Based within the College of Humanities, the World and Postcolonial Cultures Research Group brings together interdisciplinary research and teaching in all aspects of World and Postcolonial culture, film, literature and media. The Group links intellectual expertise across disciplines in the Department of English and Film.
Since the turn of the century, the category of ‘the world’ has moved to the forefront of historical enquiry. This has been prompted, in part, by the shifting tectonics of power in the world-economy and a desire to properly historicize the phenomenon of globalization, claims for the novelty of which underestimate the long durée of economic, political, and cultural links between regions. “How do you tell the history of the world?” asks Bruce Robbins in a 2013 article, noting that “not long ago this question would have seemed naive”. Now, however, given the decline of American hegemony, the rise of China and the BRICs, and biospherical limits to capitalist reproduction, such as toxicity, climate change and resource scarcity, “urgent reasons” both ecological and geopolitical “have made themselves felt for trying to make sense of history on a planetary scale”.
Calls to rethink longstanding categories of cultural analysis have become pressing over the last decade in response to this sense that the received disciplinary protocols of cultural studies, especially ‘globalized’ methodologies, have entered into crisis. Criticism of postcolonial studies has noted the field’s lack of attention to wider materialist concerns, such as combined and uneven development, under-attention to anti-colonial and anti-capitalist movements, environmental crises, and the gap between theory and practice, but is undergoing a process of reformulation to take account of these processes. In this context, world and postcolonial cultural studies are at the forefront of arguments over the reinvention of the discipline, and a desire to engage the expanded scales and scopes of a properly materialist, longue durée and comparative approach to new theorizations of historical anti-capitalist, imperial and colonial formations that produce forms of resource imperialism, literary activism, migration, ecological destruction and uneven development.
At Exeter we are uniquely placed to respond to and intervene in these debates. Drawing on our range of approaches to postcolonial and world cultural studies we mobilise interdisciplinary knowledge and multi-modal forms, like film, novels, archival records, poetry, photography, performance and prose, to analyse the varied and historical manifestations of postcolonial and world cultures and societies beyond the “West”. Together we pioneer a distinctive programme of study concerned with drawing attention to the understudied aspects of world cultures, past and present, including cultural negotiation and exchange in the medieval period, comparative approaches to cultural histories of famine in early modern India and Britain, commodity frontiers in Ghana, Brazil, Guyana and the UK, filmic representations of partition in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Cyprus, the global circulation of Victorian food markets, the histories of black and Asian migration and settlement in
Britain, world literary analyses of planetary petro-pollution, and pan-African literary and publishing networks.
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