Monday, September 25, 2017

Postcolonial Studies Association, London, 2017

This is a bit of a conference digest.  First: reflections on third culture and its literature; second reflections on Dulwich college and ships (related, I swear) and third (unrelated, except to my life in a Humanities Center here at Goucher College) Rosi Braidotti's keynote.

Oh, I was as happy as a clam in the session on Third Culture.  Photo credits Anastasia Goana Go Ying Ying.

Anastasia Goana  Go Ying Ying (middle) presented Sociological material on TCKs and superdiversity (Vertovec), on identity denial (in which one can curtain/screen off parts of one's identity selectively and to situational advantage) and "enoughness" (when is one of a place "enough" to claim that place's identity?).  She noted the problem of being "called out" for inconsistent self-identification.  Her accounts of interviews and surveys were succinct and vivid.

Jessica Sanfilippo Schulz (right) contrasted and compared TC and Transcultural, referencing the work of Arianna Dagnino, and analysing Allende, Messud and Baraouie (TCAs who write in languages other than English).  Her work is essential in advancing TC analysis into comparative literature.

Both of these papers were great.

My paper was about the cloud theory thing (spoken of previously on this blog).  Here I am !

The questions after the papers raised familiar issues: why this term, do we need it? asked Cathy Waegner.
I think we do . . . but it's only useful if it adds something specific not covered elsewhere: I still believe it does, though maybe the transcultural is coming awfully close.

Isn't this a (heinous!) biographically driven reading, asked a woman whose name I didn't record.  Yes.  It is.  Thinking about this afterwards, I think the only way round this is to indicate forcefully that third culture literature has characteristics discernible in the literature.  ie you can know TCL even if you don't know anything about the author's life. (please see my next book??)

I recently published an article on Michael Ondaatje in which I argue that Dulwich College in London, where he went to school ages 11-18, is a privileged enclave of white Britishness.  En route to dinner at an old friend's house, said friend drove us past Dulwich College and talked about how it started as a school for the underprivileged, and persists as a place that heavily recruits international students.
Hmn.  So,  It is not what I thought, at all.  Perhaps it is even more apropos though: as international school (like UWC or its ilk), Ondaatje would have been amongst other TCKs like himself.

Also Jessica had told me about Amitav Ghosh as a TCK, and she is doing great work on ships as a metaphor: I heard a wonderful paper (by Florian Stadtler) on Ghosh's trilogy (Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, Flood of Fire): all very liquid and fluid and all that.  Stadtler argues that the national is presented as negative,  and the very specifically local as salvific.  Stadtler lifts a term from cinema: "network narrative" (David Brodwell, Poetics of Cinema, 2008 p 243) to explain fluid synchronicities.  I want to read the trilogy and return to his argument.

Braidotti on the Humanities.
OMG do we not care about analysing the human anymore?  I was recently scolded for insufficient engagement (my whole center, the Humanities Center, was, not just me).  How can we engage when the pasts of our disciplines are coming to an end and their futures aren't yet clear?  Braidotti argues that we are on the cusp of a sixth extinction environmentally and an end-point disciplinarily. Speaking for literature alone: whither the future if everyone writes and no one reads ? (pun intended).
Is literature's saving grace that it teaches empathy in a tech-heavy individualistic world?  Do we need war to bring back the importance of the human and of human stories?

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