Cheah to discuss influence of postcolonial literature at UO

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, 4-5:30 pm in the Knight Library Browsing Room, Professor Pheng Cheah from UC Berkeley will present a talk at the University of Oregon, titled “Postcolonial Literature as World Literature: World Heritage Preservation and the Unworlding of the Subaltern World in Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide.”

A reception will follow.

His presentaiton will focus on how the recent revival of interest in world literature assumes that contemporary globalization has led to the production of literature that is genuinely worldly in its reach.

Professor Cheah argues that the attachment of the adjective ‘world’ to qualify the noun, ‘literature’ indicates the conflation of the globe, a bounded object in Mercatorian space, with the world, a form of being-with.  This conflation arises because we have mistaken market exchange on a global scale for worldliness, when the latter is actually a normative term that implies the process of worlding and the activity of world-making. I suggest that certain kinds of postcolonial literature foreground the normative dimension of world literature because they craft new figurations of world-belonging for postcolonial peoples in situations where the devastating impact of globalization deprives them of a world. 

Amitav Ghosh’s novel, The Hungry Tide, is an example of world literature in the robust normative sense because it attempts to re-world the subaltern world of the Sundarban islands, which is threatened with destruction by global flows of funds for world heritage preservation and Northern environmental movements as they become aligned with global capitalist interests and state policies of economic development.

Professor Cheah will also participate in a Q & A for graduate and advanced undergraduate students on Friday, November 8, 2013, 12-1:30 pm, in the EMU "Metolius" River Room (near the food court). Buffet lunch will be served.
As background for the discussion, two articles are suggested by Professor Cheah: “The Material World of Comparison,” New Literary History V. 40, N. 3 (Fall 2009), 523-545, 2010, and “What is a World?  On World Literature as World-Making Activity,” Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences V. 137, N. 3 (Summer 2008), 26-38.

Pheng Cheah is Professor of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1999. He has published extensively on the theory and practice of cosmopolitanism. He is the author of Inhuman Conditions: On Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights (Harvard UP, 2006) and Spectral Nationality: Passages of Freedom from Kant to Postcolonial Literatures of Liberation (Columbia UP, 2003) and co-editor of Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1998). He is also the co-editor of Thinking through the Body of the Law (Allen and Unwin, New York University Press, 1996); Grounds of Comparison: Around the Work of Benedict Anderson (Routledge, 2003); and Derrida and the Time of the Political (Duke University Press, 2009). He is completing a book on theories of the world and world literature from the postcolonial world in an age of financial globalization and a related book on globalization and the three Chinas as seen from the perspectives of the independent cinema of Jia Zhangke, Tsai Ming-Liang and Fruit Chan.