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Vol. 1 No. 1 (2019): The Salzburg Seminar and Its Legacies in American Studies

Postcolonial and Transoceanic Life Writing

December 4, 2019


In lieu of an abstract, here is the first paragraph of this forum contribution:

The study of life writing and postcolonial theory have had a long, intimate, and mutually constitutive relationship. The desire to more comprehensively understand the (human) subjectivities of the (formerly) colonized through (their own) cultural self-expression has driven life-writing scholars to significantly expand their canon and their scholarly methods. The human and the non-human are onto-social conditions imposed on colonized and enslaved peoples. In the context of transoceanic studies, various conditions of unfreedom can be found which call attention to the prevalence of lives deemed non-human within the parameters of European Enlightenment. Substantial advances notwithstanding, the field is still grappling with what Lisa Lowe describes as the “economy of affirmation and forgetting that structures and formalizes the archives of liberalism.”[1] This short piece contends that recently emerging (trans-)oceanic approaches hold great potential for taking the study of life writing an important step further on its way beyond the liberal economy of affirmation and forgetting.


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