Middle Eastern Studies Program, Division of Languages and Literature, and Translation and Translatability Initiative present

The Postcolony Is a Cold War Ruin

Bhakti Shringarpure, Assistant Professor of English, University of Connecticut and editor-in-chief of Warscapes magazine

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The postcolony can be viewed as a Cold War ruin. As the Cold War unleashed onto the postcolonial world, it left behind abandoned bunkers, weapons wedged amongst weeds, obsolete computers, cracked and faded slabs of Brutalist buildings, tattered proxy war landscapes, desecrated monuments, and the tortured and debilitated body. But the ruin was not just physical; it was also an affective structure. It was the melancholy and anguish that comes from feeling ruined. As euphoric futures imagined by decolonial dreams were crushed by the Cold War, failure became a fixture within postcolonial ontology. Yet the connection between postcoloniality and the Cold War is not always made visible. If we were to apply what Svetlana Boym has called the “ruin gaze,” it would be possible to excavate the ways in which the Cold War has embedded material, corporeal and affective structures of these failed futures in the postcolony. Theorizing the postcolony as Cold War ruin moves away from indulgent nostalgia. Ruin work is active and enables reconstruction and excavation. This talk re-engages sites that embody such ruins - postcolonial literature of disillusionment, landscapes still riddled with landmines, leftover cars, phones and television sets, and delectable residues of secrets, rumors and conspiracies. The ruin, after all, half buries and half reveals. It is through this tension that new genealogies can emerge to claim that the postcolony was fundamentally shaped by Cold War dynamics.

Bhakti Shringarpure is Assistant Professor of English at University of Connecticut, editor-in-chief of Warscapes magazine, and a graduate of Bard College. Her book Cold War Assemblages: Decolonization to Digital is forthcoming in 2019. 
 

Time: 5:35 pm – 7:00 pm

Location: Olin, Room 203