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Paracolonial Formations, Sec. 2

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Organizer: Darwin Tsen

Co-Organizer: Christopher Fan

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ACLA’s 2022 setting in Taiwan provides a powerful occasion to take up the idea of what we are calling the paracolonial. We start our conversation by considering the contradictions that the entity “Taiwan” elicits in direct regard to colonialisms all around the world, whose elusiveness in this context is the target of the “para” in our title. Taiwan's multiple, successive colonizations -- from Western (Dutch, Portugal, Spain) and Asian powers (the Ming & Qing Dynasties to Imperial Japan and the Republic of China), to the genocide of its indigenous communities, to its client relationship with the US during the Cold War -- have set the stage for its subimperial ambitions through corporate bodies such as Foxconn in the Global South, as well as an emphatically (post)nationalist independence movement grounded in decoloniality. As a paracolonial space -- colonized and colonizing, victim and perpetrator -- Taiwan not merely provides a base to conceptualize similar historical formations in other settings, it also helps us examine the relationship between paracoloniality and cultural production. For example, Leo Ching’s discussion of Tsushima Yuko’s Exceedingly Barbaric -- a text that narrates the interactions between a descendant of a Japanese woman settler, an elderly indigenous woman and a Han Taiwanese man -- as a rejection of the “double blackmail of nationalism and colonialism orchestrated by the state” (128), provides a recent example on how to theorize paracoloniality. The paracolonial ambitiously strives to consider multiple colonial entanglements in a comparative manner, which exceeds, overflows and yet still attaches itself to the morphology of colonialism. The regional and geopolitical shape called “Taiwan” is thus both geographically beyond and historically prior to its current national form, suggesting rich analogies with sites such as Africa, Central/Southeast/South/Asia, South/Eastern Europe and the Americas and more. Our seminar hopes to highlight connections and homologies between paracolonial sites that are grappling with conflicts between economic liberalization, national identity, and decolonial demands: conflicts for which the binaries of East and West and the umbrella of the Global South explain a lot, but are still hardly enough. What happens to our understanding of the aesthetics of national/world literatures and globally circulating artforms when we analyze them with the lenses of the paracolonial? What historical revisions can be made possible by juxtaposing the paracolonial condition and the anti- and decolonial movements of past and present? We invite papers that consider -- again, in any paracolonial context, not just Taiwan -- how colonialisms, both formal and informal, on top of what we consider in orthodox terms the periods and actors of of colonialism (Euro-American, capitalist), work in their lives and afterlives to shape the contours of aesthetic, historical and social forms in the world. 


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