HopeRoad Prize for Postcolonial Literary Studies

New prize: The HopeRoad Prize for Postcolonial Literary Studies

We are delighted to announce that we have welcomed HopeRoad publishers as the newest sponsor of one of our prizes awarded to graduating students in English who demonstrate excellence in specialist fields. HopeRoad provide a generous £50 in books from their catalogue to be divided between the two students whose work demonstrates the best originality and rigour in the field of postcolonial literary studies. Students will be nominated for the prize by their lecturers, and the prize will be awarded at graduation.

HopeRoad Publishing is an exciting, independent publisher, vigorously supporting voices too often neglected by the mainstream. We are promoters of literature with a special focus on Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. At the heart of our publishing is the love of outstanding writing from writers you, the reader, would have otherwise missed.

http://hoperoadpublishing.com/

HopeRoad writers include Pete Kalu, Jean Goulbourne, Maggie Harris, and Jeremy Cameron.


The prize will reward the successful students with some fascinating new reading for the summer but more importantly, the prize will signal exceptional ability in a specialist field which may have a positive impact on applications for Masters courses and funding, PhD research and research funding, and employment. HopeRoad are also looking for new writers to publish: who knows, some of our winners (and, of course, other students and staff) may even go on to publish their academic or creative work with HopeRoad!

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Response to Neelam Srivastava, ‘Fashioning the Anti-Colonial Narrative: Literary Pan-Africanism and Claude McKay’s “Great Ethiopian Novel”’ (18 January 2017) by Keeley Jones

Response to Neelam Srivastava, ‘Fashioning the Anti-Colonial Narrative: Literary Pan-Africanism and Claude McKay’s “Great Ethiopian Novel”’

18 January 2017

by Keeley Jones

Dr Neelam Srivastava of Newcastle University highlighted the particularities of Italian colonialism and its relationship with Pan-Africanism, particularly as this is considered to be a somewhat neglected part of colonial history. Italian colonialism in east Africa contributed to Pan-Africanism, a global movement which encourages solidarity and unity amongst diasporic communities of African descent. In her discussion, Dr Srivastava outlined Italian colonial discourse and the large Italian settler working community in Ethiopia.

Dr Srivastava continued to explore how this invasion impacted on Black and diasporic communities in Harlem in particular, as she emphasised that Black identity does not simply exist in national contexts. Afrocentrism, the ideology that focuses on the history of Black Africans and how they contributed to Western civilisation, prompted many like Claude McKay to write back against racial prejudice from an anti-colonial perspective. Written in 1941 and to be published later this year, McKay’s recovered, unfinished novel Amiable with Big Teeth creates new recognition of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and regards it as an important historical event. Dr Srivastava spoke highly of his work, of his interpretation of communism, and his aim to recover Ethiopia as a focal point for Black identity and race consciousness. This Afrocentric narrative succeeds in analysing how people perceive communism and the struggle in Black diasporic communities.

Concluding the seminar, Dr Srivastava encouraged people to question the differences between African American diasporas and other diasporic communities, additionally highlighting that whilst anti-colonialism longs for true freedom, it is not without its struggles. The importance of unity and solidarity amongst diasporic communities is emphasised via the abandonment of the term ‘negro’, as this was a slave given name. Whilst slavery will always be a part of Black history, it is a lesson to be learned from: it does not define them or the nation.

Moreover, the significant links between the invasion of Ethiopia and the forming of Pan-Africanism become more apparent. In an anti-colonial narrative, Claude McKay offers a unique insight into the impact that somewhat underestimated historical events have had.

Keeley Jones is a second year student on BA (Hons) English at NTU. In Spring 2017, Keeley undertook work placement at the Postcolonial Studies Centre.

Response to Sofia Aatkar, talk on Caribbean Travel Writing (3 March 2017, by Keeley Jones)

Caribbean Travel Writing

3 March 2017

Sofia Aatkar

by Keeley Jones

As part of Global Week’s celebration of diversity and culture, Caribbean travel writing is one of many sessions designed to inform people about Caribbean culture and how this is conveyed through Postcolonial travel writing. In a welcoming social environment, students, ambassadors, and passers-by were invited to the talk for an opportunity to make the most of the week’s final events, and learn about a new topic.

Travel writing as a genre often aims to create realistic and descriptive accounts of travel in new locations. More specifically, postcolonial travel writing challenges the Eurocentrism often identified in travel writing, critiquing the world view that appears in western civilization, and western society. Additionally, Postcolonial travel writing aims to write back against cultural stereotypes, and common themes include identity, nation, otherness, diaspora and hybridity. In the discussion held by a current PhD student in the Centre for Travel Writing Studies and the Postcolonial Studies Centre at Nottingham Trent University, the lack of current research about Caribbean British travel narratives was outlined, and why it is so important to learn about the origins of the Caribbean. In addition to the history of the culture, the travel aspect itself has a big impact, and it was further highlighted that an individual’s identity and nationality affects their opinion on travel as a whole.

Whilst the group discussion remained fairly informal and free-flowing, it primarily focused on the work of Caryl Phillips, who was born in the Caribbean and migrated to the UK when he was one year old. In his work, he often describes his journey to the United States and Europe, and his position as black man in Europe. Moreover, Phillips interrogates black European and black British identity, and the prevailing racism throughout Europe. When exploring Phillips’ travel to Amsterdam, it becomes evident to the reader that although black people here are used in the liberal framework that is Amsterdam and the red light district, they are not able to enjoy this as other tourists would. The exploitation highlighted in Phillips’ narrative conveys a lack of progress for what is considered a liberal city, detailing the experience from a personal perspective. As a result of this, Phillips’ travel writing successfully challenges our idea of contemporary Europe, questioning whether it is truly as evolved as we think.

Not only is it important to understand the origins of these cultures through postcolonial travel writing, but it is also important to focus on the need for education in order to eliminate ignorance and the ostracizing of others, purely out of fear of the unknown. Within a European sense of entitlement, we reject ideas which we know very little about, and we are not introduced to wider global issues. Whilst it can be argued this is due to the way we are conditioned in society, it remains an issue nonetheless. As global week comes to an end, the talk on Caribbean travel writing successfully concluded the fundamental lessons to take away: it is important to celebrate diversity in a way that not only embraces other cultures across the globe, but simultaneously educates us. It becomes more evident that Western society is perhaps not as liberal as we think, and education and open-mindedness are the first steps to solving this issue.

Keeley Jones is a second year student on BA (Hons) English at NTU. In Spring 2017, Keeley undertook work placement at the Postcolonial Studies Centre.

Review: Open Mic Poetry Evening – City Global Lounge (by Keeley Jones)

Review: Open Mic Poetry Evening, City Global Lounge

3 March 2017

by Keeley Jones

 

Throughout Global Week at Nottingham Trent University, different cultures are explored in order to celebrate diversity and raise awareness about important global issues. With events of all kinds taking place, the open mic poetry evening allowed people the opportunity to deliver their work in celebration of global week. Organised by Kyle Hutchinson and held in the city global lounge by the Creative Writing Society, issues were raised regarding identity and our place in the world, as well providing a refreshing opportunity to meet new people of different backgrounds.

Opening with a poem centred around urban living, the first performer focused largely on the small, mundane details of everyday life and its repetitive cycle, such as each minor action taken to make a cup of tea, the amount of sugar added, and the sound of the spoon hitting against the mug. Whilst this is not only designed to depict the life of an individual in Western society, it introduced the idea of the self as a mere fragment in a small world. Subsequently, the audience was encouraged to question this perspective, or rather challenge the cosmopolitan view that we are all a part of the same large world.

Themes of identity and cultural heritage were explored throughout the rest of the performances, outlining western privilege. ‘A Citizen of Nowhere’, written by Chris Page, critiqued the ignorance of Western society for its lack of knowledge and interest in other cultures. It was argued that too many people are oblivious to the issues around them, and that we are not able to label ourselves as citizens of the world when we don’t know enough about the world itself. This theme became more prominent throughout the evening, highlighting the importance of appreciating other cultures and individual backgrounds. Additionally, some poems even portrayed the struggles within a diasporic community from personal experience, and how this impacts an individual’s sense of identity: there are certain expectations based on where you come from, where you associate as ‘home’ and how others in society perceive this. These issues were highlighted and portrayed in a new light, both expressing inner feelings and writing back against cultural stereotypes.

In a large but intimate group of people from different backgrounds, performers were given a space to express their own experiences and how these have been affected by the issues that Global Week aims to raise awareness of. For those not necessarily engaged in Global affairs and the cultural issues that occur in societies every day, the open mic evening succeeded in raising awareness about Postcolonial issues and their overall individual experiences.

Keeley Jones is a second year student on BA (Hons) English at NTU. In Spring 2017, Keeley undertook work placement at the Postcolonial Studies Centre.

‘Dalit Literature: Space and Trauma’, at ECSAS 2016, Warsaw, by Daniel Bilton

‘Dalit Literature: Space and Trauma’, at ECSAS 2016, Warsaw

by Daniel Bilton

September 2016

university-of-warsaw-old-library
Warsaw University Old Library

As the hot midday sun shone down upon the University of Warsaw’s Old Library, ECSAS 2016 sprang into action. This was the twenty-fourth meeting of the European Conference of South Asian Studies, and as one of the organisers noted at the ‘Welcome’ meeting, he was honoured that the university was hosting ECSAS just as much as Krakow was to be hosting the Pope, who was making his first visit to Poland during the same week. This trip to Warsaw, for me, was a trip full of firsts. Not only was this my first trip abroad, but it was also the first time I had attended a conference at this scale, and also my first time presenting a paper at a conference.

My paper, entitled ‘Dalit Literature: Space and Trauma’, was part of panel 43 ‘Dalit writing, caste and space’, organised by NTU’s Dr Nicole Thiara. As the title of the panel suggests, the theme of space was the one that connected the papers together, although every paper was truly unique. The range of papers here was fascinating, with paper topics moving from British Asian literature to Indian graphic novels, and from the depictions of city spaces to the struggles of a small, marginalised communities. My paper can be seen as an extension of my undergraduate dissertation topic, which also looked at Dalit literature and trauma. In this paper, I looked at the connections between trauma and space and analysed various trauma spaces that appear frequently within Dalit literature, such as streets and schools. Interestingly, the majority of these are public spaces. This contrasts with Western ideas of trauma which we usually pair with private spaces. Abuse in Western abuse narratives, for example, normally occurs behind closed doors and away from the public gaze, meaning that it often goes on unnoticed for years. In the Dalit texts that I studied, however, the abuse inflicted by members of the upper castes happens openly in the streets. In one instance, in P. Sivakami’s The Grip of Change, a Dalit woman is physically removed from her home and is beaten in the street by the henchman of her upper caste landlord. As this example shows, the abuse is moved from a private to a public space, firmly rooting Dalit trauma in these spaces.

Due to the vast scale of the conference, it was impossible to visit each and every panel. Amongst some of the panels that I did attend, this idea of space was also discussed in the context of wider Indian literature and society. One paper that I found interesting looked at the surge in popularity of Indian comics, and analysed how the comic form is able to represent the growing modern city space. This focus on comics is interesting, particularly in the light of a paper presented at my panel on graphic novels, as it is a growing form that is being used to present serious questions and concerns. By using this graphic form, writers and artists are able to present issues in a way that reaches younger audiences and is thus able to reach a wider audience. The graphic form is also able to use images to depict things such as city environments, eliminating the need for lengthy scene setting passages. Although moving away from literature, the city environment and its relationship to Dalits was the focus of a paper on a different panel. Here, this presentation focused on city apartment complexes in Hyderabad that are specifically for Dalits. This paper looked at how the Dalits here see the complexes as inferior to the upper caste apartments and that the supermarkets and malls in the surrounding areas are dirty. Although the presenter of this paper acknowledged that the malls in these areas did not include the same upmarket chain stores that the other malls have, she thought that these areas were well maintained. This creates questions into what the actual issues surrounding these sorts of housing developments are. The main issue that was presented here was that they entrench the lack of social mobility for Dalits. If a Dalit were to apply to rent an apartment in a building not specifically for Dalits, they would be denied if the landlord knew of their caste. If a Dalit were to lie about their caste but then is found out to be doing so, they are then evicted from the property.

warsaw-old-town
Warsaw Old Town

Warsaw itself was a city that greatly exceeded my expectations. We landed at an airport that was previously a military air base, and drove forty minutes through the dark city streets with a non-English speaking taxi driver before arriving at our hotel. But as the sun rose the following morning, the beauty of the city was clear to see. The university is nestled within the heart of Warsaw’s Old Town, a beautiful area which comprises old buildings and churches. One of the most striking things about the Old Town is that these old buildings were rebuilt after being completely demolished during World War Two. Architects used the original plans for the buildings so that the rebuild of the area would look exactly as it would have before the war. It is this painstaking attention to detail that has now made the area a world heritage site. As with many places in Poland and this part of Europe, the horrors of the war feel ever present. Throughout the Old Town, one can find numerous war memorials and tributes to the soldiers that died during the war. You are also able to walk the old perimeter of the Warsaw ghetto via maps available at tourist spots. Although I only had time to walk a small part of this route, standing in the middle of the old ghetto opens up the reality of the horrors of the war.

All in all, my trip to Warsaw and to the ECSAS conference was a fruitful one. I gained valuable skills through speaking at an international conference, boosting my confidence in both my work and my presentation skills, something that I hope to build upon at future events. I was also able to speak to multiple academics researching within the field and was able to share information and findings with them. I wish to thank Nicole Thiara for giving me the opportunity to attend and present at this conference, and I look forward to participating at more in the future.

war-memorial-warsaw

 

Palestinian in/visibility – Response to Simon Faulkner, ‘Constructing Pallywood: Photography, veracity, and denigration in Israel/Palestine’ (by Mara Sprengel)

Response to Simon Faulkner, ‘Constructing Pallywood: Photography, veracity, and denigration in Israel/Palestine’

by Mara Sprengel

29 May 2016

The built environment of Israel sustains the Occupation of Palestine physically and ideologically. It ensures that the Israeli gaze is redirected or interrupted via a series of physical structures and mechanisms of control, manifestations of Occupation which seek to ensure Palestinian in/visibility. Hilltop settlements survey a subjugated landscape, the Separation Wall slices through urban and rural space, and roads, underpasses and bridges facilitate Israeli movement. Meanwhile the Palestinian gaze is focussed absolutely on the Occupation, recording and witnessing, and, potentially, resisting. By manipulating visibility through the considered organisation of space, a hierarchy of visuality is created and maintained, one which controls who and what can and should be seen by whom. Subject to the militarised gaze of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), placed under surveillance with their movement and visibility closely monitored, the Palestinian population of the Occupied Territories become hyper-visible however, paradoxically, they are visibly absent from the day-to-day lives of the Israeli population. In Visual Occupations (2015), Gil Z. Hochberg refers to this as Palestinian ‘visible invisibility.’1 This paradox of Palestinian visibility privileges Israeli experience, allowing an imbalance. Whilst Palestinians endure significant exposure to the Occupation, it is largely concealed from the Israeli population, which in turn reinforces Israeli public opinion which is already influenced by an increasingly oppressive mainstream media.

Simon Faulkner discussed a number of artistic and photographic projects which explore, expose and attempt to reframe the politics of in/visibility at play in Israel/Palestine. Focussing on the Activestills collective, a group of Israeli, Palestinian and international photographers who ‘believe in the power of images to shape public attitudes’ and seek to ‘raise awareness on issues that are generally absent from public discourse’ the talk enabled a consideration of visual rights and the ways in which these maintain the Occupation.2  The street exhibition  projects undertaken by Activestills attempt to promote interaction between two polarised populations that are deliberately segregated and in doing so aim to challenge both nationalist ideologies and ways of seeing. Photographs of Palestinian experiences of the Occupation are presented in either public spaces or inside institutions such as colleges, thus enabling a hyper-visible representation of the dangerous ‘other.’ Visual images are presented on paper which renders the projects participatory, the impermanence of the material inviting viewers to deface, destroy or even remove the works. Activestills have found that the reception of their projects varies greatly. Reactions are often violent and confrontational, indicating the emotive power of the visual image to illicit immediate reaction. The images are sometimes considered an affront to Israel, or even, where the photographer is Israeli, as unpatriotic or as an act of treason. Some viewers deny their ‘truthfulness’ and accuse the photographers of falsifying or manipulating their images (and of course, as much as a photographer attempts to maintain impartiality, they are always subject to the potential of bias) whereas some viewers wanted to engage further and to open a dialogue. Such projects operate in a liminal space, one which provides a glimpse of the Palestinian unseen, and as such consideration of the ethics of the visual image, particularly in terms of their portrayal of Palestinian suffering to an Israeli audience, should be considered.

Simon Faulkner also discussed Khaled Hourani and Rashid Masharawi’s documentary film Picasso in Palestine (2012), the culmination of a project which bought Picasso’s painting Buste de Femme (1943) to a purpose built exhibition space in Ramallah. The film follows the processes involved in the transportation of a famed work of art. The series of administrative and institutional hurdles that must be overcome in the ‘real world’ where such undertakings occur regularly, the customs, the security, the insurances, are intensified by Israeli Occupation as Palestine is an unrecognised state with no control over its own borders. The entire process associated with the displaying of the painting in turn informed Hourani’s practice and he essentially managed to overcome the Occupation, albeit briefly. This project brings to mind Omar al-Qattan’s a short documentary film entitled Diary of an Art Competition (Under Curfew) (2003) which saw a group of artists in Ramallah curate a group exhibition during the ‘Second Intifada’3 despite IDF curfews. A number of Gazan artists also participated in the exhibition, submitting their work via diplomatic pouches as they were prohibited from travelling. Both projects resulted in engaging filmic works which circumvent and challenge the restrictions of Occupation.

 

Notes:

[1] Gil Z. Hochberg, Visual Occupations: Violence and Visibility in a Conflict Zone (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2015), p. 163.

2 ‘About Us’, <http://www.activestills.org/about.php&gt; [accessed 15/05/2016

3 The ‘Second Intifada’ or ‘uprising’ was an extended period of intensified violence in Israel/Palestine categorised by an attempted Palestinian uprising against Israeli Occupation.

Further reading:

Hochberg, Gil Z., Visual Occupations: Violence and Visibility in a Conflict Zone (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2015)

Weizman, Eyal, Hollow Land (London: Verso, 2007)

Research Network ‘Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literature’ (Nicole Thiara)

Research Network ‘Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literature’

Principal Investigator: Nicole Thiara

 

In 2014, Nottingham Trent University launched an AHRC-funded research network which is devoted to the literature of one of India’s most oppressed and silenced communities. Dalits, formerly referred to as Untouchables, are at the bottom of India’s caste system and form roughly 20% of the country’s population. Dalit literature, and its representation and re-evaluation of marginalised cultures, has emerged as one of the most significant developments in Indian writing in the last three decades. However, although often highly innovative in its form, narrative perspectives, and use of language, to date Dalit literature has hardly been studied outside of India even though an increasing number of work by Dalit authors has been translated into English and other European languages.

The interdisciplinary network ‘Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literatures’ is the first of its kind outside of India. Its aim is to provide a context in which detailed critical work on Dalit literary texts will take place, and help to make these texts accessible to a wider readership. Funded as part of the AHRC’s ‘Translating Cultures’ theme, a series of conferences, workshops, and other events have been dedicated exclusively to the analysis of a tradition of writing that has been almost invisible outside of India. They drew in prominent scholars from India, the US, Canada, Germany, France and the UK.

In June 2014, Nottingham Trent University’s Postcolonial Studies Centre hosted a conference, ‘Contemporary Approaches to the Analysis of Dalit Literature’, to inaugurate the network and to open an international dialogue between key researchers. This conference was the first in a series of events organized as part of the network. Invited speakers were the scholar and critic K. Satyanarayana and the writer Ajay Navaria. This conference was followed by a public-facing symposium on Dalit Literature at Leicester University, hosted by the Centre for New Writing.

In October 2015, the international conference ‘Crossing the Boundaries of Genre and Challenging Form in Dalit Literature’ was held at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 and the focus of this event was the analysis of the innovative and experimental features of Dalit literature. Invited speakers were the literary scholar and writer Aniket Jaaware, the historian Anupama Rao, the anthropologist Nicolas Jaoul and the founder of Dalit Camera B. Ravichandran.

In June 2015 the international conference on ‘Dalit literature in / and translation’ was held at the University of East Anglia in partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation. Invited speakers were the film director Jayan K. Cherian, the scholar and critic Sharankumar Limbale, the scholar and translator Maya Pandit, and the writer Urmila Pawar.

In December 2015 two symposia were held in India. The one hosted by the English Department at Savitribai Phule Pune University focused on ‘Cast(e)ing Gender in Dalit Literatures’. The invited speakers were the film director Jayan K. Cherian, the scholar and translator Maya Pandit, the scholar and writer Ashalata Kamble, and the writers Urmila Pawar and Chhaya Koregaonkar.

The conference hosted by the English Department and the Centre for Dalit Studies at Delhi University focused on ‘Publishing / Disseminating Dalit Literature’. Collective panels made up of scholars, translators, publishers and writers encouraged wonderfully lively discussions and enabled new encounters. Invited speakers were the writers Des Raj Kali, Balbir Madhopuri, Kalyani Thakur Chaanral, Manoranjan Byapari, Cho Dharman, Satish Chandar, the artists Durgabai and Subhash Vyam, and the publishers Navayana, Zubaan Publishing, Routledge India, Sage-Stree Samya, Democratic Action Forum of Dalits, Women and Minorities, Khabar Lahariya, and Yoda Press, as well as the writer and publisher Bhagwant Rasulpuri.

Planned publications include a special issue in the Journal of Commonwealth Literature and an edited collection of essay to be published with Orient Blackswan.

The network is led by Dr Nicole Thiara, Lecturer in English at NTU, and by Dr Judith Misrahi-Barak, Associate Professor in English at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, France.

For further information about the ‘Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literature’ network and previous and future events, please see our website: https://dalitliterature.wordpress.com/. This website includes a list of publication that are relevant to the study of Dalit literature. This resource is supposed to help increase the scholarship on Dalit literature and the representation of caste in literature and film.

The network also launched the YouTube channel Dalit Voice and Vision. This channel was set up to cover the events, conferences and activities of the network. In the future, we aim to focus on recording interviews, digital autobiographies and performances by Dalit writers, artists and people with a story to tell.