- Africa Writing Europe: Opposition, Juxtaposition, Entanglement, and: The Changing Face of African Literature (Les nouveaux visages de la littérature africaine) , and: Transcultural English Studies: Theories, Fictions, Realities
The Cross Cultures series at Rodopi has already extended our understanding of the minefield we now refer to as postcolonial studies. Each of the three books in the series under discussion here adds something uniquely important to our rapidly enlarging conception of the field. Although how and, indeed, whether Western discourses developed for anglophone expressions in literature, film, and art that originate mostly outside the borders of Britain and the United States to counter Eurocentric perceptions of the world can continue to be the treat they have been as explanatory categories is a subject of heated debate in a cluster of essays, it is the thinking of the majority of the contributions that as more and more on-the-ground evidence from around the world emerges, carefully developed theories such as those gathered in the Schulze-Engler and Helff volume will be needed to provide useful templates for detailed studies of particular regional data.
Under the rubric of the updated umbrella term “transcultural,” a concept that has been given many names in its critical history (such as “Multiculturalism,” “Cosmopolitanism,” and “Internationalization” or “Globalization”), the editors of Transcultural English Studies have accommodated a scrutiny of a wide variety of issues thrown up by what the twenty-seven contributors to the book call the gradual merging of cultures that is blurring distinctions of region and ethnicity as well as of social practices across the globe. Especially with the onset of the rapid movements of people and ideas through migration, travel, exile or expatriation, transmigration, and flight, some of the authors note, the concept of ethnic or cultural and even national exclusiveness is increasingly becoming a vanishing subject. Oddly enough, ethnic plurality in the opinion of others in no way vitiates but actually complicates the consciousness of difference. All the essays in Transcultural English Studies have one common thread: while coming to [End Page 149] different and often conflicting conclusions, they deal with a nexus of problems clustered around culture as a shifting site of identity—the irony that in the cultural transformations that are taking place, dichotomies of local and global may be coming under increasing challenge, but the old hierarchies such as those that obtain in relations between powerful or first nations and their others have remained intact. Though largely uneven, the sample critical reactions to African and Caribbean literature, to minority writing from Ireland, Scotland, and New Zealand, to Native Canadian, Black British, and Jewish American authors writing from and to Germany included in the volume can all be taken as collectively offering a defense of the claim that location is crucial in shaping identity, but contact with other peoples often both throws into sharp relief and transforms this sense of identity. In light of how processes of accommodation, hybridization, assimilation, resistance, and the dynamism and complexity of cultures spawned under the new dispensations are unsettling the received ideas, some contributions call for new methodologies that could assist our understanding of multiple identities to which individuals who find themselves thrust into the midst of such situations can lay claim. It is the opinion of still others that cultural fusion or synthesis has become so commonplace in contemporary times as to render obsolete not only divisions like colonizer/colonized, oppressor/oppressed, and center/periphery but also exclusive identification of modernity with the West.
In the collection Africa Writing Europe: Opposition, Juxtaposition, Entanglement, contributors bring out the implications of inverting the protocols of looking, the conventional order of stereotyping, whereby Africa is perennially the passive object...