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Writing the Aftermath: Uncanny Spaces of the Postcolonial

Writing the Aftermath engages with the afterlives of imperial histories as they find expression in contemporary postcolonial spatial formations. Focusing on novels that position space as a mnemonic surface and historical archive where the remains of empire circulate, it explores how colonial structural and epistemological violence continue to persist, encoded—among other things—within spatial forms. Central to this process of textual and historical excavation/exhumation, Writing the Aftermath argues, is the interruptive potential of the uncanny whose conceptual and operative mechanisms offer a way—through conversions and conversations about surface/depth, past/present, familiar/strange, homely/unhomely—to engage with some of the enduring legacies of empire: climate change, the refugee crisis, the politics of postcolonial memory and colonial epistemologies that continue to structure the present. The introduction outlines the framework for the study by defining the contours of the postcolonial aftermath—with an emphasis on the limits and possibilities of the postcolonial as an analytical category—before moving on to explore the politics of postcolonial spatiality, and the genealogies and the spatial politics of the uncanny. Chapter 1 explores how the repressed histories of empire and imperialism surface through V. S. Naipaul and W. G. Sebald’s engagement with the epistemologies of the English countryside. Chapter 2 analyzes the fraught memory-history relationship in the imperial aftermath through Kazuo Ishiguro and Teju Cole’s engagement with the politics of postcolonial remembering in post-imperial urban contexts. Chapter 3 explores the refugee as an unhomed figure that reveals how the imperial legacies of racial capitalism resonate in inter-personal spaces, with reference to Nadine Gordimer’s The Pickup and Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore. Chapter 4 examines the climate crisis as an interconnected global problem which Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island positions as a product of the colonial project’s manufactured divisions between natural/unnatural, and human/animal. The conclusion outlines the future expressions of the postimperial uncanny in the contemporary politics and rhetoric of colonizing outer space, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. Together, these chapters juxtapose apparently unrelated imperial histories to make more clearly visible how the connective geo-histories of empire manifest in the uncanny spaces of the postcolonial.
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