Postcolonial Empires: Writing Resistance?

3 July 2009 - 4 July 2009

Faculty of English, Room GR06, 9 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP

Dr Priyamvada Gopal    (Faculty of English, Cambridge)
Dr Chris Warnes            (Faculty of English, Cambridge)

CRASSH and the Faculty of English  host a two-day conference called Postcolonial Empires: Writing Resistance? The title is deliberately gnomic and polyvalent: it can be read to refer variously to the persistence of empire and imperialism, to the establishment of new empires in the ostensibly postcolonial era, but also, crucially, to what some suggest is the academic empire of postcolonial studies itself. The subtitle poses implicit questions: What sorts of resistances to these formations get 'written'? What is the relationship of 'writing', broadly construed, to resistance, beyond the now facile theories of literary opposition represented by terms such as 'the Empire strikes back'? What, in short, does 'resistance' itself mean in the context of persistent and new imperial formations and in the face of the rapid institutionalizing of theories of resistance? Who is a postcolonial intellectual and how does s/he intervene in debates that extend beyond academic confines to address empire and imperialism as they operate in the sphere of economics, culture and geopolitics? 

These questions, while emerging out of literary and cultural studies, necessitate an interdisciplinary discussion about the relationship between the history and material workings of imperialism, the formation of  disciplines, and the task of writing. We are especially interested in soliciting critical explorations of the connections between material and  symbolic dimensions of resistance, conceived broadly as opposition to the authoritarian and homogenizing tendencies of new forms of imperialism, both historical and theoretical. Topics to be addressed include but are not limited to: postcolonial studies as a disciplinary formation/in a historical frame; globalization and/of resistance, contemporary  negotiations of history; canonization and neglect; resistance literature; popular culture (including new media) and resistance; writing and activism. 
We hope to put together speakers who will represent both different  approaches to these questions as well as the multiple sites in which  postcolonial studies is undertaken.



David Attwell             (University of York)
Crystal Bartolovich   (Syracuse University) 
Anna Bernard           (University of York)         
Elleke Boehmer        (University of Oxford) 
Timothy Brennan      (University of Minnesota)
Nicholas Brown        (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Keya Ganguly           (University of Minnesota)
Priyamvada Gopal   (University of Cambridge)
Barbara Harlow        (University of Texas, Austen)
Biodun Jeyifo           (Harvard University)
David Johnson        (Open university)
Mukul Kesavan        (Jamia Millia University, Delhi) 
Benita Parry             (Warwick University)
Christopher Warnes  (University of Cambridge)
Robert Young          (NYU)



Open to all.  Registration required. Limited places. 

Administrative contact: Esther Lamb 

For information about the Postcolonial Empires: Rhetorics of Resistance Group, please visit the link on the right hand side of this page.


Friday 3 July 2009


9.00 -9.30


9.30 -9.45

Welcome and Introduction

9.45 - 11.15

The State We are In

Chair: Ben Etherington

Barbara Harlow  (Texas, Austen)
Extraordinary Renditions: Or Where in the World is Guantanamo?

Benita  Parry  (Warwick)
Resistance in World Literature

11.15 - 11.30 

Tea/Coffee Break

11.30 - 13.00 

Histories and Practices of Resistance

Chair: Michael Perfect

Elleke Boehmer  (Oxford) 
Gandhi, Nehru and Mandela: Resistance Practice into Theory

Mukul Kesavan  (Jamia Millia) 
Bad Terms: how hand-me-down words mislead post-colonial nations

13.00 - 14.00 


14.00 - 15.30

Forms of Resistance

Chair: Jarad Zimbler (Cambridge)

Keya Ganguly  (Minnesota)
Nostalgia for the Future: The Bombay Social Film of the 1950s’

Nicholas Brown (Illinois-Chicago) 
Towards an Axiomatics of Structuring Antagonism: Jameson, Schwarz, Houtoundji

15.30 - 15.45

Tea/Coffee Break




Chair: Rachel Bower  (Cambridge)

David Johnson (Open University) 
Representing  the ‘boa gente’ of Mozambique, from Camoes to Mbeki: precolonial forms of address, postcolonial forms of imperialism

Anna Bernard  (York) 
Israeli Writing and Resistance

17.15- 19.00

 Letters from Zimbabwe 
Film Screenings and discussion with novelist and filmmaker,
TsiTsi Dangarembga

Chair and Discussant: Christopher Warnes (Cambridge)



Saturday 4 July


9.30 - 11.00

Reading Resistance

Chair: Mary Jacobus (Cambridge)

David Attwell (York) 
Archival Resistance and Resistance Literature

Biodun Jeyifo  (Harvard)
The Spectre of Comparison—In One Language

11.00 - 11.15

Tea/Coffee Break

11.15 - 13.00

Politics and Polemics

Chair: Chris Warnes (Cambridge)

Robert JC Young   (NYU)  
The Right to Resist

Timothy Brennan (Minnesota)  
On the Post-Political

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.30

Languages of Transformation

Chair: Desha Osborne

Crystal Bartolovich  (Syracuse)
Live Locally, Choose Globally

Priyamvada Gopal

Resistance is Puerile: Liberalism, Humanism and the Irresistible Universal

15.30 - 15.45 

Tea/Coffee Break 

15.45 - 17.15

Roundtable discussion with all participants and conference attendees