Proposal for Affect and Subaltern Studies.

The discussions we have had so far in class have increased the theoretical framework of my research interests in general. Subaltern studies is a key tool to understand the sometimes intricate relationships of different bodies in a multicultural society, intricacies that remain to be unravel. It is sometimes argued that we (as contemporary people) must assume the exigencies of contemporaneity in trying to have a candid look back to history in order to better represent the self in  relation to other selves.

In this class, I will be focusing on identity and representation, issues that have been at the core of postcolonial, subaltern and diasporic studies. My proposal might look too broad but it is the transversality that is appealing to me, especially when we have in mind the evolution and crossroads of different academic disciplines. Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic (1993) is my main theoretical framework. The Black atlantic culture shares similar insights with postcoloniality and/or subalternity in that they both engage in the intricate inroads of self-identity in a world characterized by chaos and unstability. Postmodernism has had the great merit of challenging the grand narratives of modernism. Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition (1979) has showcased the collapse of Western thought which have been nurtured by a totalizing and authoritative Reason, the notions of human progress and development or what have you. However, postmodernism seems to be trapped in this ever-celebratory trend in a manifest obcession with cultural difference, which in a sense, reproduces the same paradigms of oppostionality which were (and perhaps still) dear to imperial and nationalist colonial/neocolonial enterprises. As Omi K. Bhabha has insightfully problematizd it, “if the interest in postmodernism is limited to the celebration of the fragmentation of the ‘grand narratives’ of postenlightenment rationalism then, for all its intellectual excitment, it remains a profoundly parochial enterprise” (Location of Culture, 2007, 6 (reprint). Therein lies the core problematics of not only postmodernism, but postcolonialism and subaltern studies as well.

This obcession of celebrating parochially cultural difference does not come from a vacuum. I think it has something to do with “Affect” and the sometimes traumatic past of formerly colonized and oppresed people in the world. Homi Bhabha’s insistence on “the third space of enunciation, the liminal space”, along with Edouard Glissant’s notion of “creolization” as an ongoing-process of relationality, or again Gilroy’s idea of the “living memory of the changing same”, are sometimes seen as mere  utopia because of people’s nostalgia of tradition, most of the time in an uncritical way, thus jeopardizing the many merits of cultural hybridity. How can people better engage in postmodernity? What is at stake in being obcessed with the ever celebration of the collapse of the postenlightenment rationalism and the overemphasis on cultural difference? As an example, Stuart Hall once says that he is “dumbfounded” by the world “black” in Black popular culture in the Unite States, that is say the way this notion is being catapulted in African American Aesthetics and literarure.

So to wrap up, I will draw on the intersectionality of subaltern/diasporic/postcolonial scholarships to see how the very act of representing identity is challenged by the exigencies of contemporaneity; hybridity and social relationality. And I want to see how “Affect” and the memory of the traumatic past influence such monochromatic landscape of cultural fundamentalism and the nostalgia of origins and premodern tradition.

About Babacar

I am a graduate student at the Bowling Green State University (Ohio) in American Culture Studies program for a two year Master degree. Am studying the theories of race, multiculturalism and feminism and their intersectionality in the formation of Identity in the racial and postracial America.
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