Biography, vol. 36, no. 1 (2013): "Baleful Postcoloniality"

Biography 36.1 coverEDITORS’ INTRODUCTIONS

Baleful Postcoloniality and Auto/Biography
Salah D. Hassan, 1

This Introduction suggests how the essays in this Special Issue explore the continued relevance of the term postcoloniality by critically engaging with both postcolonial studies and life writing. By understanding postcoloniality as the global condition of the current baleful historic conjuncture—as the paradoxical global condition in which classes, peoples, and nations are subject to residual and often overt manifestations of imperialism and colonialism at a time when no contemporary government, state, international or supranational body, or ideology defines itself as imperialist or colonialist—past critical practices and celebratory tendencies in postcolonial studies can be corrected to recognize the dire conditions of global politics in the present.

Representing Baleful Specters and Uncanny Repetitions: Life Writing and Imperialism’s Afterlives
David Álvarez, 10

The articles in this Special Issue scrutinize life writing that provides varied evidence of balefulness—in the sense of a harm-causing force and a painful subjective condition—as a constitutive trait of the not-quite post-colonial present. Addressing themselves to a variety of sites, conjunctures, and texts from around the globe, the essays deploy, test, interrogate, and revise the term, as they analyze forms of life writing that are shaped by or that shape imperialism’s afterlives in the present. Singly and jointly, the articles shed light on the historical and contemporary structures that assail us, and on the possible contingencies that might counter them. Together, they convey the appositeness of “baleful postcoloniality” and the resistances to it as signs of and signposts to the dark yet hopeful times we inhabit.


Passing Away: Despair, Eulogies, and Millennial Palestine
Salah D. Hassan, 27

This essay proposes that the passing away of the once-hegemonic idea of an independent secular democratic Palestine within the 1967 borders alongside Israel (also known as the two-state solution) coincides with the deaths of Edward Said, Yasir Arafat, and Mahmoud Darwish in the first decade of the new millennium. As a result, a sense of despair pervades Palestinian politics, even as Palestinians continue to resist the violence of the Israeli occupation. The first part of the essay focuses on despair and hope as the affective structure that has conditioned Palestinian responses to Israeli expansionism. The second part examines how this affective structure is evident in eulogies written for Said, Arafat, and Darwish.

“Baleful Postcoloniality” and Palestinian Women’s Life Writing
Bart Moore-Gilbert, 51

This article considers the relationship between the concept of “baleful postcoloniality” and Palestinian women’s life writing. “Baleful postcoloniality” is explored in relation to two particular issues: a succession of foreign occupations of Palestinian territory—especially the period of Israeli hegemony—and the traditional economy of gender relations governing Palestinian society. The article analyzes how Palestinian women life-writers express and resist these manifestations of “baleful postcoloniality” in both gender-specific and
nationalist terms.

Silenced Histories and Sanitized Autobiographies: The 1953 CIA Coup in Iran
Shiva Balaghi, 71

Some six decades after the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq, the history of British and US involvement in the event remains riddled with gaps. This critically important history is relegated to the realm of “colonial aphasia.” With many documents destroyed and others heavily redacted, memoirs by spies involved in the 1953 Iranian coup fill in the historical narrative.

Thugs and Bandits: Life and Law in Colonial and Epicolonial India
S. Shankar, 97

Scrutinizing the discourses around so-called thuggee and the Bandit Queen Phoolan Devi in colonial and postcolonial India respectively, this essay explores the uses and abuses of life narratives, as embodying discourses, in the elaboration as well as contestation of law-and-order regimes. In the context of this argument, the essay proposes epicolonialism as a neologism capable of shedding particular light on continuities as well as disjunctures between colonialism and postcolonialism.

Go Back to Where You Came From: Stunt Documentary, Conversion Narrative, and the Limits of Testimony on Australian Television
Kate Douglas and Pamela Graham, 124

The 2011 reality television series Go Back to Where You Came From used established narrative modes of stunt memoir, testimony, and conversion to start a public conversation about Australia’s recent treatment of asylum seekers. This essay explores both the cultural possibilities and the pitfalls of the series’ textually-hybrid approach.

Recording Daily Life in the Margins of History and of the Nation: Rachid Nini’s Diary of a Clandestine Migrant
David Álvarez, 148

This article examines how Rachid Nini’s Diary of a Clandestine Migrant gives evidence of systemic disempowerment and partly contests it. Availing myself of Giorgio Agamben’s concept of bare life, I show how the text’s thematic pessimism and formal vagrancy are symptomatic of the thwarted promise of emancipation in decolonization’s aftermath.

From Counter to Hegemonic: Re-Mapping Ideology in Latina/o Life Writing from the War on Terror
B. V. Olguín, 180

This essay maps how life writing by Latin American immigrant and US born or raised Latina/o soldiers in the War on Terror illuminates the troubling ideological contours of an ongoing subaltern move from the margins to the
center. Latin American and Latina/o Studies continue to be animated by contestatory claims to subaltern, oppositional, and counterhegmonic status predicated on such life writing genres as testimonio. By analyzing a new wave of life writing war genres that illustrate varied Latin American-cum-Latina/o-cum-G.I. performances of hegemonic power, this essay seeks to de-center contemporary discourses about the purportedly inherent oppositional nature of Latina/o life writing, and to call for new paradigms in Latin American and Latina/o Studies.

Concealing God: How Argentine Women Political Prisoners Performed a Collective Identity
Alicia Partnoy, in Collaboration, 211

This essay analyzes the performance of a collective identity in a book by 120 Argentine women genocide survivors. Anticolonial, anti-imperialist, and rooted in the Liberation Theology movement, these prisoners resist destruction concealing religious practices. Through interviews with the authors, my interdisciplinary study shows how this collective identity, a response to psychological warfare, protects solidarity.

Manaakitanga in Motion: Indigenous Choreographies of Possibility
Jacqueline Shea Murphy and Jack Gray, 242

This collaboratively-written essay explores manaakitanga—a Maori term referencing reciprocal hospitality and connectivity—both in a dance piece/practice called Mitimiti that Jack Gray is making for the concert dance stage, and in this essay itself, with its exchanges between Gray and dance scholar
Jacqueline Shea Murphy. Both the dance, and the essay, suggest that stepping forward in connection, in relational and mutually beneficial exchange, is itself a process of indigeneity.

Excerpts from recent reviews of biographies, autobiographies, and other works of interest, 279