Twenty-first-century anglophone literatures of the Global South are increasingly contending with the waning of the postcolonial welfare state and the rising hegemony of world markets. As a result, contemporary anglophone writing, predominantly from India, Nigeria, and Mexico, offers a re-descriptive matrix for postcolonial studies. Ranging from novels about neocolonial expansion to nonfiction about rising economies of scale, both diasporic and national anglophone literatures use the narrative conceit of entrepreneurship to diagnose the sheer reach of neoliberalism. Whether casting it as a mainly US-backed economic regime, the latest iteration of first-world developmentalism, or a post-1989 fallout of world economies toward a universalized market logic, neoliberalism has had a significant impact on the narrative forms and subjects produced within contemporary anglophone literatures. In the wake of the 2008 collapse, recession economics has precipitated varied reflections on the pernicious effects of hyper-valuation and its effects on the Global South by postcolonial and diasporic novelists like Aravind Adiga, Mohsin Hamid, and Teju Cole. Global Anglophone writing, broadly conceived, insistently calls attention to the material and psychic damage inflicted by the peripheralization of postcolonial nations in the production of a profitably global market imaginary. By tracking the formal centrality of the Bildungsroman, Indian, Nigerian, and Mexican writers demonstrate how they reject the universalism of Bildung as global development and instead gravitate toward a politics of compromise, failure, and refusal. They offer a grim counternarrative to the aspirational and upwardly mobile ethos that characterizes nonfiction from economically ascendant postcolonial nations. In modes of novelistic and nonfiction writing, a variety of figures, from murderous entrepreneurs to discontented psychiatrists to cynical bloggers, complicate the landscape of global neoliberalism. If the framework of the global troublingly obfuscates questions of labor and economic justice, then these diverse subjects self-consciously mediate between marginal cosmopolitanisms and precarious work regimes to reveal the stakes of transnational capital. In doing so, Global Anglophone literatures attest to an urgent need to rethink free market economics by finding new, egalitarian solutions to the problem of uneven development.
Boaventura de Sousa Santos
Postcolonialism, decoloniality, and epistemologies of the South (ES) are three main ways of critically approaching the consequences of European colonialism in contemporary social, political, and cultural ways of thinking and acting. They converge in highlighting the unmeasurable sacrifice of human life; the expropriation of cultural and natural wealth; and the destruction, by suppressing, silencing, proscribing, or disfiguring, of non-European cultures and ways of knowing. The differences among them stem in part from the temporal and geographical contexts in which they emerged. Postcolonial studies emerged in the 1960s in the aftermath of the political independence of European colonies in Asia and Africa. They focused mainly on the economic, political, and cultural consequences of decolonization, highlighting the postindependence forms of economic dependence, political subordination, and cultural subalternization. They argue that while historical colonialism had ended (territorial occupation and ruling by a foreign country), colonialism continued under different guises. Decolonial studies emerged in the 1990s in Latin America. Since the political independence of the Latin American countries took place in the early 19th century, these analytical currents assumed that colonialism was over, but it had in fact been followed by coloniality, a global pattern of social interaction that inherited all the social and cultural corrosiveness of colonialism. Coloniality is conceived of as an all-encompassing racial understanding of social reality that permeates all realms of economic, social, political, and cultural life. Coloniality is the idea that whatever differs from the Eurocentric worldview is inferior, marginal, irrelevant, or dangerous. The ES, formulated in the 2000s, aim at naming and highlighting ancient and contemporary knowledges held by social groups as they resisted against modern Eurocentric domination. They conceive of modern science as a valid (and precious) type of knowledge but not as the only valid (and precious) type of knowledge; they insist on the possibility of interknowledge and intercultural translation. ES share with postcolonialism the idea that colonialism is not over. However, they insist that modern domination is constituted not only by colonialism but also by capitalism and patriarchy. Like decolonial studies, the ES denounce the cognitive and ontological destruction caused by coloniality, but they focus on the positiveness and creativity that emerge from knowledges born in struggle and on how they translate themselves into alternative ways of knowing and practicing self-determination.
The presence of coloniality is critical for the explication, and reflection, on racialized and subalternized relations of dominance/subordination. The Spanish invasion in 1492 was the first marker and constitutive element of modernity. In 1992 Peruvian sociologist Anibal Quijano introduced the category of coloniality of power, further developed by Walter Mignolo. This epistemic change not only constituted a pattern of continual production of racialized identities and an unequal hierarchy whereby European identities and knowledge were considered superior to all others in what amounted to a caste system but also generated mechanisms of social domination that preserved this social classification into the present. Coloniality is not limited to the colonial period, which ended for most of Latin America in the first quarter of the 19th century. Despite political independence from Spain or Portugal, the pattern elaborated by Quijano continues to our day, structuring processes of racialization, subalternization, and knowledge production. This is the reason Mignolo labels it a “matrix of power.” Central American–American literature represents the nature of colonialized violence suffered by U.S. Central Americans and constitutes racialized and subalternized migrants as a form of interpellating agency deployed in the name of the excluded subjects. Novelist Mario Bencastro’s Odyssey to the North, Sandra Benítez’s Bitter Grounds, Francisco Goldman’s The Divine Husband, and the EpiCentro poets mobilize in different fashions and directions the inner contradictions of identitary and decolonial issues in reaction to colonialized perceptions of textual subjectivities—or their traces—manifested in their respective discursive practices. These phenomena cannot be understood outside of the historical flux generated by the coloniality of power.