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Reviewed by:
  • Crossing Borderlands: Composition and Postcolonial Studies
  • Taryn L. Okuma
Andrea A. Lunsford and Lahoucine Ouzgane , eds. 2004. Crossing Borderlands: Composition and Postcolonial Studies. Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. $ 54.95 hc. $ 22.95 sc. 296 pp.

Noting that the 1998 special issue of JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory on postcolonialism and composition studies indicated a growing interest in a mutual exchange of ideas between the two fields, this volume of fourteen essays (some of which are revised versions of articles that appeared in that issue) endeavors to encourage and extend the dialogue. Crossing Borderlands challenges scholars and teachers in both fields to examine the ways in which the goals of their field of study could be better met through the recognition and "crossing" of borderlands between theory and practice, postcolonial studies and composition studies. Citing Gary A. Olson, Andrea A. Lunsford and Lahoucine Ouzgane, point to the frequent accusation that postcolonial studies "too often focuses on high theory" in order to suggest that just as composition studies has been equally generalized as "consistently privileging practice over theory," the need to balance the two may provide a point of contact (3). This is not to say that the volume sustains an easy or simple distinction between theory and postcolonial studies versus practice and composition studies. Rather, Crossing Borderlands moves beyond these "borders" and identifies a common goal between the two fields: to empower the words and acts of those who have been marginalized. Although they take a variety of approaches to the material, each of the essays collected in this volume asks to what extent teaching postcolonial studies cannot be separated from teaching informed by postcolonial studies. Contributors call for increased recognition of the ways in which work in composition studies contributes to the formulation of pedagogies that are not only mindful of, but also enactments of, postcolonial theory in the space of the classroom, as well as a reconsideration of the project of postcolonial studies in order to understand how it can provide new ways of imagining and theorizing the institutional space of both the classroom and university.

Crossing Borderlands provides a dynamic illustration of the changing face of English studies, in part because the essays struggle to define and locate the [End Page 188] field of postcolonial studies within or in relation to it. Perspectives shift between the difficulty of binding postcolonial studies' interdisciplinarity to a definition solely based on either methodology or object of study, as in Deepika Bahri's essay, and an often implied definition that renders it interchangeable with or as a sub-field of literary studies. It is the application of this second definition that is perhaps the most interesting, as it locates the project of the collection within a heated discussion about the relationship between composition and literary studies. At the heart of this collection is a pressing question: given the shared commitments of postcolonial and composition studies, why hasn't there already been more mutual exchange between the two fields? Min-Zhan Lu's polemical opening essay argues that one answer to this question is a product of the close association of postcolonial studies and literary studies: "Given the historical dichotomizing of literature over composition and research over teaching, to proclaim oneself a radical worker inside English Studies requires one to confront the field's compulsion to bomb composition teachers into accepting the gifts of literary theories" (10). Taking up what Lu calls the position of "the ungrateful receiver" (9), essays by Lunsford, Susan C. Jarratt, Martin Behr, and Jaime Armin Mejia demonstrate the necessary interchange between postcolonial and composition studies by rendering visible the structures of oppression that inhibit writers' agency and emphasizing the liberatory potential of writing. Rather than simply casting composition studies in the role of literary or postcolonial studies' "other," essays like R. Mark Hall and Mary Rosner's examination and critique of the evolution and application of Mary Louise Pratt's notion of "contact zones" and Louise Rodriguez Connal's study of hybridized language and identity in relation to Meztizo/a writers serve to model the ways in which theoretical and empirical work in both areas are not...


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