The Past, Present and Future of Postcolonial Studies

Chair: Dr Nicola Abram, University of Reading


Dr Christopher Warnes (University of Cambridge) – The past of postcolonial studies

Dr Shital Pravinchandra (Queen Mary, University of London) – The present of postcolonial studies

Prof. Chantal Zabus (Université Paris XIII-Sorbonne Paris Cité & Institut universitaire de France) – The future of postcolonial studies

Postcolonial, post-colonial, (post)colonial, post/colonial… The variable typographic titling of the fields reveals a hesitation about naming the relationship between the present and the imperial ‘past’, and suggests some uncertainty about the kinds of futures such studies should or could imagine. In this panel, three esteemed scholars have been invited to examine postcolonial studies itself.

Reflecting on the past, Dr Chris Warnes will remind the audience of the historical and current affinities between the ‘post’ in postcolonial and the ‘anti’ in anticolonial. Through a re-consideration of the juncture at which one pronounced strand of postcolonial theory severed its ties with Marxism, he aims to critique the idealist turn in postcolonial studies and to situate it in relation to the institutionalisation of the field.

Dr Shital Pravinchandra will look to the present state of the discipline. Given the growing popularity of world literature and world Anglophone literature, what is the role of postcolonial studies today? She will argue for the importance of comparative work, suggesting that a focus on non-European literatures opens up urgent thematic and aesthetic questions.

Finally, Professor Chantal Zabus will speculate on the field’s future faced with the increased interweaving of the humanities and social sciences. She will show how postcolonial studies continues to interrogate new forms of colonial discourse and open new vistas – including postcolonial Islam, endangered languages, and new forms of activism.
This panel is presented by the Postcolonial Studies Association, a professional organisation bringing together scholars from across the world working in multiple disciplines and languages.

Friday 7th July, 11.00