Affective Legacies of the Rural Networks of Empire in Contemporary Literature
Lucienne Loh (University of Liverpool)
This paper offers a materialist history of affective geographies that serve as the legacies of what I term “the rural networks of empire”. The legacies of colonial exploitation within the rural spaces of empire contribute to the celebration of British rural heritage, but are also sustained in the deprivation experienced by the postcolonial rural poor. Readings of a range of contemporary texts – both fiction and non-fiction -- set against rural backdrops frame this comparative approach.
I suggest that texts by a number of contemporary writers, including W.G. Sebald, V.S. Naipaul and David Dabydeen, critique the nationalist spirit and racial pride underpinning Britain’s rural heritage industry as sentiments that necessarily depend on the elision of histories of colonial exploitation which once enabled the rural networks of empire. While on the one hand, this industry flourished both economically and culturally in Britain from the 1980s onwards, on the other hand, postcolonial rural spaces experience the legacies of these rural networks largely through systemic poverty and suffering. Thus, I also explore postcolonial writers such as Amitav Ghosh, Mahasweta Devi and Jamaica Kincaid who seek to represent the colonial histories of the rural global South that have invariably shaped the affective experiences of communities throughout those spaces.
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