Professor Vijay Mishra to address the School of the Arts

The Postcolonial Visual Culture and Narrative Research Cluster in the School of Arts are delighted to announce that Professor Vijay Mishra, author of What was Multiculturalism?, The Gothic Sublime and Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire will be addressing the University of Northampton on Friday March 1 between 1.30pm and 2.30pm.  Please come along to Avenue Campus, Room MY120 for what promises to be a stimulating talk entitled Ghostly Spectres of the Transcultural.  For more details, please see Professor Mishra’s abstract and biography below.

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Ghostly  Spectres  of the Transcultural

Vijay Mishra

The starting point of Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih’s edited volume, Minor Transnationalism, is the failure of theories of globalization and transnationality to give intrinsic legitimacy to minority subjects. Write Lionnet and Shu-Mei Shih,  ‘The transnational, therefore, is not bound by the binary of the local and the global and can occur in national, local, or global spaces across different and multiple spatialities and temporalities’ (6). Minority cultures are clearly part of  the transnational moment. Their ‘productive relationship’ with both major and minor networks requires detailed  analysis and critique. This kind of analysis  would locate the minor, even when profoundly unhappy with its  anxieties and duress – here I have the diaspora in mind –, as permanent fixtures  in nations.  To look at the minor as nomadic citizens celebrating a new, unmoored form of citizenship is to trivialize their   uneasy location in national cultures. Theirs is then a question of struggle and re-definition, a struggle towards acceptance that would see their labour as transforming history and hence the collective  consciousness of the  nation itself. How do minor transnationals gain recognition (after Charles Taylor) as full citizens, how do they  transform a  ‘token’ culture (represented in multicultural bazaars as repositories of ethnic food and dress) into a national culture?  For some theorists, these questions have embedded in them  the principle of creolization which, read as  an ‘ontological principle’, stipulates that  there was never a time when cultures were pure.  To acknowledge this principle of cultural contamination, though, should not  mean that one ignores the current trend towards a  ‘hardening of minority identity’ (10), the sedimentation of cultural difference. One may now want   to work transversally or horizontally, connecting  minorities across nation-states, examining transdiasporic or transcolonial lives, aware of a new global multiculturalism which  has now placed  multiculturalism (as theory and practice) into the past tense.

Transcultural dimensions of literary production, which is my only claim to some passing expertise in the field of transculturalism,   require a rather different interpretative model once we break away from the binaries of  culture and knowledge (the latter  something that great works  of the West produce, the former no more than an anthropological archive from the periphery: Charles Taylor quotes Saul Bellow’s remark, ‘When the Zulus produce a Tolstoy we will read him’), high and low, metropolitan centre and the postcolonial, and so on. In this largely tentative and inconclusive presentation, which by its very nature cannot be a closely argued paper, I want to address minor transnationalism/transculturalism with reference to  literary archives  in four sites: (a) Métissage (b) Anti-language (c) Postcolonial Vernacular (d) The hegemony of colonial discourse.

Vijay Mishra, PhD (ANU), DPhil (Oxford) FAHA,  is Professor of English Literature  and Australian Research Council (ARC) Professorial Fellow at Murdoch University. During the 2013 Hilary Term he is a Christensen Professorial Fellow at St Catherine’s College, Oxford University. His  2012 publications  include  ‘Understanding Bollywood’ (in The Wiley-Blackwell  Handbook of Global Communication and Media Ethics), ‘The Gothic Sublime’  (in The New Blackwell Companion to the Gothic), ‘René Girard, Jacques Derrida and Salman Rushdie’ (in Violence, Desire, and the Sacred)  and What Was Multiculturalism? (Melbourne University Press).

Posted on February 22, 2013, in Events, School of the Arts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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