Shakespeare in the “Post”Colonies: What’s Shakespeare to Them, or They to Shakespeare

Shakespeare Association of America Seminar for Annual Meeting 2021 in Austin, Texas (31 March to 3 April 2021)

Co-leader: Amrita Dhar (Ohio State University)

Co-leader: Amrita Sen (University of Calcutta)

 

Seminar keywords: vernacular, local, multilingual, intersectional, indigenous, postcolonial, race, caste, pedagogy, influence

This seminar investigates what Shakespeare has meant and now means in erstwhile colonial geographies (especially those under the British Empire), and how the various 21st-century Shakespeares worldwide impact current questions of indigenous rights, marginalised identities, and caste politics in “post”colonial spaces.

The violence of colonialism is such that there can be no truly post-colonial state, only a neo-colonial one. Whether under settler-colonialism (as in the US and Canada, Australia, New Zealand) or extractive colonialism (as in the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, and the African continent), the most disenfranchised under colonial rule have only ever changed masters upon any political “post”colonialism.

Given the massive continued presence of Shakespeare everywhere that British colonial reach flourished, and the conviction among educators and theatre practitioners that the study of Shakespeare can and should inform the language(s) of resisting injustice, this seminar explores the reality of 21st-century Shakespeares in geographies of postcolonial inheritance, such as the Indian subcontinent, continental Africa, the Caribbean, Australasia, and indeed, North and South America. We ask what this presence of Shakespeare means for our world of strange mobilities and borders, estrangements and loyalties, distinct identities and shared commitments.

Here are some questions that we seek to address:

– When school and college syllabi in India or Uganda or the West Indies or Canada still have a compulsory Shakespeare component, what work does Shakespeare do today?

– What does a Dalit Shakespeare look like, or a Maori one, and how do these Shakespeares influence the “mainstream” currency of Shakespeare in the UK-US axis?

– Why is Shakespeare relevant, even important, in worldwide local, vernacular, and Indigenous registers?

– Why and how does Shakespeare’s language have the power to move even when removed from the original?

– What is the relationship between the local and the global, and how does Shakespeare help us parse that relationship?

– Who gets to do/own/perform/read/interpret/teach Shakespeare, and where, and how? And what do these engagements mean?

– What can our understanding of Shakespeare beyond English, and beyond the early modern, do for coalitional dialogue with race and ethnic studies, and with premodern critical race studies?

Engaging scholars of race, caste, gender, postcolonialism, adaptation, performance, multilingualism, disability, and indigeneity, this seminar raises questions about critical terminology and methodology (particularly the neo- and post-colonial); caste and class; pedagogy and curricula; linguistic belonging and otherness; centre and margin; past and present.

Seminarians are asked for short scholarly papers, critical responses, and engaged conversation.

Participation from graduate students (at the candidacy level), scholars based in or working on areas outside the US-UK axis, and scholars working in one or more intersections of culture and identity as outlined above is especially welcome.

 

Reading and Preparation

Although no prior preparation is necessary—we will circulate seminar plans and readings in autumn 2020—we are assembling a living document of scholarship and texts on our topic: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G8TzPhBuB5IKlYAnbS3qJoRJLz4n45pLnjdmYahP8-4/edit?usp=sharing.

NOTE:

This is a living document, and still in the making; please help us update this bibliography with work that is compellingly at the forefront or intersections of postcolonial studies, Dalit studies, critical and premodern critical race studies, Indigenous and Adivasi studies, adaptation and translation studies, travel/encounter/interculturality studies, border and migration studies, and Shakespeare studies. Please write with suggestions to dhar [dot] 24 [at] osu [dot] edu.

This document lists ONLY work in English–while the majority of work on postcolonial/“post”colonial Shakespeares in the world is in other languages. We are working on a bibliography across languages, and similarly welcome input for it. Please write to dhar [dot] 24 [at] osu [dot] edu with suggestions.

Relatedly: if you are struggling to get a hold of any of the texts listed in our bibliography, please let us know.

 

About the Seminar Leaders

Amrita Dhar grew up in Calcutta and was educated at the universities of Jadavpur, Cambridge, and Michigan. She is currently Assistant Professor of English at The Ohio State University, where she researches and teaches in early modern literature, disability studies, and migration studies. Her interests further include premodern critical race studies—particularly where it opens conversations on caste, gender, and physical ability—and the digital humanities. She is currently at work on two mutually informing book projects, Milton’s Blind Language and Regarding Sight and Blindness in Early Modern England. Her work—on blind poetics, theatre and disability, Shakespeare adaptations and caste—has appeared or is forthcoming in a range of journals and scholarly collections. She is also an active traveller of mountains and writes on world mountaineering literatures.

Amrita Sen is Associate Professor and Deputy Director, UGC-HRDC, University of Calcutta and affiliated faculty of the Department of English. Her research interests include the East India Company, early modern literature and culture, theatre history, civic pageantry, gender theory, race and postcolonial studies. She has published on East India Company women, Bollywood and regional Indian appropriations of Shakespeare, and early modern ethnography. She is the co-editor of Civic Performance: Pageantry and Entertainments in Early Modern London (2020) and a special issue of the Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies on “Alternative Histories of the East India Company” (2017).

 

Registration and Access

Owing to sensible precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19—and indeed, hopefully for the longer-term, for this is good for access—the Shakespeare Association of America has currently relaxed its in-person participation rules. This means that participants can join the seminar in spring 2021 from any corner of the world through an internet connection. Please let us know if you are interested in enrolling for this seminar but are uncertain of joining us in person in March-April 2021 in Austin. We want your participation and will make the necessary arrangements.

The SAA does not currently provide sign language interpretation or CART (Communication Access Realtime Transcription) services unless we specifically ask. If you are committed to this seminar and need any of these services, please let us know.

Amrita and Amrita are both academics and parents. Our partners, villages, and worldwide communities make our work possible. If you are travelling with a young person or have childcare needs for the duration of the seminar, please let us know.

If there is any other means of access that we can facilitate for you as a participant of this seminar, please let us know.

 

Seminar Asks and Timeline

Abstracts due: 30 November 2020 (250-300 words, spelling out your topic, text/s, and methodological commitments)

Papers due: 15 February 2021 (3000 words, written accessibly and clearly, and keeping in mind an audience of Shakespeareans of varying geographies, disciplinary backgrounds and practices, and career stages)

Two responses to fellow-seminarians’ papers due: 15 March 2021 (300-500 words, clearly articulating what you see as the primary stakes and arguments of the author, and suggesting specific and constructive avenues for further development of the author’s work)

 

Seminar meeting to be held online in the SAA 2021 days: 31 March-3 April 2021

 

Please direct any questions to dhar [dot] 24 [at] osu [dot] edu and amrita [underscore] sen [at] yahoo [dot] com.