Project

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Liminal Communities in Contemporary Postcolonial Novels

Applicant Richter Virginia
Number 138549
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für englische Sprachen und Literaturen Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline German and English languages and literature
Start/End 01.02.2012 - 31.01.2015
Approved amount 181'161.00
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Keywords (10)

contemporary novels in English; postcolonial studies; community; identity; hybridity; liminality; interstice; hauntology; space; time

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

This PhD project analyses recent novels by a number of writers associated with the field of postcolonial literature. At the heart of these novels are temporary, heterogeneous communities that are formed in deserted, dilapidated, or dangerous places. The members of these communities must all come to terms with traumatic events in their past (e.g. war, dislocation, and the loss of loved ones). In the communities, they become aware of the fact that they must acknowledge the repressed aspects of their past in order to conceive of their future. Moreover, their engagement with individuals from different sociocultural backgrounds encourages the characters to consolidate their sense of self in a mediatory position between different sociocultural environments.

The main thesis of my project is as follows: the communities established in the novels are liminal entities, i.e. groups of people who are simultaneously on the margins of, and central to society, and who share the creative potential with which, according to the anthropological research of Victor Turner, ritualised societies endow individuals who alter their social function. Aided by the characteristics of their immediate environment, the liminal communities produce an interstitial space, into which the characters are integrated after the dissolution of their small social units. It is from this space, which I will initially approach as a form of the postcolonial 'in-between', that the characters may productively connect to various sociocultural environments without renouncing their individuality, which enables them to effect social change. In understanding the interstice produced by the communities as a space of continuous, productive liminality, I aim to shed new light on the novels' seemingly static endings and to re-approach the hybrid 'in-between', one of the key concepts in postcolonial studies.

By reconceptualising the 'in-between', this PhD project sets out to establish new perspectives on the nature and potential of the space, in-between different sociocultural environments, in which ever more individuals (are compelled to) locate their sense of self. Thus, the project contributes to the on-going academic discourse on the role of postcolonial theory in the contemporary, globalised world and to current socio-political debates on issues such as migration, integration, and multiculturalism.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Caring for Community: Towards a New Ethics of Responsibility in Contemporary Postcolonial Novels
DengerMarijke (2018), Caring for Community: Towards a New Ethics of Responsibility in Contemporary Postcolonial Novels, Routledge, New York and London.
Michelle de Kretser's The Lost Dog: History and Identity in the Metropolis of Melbourne
Denger Marijke (2016), Michelle de Kretser's The Lost Dog: History and Identity in the Metropolis of Melbourne, in Re-Inventing the Postcolonial (in the) Metropolis, 309-325, Brill, Leiden309-325.
Post-Empire Imaginaries? Anglophone Literature, History, and the Demise of Empires
Buchenau Barbara and Richter Virginia with Denger Marijke (ed.) (2015), Post-Empire Imaginaries? Anglophone Literature, History, and the Demise of Empires, Brill, Leiden.
Writing Animals and (their) History
Denger Marijke (2014), Writing Animals and (their) History, in Figurationen, 15(01), 124-126.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Australian Perspectives on Migration: 16th Biennial GASt Conference Talk given at a conference "Like Being a Student at a Party that Went On and On": Migration, Difference and Hospitality in Michelle de Kretser's The Lost Dog 04.10.2018 Düsseldorf, Germany Denger Marijke;
The Challenge of Change in English Language and Literature: SAUTE Conference Talk given at a conference Challenging Change: Community and the Postcolonial in Nadeem Aslam's The Wasted Vigil 28.04.2017 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Denger Marijke;
A Dialogue of the Arts: The Relationship of Exterior and Interior: Descriptions of Architecture and Interiors in Literature of Early Modern Times to the Present Talk given at a conference "The Room Which is Another Garden": Architecture and Interiors in Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient 23.10.2014 Zürich, Switzerland Denger Marijke;
School of English PhD Work-in-Progress Seminar Series Individual talk Liminal Communities in Contemporary Postcolonial Novels 03.04.2014 Canterbury, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Denger Marijke;
History, Postcolonialism and Tradition: 3rd Biennial Postcolonial Studies Association Conference Talk given at a conference "None Other than my Ghostly Self": Redeeming (Personal) History in Wendy Law-Yone's The Road to Wanting 12.09.2013 Kingston upon Thames, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Denger Marijke;
Forum I GS@IASH 2013 Poster Liminal Communities in Contemporary Postcolonial Novels 16.05.2013 Bern, Switzerland Denger Marijke;
Re-Inventing the Postcolonial (in the) Metropolis: 24th GNEL/ASNEL Annual Conference Talk given at a conference Michelle de Kretser's The Lost Dog: Forming Identity in/of the Australian Metropolis 09.05.2013 Chemnitz, Germany Denger Marijke;
Timing TransFormations: IASH Winter School 2013 Poster Liminal Communities in Contemporary Postcolonial Novels 10.02.2013 Münchenwiler, Switzerland Denger Marijke;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Performing Identities: PhD and Postdoc Workshop 21.06.2012 Bern, Switzerland

Awards

Title Year
Visiting Training Fellow School of English, University of Kent 2014

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
130222 The Poetics and Politics of Cosmopolitanism in English Literatures of South Asian Background 01.04.2010 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

This PhD project analyses recent novels by Michael Ondaatje, Michelle de Kretser, Nadeem Aslam, and Wendy Law-Yone, writers associated with the field of postcolonial literature. At the heart of these novels are temporary multicultural communities that are formed in deserted, dilapidated, or dangerous places. The members of these communities must all come to terms with traumatic events in their past (e.g. war, dislocation, and the loss of loved ones). In the communities, they learn to accept hitherto repressed memories of these events as a part of their individual identity. Moreover, their engagement with individuals from different sociocultural backgrounds encourages the communities' members to use their unpleasant past experiences for the production of a sense of self that mediates between different sociocultural environments. In this way, the communities, which dissolve at the end of the novels, have a lasting effect on their (former) members' lives.The main thesis of my project is as follows: the communities established in the novels are liminal entities, i.e. groups of people who are at once on the margins of, and central to society, and who share the creative potential with which, according to the anthropological research of Victor Turner, ritualised societies endow individuals who alter their social function. Aided by the characteristics of their immediate environment, the liminal communities produce an interstitial space, into which the characters are integrated after the dissolution of their small social units. It is from this space that the characters may productively connect to various sociocultural environments without renouncing their individuality, which includes horrific past experiences but also enables them to effect social change.In order to consolidate my thesis I will establish the locations in which liminal communities are formed as places in which Jacques Derrida's concept of spectral time intersects with David Harvey's concept of relational space-time. Thereby, I will investigate the way in which these locations foster the establishment of liminal communities, in which individuals reconceptualise their sense of self in-between individuality and social conformity. Initially, the interstitial space produced by the communities will be approached as a form of the 'in-between', i.e. the space, infused by but not subordinated to different cultures, in which postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha locates the negotiation of cultural identity and social organisation. However, this project aims to depart from the established, postcolonial approach to the 'in-between' by understanding it as a state of continuous, productive liminality.By reconceptualising the 'in-between', this PhD project not only aims to reinterpret the novels' seemingly static endings. It also sets out to establish new perspectives on the nature and potential of the space, in-between different sociocultural environments, in which ever more individuals (are compelled to) locate their sense of self. Thus, the project contributes to the on-going academic discourse on the role of postcolonial theory in the contemporary, globalised world and to current socio-political debates on issues such as migration, integration, and multiculturalism.
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