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Unraveling Postcolonial-Borderland Narrativity
Unraveling Postcolonial-Borderland Narrativity
and World Literary Imagination
As a Chicano-teen growing up in a fast-postcolonializing London far from my homelands (Mexico and California), I found myself irresistibly drawn to literature. With the guidance of a gracious librarian, an Afro-Caribbean Brit.-identifying English teacher, and my father's letters from across the channel, I indulged in the inexhaustible splendors, merriment, and knowledge served up by the likes of García Márquez, Borges, Frisch, Kureishi, Desai, Goytisolo, and Rushdie, among many others. I was living in a part of London filling to the brim with peoples from the Caribbean, Pakistan, India, and Africa. I was living in a time when many such postcolonization writers were fast becoming visible in their creative reimagining of such a metropolitan space.
This was my introduction to the world of literature--and "world literature". At this stage, such readings were absolutely self-interested and self-absorbed, drawn to the narratives because of a strong identification with the characters and their settings. I was filled with questions about my experience of diaspora and dislocation--and many of these authors seemed to imagine characters and worlds that didn't so much provide answers as to provide a some kind of tellurian foot-hold.
At this point, too, after returning again and again to certain authors I began to wonder what it was about them--and not others-- that had me going back for more. It surely wasn't that their novels and short stories captivated me because they mirrored my personal experience and that of my classmates and friends while schooling ourselves in the racially hybrid inner London--after all how much more different could García Márquez's Macondo be from Frisch’s Zurich or Kureishi's South London… and yet I loved them all.
It was only once I set foot on UC Berkeley's campus as an undergraduate that I began to more formally seek answers to questions such as: why my attraction--along with so many others--to narrative fiction generally? How did my favorite authors re-frame and make interesting experiences and people and environments anchored one way or another to the real world but at the same time patently not duplicating “real life”? In which way (ontologically, epistemologically, functionally) is fiction different from reality? What do they have in common (if anything)? What can literature do (and not do) in the real world? Did these questions already have an answer? If so, where?
In this period and more so latter, in graduate school, I identified the focus of study that further on allowed me to teach and research U.S. Chicano/a borderland and postcolonial literature as it engages with other literary traditions. In my first book, Postethnic Narrative Criticism I critique the so-identified "locational" theories that conflate narrative fiction--and cultural artifacts in general--with reality outside the text, choosing as my site of critical analysis the storytelling mode known as magical realism. In my following book, to a certain extent a theoretical sequel, entitled Brown on Brown. Chicano representations of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, I build on and complicate this argument by investigating the ways in which race and outlawed sexuality have been theorized in postcolonial and ethnic queer theory.
I stand before you today to share with you another book project and analytical "contravention" (cf. Laura Chrisman): Unraveling Postcolonial Narrativity and World Literary Imagination . Its premise shares much with my other work: that the study of "postcolonial-borderland" identified Latin American, South Asian, and Chicano/a literature must acknowledge its active engagement and dis-engagement with world literary genres, storytelling modes, and narrative techniques as well as to acknowledge the material facts that make up a reality hors texte that is structured and organized differently. To explore (and test) this as fully as possible within the appointed time, I focus on the following: the experimental realism employed in the novels of Arundhati Roy, Fernando del Paso, and Zulfikar Ghose; the historical novels of Amitav Ghosh and Mario Vargas Llosa; the crime mystery novels of Moshin Hamid; the metafictional novels and short stories of Julio Cortázar; the urbanized realism in the short stories of Hanif Kureishi, Luis Rodriguez and Dagoberto Gilb. I deliberately create clusters based on shared form, and not necessarily themes that transect geographic space and time, to decouple such narratives from often arbitrarily delimiting boundaries (national, ethnical, and so on). Not only do the texts themselves announce and inscribe themselves in world crossings, but I respond herewith to what writers do generally: they read other writer's work--proximate and distant in time and space--to create new "literary utterances" in such ways that engage readers (and other writers as readers). And, so, we can see for instance how one of the contemporary most important Mexican novels, Palinuro de México, shares much with Ghose's Triple Mirror of the Self when re-engaging Western myths and Joycean narrative techniques in their postcolonial re-visions of the Americas and South Asia. This isn't to suggest that I neglect the site-specific grids of history, politics, and culture that uniquely inflect such narratives--those and other features are perhaps necessarily textured in all fiction and therefore appear in my discussions of theme, characterization, and plot; nor do I side-step consideration of the material conditions that effect the production and dissemination of postcolonial-borderland literature (most importantly what does and what does not get translated). My aim is rather to place the emphasis where I believe it rightly belongs: on the literary text as such, from the point of view of the peculiarities of its production and its reception.
At the outset here, let me trace briefly several key terms and concepts that inform my unraveling of postcolonial narrative and world literary imaginations. First, "Postcolonial" and "Borderland" are categories used by many contemporary South Asian, Latin American, and U.S. Chicano theorists to frame their decodings of all sorts of cultural phenomena as localized articulations of power and knowledge and as "transethnic" expressions of a globally shared subaltern sensibility that arises from former colonization and continuing capitalist exploitation.
While a certain amount of unraveling of current postcolonial-borderland theory will be necessary, the overall thrust of this study is to explore how authors of the Americas and South Asia (subcontinental and diasporic) creatively re-frame in their multiform aestheticizing acts the real everyday experiences of "postcolonial borderland" subjects.
Let me pause here to provide a couple of concepts central to this study. Let me identify briefly what I mean by aesthetics--a term weighed heavily with much ideological baggage. I use the term "aesthetic" not to conjure up old-school evaluative measures of inherently good and bad literature, but rather to identify a function: how the re-framing of an object (the literary transfiguration of real subjects, real experiences, actual events that make up everyday reality) can be engaging, generate emotions, suggest thoughts, produce moral conflicts, and even re-orientate our views of the world. The task at hand is to study the “aesthetic function” of postcolonial-borderland narrative fictions, confusing their realism (that is, their generic mode) for reality.
Let me also lay out here briefly what I think best explains subjectivity--once again, a term burdened by much ideological baggage. As a member of the human species, the subject is both an individual and a social being. From the biological --genetic and evolutionary--point of view, humanity is a single unit or species and a singular part of nature. The reading of the information encoded in the 23 pairs of chromosomes lodged within the nucleus of each one of our cells has recently established (in April 2003) that we possess a genome sequence (a specific order in our complete set of DNA molecules) of approximately three billion “letters” (pairs of chemical units, called nucleotide bases) and that we are all 99.9 percent identical in our DNA code. This means that in the genetic blueprint for building a human being there is room for only one tenth of a percent difference between any two individuals--except, of course, in the case of identical twins--, but it also means that each person will still differ from an other in three million separate places inside each cell of their body. Homo sapiens’ divergence from great apes took place about five million years ago. When all the known versions of a human gene are compared, in most cases they turn out to have had a single common ancestor about a million years ago; sometimes that ancestor has been traced back genetically to three million years. When our ancestors started walking out of Africa some 150,000 years ago, they were already endowed with all the essential features present in all humans today. We all share a cognitive and emotive architecture that pertains to our species as a whole, at the same time that each member of our species is unique in the way he/she uses this universal endowment as well as in the way he/she participates in the transformation of nature and society. The making of the subject is a historical process that began a long, long time ago and still continues; evolution never stops unless the species is destroyed.
Humanity is unique in that it is the only part of nature with the capacity to transform the whole of nature, including its human component--human nature. The subject is thus a result and an agent of transformation within the permanently ongoing process of socialization of nature. The subject is nature become self-conscious, nature become society. The subject is the cause and the effect of the self-making of humans through social history and the social transformation of both nature and society on the basis of social work. The subject is the “poet”, in an important sense of the ancient Greek word, the “maker”. Our species is the total sum of its “poets” and their creations.
With these conceptual bricks laid out, I propose that a solid and nuanced method of analysis of narrative fiction must include the use of tools shaped by research primarily (though not exclusively) in narratology, rhetoric, cognitive science, evolutionary biology and psychology, history, and post-Saussurean linguistics. As writers and readers, all authors (be them borderland-postcolonial or not) make use of the same fundamental cognitive and emotive blue-prints that all other people use to relate to the world. So, equally obviously, to understand how our brain selects, stores, and has access to our actual or virtual experiences; how we infer cause and effect; how we read other human (and even animal) states of mind from behavioral schemas and other signals, and how we can feel and empathize, is to know functions and processes that may help us understand more fully the why and the how of fictional characters and settings, as described in specific ways in specific narratives (by manipulating chronology through flashbacks and flashforwards, by giving or withholding information, by adopting a certain point of view from which to tell a story, and so on).
Such an approach, I propose, will also shed light on why we delight, for instance, in recognizing that Hamid and Cortázar variously engage with narrative techniques and generic conventions also used before them--with completely different aims and effects--by Borges, Dos Passos, Cervantes, and even the Sufi poet, Rumi; why we can step fully into the shoes of a character like Hamid's Lahore- born and -raised protagonist, Daru, and feel the pains and pleasures of characters inhabiting a turn of the twentieth century Burma, or a1960s Paris, Buenos Aires and Mexico City--and know all along that they are “only” fictional inventions, “lies”; why certain narrator-protagonists cause conflictive ethical responses in us; and finally, without exhausting a list of questions that is truly huge, how words and sentences not only communicate meaning, but create a "gestalt effect" that allows us to imagine holographically, as it were, spaces and times and events and characters only minimally described or hinted at by a narrator.
Certainly, while each narrative fixes the boundaries of its interpretation--even guides step by step its adequate comprehension--this does not mean that there is only one understanding possible, nor that, among the different hermeneutical possibilities, only one is correct. Each narrative is itself and other, in that it solicits individualized reactions and memories: one might imagine and connect with Roy's Kerala more forcefully than with Kureishi’s London or Rodriguez's East L.A., for instance, if one knows Kerala and not the other cities, of if Roy’s depiction of it has more cognitive and emotional resonances in one’s mind.
However, this does not mean that any interpretation goes. The tools I find useful are the ones which allow us to establish how a fictional narrative is built and functions, and how it fixes the boundaries to what otherwise would appear as an object susceptible to limitless and therefore arbitrary interpretations. An additional advantage of those tools (and there are many in the toolbox) is that they can be tested, revised, and rebuilt as our knowledge progresses.
In the field of literary analysis and cultural studies, the postcolonial and borderland categories have provided the scaffolding for much decoding: from formulations of hybrid discursive resistances and/or uncritical mimicry of (neo)colonial hegemonies to orientalist mappings of age-old literary topographies and positings of "third-space" text-acts that destabilize “first-space” nations. The affiliative lexical markers of postcolonial criticism, such as "diaspora", "unhoused", "dislocation", "translocation", "migration", "exile", “hybridity”, and so on, have become the glue that holds together a number of "transethnic" comparative literary studies. Some recent titles in this field are Narratives for a New Belonging, Seeing with a Third Eye, and Postcolonial Imaginings. As they readily suggest, such studies aim to provide a new approach to postcolonial literature, one that sees through a writing ("third-eye") that resists and/or destabilizes master hegemonic narratives and thus offers new ways to “belong”. Azade Seyhan's Writing Outside the Nation, for example, identifies a "third geography" inhabited by a range of writers that deploy bi-cultural/bi-lingual hybrid narratives: Chicana Sandra Cisneros, Cuban-born Oscar Hijuelos, and Turkish-German Rakish Schamish. Other scholars have used the proverbial thirdspace not so much to read contemporary authors across disparate geographic spaces, but to read them across stretches of time. Thus, in Michael Valdez Moses's The Novel and the Globalization of Culture, traditionally identified orientalist texts of European 19th-century realism and 20th century modernism are re-read against postcolonial postmodernist texts.
Whether a diachronic or synchronic "third space" mapping, one that moves up and down or laterally across continents and history, many postcolonial critics share an interest in refiguring centers and margins and in tracing new dialogic textual encounters. With few exceptions, much of this third-spacing relies heavily on the theme-ing of postcolonial modalities: hybridity, dislocation, resistance, exile, and so on. This outward push of the postcolonial-borderland theme-ing impulse has lead several critics to designate novels, testimonios, pamphlets, and such, as trace-markers of a nativist/subaltern epistemology. For example, Latin American theorist Walter Mignolo identifies a "subalternization of knowledge", that is, a mestizo knowledge system formed out of the Euro-Spanish/Amerindian contact zones that have continued to develop outside, as he states, the "borders of the modern/colonial world system". Other authors come readily to mind: Sandhya Shukla (India Abroad) as well as Bishnupriay Ghosh (When Borne Across). Ghosh, for instance, gives us the term "cosmopolitical" to identify just such a subalternized epistemology that promises to forge, she writes, "translocal solidarities" that intervene into "capital flows, hegemonic political and military flanks, and the increasing violence of nation-states against subaltern groups".
This brief sketch outlines a split--rather prototypical at that--in the way postcolonial-borderland theory has been formulated and used: on the one hand, authors identify themes of dislocation, exile, identity, hybridity, and so on, to establish either a synchronic or a diachronic comparative framework; on the other hand, they identify themes that point to the formulation of subaltern epistemology and/or ontology. However, the analytic tools proposed by postcolonial criticism seem to be largely impressionistic, and are based on an idealistic epistemology that conflates world and text. These two features appear constantly when postcolonial critics ascribe such and such a novel (or short story, or autobiography, or testimony) the capacity to change the world (the individual, a social group, society as a whole, history), thus making exorbitant claims about what literature can do.
The theme-ing of hybridity that textures a series of contemporary transnational patternings is certainly responding to a postcolonial-borderland literature chock full of dislocated ex-centric characters. But the threads that lead to such character and theme analysis are so to speak infinite. Moshin Hamid's Moth Smoke, for example, could be read as dealing centrally with Lahore's postcolonization identity crisis, or as a commentary on a class and caste; could just as easily be read as a story about unrequited love, the betrayal of friendship, or, even as an allegory of the passion of Christ. To theme postcolonial-borderland narratives alone will not ultimately get us closer to understand what makes the novel tick.
The other split leads to a theme-ing process that opens the door to massive speculation sustained and self-propelled by a typically idealistic epistemology: the decoding of localized cultural phenomenon that act as subalternized epistemological ruptures, interventions, and/or resistances to dominant neo-colonialist hegemonies. This allows for one to propose that a subalternized destabilizing of cultural texts enacts social change. This also theorizes into oblivion the real and urgent need of subaltern and working peoples worldwide and in each country to build the political party that is necessary for them (for us) to further their struggle against oppression and exploitation. As Neil Larsen aptly comments, postcolonial criticism’s approach promises a "cultural revolution without social revolution" ("DetermiNation").
Rather then dwell too long on what doesn't work, let me return to some of my initial questions and hypotheses. Is there something inherent in the novels, short stories, fictionalized autobiographies that I study that makes them postcolonial-borderland? Is it that they announce in content and/or form such a positionality? Does it have something to do with what we might call the "biographical effect": the author's name conferring by itself, whether we know or not any details of his or her actual life, an aura of the postcolonial-borderland onto the text?
It is true that a given narrative's paratexts serve as an initial readerly contract--we read "Hanif Kureishi", "Hamid Moshin", or "Fernando del Paso" on the book cover and we immediately make certain assumptions about the author’s “foreigness” and about the probable content of the stories or novels. But those assumptions no longer push those authors automatically out of the literary mainstream. In recent years, postcolonial-borderland fictions have made their way to bookstore and library shelves as well as classrooms at a steady clip. Today, the production and dissemination of postcolonial-borderland literature follows two paths. On the one hand, there are those publishers, booksellers, and scholars, who seek to make visible and to educate by cutting up the world-literature pie into distinct slices (African, Asian, Latin American, and so on); on the other, there are those who want to approach all literature from the viewpoint of “world literature”. The first approach is clearly important for pedagogical reasons: it makes practical sense to impose a frame around, say, Chicano literature, so that this otherwise somewhat marginalized literature can be “mainstreamed” and manageably taught. This, of course, involves an over simplification, but arguably to a positive end. For those who favor the second approach, it is not so much a practical issue as it is strictly a scientific one. For example, Elleke Boehmer considers it essential that the study of South Asian writing be firmly situated within the tradition of Indian writing; to do otherwise, she states, is to read the literature through a Western ideological lens and therefore to simply mirror a West in the East.
Of course, the binding up of different literatures into national or ethnic stacks faces its own set of problems. In the classroom, it can reproduce the "ethnographic effect": that, for instance, somehow South Asian or Chicano/a or Native American or African American authors and their writing dance to their own "exotic" rhythm and beat. It can continue to spin that centrifuge that has in the past worked to create hierarchies of difference: this literature is special and "authentic" and must be judged by equally special standards. When race, gender, nationality or any other extra-literary consideration determines the way a fictional narrative is to be judged, there is always the risk of “essentializing” both the author and his or her work. This has been denounced many times by writers themselves. For instance, in an interview with James W. Coleman novelist and short story writer John Edgar Wideman explained for the nth time his strong opposition to this sort of discriminating reification. In his words: “There’s often a confusion between the person I am and what I do in my work. If the work is serious it should stand on its own. It shouldn’t need the prop of personality behind it. Another side of this cult of personality is that it perpetuates our confusion about race. The author’s race or sex determines the kind of critical commentary that appears about his or her work. This stupidity is institutionalized in traditional literary studies.” (My emphasis.) Added to this is the more practical question of who to include within such bounded extra-literary entities: those writers identified as "nativist" that anchor firmly their narratives within a given nation-state, or those identified as "cosmopolitan" that texture diasporic experiences? This can be complicated once again if we consider that many nativist-identified authors have floated away and dropped anchor far from the homelands they texture. I think of Raja Rao’s novels that have been held up as classics of Indian literature because of their mirroring of specific Indian spaces and historical events, when the fact is he wrote many such novels while living in a thirteenth-century castle in the French Alps.
Does the adscription of postcolonial-borderland literature to a “world literature” framework solve the problem? Here, too, we may run into another problem, already identified by Aijaz Ahmad in his critique of Frederic Jameson's notion of a "Third World literature": it is the melting down into sameness of the differences between the many and diverse postcolonial writings that spin out of a vast number of contexts. Often, the result is that a handful of authors become identified as representative of a literary tradition and all the others are neglected. We see this in exaggerated form in the “Booker-Prize effect”: Midnight's Children becomes the novel of India while many, many others cease counting.
So what is our answer? Do we study and teach postcolonial-borderland fictions as race-, gender-, area-, national-bounded narratives or as exempla of world-wide literary creations? Gayatri Spivak, Franco Moretti, Aijaz Ahmad, to name a few, have proposed a new comparative approach that would destabilize a nationalist-localist stronghold in the academy. For Spivak, such a project entails discarding the old area-studies model and putting in its place a "planetary" interdisciplinary approach that is sensitive to, as she says, "the irreducible work of translation, not from language to language but from body to ethical semiosis, that incessant shuttle that is a 'life'". In his essay "Conjectures on World Literature", Moretti proposes a "distant reading" of "literary systems" that would act as a "permanent intellectual challenge" (and thorn in the side) to nationalist-based literary canonical approaches. And Ahmad suggests that we simply open to the "opulent sense of heterogeneity" that is a world-postcolonial literature.
While richly suggestive, I do not believe they provide an appropriate model. What we need is a comprehensive approach, not a simple increase in the number of fiction writers we are to read. After all, postcolonial-borderland fiction (as all literature) is potentially as limitless as the emergence and creative capacity of postcolonial-borderland writers. But our time and energy are quite limited, so we need to identify some sort of working method that does set well-founded theoretical limits and that does have a certain predictive scope.
We might begin by distinguishing between form and content, the two most general categories that constitute an inseparable unity in narrative fiction, and then apply to them the tools provided by cognitive science, rhetoric and narratology, evolutionary biology and psychology, history, and linguistics. In fact, scholars such as Wayne C. Booth, Seymour Chatman, Dorrit Cohn, Monika Fludernik, Gérard Genette, David Herman, Susan Sniader Lanser, James Phelan, Marie-Laure Ryan, Robert Scholes, and Lisa Zunshine, to name a few, have in one way or another followed this procedure and their work has laid the foundations for contemporary rhetoric and narratology. The results obtained in these fields are well known and I will not extend myself further on them. But a special mention has to be made of the work Patrick Colm Hogan is doing with the tools of cognitive science as well as his very innovative study of narrative universals.
As we know, storytelling in all its shapes and sizes is probably as old as the human species and continues to perform a vital function in the daily experiences of peoples worldwide. One of the main reasons for this is that narration acts on our emotions in very particular ways, some of them so important that they have contributed to humankind’s survival, evolution, and development. Indeed, emotions play such a vital role because they reinforce our capabilities to feel empathy and to learn from other person’s experiences. In The Mind and its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion Patrick Colm Hogan explores the universal storytelling capacities of the human mind while focusing on emotion and showing how the biological and social components of literary narrative and of emotion are equally universal.
This book by Hogan is a trailblazer in two domains: cognitive science and global comparative literature. Thanks to Hogan’s efforts, cognitive science is now in a much better position to further explore and empirically verify the universal nature of emotions, for his book is a treasure-trove of data on emotions dug out from the literary texts and the literary forms and themes developed in all historical periods and all over the world. At the same time, the innovative methodology Hogan has created and applied to analyze narrative literature in its many levels--thematic, structural, stylistic--shows a new way of “doing” comparative world literature and of bringing it to bear on scientific issues.
As Hogan points out in the Introduction, by now quite a few authors have linked literary study with cognitive science. But none of them has embarked on a cross-cultural study of “the relation between two crucial elements of literature and the human mind--narrative and emotion”. Drawing on research in psychology, linguistics, neurology, Indic literary theory, and philosophy, as well as on his own seemingly all-encompassing knowledge of literature, Hogan tackles the problem of explaining how storytelling works cross-culturally, affects and is affected by the emotions, and exhibits universal structures: both from the point of view of the author/storyteller and the reader/audience.
Hogan inscribes his study of literary universals-- which may be viewed as an “anthropology of world literature”--within “an encompassing research program in cognitive science”. He identifies two universal narrative structures: heroic tragi-comedy and romantic tragi-comedy. He argues that these structures are central because they are prominent across unrelated cultural traditions and because they are generated from “two contextually dependent universal prototypes for happiness”, namely the personal prototype (romantic union) and the social prototype (social domination). He also studies the presence in many heroic narratives of an “epilogue of suffering” in which the story continues beyond its expected conclusion (that is, the moment of the heroic triumph.) “This epilogue is focused either on the misery of those who are vanquished or on the anguish of the victorious hero, who surrenders the domination he/she has won, suffering remorse or undergoing some punishment”. The analysis of this “apparently anomalous variation in heroic tragi-comedies” allows Hogan to expand the explanatory scope of his theory and to delve into the nature of ethical concerns in literature. His conclusion is that the “epilogue of suffering” is an expression of “a social world created whenever powerful men and women pursue a prototype of happiness as individual or group domination”. Hogan expands even more the explanatory scope of his theory by extending to lyric poetry the emotive and plot structures and principles he has identified. He argues that lyric poems most often imply narratives, and that these “are prominently (though, again, not invariably)” heroic and romantic tragi-comedy. To test his hypotheses, Hogan analyses the oral epic poetry of the Ainu (in northeast Asia), mostly recited by women. This verification led him to “the formulation of a third prominent narrative structure, sacrificial tragi-comedy, and to the related isolation of a third contextually dependent prototype for happiness”. In his study of the interrelations of these three genres, he explains the detailed structure that they share, and he concludes that “the three are remarkably similar in their organization and development”. Hogan’s research shows how advances made in cognitive science, evolutionary biology and psychology, and neuroscience, can provide literary scholars with a set of tools that can be tested, discarded, and/or smelted anew, to understand better that activity so central to our everyday lives: the making of and engaging with stories.
Such tools and such an approach that begins with an eye to the verifiable and takes the world literary imagination as its realm, are far from being reductive. On the contrary, they are a trustworthy road to the "opulent sense of heterogeneity" exhibited by postcolonial-borderland fiction. And as far as the so-called Western canon is concerned, one should keep in mind that it has been shaped and reshaped over time (just as all the other non-Western canons). As Robert Alter writes, the literary canon through the ages has been a "quirky and various thing, its borders and perceived centers shifting according to changing taste and intellectual fashion at least as much as on ideological grounds". The same could be said of music, painting, philosophy. Fifteen years ago the Mexican novelist Fernando del Paso reiterated the claim to this cultural heritage: "This means that Shakespeare, Ucello, Bergson, and Mahler, to mention just a few names, belong to us just as much as they belong to the peoples of Europe".
In winding down this initial unraveling of narrativity and world literary imagination, I want to return to some points made--and suggest several anew.
As a scholar of postcolonial-borderland literature I want to know as much as I can about why and how we read works of fiction; why there is always storytelling in any community of people no matter where they live on our beat up planet; what features of narrative fiction are universal both in form and content; how does history and the contingencies of politics affect the literary imagination; how does the apparent decay of our socio-economic system affect authors and readers in their engagement with literature.
I end where I began, on a suggestive personal note. As an individual, I belong to my time, I am marked by my time, but I am also the inheritor of times past. My scholarship and teaching in postcolonial-borderland literature of the Americas and South Asias has gravitated around the singular pursuit of advancing meaningful theories concerning fiction--that is, theories that could make practical sense in their pedagogical application, that could be empirically verified, at least in their major claims, and that could be built upon and rebuilt precisely through their application and because of their verifiability. And, although it is a fact that, in general, empirically justified theories and hypothesis are relatively few and cover only a rather small portion of reality, I have come to realize in my own scholarly and pedagogical pursuits that this is not a motive of discouragement nor should it lead to a dead end: nihilism, disappointment and despair await only those who opt for occult beliefs, mysticism and soothsaying.
I am a Chicano scholar that seeks to heighten our sense of the "opulent heterogeneity" of postcolonial-borderland narrative fiction as it engages with world literary imaginations.