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The Other of Postcolonial Studies: The Postcolonial Islands, Their Unique Sensibility and Challenges

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Organizer: Nick Tsung-Che Lu

Co-Organizer: Maricruz Gomez

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In their seminal book, Islands in History and Representation, Rod Edmond and Vanessa Smith famously point out that stories about islands tend “to slip the net of postcolonial theorising” due to their marginality in terms of geopolitics and academic representation. Accordingly, researchers of Island Studies, an emerging field in the past two decades, have long maintained that due to their geographical and geostrategic singularity, or “islandness,” the (post)colonial conditions of island societies deserve special attention, and the study of which requires a different set of concepts and methodologies than what are available or predominant in Postcolonial Studies/Decoloniality. This panel hopes to make a concerted effort to contribute to the discussion of island (post)coloniality from a literary and cultural standpoint. We welcome proposals for papers that explore how “islandness” shapes a unique “island cultural sensibility” in literature reflecting island peoples’ concerns in areas such as politics, economics, culture, identity, and environment. We welcome proposals that seek to (1) make theoretical intervention by putting Island Studies and Postcolonial Studies in dialogue and (2) conduct place-based or comparative studies focusing on specific island societies, including but are not limited to Okinawa, Taiwan, Guam, Tasmania, Bermuda, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Jeju Island, Haiti, Martinique, Dominican Republic, and Guadeloupe. Although we acknowledge that there are important differences in size, population, colonial history, geopolitical positioning etc., among different island societies, we believe that a better understanding of them is instrumental in broadening the scope and richness of Postcolonial/Decolonial Studies today. Often occupied by multiple imperial powers and used as cultural buffer zones or entry points for economic expansion by the colonizers, island societies have been and still are at the forefront of globalization and act as connecting points facilitating flows of capital, humans, objects, knowledge, and cultures. As such, a better theorizing of island (post)coloniality promises to enrich and problematize a series of key concepts such as “the postcolonial,” “decolonization,” “sovereignty,” “dependency,” and so on. Following are possible questions that can serve as launchpads for papers: To what extent is island postcolonalism a more meaningful grouping than conventional geographical categories such as the Caribbean, South Asian, and African postcolonialism? What theoretical approaches are particularly appropriate in studying the cultural sensibility of island societies? How does the study of islands help us understand postcolonialism/decoloniality in an innovative form? What can we learn about these islands through a new discourse of study? How can we better understand place-based islands without generalizing them to large categories such as the Carribbean, South Asian, and Latin American that they are usually grouped?

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