This workshop aims to examine new forms of postcolonial print cultures and their engagement with orality, ephemerality and recent digital forms. It focuses broadly on the relationship between print, audio-visual media, the spoken word, and the dissemination and reception of these diverse forms of communication and culture. We are interested in asking if the interactions between print, orature, and/or new digital forms attest to, or rather question, the continuing relevance of the term “postcolonial” as applied to twenty-first century writing from within postcolonial modernities.
How might we account for not only those familiar forms of print cultures that emerge in newly decolonized societies but also those that develop in the context of new technological, globalized and hydrocarbon modernities: modernities shaped by the legacy of colonial rule, as well as by the rapid transformations engendered by knowledge and oil economies? These transformations have generated entirely different print cultural forms dictated by a range of concerns: the development of new archives, textual, visual and artistic, the interest in oral and photographic histories, the cultural forms of strategic knowledge geared towards the development of new economies, and projects of cultural and linguistic translation generated by new forms of capital.
For instance, in many areas of the world, like South Asia, the Caribbean, East and West Africa and the Middle East, print cultures present exciting and little-studied interactions with existing cultures of orature. Contrary to the popular belief that oral cultures are a vestige or residue of an age before literacy and the invention of print technologies, orality and print co-exist in contemporary postcolonial societies in a close symbiotic relationship. The ‘secondary orality’ produced by modern audio-visual technologies—radio, television, cinema, audio tapes, podcasts and the rest— that supplement or even rival print media, is a phenomenon that has developed across the globe (Walter Ong). These forms are today furthered by their registration in the digital world, such that vibrant forms of print culture (archives, artistic production, literary cultures and communities) produce and circulate outside the material realm. The more familiar forms of postcolonial print culture thus sit alongside, and interact with, genres that are emerging and proliferating in response to the contemporary modernities: oral histories, letters, and memorabilia, petrofictions in the form of traditional genres like novels as well as NGO and human rights discourses, minor film and digital material, family business archives, and company documents. These forms are characterized not only by a project of the “national” but by the tabulating of a sense of the contemporary in a time of rapid transformation.
The persistence of these forms and their dialectic with traditional forms of culture have a resonance in postcolonial societies that we believe requires attention on their own terms. Questions of community, reception, dissemination, propaganda, rhetoric and affect are central to the poetics and politics of these forms of oral discourse.The study of postcolonial print cultures, including orature, also offers some fertile areas of exploration in terms of reception and audience/readership studies. In situations where narratives, poems, and speeches, and ephemeral publications read out aloud to an audience, how is the text transformed by its recitation and oral performance? How does the study of readerships and reception—local, transnational, global– change our understanding of what “postcolonial literature” is and does?
Finally, we see the study of postcolonial print cultures as a way to move beyond “the monolingual paradigm” (Yildiz) particularly in contexts of migrant labor, diaspora and immigration. Postcolonial print cultures emerge in the context of various vernacular forms, where vernacular evokes not simply the indigenous as opposed to colonial tongues, but the complex relation between languages and dialects, between languages and scripts, and between official or statist and occasional or everyday forms of culture.
This workshop builds on three and a half years of the international research collaboration, the “Postcolonial Print Cultures International Network”, co-convened by NYU and Newcastle University academics, and including the participation of scholars from Yale, SOAS, Jadavpur, Rutgers, CNRS France, and King’s College London.
We welcome papers focusing on the following topics:
- The interaction between orality and print with specific reference to postcolonial ephemera (newspapers, magazines, periodicals, pamphlets)
- Readership and reception of print cultures in postcolonial societies
- Small/independent presses in Africa, South Asia, the Middle-East and the Caribbean and editorial policies; this could also include a study of presses in Europe (e.g. Britain) whose focus is postcolonial/anti-colonial publications
- The circulation of publications within radical and anti-colonial contexts
- Postcolonial print cultures and multilingualism
- Print cultures in relation to new digital technologies and internet-inspired media: flash archives, digital museums, twitter revolutions
Please send abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org by 20th September 2019.