The Haunted Postcolonial Present (Due 11/15/12)

Maps are constructed on the principal of exclusion.  Cartography reduces complex spaces to lines, colors, and data points.  Such a translation, however instrumental, depends upon inevitable loss.  No GPS can track a spirit, lost cities, or spectral ships.  But literary texts, particularly postcolonial texts, are obsessed with figures excluded by cartographic translation; ghosts, ruins, and vanished communities haunt the textual landscape.  These texts that attend to those catastrophes to which History cannot bear witness call for something more than memorializing tragedy.

Haunting can be read as a formal device, a trope, a poetics, a mode of relation, a theoretical term, and a mode of address.  Hauntedness troubles all reductive plottings.  Insistent ghosts infringe upon the present, demanding appeasement: what kind of response does such an address invite?  What kind of relation does it call for?

In their demand for response and relation, these hauntings punctuate the present and call for “another writing” in the Derridian sense: that is a writing that opens itself to the trace of the radically other, so this other can leave its “phantomatical map” within the given monolanguage.  The “phantomatical map” becomes particularly useful when thinking about translation: a translation is haunted by its source text, making it not simply a transposition, but also a response.

This panel hopes to think with and through specific postcolonial texts about ways to move beyond the modes of tragedy, recuperation, and memorialization in order to sketch the contours of an alternative response and bearing witness to loss.