ENGLISH 9131B ~ Themes in Contemporary Life Writing: Vulnerability & Dispossession

Professor Tunji Osinubi

Winter Half Course.

This seminar brings into dialogue the work by scholars of diaspora studies and auto/biography studies. It responds to two recent calls that have animated both fields: 1) the pleas to rethink the present through returns to the colonial archives, and 2) the demands to articulate the particularities of postcolonial life-writing as a subgenre. Focusing on the work of Caribbean, African and Black British writers, participants, in this seminar, will examine how and why life-writing functions as a fruitful site at which to study the afterlives of colonialism. Drawing from the spectacular revelations of differential vulnerabilities, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we will examine the cultural work of writers, scholars, and activists who narrativize the African diaspora as relationships to risk. At the end of this seminar, participants should be able to identify the basic theoretical debates about postcolonial life-writing, to understand the critical impetus behind the recent returns to colonial archives, and, most crucially, to articulate prevalent narrative forms in these narratives of vulnerability. Our primary texts will come writers such as Wangari Mathia, Caryl Phillips, Jamaica Kincaid, Kwame Nkrumah, Wole Soyinka, Edwige Danticat, and Thomas Glave. Theoretical readings will include scholarship from Philip Holden, Gillian Whitlock, Judith Butler, Sidonie Smith, Achille Mbembe, Dipesh Chakrabarty, David Scott, and Brent Hayes Edwards.

View the course syllabus here: English 9131B.