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New Postcolonialisms: Literary Perspectives from Canada and Brazil

2011/11/13

Postcolonial studies works at “the intersection between intervention and representation” (Slater 224)

Let’s consider the implications of this statement for understanding some of the ways in which literary and postcolonial studies enrich each other within postcolonial literary studies in English. If we accept this characterization of postcolonial studies, as I do, then what are the implications of such an approach for the practice of literary interpretation? After defining my terms, and introducing some of the range of new postcolonialisms now under development, I will argue that postcolonial critique would benefit from fuller engagement with perspectives from Canada and Brazil. Postcolonial theory recognizes what Kamau Brathwaite calls “the terrible terms meted out for universality” (20)—that is, that hegemonic knowledge claims about universality have tended to deny their situatedness within a particular local reality, mistaking the particular for the universal. Yet postcolonial theory itself is not always immune to such a danger. For different reasons and in different ways, both Canada and Brazil have been marginalized within mainstream postcolonial theory. The growing exchanges between literary critics in our two countries is helping to reorient postcolonial studies’ more general turn toward an expanded dialogue with the Americas, and with the challenges of globalizing processes.These perspectives hold potential to change the questions that postcolonial critics ask about texts, and to change the nature of theorizing itself. Instead of accepting a framework that opposes universal to particular, I will argue that attending to the situatedness of all research provides an orientation that bypasses these oppositions to provide a different way of thinking about knowledge as deriving from multiple locations.

Uberlandia Keynote Address. November 23, 2011 Online advance pdf

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