literature, and global anglophone as pedagogical and institutional rubrics. The English curriculum in the Anglo-American academy has in various degrees been reconfigured by these rubrics since the 1980s, but each has often been perceived as antagonistic to the other two, and scholars have devoted volumes to staking their territorial claim on each. Rather than wage partisan battles that perceive the rise of global anglophone as a threat to postcolonial studies, or world literature as a neoliberal takeover/erasure of the literary riches of the non-European world, it is worthwhile, I argue to trace their collective impetus to decolonize English and comparative literary studies.
This chapter explores literary and cinematic works that capture the emergence of technogenic life-forms in war zones through the artificial vision of the drone: that terror-inducing aerial surveillance apparatus and killing machine that is planetary in its reach and catastrophic in its impact. By technogenic life-forms, I mean machinic abstractions of the organic human form that are available for manipulation, expulsion, and annihilation. These life-forms are the product of a scalar transformation of ordinary human vision through the composite digital infrastructure of the drone. The aesthetic repertoire of the chapter ranges from novels such as Richard Clark’s The Sting of the Drone (2014) and Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift (2019), films such as Madiha Tahir’s Wounds of Waziristan (2013) and Atef Abu Saif’s war diary The Drone Eats with Me (2016).
If world literature is conceived as a network of transregional, multi-local and transnational nodes stretching back to antiquity, oceanic worlds can be seen to offer a generative frame for literary history. The world’s oceans gird the shores of cities, nations, islands and continents. They generate contact zones that are multilingual, demographically mixed, economically varied and culturally hybrid. Further, much like world literature, the historicity of the oceans can scarcely be contained within the temporality of transatlantic capitalism from the eighteenth century to the present. This chapter explores literary works across several oceanic zones and offers oceanic comparativism as a rich cartographic frame for world literature.
World literature dwells in our time and in times past. As a treasured heritage of artistic expression in oral, visual, and written forms, it is an indelible part of the story of evolution of human civilization. As a scholarly field, however, world literature has had a rather sporadic presence in the disciplinary landscape of modern universities, surging and receding in accordance with political and sociocultural transformations. The contemporary era is witnessing one such resurgence. The term world appears to have made a spectacular reentry as a literary critical rubric in the twenty-first century. One hears of the “world” all too frequently in academic circles, and in ways that mark our current global conjuncture as, perhaps, the most apposite moment for its articulation. One is reminded of Walter Benjamin’s phrase “the now of knowability” when certain historical periods offer just the right temporal traction for an idea to gain rhetorical currency.