English 270 - Spring, 2015

Studies in Contemporary World Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Roy, Parama
CRN: 52860
Time: T 6:10-9:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Later British
Focus: ID, Interdiscipline, Method


    ENL 270: Subaltern Subjects, Subaltern Studies
    What is now called the Subaltern Studies project emerged in the early eighties in response to revolutions worldwide, the failure of decolonisation, and a dissatisfaction with bourgeois nationalist historiography’s representation (or lack of it) of subordinated groups in South Asia. Though initiated by historians, Subaltern Studies found broad interdisciplinary purchase among literary scholars and anthropologists in particular. It also achieved a certain global visibility, especially in Latin American studies, Cultural Studies in the global north, and to some extent in Irish and African studies, though it also attracted a significant share of criticism for its intellectual comradeship with poststructuralism and postcolonial theory. This course will seek to understand the impact, transformations, and possibilities of the project of subaltern studies, contextualising it in its sometimes difficult relation to antecedent, congruent, and cognate academic developments such as postcolonial studies, feminist and queer studies, the study of indigenous movements, area studies, and “histories from below.” Our readings will focus on the following questions and topics: “provincialising Europe,” indigenous knowledge, and the task of global comparison; orality, literacy, the archive, and testimonio; subaltern representation and the crisis of the disciplines; subalternity’s relation to populism and popular culture; insurgency, “primitive rebels,” subaltern agency, and forms of popular resistance to state and elite power; and subalternity in the Anthropocene. We will read a cluster of texts on Atlantic and Indian Ocean slavery in addition to essays by Antonio Gramsci, Ranajit Guha, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Gayatri Spivak, John Beverly, Ileana Rodriguez, Walter Mignolo, Doris Sommer, Jose Rabasa, Engseng Ho, David Lloyd, Ernesto Laclau, Jean Franco, and Anjali Arondekar.


    Assignments include weekly posts to an online forum, a keywords project, and a seminar paper.


    Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India, Ranajit Guha
    A Latin American Subaltern Studies Reader, Ileana Rodriguez, ed.
    Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial, Vinayak Chaturvedi, ed.
    In An Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler’s Tale, Amitav Ghosh
    Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History, Ian Baucom
    Zong!, Marlene NourbeSe Philip
    Ghosts of Slavery: A Literary Archaeology of Black Women’s Lives, Jenny Sharpe