Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Empire Fights Back at the Empire Writes Back

image Tonight a voice of the new confident India emerged out of the ashes of postcolonialism. The Centre for Postcolonial Writing at Monash University hosted a forum at the State Library with a keynote address by Professor Harish Trivedi on the subject 'An Alternative Postcolonial: Language, Location and Culture'.

His address seemed aimed squarely at one of the panelists, Bill Ashcroft, who thirty years ago is credited with inventing the term 'postcolonial' in the seminal publication The Empire Writes Back. Trivedi's point was the colonialism was a mere 'blip' in India's history and postcolonialism is an anglo-centric discourse which ignores the rich precolonial and contemporary literature in languages like Hindi. He claimed that the field ignores the critical difference between white settler societies like Australia and brown cultures like India.

As an address, it was tendentious and arrogant. But Trivedi did expose an issue within the framework of postcolonial. His insistence points to the need for an academic discourse that can encompass what is loosely called 'world literature', which includes but goes beyond the colonial experience.

The challenge he is to find the critical language to analyse this corpus. For Trivedi, this seemed about the tensions between nationalities and globalisation.

It was wonderful to find a forum where a voice like Trivedi's could be expressed, though how Australian academic institutions respond to this challenge remains to be seen.

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