Annotated Bibliography: Temporality in Postcolonial States

By: Chelsea Wall

I wanted to use this opportunity to gather some sources regarding the reconciliation (or lack thereof) of the dueling temporalities inherent in postcolonial spaces between the encroachment of modernity and its negative effects on postcolonial communities and the lure of reconnecting with a tradition and culture present before the colonial encounter.

Amor, Monicia, Okwui Enwezor, Gao Minglu, Oscar Ho, Kobena Mercer, and Init Rogoff. “Liminalities: Discussions on the Global and the Local.” Art Journal (57.4) 29-49. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.

This article is a series of essays that discuss various issues of artists working in Latin America, Africa, and China. I am particularly interested in Okwui Enwezor’s essay, “Between Localism and Worldliness,” which examines the affect of diaspora and migration on the identity of African artists and intellectuals attempting to negotiate the temporalities of the Western world and cyberspace with maintaining a connection with the home space. He uses internal migration patterns to illustrate how new temporalities within one’s own home country and culture can render citizens alienated and distant from its social procedures and concludes that the liminality of diaspora can be “seen as potential subversions of nationality – ways of sustaining connections with more than one place while practicing nonabsolutist forms of citizenship.”

Dasgupta, Rana. Capital: The Eruption of Delhi. New York: Penguin Press HC, 2014. Print.

Dasgupta’s novelistic portrait of Delhi as a booming metropolis puts into perspective the myriad of ways in which multiple temporalities can operate and conflict within one city. Between interviews with the corrupt mega-rich of the business sector and tours of the internal squalor of the city of itself, it becomes evident that more than half of the city, living in slums and sleeping on the medians of the streets, is operating on a temporality which capitalism has yet to infiltrate with which the ultra-rich are unable or unwilling to acknowledge or engage with.

Harvey, David. Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Harvey, whom I didn’t know was actually a faculty member here, analyzes the contradictions of capital and their wider social implications in fostering a world divided by social injustices. He divides the contradictions into “foundational,” “moving,” and “dangerous” with foundational crises being inherently built into the system of capitalism and unavoidable in any of its incarnations, moving crises being constantly changing, some of which build over time and become a form of slow violence in themselves, and dangerous crises (one of which includes capitalism’s relationship to nature and another being universal alienation) being those that pose a danger to the system of capitalism. I felt this source could provide beneficial background and another angle through which I could approach temporality in postcolonial spaces.

McLeod, John. “‘Wheel and Come Again: Transnational Aesthetics Beyond the Postcolonial.” Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 7.2 (2001): 85-99.

McLeod draws attention to the problematic methodologies of postcolonialism and its tendency to become an overarching concept that lacks a grasp of the nuances of locality and an insensitivity to forms of colonialism that differ over time and space and which limit it in reading the complexities and politics of culture in former colonies. He offers transnationalism as a solution due to its insistence on the relationship between new forms of identity and economic networks of cultural production and suggests that the liminal positioning of transnational communities provide a space in which radical critique and social change can take place.

Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011. Print.

Nixon’s book Slow Violence gives an outline of some of the dueling temporalities faced by the advent of capitalism and toxic industry outsourcing to the underdeveloped world. He argues that we, in the Western world, conceive of violence as a singular, spectacular event and neglect to conceptualize the lingering, more insidious effects of violence that wreak havoc on native communities with economic ties to the land. His theory of slow violence is helpful in framing the nature of the temporalities at work in the postcolonial state. Furthermore, I am interested in his conception of “writer-activists” as liminal states in that they provide a strong linkage to underdeveloped countries while operating within the Western world, thereby balancing the two temporalities and attempting to unite them.

Varma, Rashmi. “UnCivil Lines: Engendering Citizenship in the Postcolonial City.” NWSA Journal 10.2 (1998): 32-55.

Varma takes a feminist approach to the problem of creating identity in the postcolonial state, arguing that decolonization projects were intimately tied to conceptions of masculinity that problematized the urban woman, noting that representations of the alienated postcolonial intellectual torn between dueling temporalities have been male in origin, with the voice of the middle-class urban India woman being conspicuously silenced.

Burton, Stacy. “Bakhtin, Temporality, and Modern Narrative: Writing ‘the Whole Triumphant Murderous Unstoppable Chute.” Comparative Literature 48.1 (1996): 39-64. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

This article engages with the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Frederic Jameson to identify the ways in which our unconscious grappling with space and time intimately affect narrative form, noting that it is often the struggle with “multiple, interrelated senses of time” that animates or drives a narrative (46). Though she focuses primarily on a Bakhtinian reading of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, which is not typically considered a postcolonial novel, her rendering of the way that the characters negotiate temporal disjunctions and become limited in their efforts to narrate history, especially her treatment of Benjy as a character who is “extratemporal” are still salient to the exploration of dueling temporalities within modernity, as well as within narrative forms themselves. She ends with a nod towards postcolonial literature, suggesting that a Bakhtinian notion of “chronotopes” becomes vastly helpful in critiquing the ideology of imperialism in postcolonialism.

Sorensen, Eli Park. “Naturalism and Temporality in Ousmane Sembene’s Xala.” Research in African Literatures 41.2 (2010): 222-243. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

In this piece, Sorensen explores the temporal flow of the novel Xala, a tale of the obstacles placed in the path towards Senegal’s emergence as an independent national identity. The novel draws on Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth in order to exemplify that a nation in the hands of a colonized bourgeoisie made of “mimic men” that simply occupy the channels left empty by the colonizing power is destined for neocolonial exploitation. He explores the multiple ways in which this bourgeoisie, embodied in the figure of El Hadji, must actively forge a present in which the deeds and environment of the past is forgotten or deliberately ignored, rendering them actors in an imaginary and wholly impotent world. Furthermore, El Hadji is cursed with a gala, a curse that renders him literally impotent, and therefore must travel to villages on the margins of his bourgeoise community, villages that exist upon a temporality that he has turned his back on and repressed to exist in the postcolonial world, and is unable to reconcile himself to. Through the notion of the xala, which operates across the disjunctive temporal spaces, the two worlds are able to be united, though it is in a negative sense. This piece serves to illustrate the dangers of refusing to negotiate the dueling temporalities of the modern postcolonial state.

Roy, Arundhati. Capitalism: A Ghost Story. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014. Print.

This collection of essays by writer-activist Roy outlines the rampant chaos wrought by the underclass and natural resources of India by modern techno-capitalism. She investigates how capitalism has reinforced the caste system as well as gender, race, religious, and ethnic conflicts in addition to creating the demand to clear vast swaths of lands of people and resources to make way for zones of business activity. She also implicates NGOs and international foundations in making economic might politically and culturally legitimate. This is another source that outlines the ways in which global capitalism makes the divide between temporalities in postcolonial spaces ever more sharp and detrimental to the masses.

Bhambra, Gurminder K. Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 2007. Print.

Bhambra uses a postcolonial approach to deconstruct and reconstruct our understanding of modernity, cautioning that the way in which we understand the past has implications for social theories developed today. She acknowledges that implicit in postcolonial theory is the continued privileging of the Western world and seeks to remedy the assumptions of linearity in modernity theory by constructing a comparison of “multiple modernities.” Understanding these multiple modernities and the way they interact is fundamental to understanding the development of multiple temporalities within the same geographical space.