“Afropolitans All? The Rediscovery of Place in Mobile World Literature"
Contemporary diasporic literary theory and practice display a renewed interest in place, at times an almost blatant insistence on rootedness and locality precisely in the 'age of cultural mobility'. My talk investigates how literature engages these simultaneously global and local dynamics in new writings from/beyond the Black Atlantic. The cosmopolitan dimensions of the new diasporic literatures do not simply compare places of origin to places of residence, but outline multi-local scenarios connected in a mobile web of relations. Taking the writings of Édouard Glissant as my point of departure and connecting them to contemporary philosophical theorizations of place (e.g. by Edward Casey), I will read selected works of contemporary diasporic literature with regard to how they develop textual techniques that represent, reflect, problematize, and help shape these simultaneous local and global dynamics of diasporic experience and support the argument for the advent of a mobile world literature. Arguably, the texts under consideration are modeled on old conceptions of “Weltliteratur” that have, in the recent past, regained so much prominence (e.g. Moretti, Damrosch), but that are, as my talk will demonstrate, in dire need of conceptual rethinking, taking into account the variegated circumstances and preconditions of migratory (and platial) contemporary lives.
Writers to be considered are Taiye Selasi, Teju Cole, M.G. Vassanji, Shailja Patel and others.
KERSTIN SCHMIDT is Professor of English and Chair of American Studies at the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt/Germany. Scholarships have brought her to Yale University, to Indiana University/Bloomington, to the University of Wyoming, to the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, to the "Schomburg Center for Research in Black Life" and the "Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts" in New York City as well as to the Universities of Toronto and British Columbia/Vancouver in Canada. Her publications focus on modern American drama and theater, ethnic literatures in the US and Canada, theories of space/place in American culture, race and diaspora studies/Black Atlantic studies as well as on media theory, especially American radio culture, and documentary photography. Together with colleagues from France and the US, she is the editor of the interdisciplinary review journal Kritikon Litterarum (DeGruyter). She is a member of the board of directors of the Bavarian American Academy (BAA) and serves on the advisory board of US-American and Canadian journals.