"Bumping into a Rememory": Place and History in Postcolonial Writing



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Drawing on recent interdisciplinary scholarship on the sense of place, this dissertation examines how the literary landscapes of formerly colonized countries embody colonial and post-colonial history. The project focuses on the ways in which specific material places both preserve and trigger memories, especially memories relevant to the colonial and postcolonial history of these places, and how the conjunction of place and the past leads us to ?bump into? social memories often dismissed from formal histories. The ?rememory? that one encounters in a particular place recuperates the territorial significance of formerly colonized countries in a deterritorialized world. In this sense, landscapes serve as material palimpsests of colonial and postcolonial history.

To discuss the recovery of memories etched on landscapes, this dissertation investigates works by three postcolonial writers: Paule Marshall?s The Chosen Place, The Timeless People (1969), Zo? Wicomb?s You Can?t Get Lost in Cape Town (1987) and Playing in the Light (2006), and Amitav Ghosh?s The Hungry Tide (2005). Employing their liminal location as diasporic writers to examine the colonial and post-colonial history of their home countries, these writers recuperate the memories of the marginalized that are not visible in the official archives of those countries. Set on a fictional Caribbean island, Marshall?s work unburies the history of resistance to colonial governance, a history neither glorified nor written about in formal history. Narrating the story of a ?white? woman who discovers that she is actually of mixed-race descent, Wicomb?s Playing in the Light reveals the past of racial passing buried in the urban landscapes of post-apartheid Cape Town. Ghosh?s The Hungry Tide unfolds the dismissed history of the Indian Partition on the border of India and Bangladesh, awakening memories of refugees marginalized because of their class, religion and ethnicity. Disclosing memories of the past, Marshall, Wicomb, and Ghosh demonstrate how inextricably entangled the past colonial conflicts of the homelands are with their present post- or neo- colonial socio-political issues. Drawing on memories bound to places, Marshall, Wicomb and Ghosh recover the specificity and diversity of postcolonial history and place, challenging the neoliberal and neocolonial promise of a border-free world market and the postmodern illusion of multi-national or non-territorial world citizens.