CFP: [Postcolonial] Postcolonialism and the 'Hit' of the Real: Conference at NYU

full name / name of organization: 
Shilpi Suneja
contact email:

Postcolonialism and the ‘Hit’ of the Real
March 6th- 8th, 2008 at New York University

Call for Papers
How valid, in retrospect, is the founding claim of the postcolonial that it
offers a different view of the real?

If the world outside the west had been understood through traditions of
western representation which ignored the reality of what was actually
there, silencing different cultures, epistemologies, and the lives that
were lived in them, how successfully has postcolonial studies intervened to
enable the former subjects of Western representations to determine the
representation of their own realities?

Reflecting a desire to address the materiality of questions that provided
the original impetus for postcolonial thinking, scholars from a range of
perspectives have attempted to reinsert the notion of the 'real' at the
center of their academic praxis. Recent and historical interest in the
value and valence of 'experience', the location and teleology of the
'vernacular', and a formalistic aesthetics of realism all converge around
the specters of the real, together constituting a major theoretical effort
to rearticulate the terms of what constitutes postcolonial reality and
experience, and how, through what modes, forms, and genres, such realities
might be best represented.

We seek to confront through this conference one of the ongoing tensions in
postcolonial studies: the concern for articulating aesthetic issues of
realism and representation and theoretical reflections upon the ‘real’,
with the complex postcolonial realities of underdevelopment, violence,
political instability and gender inequality. This conference hopes to
augment these addresses to the ‘real’ and pursue further engagement with
the conditions of its possibility or impossibility. We invite papers that will:
- Offer definitions and discussion of ‘the real’, ‘reality’, and ‘realism’
in the postcolonial context;
- Explore the ‘real’ understood as the material, historical, or political
aspects of postcolonialism—or challenge this understanding;
- ‘Theorize’ underdevelopment and the existing empirical methods of
description, analysis, and measurement;
- Inquire into the identification of the ‘real’ with such terms as
‘experience’, ‘truth’, ‘authenticity’, and ‘reality’, in the postcolonial
- Define the limits and possibilities of postcolonialism as critique,
intervention, politics;
- Revisit the relationship between formal realism (in cinema, literature)
and postcolonial reality: was there a disjuncture, as has been suggested,
between European social realism and the colonial world; and is there,
concomitantly, a better fit between that reality and alternative models of
- Rethink the division of intellectual labor which would posit theory as
the domain of the West/metropole and the “periphery” as the raw material or
ground of reality for such theoretical productions;
- Examine anew the dialectic of form and content in postcolonial texts: has
providing a more adequate representation become an end in itself? What are
the consequences of the privileging of content over form and value? What
role do cultural forms, more broadly, and genre, more specifically, play in
the determination of postcolonial canon formation? How might we explain
the dominance of the novel and film among the various forms of literary and
cultural expression?

While we expect proposals for papers and panels to be located within the
broad problematic of postcolonialism and the real, they need not be limited
to the questions listed above. We welcome analysis of a broad range of
issues and texts (literature, cinema, theatre, popular culture, visual
arts, theory), theoretical interventions, disciplinary and
interdisciplinary reflections, and provocations. We also welcome
contributions discussing material relevant to geographies of colonialism
outside that of the British Empire (e.g. French, German, Italian, Spanish,
Portuguese colonies or former colonies).

Please visit the conference web-site at for updates on program,
registration and accommodation details in due course.

Individual Papers: Please send abstracts of 150-200 words with the subject
line, Postcolonial Conference Abstract, by December 15, 2007. E-mail

Panel Proposals: Each panel should include 3 presenters and the name of
the panel organizer. No presentation to exceed 20 minutes in length and no
panel to exceed 1-1/2 hours. Please include a brief description of the
panel as well as individual abstracts for each of the papers.
Please include full name, institutional affiliation, title, phone number
and email address with your proposal.

Professors Toral Gajarawala, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Jini Kim Watson,
Robert JC Young (NYU)

Sponsored by:
Anglophone Research Project, Department of English, NYU, and
Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies

Conference web-site:

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Received on Wed Sep 26 2007 - 11:23:11 EDT

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