American Comparative Literature Association 2019 Annual Meeting
Georgetown University, Washington, DC
March 7 – 10, 2019
Transregional Postcolonialisms: Queer Remainders of Disappearing Imperialism
Ryanson Alessandro Ku, Postdoctoral Associate, Duke University
Sony Coráñez Bolton, Assistant Professor, Amherst College
In a perennially globalizing world, the deconstruction of borders has given impetus to manifold critical responses, notably US empire, postcolonial, and queer critique. US empire studies shows that imperialism proceeds not just through the violation of boundaries, but also their redefinition. This redefinition obscures the violation that makes redefinition possible in the first place, thereby disappearing imperialism. The subterranean nature of empire—its quality of being everywhere at the same time always absconding from sight—has necessitated modes of postcolonial criticism that go beyond the comparison of national traditions to trace the relation between cultures in an imperial system. Similarly, queerness maps modes of relationality that destabilize established norms. In performing their own deconstruction of boundaries, postcolonial and queer cultural formations function as sites of struggle for the negotiation of the contradictions of empire.
How might we queer current postcolonial lines to catch sight of the ever-shifting formations of imperialism? How might we queer the queer to make it resonate with yet other ways of going beyond, or remapping, established boundaries? If in forming itself it disappears, thus constantly expanding, where, to begin with, is the empire? Through attention to the region—smaller and larger than the nation—this panel explores imperialism across its colonizations and the queer and postcolonial cultures that emerge as responses to its asymmetrical building of a world. How does imperialism tie one region to another, constituting a region, itself multiple, as part of a world? In what ways is queerness also a “region” targeted for colonization? What relays—from north to south, between east and west, in queer directions—enable the extension of empire and the flow of anti-colonial resistance from one region to another, indeed globally, and how is struggle queered in transit, indeed local? How does postcolonialism evoke not the aftermath but rather a perennial response to the eternal recurrence of imperialism, including in its disappearance? In what ways do postcolonial cultures serve as reminders of empire’s disappearance and remainders unable to be disappeared in empire, that is, queer rem(a)inders that in their unassimilability threaten the system, that in following existing lines reconfigure them? How, in particular, do identities activated by transregional movement—transatlantic and hemispheric blackness, transpacific Asian/American subjectivity, diasporic/minority non-citizenship, nativism around the world—reify their postcolonial borders, like the normative postcolonial state, or remain postcolonial, amid subjection thereby ever in transition, to replicate and subvert the boundaries through which empire disappears?
Given the sustained engagement afforded by the ACLA Conference structure of multi-day seminars, we invite proposals to think critically about some aspect of these lines of inquiry that, in the spirit of comparison, seek conversation with others beyond their field. We are especially interested in papers that explore literary, visual, and other forms of culture to trace the dynamics of and resistance to colonization beyond conventional boundaries. Please submit an abstract of 250-300 words through the ACLA website https://www.acla.org/annual-meeting between Thursday, August 30, at 12 noon EST and Thursday, September 20, at 9 a.m. EST.