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Postcolonial Spatialities

On one reading postcolonial studies seem to be riveted more firmly on temporal as opposed to spatial questions. This may be traced partly to the effect of the temporalizing "post-" in the term postcolonialism, which has allowed an insistence on various dates as inaugurating the epochal postcolonial relation.   ... more

On one reading postcolonial studies seem to be riveted more firmly on temporal as opposed to spatial questions.  This may be traced partly to the effect of the temporalizing "post-" in the term postcolonialism, which has allowed an insistence on various dates as inaugurating the epochal postcolonial relation.  Thus, 1492 and 1955 are readily taken as two bookends to the postcolonial, the first signaling the debatable first discovery of the Americas and the second specifying the moment of the coming together of nations from Africa, Asia, and Latin America in a new comity of nations setting out a lively anti-colonial agenda.  At the same time these and other inaugural dates also signal moments of spatiality, in which spatial processes took place that altered the socio-cultural and political relation between so-called Third and First Worlds, global south and global north, and between various nodal points of the global south itself.

At the same time, the question of space and spatiality must also be noted as having taken an increasingly central place in general discussions of the colonial and postcolonial condition.  This other emphasis emerges most visibly in analyses that expressly detail or otherwise highlight  the automatic entailments of the colonial world with that of the colonized, such that it is impossible to understand metropolitan colonial culture without a concomitant understanding of the spatial relationships between that and the culture of the colonized.  In this respect we might even adduce inherently spatial axioms from Edward Said’s now-classic Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism.  Additionally, the increasing focus on transnational modes of analysis has meant that space has taken on a salience alongside other categories as a means of understanding an inter-dependent world.  Varied postcolonial scholars have increasingly paid attention to the transnational inter-relatedness of space (Appadurai, Modernity at Large; James Ferguson, Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order), and to the inherently multi-scalar nature of specific locations in the postcolonial world (Jini Watson on The New Asian City: Three-Dimensional Fictions of Space and Urban Forms; Rashmi Varma on The Postcolonial City and Its Subjects: London, Nairobi, Bombay; Sarah Nuttal and Achille Mbembe, Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis; and Ato Quayson, Oxford Street: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism).

Finally, the interest in space and spatiality has been a prominent part of the interdisciplinary confluence of geography, urban studies, and colonial/postcolonialism, inspired by the critique of cartography, modernist planning, and globalization studies.  Whether in Mary Louise Pratt’s discussion of the inter-dependent genesis of planetary consciousness in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, Kapil Raj’s specific critique of cartography in Relocating Modern Science or in Karen Lynnea Piper’s Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race, and Identity, interdisciplinarity has provided the rationale for thinking of space as a primary category of analysis.

The several spatial emphases of postcolonialism will be brought together under the rubric of the Colloquy on Postcolonial Spatialities.  Scholars will be invited to offer reflections on the following (not exhaustive) list):

1) Overviews of current spatial theories inspired by Foucault, Benjamin, de Certeau, Mikhail Bakhtin, David Harvey, Bachelard and others for application to postcolonial topics from an integrated and interdisciplinary perspective.

2) Explorations of the ways in which we might read space into and out of postcolonial literary writing.  While literary spaces are a function of language and genre, it is still not clear that we have an idiom by which to convey our critical understanding of such spaces.  Is space a product for example of means of locomotion, features of historical or geographical setting, or of the contrast between  economically and ethically saturated spaces (Slumdog Millionaire vrs Monsoon Wedding, for example).

3) Reflections on the relation between locality and transnationalism in our contemporary world, and the ways in which the increasing mobility of populations and the platforms of social media are generating different imaginaries of space.

Ato Quayson's picture
Curator Ato Quayson

Ato Quayson is Professor of English and Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnatio

Ato Quayson is Professor of English and Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, where he has been since August 2005. He did his BA at the University of Ghana and took his PhD from Cambridge University in 1995. He then went on to the University of Oxford as a Research Fellow, returning to Cambridge in Sept 1995 to become a Fellow at Pembroke College and a member of the Faculty of English where he eventually became a Reader in Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies.

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Introduction: Urban Theory and Performative Streetscapes

by Ato QuaysonBook Chapter
from 
Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism
Quayson retells the urban social history of Accra through the singular Oxford Street, part of the city’s most vibrant and globalized commercial district. more

Spatialization: A Strategy for Reading Narrative

by Susan Stanford FriedmanJournal Article
1.1 (2016)
Friedman adapts Julia Kristeva's spatial tropes to suggest that we can read narrative by interpreting the text's horizontal and vertical narrative movements and intersections.  more

Introduction: The Production of Space in Singapore, Seoul, Taipei

by Jini Kim WatsonBook Chapter
from 
The New Asian City: Three-Dimensional Fictions of Space and Urban Form
To understand the coherence of the New Asian City as category, we must consider, in broad strokes, the colonial and postcolonial histories of Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea, which are as different from each other as they are from the more usual regions examined by... more