Transformation of Political Identity From Commonwealth Through Postcolonial Literature

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This book is a study of the current debates about identitarian thought in relation to contexts of postcolonial resistance and reconstruction. How is identity theorized, constructed and claimed in the context of postcolonial political and cultural struggles against imperial hegemony? How is our understanding of identity inflected by the strengthening alliance between postcolonial theory, on the one hand, and the postmodern pull towards ‘de-hegemonization’ on the other? This study assesses different postcolonial ‘relocations’ in cultural and political discourse and highlights the political uncertainties and theoretical fractures that the persistent appeal to Western frameworks of knowledge engenders. This book aligns three white settler nations, namely, Canada, Australia and South Africa, from a socio-political and cultural point of view. It proposes a study of their twin positions as distinctive avatars of postcolonial experience and as illustrative models of a general postcolonial condition. Furthermore, it raises issues of identity and identity politics on the level of literary discourse as well as in terms of national context. The novels of Canadian Michael Ondaatje, Australian David Malouf, and South African Nadine Gordimer present rich thematic parallels; they engage with particular white settler national issues as well as more general postcolonial questions.


“ ... This book is, in many ways, deeply embroiled in the current generation’s attempts to offer an answer to the question ‘What is literature?’ No contemporary attempt to ponder that question can ignore the fact colonial encounters and their aftermath have marked the history of the last two centuries and shaped us all ... Here the ‘postcolonial’ is inflected to the cognate form of the ‘post-imperial’, thus obliging us to consider how the eternal impulse to dominate and subjugate the ‘other’ (imperialism) is inscribed in human behavior and consequently in all representations of it. Her insights into the works of Gordimer, Malouf and Ondaatje are in themselves profound and pointedly relevant. But the great achievement of this book is the way Dr. Tayeb orchestrates her material: she interrogates the texts she examines in such a way as to give the impression that these three very different authors appear to be engaged in dialogue with each other ...” – (from the Preface) Dr. Patrick Corcoran, University of Surrey Roehampton

“In the mounting hysteria over the ‘clash of civilizations’ and the so-called unbridgeable gap between East and West, center and periphery ... one would have expected a book on ‘patterns of identity in postcolonial literature’ to join in the chorus of lament, denunciation, blame, resistance, even self-flagellation. Instead, Dr. Tayeb’s soft but determinate voice is a brilliant appeal to see the reality of things. She dispels the Manichean view of ‘them’ and ‘us,’ blurs pigmentation and ideological colors and speaks of a literature that no postcolonial scholar recognizes as belonging to his/her realm ... This book opens up new avenues in postcolonial criticism, and, as such, is worth reading.” – Professor Hechmi Trabelsi, University of Tunis

“This is a serious research book which focuses on three main writers that the author carefully chose for her study, which provides a rich corpus indeed – it spreads over 16 works. The author consistently and deliberately strove not to separate the theoretical study from the literary analysis, which, properly speaking, indicates the clarity and excellent organization of the work ... Dr. Tayeb’s theoretical scaffolding is also impressive as she successfully combines a postmodern approach with a postcolonial one, avoiding the pitfall of creating an imbalance between parts ...” – Professor Sadok Bouhlila, La Manouba University

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Preface by Patrick Corcoran

Part I. Identity in the Crosscurrents of Theory
1. Postmodernism/Postcolonialism: Tension and Complementarity
2. Postcolonial Literature in the Crosscurrents: Politics, Realism and the Appeal of the Meta-Fictional

Part II. Mapping Identity
3. The Construction of National Identity in White Settler Literatures
4. Capitalising ‘Their’ Land: The Construction of Home in the White Settler Imagination
5. Negotiating Boundaries: Towards a Poetics of Multiplicity

Part III. Unsettling Identity
6. Unsettling Whiteness
7. Unsettling the Nation
Conclusion: Beyond Identity

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