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Edited by Anke Bartels, Lars Eckstein, Nicole Waller and Dirk Wiemann

Postcolonial Justice addresses a major issue in current postcolonial theory and beyond, namely, the question of how to reconcile an ethics grounded in the reciprocal acknowledgment of diversity and difference with the normative, if not universal thrust that appears to energize any notion of justice. The concept of postcolonial justice shared by the essays in this volume carries an unwavering commitment to difference within and beyond Europe, while equally rejecting radical cultural essentialisms, which refuse to engage in “utopian ideals” of convivial exchange across a plurality of subject positions. Such utopian ideals can no longer claim universal validity, as in the tradition of the European enlightenment; instead they are bound to local frames of speaking from which they project world.

"Mouths on Fire with Songs"

Negotiating Multi-Ethnic Identities on the Contemporary North American Stage

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Caroline De Wagter

This book, the first cross-cultural study of post-1970s anglophone Canadian and American multi-ethnic drama, invites assessment of the thematic and aesthetic contributions of this theater in today’s globalized culture. A growing number of playwrights of African, South and East Asian, and First Nations heritage have engaged with manifold socio-political and aesthetic issues in experimental works combining formal features of more classical European dramatic traditions with such elements of ethnic culture as ancestral music and dance, to interrogate the very concepts of theatricality and canonicity. Their “mouths on fire” (August Wilson), these playwrights contest stereotyped notions of authenticity. In¬spired by songs of anger, passion, experience, survival, and regeneration, the plays analyzed bespeak a burning desire to break the silence, to heal and empower. Foregrounding questions of hybridity, diaspora, cultural memory, and nation, this comparative study includes discussion of some twenty-five case studies of plays by such authors as M.J. Kang, August Wilson, Suzan–Lori Parks, Djanet Sears, Chay Yew, Padma Viswanathan, Rana Bose, Diane Glancy, and Drew Hayden Taylor. Through its cross-cultural and cross-national prism, “Mouths on Fire with Songs” shows that multi-ethnic drama is one of the most diverse and dynamic sites of cultural production in North America today.

"So There It Is"

An Exploration of Cultural Hybridity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry

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Brigitte Wallinger-Schorn

In interpreting contemporary Asian American poetry, it is important to understand the cultural hybridity of Asian America identity, located at the interstices of the fixed identifications ‘American’, ‘Asian American’, and ‘Asian’. This rootedness in more than one culture exposes the inapplicability of binary concepts (foreigner/national, etc.). Hybridity, opposing essentialism and ‘the original’, favors multivocality and ambivalence. The exploration of Asian American cultural hybridity is linked both to material realities and poetic manifestations.
Asian American hybrid subjectivity is explored through in-depth interpretations of works from well-established contemporary poets such as Kimiko Hahn, Marilyn Chin, Li-Young Lee, and Arthur Sze, as well as that of many new talents and hitherto neglected writers.
This study examines how language and power interrelate, with translation and linguistic fusion being two approaches adopted by hybrid authors in their creation of alternative discourse. Culturally hybrid subjectivity is independent of and at the same time interconnected with more than one culture, thus enabling innovative political and identitarian positions to be articulated. Also examined are such traditional poetic forms as the zuihitsu, the sonnet, and the ghazal, which continue to be used, though in modernized and often subversive guise. The formal liminal space is revealed as a source of newness and invention deconstructing eurocentric hierarchy and national myth in American society and expanding or undercutting binary constructs of racial, national, and ethnic identities.
A further question pursued is whether there are particular aesthetic modes and concepts that unite contemporary Asian American poetry when the allegiances of the practitioners are so disparate (ultimate geocultural provenience, poetic schools, regions in the USA, generations, sexual orientation, etc.). Wide-ranging interviews with Kimiko Hahn and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni on identity and roots, language and power, feminism, and the American poetry scene provide illuminating personal yet representative answers to this and other questions.

Unsettling the Bildungsroman

Reading Contemporary Ethnic American Women’s Fiction

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Stella Bolaki

What kinds of uncertainties and desires do generic issues evoke? How can we account for the continuing hold of the Bildungsroman as a model of analysis? Unsettling the Bildungsroman: Reading Contemporary Ethnic American Women’s Fiction combines genre and cultural theory and offers a cross-ethnic comparative approach to the tradition of the female novel of development and the American coming-of-age narrative. Examining closely the work of Jamaica Kincaid, Sandra Cisneros, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Audre Lorde, the chapters foreground processes of constructing an alternative “art of living” which challenges the Bildungsroman’s drive for either assimilation or ethnic homogeneity and pushes for new configurations of ethnic and American female identity. Drawing on feminist/gender studies, psychoanalytic theory, translation theory, queer theory, and disability studies, the book provides a theoretically engaged rethinking of the Bildungsroman’s form and function. Addressing questions of aesthetics and politics, freedom and belonging, betrayal and responsibility, and tracing the Bildungsroman’s links with life-writing forms such as immigrant narrative, mother-daughter story, biomythography, and illness narrative, the study outlines the various ways in which the novel of individual development becomes an appropriate site for the negotiation of several enduring and contentious tensions in ethnic American writing. Of potential interest to scholars of American literature, but also ethnic, feminist and postcolonial literatures, and to students of American literature and culture, the book demonstrates the Bildungsroman’s ongoing relevance and expanded capacity of representation in an ethnic American and postcolonial context.

Uncertain Mirrors

Magical Realism in US Ethnic Literatures

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Jesús Benito, Ana María Manzanas and Begoña Simal

Uncertain Mirrors realigns magical realism within a changing critical landscape, from Aristotelian mimesis to Adorno’s concept of negative dialectics. In between, the volume traverses a vast theoretical arena, from postmodernism and postcolonialism to Lévinasian philosophy and eco-criticism. The volume opens and closes with dialectical instability, as it recasts the mutability of the term “mimesis” as both a “world-reflecting” and a “world-creating” mechanism. Magical realism, the authors contend, offers another stance of the possible; it also situates the reader at a hybrid aesthetic matrix inextricably linked to postcolonial theory, postmodernism, Bakhtinian theory, and quantum physics. As Uncertain Mirrors explores, magical realist texts partake of modernist exhaustion as much as of postmodernist replenishment, yet they stem from a different “location of culture” and “direction of culture;” they offer complex aesthetic artifacts that, in their recreation of alternative geographic and semiotic spaces, dislocate hegemonic texts and ideologies. Their unrealistic excess effects a breach in the totalized unity represented by 19th century realism, and plays the dissonant chord of the particular and the non-identical.

Decolonizing the Lens of Power

Indigenous Films in North America

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Kerstin Knopf

This is the first book that comprehensively examines Indigenous filmmaking in North America, as it analyzes in detail a variety of representative films by Canadian and US-American Indigenous filmmakers: two films that contextualize the oral tradition, three short films, and four dramatic films. The book explores how members of colonized groups use the medium of film as a means for cultural and political expression and thus enter the dominant colonial film discourse and create an answering discourse. The theoretical framework is developed as an interdisciplinary approach, combining postcolonialism, Indigenous studies, and film studies. As Indigenous people are gradually taking control over the imagemaking process in the area of film and video, they cease being studied and described objects and become subjects who create self-controlled images of Indigenous cultures. The book explores the translatability of Indigenous oral tradition into film, touching upon the changes the cultural knowledge is subject to in this process, including statements of Indigenous filmmakers on this issue. It also asks whether or not there is a definite Indigenous film practice and whether filmmakers tend to dissociate their work from dominant classical filmmaking, adapt to it, or create new film forms and styles through converging classical film conventions and their conscious violation. This approach presupposes that Indigenous filmmakers are constantly in some state of reaction to Western ethnographic filmmaking and to classical narrative filmmaking and its epitome, the Hollywood narrative cinema. The films analyzed are The Road Allowance People by Maria Campbell, Itam Hakim, Hopiit by Victor Masayesva, Talker by Lloyd Martell, Tenacity and Smoke Signals by Chris Eyre, Overweight With Crooked Teeth and Honey Moccasin by Shelley Niro, Big Bear by Gil Cardinal, and Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner by Zacharias Kunuk.

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Edited by Jesús Benito and Ana María Manzanas

This volume stems from the idea that the notion of borders and borderlines as clear-cut frontiers separating not only political and geographical areas, but also cultural, linguistic and semiotic spaces, does not fully address the complexity of contemporary cultural encounters. Centering on a whole range of literary works from the United States and the Caribbean, the contributors suggest and discuss different theoretical and methodological grounds to address the literary production taking place across the lines in North American and Caribbean culture. The volume represents a pioneering attempt at proposing the concept of the border as a useful paradigm not only for the study of Chicano literature but also for the other American literatures. The works presented in the volume illustrate various aspects and manifestations of the textual border(lands), and explore the double-voiced discourse of border texts by writers like Harriet E. Wilson, Rudolfo Anaya, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Louise Erdrich, Helena Viramontes, Paule Marshall and Monica Sone, among others. This book is of interest for scholars and researchers in the field of comparative American studies and ethnic studies.