The New Exotic? Postcolonialism and Globalization’ Conference

full name / name of organization: 
University of Otago

The New Exotic? Postcolonialism and Globalization’ Conference

24-26 June, 2009

Organised by the Postcolonial Studies Research Network, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Keynote Speakers: Professor Robert J.C. Young, New York University; Professor Graham Huggan, University of Leeds; Associate Professor Susie O’Brien, McMaster University

Postcolonial theory and criticism have consistently pointed to the exploitative and oppressive effects of exoticism in relation to the (post)colonised world: where Edward Said’s account of orientalism as a mode of perception facilitated extensive postcolonial critiques of colonial as well as more recent constructions of ‘the exotic,’ contemporary work also takes account of the global late-capitalist system in which these exoticist discourses circulate. However, while the notion of the exotic has been subjected to rigorous postcolonial critique, it persists in both popular and institutional constructions of culture and cultural difference. Is this the persistence of old exoticisms, or are there new forms, objects, modes of circulation?

An exoticist perspective constitutes ‘the other’ as the domesticated and known other, positing the lure of difference while assimilating its object to the circuits of consumption (of ideas, experiences, objects, images, and so on). It constructs the other, or projects otherness, from the point of view of the hegemonic Same, the known, the familiar. What, then, is the fate of the other, of otherness? As the global economy has shifted towards an emphasis on consumption, information, services and experiences — such as tourism, domestic or abroad — and towards a need to market not only products but even nations for ‘difference’, we are daily addressed through, and incited to participate in, exoticist discourses. Even postcolonial practices in teaching and research are susceptible to complicity with the exoticism it supposedly critiques.

This conference seeks to investigate the various ways exoticism functions across a wide range of social, political, cultural and ecological domains. We ask such questions as: Why do exoticist practices and discourses persist in the face of postcolonial critique? Are these discourses sustained and circulated through old or new mechanisms? Is there, perhaps, anything enabling or agential for the (post)colonised in mobilising discourses of the exotic? How can places, foods, fashion and experiences continue to be marketed as ‘exotic,’ or through appeal to ‘the exotic,’ despite a growing awareness of the dangers of such marketing? What politics underlie the embrace or proscription of exotic plants and animals; how do nostalgia, aesthetics, ecology, environmentalism and bio-security inflect these stances? Who, what or where are the new objects of exoticist discourses? How has exoticism inflected discourses of sexuality? How does exoticism signify differently through trans-national communications circuits and flows of images and products, and at nation-state borders? How does globalisation point to both total access and knowability, and the allure of exotic otherness? What other forms of otherness remain possible within this politico-semiotic economy? How does exoticism relate to the increasing hybridity of populations and cultures, as well as plant and animal biological forms? After colonial discourses of degeneration with transplantation of ‘exotics’, what discourses pertain today relating to ‘transplantation’, to subjects of migration and diaspora? Have practices in postcolonial studies theory and research overcome the complicity of that field with notions of exoticism, or do they continue to underlie or haunt the field?

We invite 20-minute papers or panels of up to three 20-minute papers from across the disciplines, including interdisciplinary work, that address any aspect of the topic of the postcolonial exotic, such as:

The persistence of colonial forms of exoticism, or exoticist practices, discourses

The contemporary emergence of new forms, practices or discourses of exoticism

The adequacy or otherwise of postcolonial theory or critique to intervene in and subvert exoticist discourses

Contemporary circuits of exoticist representations

Exoticism and indigeneity

The relation of exoticism to other forms of difference, otherness

The politics of the exotic as applied to plants and animals

Desires or affects of the exotic; exoticism/eroticism; fetishism

Banal vs. spectacular exoticism

How exoticism articulates race/racism, or nation/nationalism/culture

The place of exoticism in postcolonial studies teaching and research

Please send abstracts of up to 500 words and a short bio. note (panels should submit an abstract and bio. note for each paper) to Dr Chris Prentice ( by 15 April, 2009.