Search results

Literary appreciation, comparatism, and universalism in the Straits Chinese Magazine
Porscha Fermanis

This chapter considers the ways in which the Straits Chinese Magazine (est. 1897) negotiates the dual commitment to comparatism and universalism that underpinned late-nineteenth-century justifications of empire. Focusing on cultural forms of knowledge such as linguistic standardisation, vernacular education, literary appreciation, and canonicity, it argues that the idea of a ‘universal subject’ is mobilised by the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia to minimise the fetishisation of Chinese difference, to situate Chinese culture within European comparative frameworks, and to produce an equivalence of cultural judgement and taste. Yet despite its apparent investment in the logic and rhetoric of imperial liberalism, the magazine’s intense engagement with the asymmetries of liberal thought turns European comparatism on its head, encouraging a reversal of the comparative gaze and an exposition of the defective use of empirical methodologies by European comparatists. The magazine’s desire to establish commensurability between Chinese and European worlds is therefore ultimately read as part of an anticolonial project, one that exposes the Eurocentric grounds on which comparisons are made at a time when the increasingly racialised regulation of imperial citizenship undermined the possibility of self-determination for Asian subjects within the British Empire.

in Worlding the south
Open Access (free)
Nineteenth-century literary culture and the southern settler colonies

This collection brings together for the first time literary studies of British colonies in nineteenth-century Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Drawing on hemispheric studies, Indigenous studies, and southern theory to decentre British and other European metropoles, the collection offers a latitudinal challenge to national paradigms and traditional literary periodisations and canons by proposing a new literary history of the region that is predicated less on metropolitan turning points and more on southern cultural perspectives in multiple regional centres from Cape Town to Dunedin. With a focus on southern orientations, southern audiences, and southern modes of addressivity, Worlding the south foregrounds marginal, minor, and neglected writers and texts across a hemispheric complex of southern oceans and terrains. Drawing on an ontological tradition that tests the dominance of networked theories of globalisation, the collection also asks how we can better understand the dialectical relationship between the ‘real’ world in which a literary text or art object exists and the symbolic or conceptual world it shows or creates. By examining the literary processes of ‘worlding’, it demonstrates how art objects make legible homogenising imperial and colonial narratives, inequalities of linguistic power, textual and material violence, and literary and cultural resistance. With contributions from leading scholars in nineteenth-century literary and cultural studies, the collection revises literary histories of the ‘British world’ by arguing for the distinctiveness of settler colonialism in the southern hemisphere, and by incorporating Indigenous, diasporic, settler, and other southern perspectives.

Open Access (free)
Southern worlds, globes, and spheres
Sarah Comyn and Porscha Fermanis

The introduction to this collection proposes a new literary history of the Anglophone southern hemisphere in the long nineteenth century. Drawing on the methodologies of ‘worlding’, southern theory, hemispheric analysis, and Indigenous studies, it rethinks the conceptual paradigms, periodisations, and canons of the nineteenth-century ‘British world’ by focusing on southern cultural perspectives in multiple regional centres from Cape Town to the Pacific Islands. Adopting a perspective that Isabel Hofmeyr has called a ‘southern latitude’, it argues for the importance of considering the shared and interconnected histories of imperialism, colonialism, and structural inequality that shape the literatures and experiences of the peoples of the southern colonies, deprioritising Eurocentric orientations and identities in favour of southern viewpoints and south–south relations across a complex of oceanic and terracentric spaces. Considering each of the chapters within the collection as part of a related unit of literary and cultural analysis, its aim is to produce a more inclusive literary model of the nineteenth century that takes into account southern histories of cultural estrangement and marginalisation and draws its proof-texts from so-called ‘minor’ and ‘minority’ writers, as well as identifying shared thematic concerns, literary forms and tropes, and aesthetic and stylistic practices that are distinctive to the region.

in Worlding the south