Worlds Apart? A Postcolonial Reading of post-1945 East-Central European Culture
Author: Cristina Şandru
Date Of Publication: Aug 2012
This study explores the relation of the Eastern European problematic to postcolonial critical practice, interrogating the extent to which postcolonialism can help illuminate instances of imperial domination in non-Third World contexts. It argues that colonisation is to be understood principally as a condition of ideological domination that has engendered similar forms of literary and cultural resistance; consequently, it offers a comparative framework which enables a reading in differential contexts of texts that ostensibly have little in common, but which, on close examination, reveal a shared imaginative space, rhetoric and narrative agency.
The book consists of two interrelated parts. Part one is a critical discussion of the ideologies, cultural imaginaries and representational practices articulated in a diverse range of representative postcolonial and post-1945 East-Central European texts; these are shown to share, despite dissimilar conditions of production, uncannily related narrative modes and thematic emphases. Part two is a comparative literature case-study which discusses two authors whose work is both highly representative of the cultural formations discussed in the first part (Milan Kundera and Salman Rushdie) and, at the same time, highly controversial. The chapters dedicated to Kundera’s and Rushdie’s work examine the cultural geography of their novels, particularly in the writers’ use of memory and story-telling to reconfigure history and personal identity in conditions of literal and metaphorical displacement. While their novels thrive on ironic subversion and ambiguity, they simultaneously gesture towards a redemptive space of the imagination, transcending the constraints of both locality and history.
Dr Cristina Şandru is currently Managing Editor of The Literary Encyclopedia (www.litencyc.com) and teaches at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She previously taught at the universities of Northampton and Aberystwyth; University College London; Goldsmiths, University of London; and the University of Sibiu, Romania. She has published articles and reviews in Critique, Euresis, The New Makers of Modern Culture Routledge series and English, and co-edited the volume Re-routing Postcolonialism: New Directions for the New Millenium (Routledge, 2009) and the special issue of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing on Postcolonialism/Postcommunism (48.2, May 2012).
“Sandru’s monograph is one of the best-sustained contributions to the discussion on (post)communist cultures. It reveals blind spots not only in communist theory, but also in the discussions on (post) communist literatures and cultures, ways of remembering and forgetting the socialist past. […] Sandru’s study shows that a postcolonial examination of post-war East-Central Europe is not only a good idea, but essential in understanding the dynamics of the post-Cold War ideological order.”
- Dobrota Pucherova, World Literature Studies, 5:22 (2013), 97-99.
“Within the field of postcolonial studies, the aspiration to develop analytical means appropriate to the contemporary, globalised, world-system has hitherto been compromised by a failure to engage, first, with the ‘eastern’, ‘second world’ represented by the Soviet system of states, and then, since the annus mirabilis of 1989, with ‘postcommunist’ cultures and societies. The neglect has been symptomatic, not incidental: for all their willed opposition to the ‘Washington consensus’, postcolonialists have found it difficult to think outside the frame of Cold War discourse. It is only very recently that the question of the relation between the respective ‘posts-’ of ‘postcolonialism’ and ‘postcommunism’ has begun to be posed with any rigour or precision. Cristina Șandru is at the forefront of scholars engaged [in] this necessary and important contemporary initiative. Her book pivots on the assumption that developments in East-Central Europe in the quarter-century since the collapse of the Soviet system have stressed the need, as she puts it, ‘to reformulate neo-Marxist models of postcolonial critique to account for a post-communist set of realities and the resurgence of neo-liberalism in the former Second World’. Her suggestion is that a suitably detailed and reflective comparative engagement with the specificities of ‘third’ and . . . ‘second’ world societies could prove germinative in two respects. First, in illuminating the contours . . . of cultural practice in the (post-) communist sphere, in which, as in the (post-) colonial sphere, ‘cultural identity has been crucially shaped by its history of subjection to foreign rule’. Second, in expanding the remit of postcolonial studies, not merely through simple ‘extension’, but by forcing it to confront its own constitutive blind spots and to move beyond them. Historically sensitive and theoretically discriminating, Șandru’s study will contribute decisively to the reformulation of postcolonial studies (and of comparative literary studies) that is currently (and at last!) underway.”
– Prof. Neil Lazarus, University of Warwick
“This excellent book is ambitious, artful and timely – one which makes a distinct and transformative intervention in the field of postcolonial studies. In exploring the complex interface of the postcolonial, (post)communist and East-Central Europe, Șandru sets the agenda for an entirely fresh terrain of vital research. An elegant and sophisticated engagement with a wealth of cultural and critical texts, her study breaks new ground in showing how we might regard and re-evaluate the nested imperialisms that have characterised world systems of domination and expropriation.”
– Prof. John McLeod, University of Leeds
“A searching and original study which captures, using and reworking the theoretical framework and methodologies of postcolonial studies, the new psycho-geographical spaces of postcommunist East-Central Europe, by analysing and interrogating its discourses of nationalism, ideology, cultural imaginaries, trauma, complicities and resistance. Worlds Apart? is a long overdue comprehensive account that charts the massive cultural changes and dislocations that have taken place since the fall of communism in 1989.”
– Prof. Janet Wilson, University of Northampton
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Sample pdf (including Table of Contents)