Postcolonial Optimism (MLA 2021)
Optimism is not readily associated with the postcolonial. Indeed, postcolonial writing has been described as melancholic and postoptimistic, a repository of the injurious legacies of empire. It is a reputation consonant with postcolonialism’s revelatory project of unmasking imperial designs in canonical texts and exposing complicity in postcolonial writing. In addition, almost by definition, the postcolonial novel expresses disillusionment with nationhood and the developmentalist logics that frame it.
Yet, postcolonial studies also has strong commitments to imagining futures other than those available in Western epistemes and the nation-state that is haunted by global capitalism. What kind of hope and optimism are necessary to animate such a project? What forms are required to imagine them? How might postcolonial studies address the force from the hopeful attachments, persistent optimism, and promises of happiness that proliferate in postcolonial and global anglophone writing? How might it meaningfully intervene in globalized discourses that issue from neoliberal happiness industries? How might it mobilize the political utility of positive affects and construct a new standpoint for collective struggle, redemption, or getting by? We seek papers that elaborate on the aforementioned and proximate issues. Please submit 300 word abstracts and a short CV to jeremydechavez[at]um.edu.mo and katherine.hallemeier[at]okstate.edu