The Postcolonial move to a more equitable future

Event Recap of The Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present, 10/30/18

By Sariah Bunker

Jini Kim Watson speaks at our Oct 30 event "Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present."

Sadia Abbas speaks at our Oct 30 event "Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present."

A cohort of scholars assembled on October 30 to discuss and celebrate The Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present, moderated by Crystal Parikh (Professor of English and Social & Cultural Analysis, NYU.)

Jini Kim Watson (Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, NYU) described the volume as a collection of twelve essays which collaborate to further the conversation on Postcolonial Studies. This book grew out of a 2014 CUNY Graduate Center Symposium organized by Gary Wilder (Professor of Anthropology and History, CUNY Graduate Center) to bring interlocutors together to use a postcolonial lens to understand contemporary social life; to critique Postcolonial Studies from within. Watson pondered the questions “Where has Postcolonial Studies gotten us?” and “How can we think with and beyond Postcolonial theory?”

Sadia Abbas (Associate Professor of English, Rutgers Newark) asserted that the analytical framework of Postcolonial Studies must be re-framed and simultaneously employed to understanding contemporary social life. Abbas discussed rising far-right xenophobic rhetoric in Pakistan, using the book as a guide to understanding how this contemporary political rhetoric mimics racist colonial rhetoric. She further claimed that the Cold War was a decolonizing process which transformed the right wing into part of Pakistan’s government during the era. The “historical residue” is essential to understanding the current political scene in Pakistan. Furthermore, she asked what identity necessitates Pakistani nationhood? The far-right uses ethnic preferential language which is postcolonial both because it is being used in a time after colonialism on the Indian subcontinent, and because it is formed and informed by colonial sentiment and social structure.

Gary Wilder speaks at our Oct 30 event "Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present."

Crystal Parikh speaks at our Oct 30 event "Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present."

Anthony Alessandrini (Professor of English and Middle Eastern Studies, Kingsborough Community College & CUNY Graduate Center) began with the question: “what can the postcolonial lens do that this juncture?” Alessandrini raised the issue of temporality in discussing this question, contending one should think of the present in terms of what’s emerging, not asserting a future narrative. He then discussed using a political imaginary to create solidarity with the past.

Laurie Lambert (Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies, Fordham University) began her remarks by considering the Windrush Migrants, British subjects who emigrated from the Caribbean colonies to Great Britain from 1948-1971. In 2018, news broke that some of these immigrants were being deported back to their now-independent countries because they couldn’t properly prove they had legally entered Great Britian.These deportees were treated as “newer” migrants than they actually were, which the postcolonial lens would view as one consequence of British colonialism in the Caribbean.

The panelists then took questions from the moderator, Crystal Parikh, and discussed the questions Postcolonial Studies has asked in the past, and the questions it can ask now to move towards a more equitable world.

Anthony Alessandrini speaks at our Oct 30 event "Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present."

Laurie Lambert speaks at our Oct 30 event "Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present."