Nicole Rizzuto This Friday

The CUNY Graduate Center Postcolonial Studies Group Colloquium Series 2010-2011
Nicole Rizzuto
Oklahoma State University
Confession and the Juridical Crisis of the Colonial State in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat (1967) circles around the Emergency in Kenya, a traumatic historical event of anticolonial insurgency and counter-insurgency. In detailing this period of indefinite detention and torture undertaken in the name of a benevolent civilizing mission, the novel states that the struggle over two specific losses suffered under British colonialism are at the heart of the Emergency. Those losses are land and freedom.  And yet, the work’s formal strategies simultaneously challenge this direct statement by indirectly constituting the Emergency as an event whose losses exceed that of territory and control of the polity; the Emergency is staged also as a crisis of the juridico-legal order by which the category “human” becomes the contested site of, and justification for, exceptional state violence. Placing Ngữgi’s writing in conversation with Judith Butler’s and Giorgio Agamben’s theorizations of sovereignty and bare life in modernity reveals how the novel might displace a Euro-centered trajectory in Trauma Studies.  By elaborating a state of exception in Africa under colonial rule, A Grain of Wheat both calls for and enacts what Michael Rothberg terms “multi-directional memory,” by which the insights of Holocaust studies and postcolonial studies illuminate each other while addressing the ethico-politics of responding to occluded pasts.
April 1st at 2 p.m.
CUNY Graduate Center, Room 5409
All are welcome
Nicole Rizzuto is Assistant Professor of English at Oklahoma State University. She has published on issues of testimony and trauma in journals such as World Picture and Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, and is completing a book manuscript entitled Spectral Witnesses: Testimony, Historical Memory, and the Modern Novel.
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