Writing the empire: scribblings from below
An international and interdisciplinary conference
Over recent decades, scholars of colonialism and post-colonialism have explored the representations of peoples and places in a host of texts and the written word has been acknowledged as a key technology of power. However, while some attention has been paid to gender difference, there has been more limited consideration of how other less powerful and less privileged actors made use of the written word. This conference asks key questions about the appropriation of reading and writing by subaltern groups in empire. It brings together scholars who study less privileged, lower class Britons like convicts and sailors with those who work on histories of the colonized. It thus foregrounds the fact that these groups were often becoming more fully exposed to the written word at much the same moment and that literacy was regarded as a civilizing and disciplining mechanism more generally. The primary interest of many of the presenters is less in the formal published text than in a wide variety of everyday writings including diaries, letters, petitions, folk song, suicide notes, graffiti and more. Rather than assuming that literate cultures smoothly and fully replaced their oral counterparts, our participants instead ask questions about the entangled and dynamic character of relationships between the spoken and the written word. A number of presenters also go beyond the writing and reading of texts, to examine their performance with papers on topics like courtroom oratory, ‘folk’ music, street ballads and broadsides. Finally, a range of papers also explore the conceptual and methodological issues that arise from working with fragmentary and often fleeting types of sources and so with a less hegemonic ‘imperial archive' than those created by colonial states.
Speakers include: Tony Ballantyne, Karin Barber, Antoinette Burton, Norman Etherington, Gareth Griffiths, Jonathan Hyslop, Isaac Land, Marilyn Lake & Paul Pickering.
The conference will be held at the University of Bristol (UK) from June 24th-June 26th 2010.
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