CFP: Worldly Teaching: Critical Pedagogy and Global Literature

Masood Raja, my former professor and friend at North Texas University, asked me to pass along this interesting book project call for papers: Worldly Teaching: Critical Pedagogy and Global Literature. I believe that he is still accepting proposals if you send in an abstract right away. Read below for the details:

Worldly Teaching: Critical Pedagogy and Global Literature

An Edited Collection

As universities move from a Eurocentric literature curriculum to one focused on world or global literature, there has emerged a need for a text that addresses the issues of teaching world literature from a theoretical as well as a praxis-derived perspective. Worldly Teaching aims to enable a better pedagogical praxis by offering two kinds of scholarly writings: Part One of the book focuses on various aspects of critical pedagogy and its importance for teaching world literature by offering ten to twelve carefully selected chapters written by established and emerging scholars in the fields of critical pedagogy, world literature, and postcolonial studies. Part Two of the book offers ten brief praxis-driven essays by instructors who have taught world literature courses at university level. Thus, in one volume we provide both a theoretical and praxis-driven engagement with teaching world literature. Worldly Teaching has the potential to become an extremely useful text for students, teachers, and academic administrators alike.

Mostly offered as gateway courses, these world literature classes are meant to expose the American students to a wide array of texts from all over the world. These courses are mostly staffed by graduate students and part-time instructors who are neither trained in teaching world literature nor given any extra resources to prepare themselves.  Additionally, they are also expected to master the textual and extra-textual aspects of teaching world literature while being the most overworked and underpaid group of teachers on any university campus.

It seems that this shift from a Euro-centric to a world-centered curriculum, though politically convenient, loses its transformative potential for the text itself is expected to stand in for the world. Relying heavily on the coverage model, a World Literature survey course attempts to provide as much of the world as possible, lending itself to an exoticist and reductionist readings of texts. There is a danger then that, if taught uncritically, the same texts that are expected to teach the world to the students can also end up solidifying the existing stereotypes of their global others.

We believe that a good understanding of critical pedagogy and its emphasis on teaching the other can inform the teaching of world literature and transform this practice from that of a mere cosmic shift to a more nuanced transformation: a practice in which our students actually learn to think the other and learn their own privileged place in an uneven and unjust world.


Theoretical Chapter proposals (200-440 words), along with your contact information, due by June 1, 2011.

Full-length Teaching Notes entries (1550-2000), along with your contact information, due by June 1, 2011.

We will inform the selected authors about our decisions to accept/decline their proposals by July 1.

Full Chapters will be due by August 1.

We will propose the book to a few good publishers immediately after we have chosen the required chapters. We hope that by the time you have finished the chapters, we will have a publisher willing to review the volume. The whole process may take up to the end of 2012.


Masood Raja, University of North Texas

Hillary Stringer, University of North Texas

Zach VandeZande, University of North Texas

Contact Email:


The Postnational Fantasy Almost Sold Out at Amazon

I just checked Amazon’s stock of The Postnational Fantasy, and there is only one copy left in stock. I suspect that they had pre-orders to fill before offering it for immediate sale. That one last copy could be yours by clicking here. You can also find it in-stock at the official McFarland Publishers store here.

Book Announcement: Constructing Pakistan: Foundational Texts and the Rise of Muslim National Identity, 1857-1947

Masood Ashraf Raja, my friend and co-editor of The Postnational Fantasy (tentative title) with me and Swaralipi Nandi, has just had his book Constructing Pakistan: Foundational Texts and the Rise of Muslim National Identity, 1857-1947 published by Oxford University Press. The full details from here are included below. Also, check out Raja’s writings on his new blog, Postcolonialities: Postcolonial Theory and Critical Pedagogy, and don’t forget to read his journal (that I copyedit) Pakistaniaat.

Book Description

Constructing Pakistan addresses the previously neglected aspect of postcolonial and historical engagement with the creation and construction of Indian Muslim national identity before the partition of India in 1947. Masood Ashraf Raja’s main assertion, challenging the conventional and postcolonial appraisals of the Indian national history, is that the Indian Muslim particular identity and Muslim exceptionalism preceded the rise of Congress or Gandhian nationalism. Using major theories of nationalism-including works of Benedict Anderson, Anthony D. Smith, John Breuilly, Partha Chatterjee and others-and analysis of literary, political, and religious texts produced by Indian Muslims, Constructing Pakistan traces the varied Muslim responses to the post 1857 British ascendancy. This study provides a multilayered discussion of Indian Muslim nationalism from the rise of post 1857 Muslim exceptionalism to the beginnings of a more focused struggle for a nation-sate in the 1940s.

In this dual act of retrieval and intervention, a varied mixture of literary, political, and religious texts are employed to suggest that if the Muslim textual production of this time period is read within the realm of politics and not just within the arena of culture, then the rise of Indian Muslim nationalism can be clearly traced within these texts and through their affective value for the Indian Muslims.

Raja states that no such work exits either in the postcolonial field or in the field of area studies that combines close readings of the texts, their reception, and the politics of identity formation specifically related to the rise of Indian Muslim nationalism. The author’s main argument hinges on two important assumptions: 1) After the rebellion it becomes extremely important for the Muslim elite to force the dominant British regime into a hegemonic view of the Muslims, and 2) this forces the Muslim elite to develop a language of politics that must always invoke the people in order to enter the British system of privileges and dispensations. Consequently, the rise of early Muslim exceptionalism and its eventual specific nationalistic unfolding, of which Pakistan was one outcome, can then be read as political acts that long preceded the Indian national party politics. The reason most Indian and European historians cannot trace a pronounced Muslim sense of separate identity before the 1940s is because they trace this identity either in the form of resistance or in the shape of party politics. The early loyalism of the Muslim elite, in such strategy, remains unexplained, as it does not fit the resistance model. Constructing Pakistan attempts to re-read this loyalism as a sophisticated form of resistance that, in the end, makes the Muslim question central to the British politics of post-rebellion era.

Publication Details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press,  2010
  • ISBN-10: 0195478118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195478112

To Order:

In Pakistan: Oxford Website.

Amazon. com Link

ICFA 2009, Final Session–East Meets West: Colonialisms, Cultures, and Identities

During the Saturday, 4:00pm-5:30pm session, the last presentations of the conference, I went to hear Janice M. Bogstad’s paper on Jules Verne and China, and introduce myself and The Postnational Fantasy:  Nationalism, Cosmopolitics, and Science Fiction project to the other two presenters:  Mayurika Chakravorty and Suparno Banerjee.  The attendence was light, but pretty good for the last session on the last day.  And, I can say that I’m glad that I made it to the panel to hear all the presenters’ interesting ideas.

Mayurika Chakravorty from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London read her essay, “The ‘Other’ Science:  A Study of Amitav Ghosh’s Calcutta Chromosome.”  In her paper, she talked about the theme of estrangement from others by technology, the subversion of colonial science, and the way in which the novel challenges the genre definition of SF. 

Janice M. Bogstad from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire presented her paper, “Colonialist/Postcolonial Perspectives in Jules Verne’s Tribulations D’un Chinois en Chine (and other works).”  This is her sixth paper in a series on the writing of China by SF authors.  She thinks of Verne’s work as “humanist vision in a racist and sexist time,” and a case of “colonialist and postcolonialist double vision.”  However, she admits that there is still much work and re-reading of Verne’s work to what extent and magnitude Verne apparently supports colonized peoples. 

Suparno Banerjee from Louisiana State University closed out the session with his reading of “Alternative Dystopias:  Science, Power, and Fundamentalism in Rimi Chatterjee’s Signal Red.”  Banerjee’s dissertation is on Indian Science Fiction (which I suspect will be something very publishable when he’s completed it), and his work on Chatterjee’s novel is very interesting in the ways SF is employed to critique the extrapolative growth of religious fundamentalism in India’s future.  Instead of oppression coming from without, oppression arrives from within by Hindu fundamentalists appropriating colonial/Western sciences for their own scientific narratives. 

Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy and Frankenstein

Yufang showed me a quote about Frankenstein and Science Fiction in a book on her postcolonial literature comprehensive exam reading list, Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy (1977).  Aidoo is a Ghanaian feminist writer, and she’s currently a visiting professor at Brown University.  I thought it was really interesting the way that Aidoo uses the Western Frankenstein myth or model to talk about the evolutionary derivation of whiteness (Europeans) from blackness (African) following the early-human diaspora from the African continent a couple million years ago.  The speaker aligns Europeans with Frankenstein’s monster, or the “man from the icy caves of the north,” through the exclamation, “But good God, I refuse to think that the man from the icy caves of the north could have been one of our inventions.  Yet sometimes one wonders, considering the ferocity with which he has been attacking us.  As though we were to blame for his feelings of inadequacy.  Both physical and otherwise.  Especially physical” (115).  And then the speaker ties it together with the Frankenstein story and a terrific observation about the nature of SF in general by saying, “It all sounds like science fiction.  Like the story of Frankenstein.  But then, science fiction is only a wild extension of reality, no?”  I’ve included the full quote with some extra material leading up to it below.

            My question is:  who was there when we were saying farewell to our God?  My Darling, we are not responsible for anybody else but ourselves.  We did not create other races.  So we should not let others make us suffer because we are stronger than them or have better skins.

            Sickle cell anaemia.  High blood pressure.  Faster heartbeats in infancy.  One truth maybe.  A whole lot of wishful thinking.  No amount of pseudo-scientific junk is going to make us a weaker race than we are.  And may they come to no good who wish us ill.  After all, what baby doesn’t know that the glistening blackest coal also gives the hottest and the most sustained heat?  Energy.  Motion.  We are all that.  Yes, why not? . . . A curse on those who for money would ruin the Earth and trade in human miseries.

            We have always produced great minds.  But good God, I refuse to think that the man from the icy caves of the north could have been one of our inventions.  Yet sometimes one wonders, considering the ferocity with which he has been attacking us.  As though we were to blame for his feelings of inadequacy.  Both physical and otherwise.  Especially physical.

            It all sounds like science fiction.  Like the story of Frankenstein.  But then, science fiction is only a wild extension of reality, no?  (Aidoo 114-115)

 What’s even more interesting about this quote is the fact that this novel is representative of Ghanaian literature despite its modernist underpinnings and Western intertextualities.  I’m not saying that a Ghanaian novel cannot do or contain those things, but my suspicion is that there are other novels that aren’t considered world literature, and here I’m borrowing from James English’s analysis of Keri Hulme’s the bone people in The Economy of Prestige, because they aren’t readily accessible to a Western audience.  This is because they are more Ghanian (whatever that might mean) and less engaged with post-Enlightenment, Western (or in this case, Northern) ideas and textual networks.  

However, this is the great debate in postcolonialist studies–following the colonial era, you can’t, as the saying goes, return home.  The colonial experience irrevocably changes the colonized’s culture and language.  In Ghana’s case, it was once a colonial holding of the United Kingdom, and it was the first African colony to achieve its independence from the crown.  As a result of the colonizer’s influence, English is the primary language of Ghana, and the UK educational system is more than likely similar to that of other former colonial holdings such as India.  Ghana is implicated with and tied to the West through its past and present, so there really isn’t such a thing as “pure” Ghanaian literature devoid of Western influence, but there is certainly Ghanaian literature that is part of the expansive global networks emanating diachronically from the Enlightenment and the continuing influence of the Western colonizer.  

Find out more about Aidoo on Wikipedia here, or on her Brown University faculty entry here.  The bibliographic entry for her novel is:

Aidoo, Ama Ata.  Our Sister Killjoy, or Reflections from a Black-eyed Squint.  New York:  Longman, 1977.

SFRA 2008 – Thursday

Thursday morning, I met up with Melissa, and we ventured to downtown Lawrence along Massachusetts Street.  We visited a British store with every kind of tea imaginable except Harrod’s Breakfast Blend, a French store with German chocolate, which I bought, and Milton’s for huge stacks of French toast and a delicious latte.

Returning to the Holiday Inn Holidome, the first panel I visited was “Teaching Science Fiction I.”  Brian Attebery argued for a new theory of SF in his paper, “Teaching Parabolas.”  His idea is that earlier theories of SF are too one-dimensional (e.g., Suvin’s novum, Wolfe’s icon, and Cawelti’s formula).  Brian brought these together in his formulation of “parabolas,” which shares a root with parable or the teaching story, and contains these three characteristics:  “1) formula-like, 2) open ended, and 3) gestures toward social, philosophical, or scientific application.”  In the classroom, he says teaching SF in this way helps students realize that connections are more than coincidences.

In the same panel, Jim Davis talked about his experiences teaching a historically based SF course, Michael Page gave a history of teaching SF that builds on the histories in the 1996 Science-Fiction Studies special issue on teaching, and Steven Berman offered some great strategies for teaching SF in online courses.

After a short break, I joined Timothy J. LeBeau and Janice M. Bogstad on the panel titled, “Postcolonial Science Fiction.”  Timothy presented first on “Religion and Postcolonial Geographies.”  He argued that writers were mapmakers, and claimed that “no map is innocent.”  He had some compelling ideas on McDonald’s River of Gods, Gibson’s Neuromancer, and Harrison’s Light and Nova Swing.  However, I can’t say that I totally agree with his contention that River of Gods perpetuates the India of Forrester, Orwell, and Kipling.  I see River of Gods as an SF complement or perhaps, supplement to Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.

I was next up to bat, and I presented my paper, “Digital Nomads:  Revealing Critical Theory’s Real Life Potential to Our Students,” which is about:

Critical theory is an important aspect of upper-level undergraduate coursework, but its introduction and application often hinge on literature and culture-at-large rather than on the real world significance for our students.  This disconnects students from the possibilities and potential of critical theory.  In this essay, I argue that Science Fiction facilitates bridging students’ real world lives with theory through a pedagogical example, which explores the interconnections between Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s theorization of micropolitical nomadology, Mike Resnick’s Ivory:  A Legend of Past and Future (2007), and our students’ online lives.  The theory underlying this approach is that students’ will be more engaged with and empowered by theory that means something beyond the classroom setting.

I think it was well received, and I got a couple of good questions including a real, but well-intended, curveball from Richard Erlich.

Janice presented her paper, “A Colonialist/Postcolonial Reading of Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age,” last.  This paper was part of a larger project that she’s working on concerning the descriptions of China and its immediate surroundings as a liminal space.  She drew on Homi Baba’s concept of a “third space,” which doesn’t favor Western models of hierarchies and oppositions, to explore some of the things going on in Stephenson’s novel.  I’ve written on The Diamond Age for a MA class, so I was excited about Janice’s take on the novel.

Following the panel, I met up with Melissa and Andy Sawyer to get supper.  Melissa had heard about a BBQ joint called Biggs BBQ.  After a few wrong turns and calling tower control for an assist, we found delicious pork, ribs, and chicken awaiting us behind the Firestone on Hwy 59.  Having our fill of local food, we trekked back to the hotel for the evening’s roundtable.

The roundtable was on “Creating, Reading, and Teaching Science Fiction,” and it was populated by the conference’s centerfielders:  Brian Attebery, Jim Gunn, Marleen Barr, Karen Joy Fowler, Adam Frisch, and James Van Pelt.  It began with a film montage taken from Jim’s Science Fiction film series put out by Kansas University in the 1970s.  I had seen some of these when I was studying at the University of Liverpool.  They were introduced by a dapper Jim Gunn sporting a thin mustache, and there were interviews with Harlan Ellison and a discussion with John Campbell, Jr.  The montage featured Fred Pohl and others.  It was a great introduction to the following discussion.

Adam began with referencing my recent question put to the SFRA listserv on teaching SF in the writing classroom.  He outlined his own approach to teaching SF in a gateway course called, “Current Social Issues in SF, Literature, and Film,” which relies on students engaging 9 or 10 DVDs including Outbreak (pandemics), The Truman Show (panopticon/reality TV culture), and Brazil (paired with the first chapter of Geoff Ryman’s Air) with short stories in order to get them to identify, think about, and discuss important issues.

Marleen talked about categories and social issues.  She talked about her own SF trajectory and how feminist SF was an empowering thing, because it provided an imaginative space wholly populated by the category “female” (think:  Kenya–rule by blacks, Israel–rule by Jews, but no place in our world that’s only woman).  Also, she talked about the trouble with textism, or the discrimination against texts, in this context SF, which led her to pick up on something Asimov said in the intro video:  “we live in a science fictional world.”  If that’s true, “how can SF be marginal?”  “Why is Shakespear kosher?”  She called for an elimination of this kind of textism, particularly because of the importance and influence of SF in the modern world.  She shared with us how on 9/11 she watched the towers burn from her home in New York City, and she thought of herself in a SF film.  However, on a recent visit to Auschwitz, she felt beyond SF, in the unreal, and she relied on her SF background as a way to deal with the unreality of her experience at the death camp.

Karen, connecting to Marleen’s comments, talked about how Wiscon serves as a place where different texts were talked about as in no other place.  She went on talk about her own writing experience.  She’s not interested in problem solving, because that’s not interesting enough to take up in a novel.  Also, she feels that SF is a powerless literature beginning with cyberpunk, which she described by comparing Kim Stanley Robinson (pull us back from a break) and Neal Stephenson (suspicion of activism and the agent manipulating the world).  She feels that SF is becoming a “small beer press” thing.  Kelly Link et. al. are making greater fantastic leaps.  And she said, “in a world where Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California–the tools of reality are not up to dealing with that.”

Jim Van Pelt talked about the challenges and difficulties of teaching SF to high school students.  His students don’t realize that they live in a world of wonder.  Instead, they live in an eternal present.  For them, SF is revolutionary, because it shows that the world can change and it’s based on the idea that things can, do, and will change over time.  This change also has a social, technological, and personal dimension, and it’s the latter that they also don’t realize.  For example, SF poses questions such as who are we, where are we going, and how should we behave when we get there?

Brian began by saying that we live in a Dick novel, not an Asmovian world.  In talking about SF, he said that it’s easy to get someone to say whether it’s good or not, but it’s hard to have someone say it’s important or not.  To see the importance of something, you have to teach someone to see it through your eyes–to give them a framework or a lens.  He sees teaching as this kind of intervention, which has three elements.  The first is teaching a cultural pattern–Nye’s “technological sublime.”  This is something that can change the world in inspiring ways such as recently reflected in cyberpunk.  The second is teaching the aesthetics of a genre and reading techniques for a genre.  This is something that has to be taught in order to help students answer questions such as how do you love something?  How do you read something?  What do you do when you read SF?  Other people?  Do they really?  How do we use a category to read something?  Etc.  The third element of his intervention is to get students to read a lot of SF in order to improve what they write in order to prevent new bad SF novels from getting published.

Jim Gunn added a story about running into Chip Delany at MLA.  Delany had gone around to a number of universities and discovered that many people didn’t have the ability to read SF–they didn’t have the background.  This highlighted the fact that there are protocols that we need to learn so that we read SF effectively.  Gunn uses Philip Jose Farmer’s “Sail On, Sail On” to guide students through a close reading in order to elevate the protocols from the page.  Also, he added that all reading has protocols, which is true from adventure stories to canonical literature of various eras.  For SF, you can throw out other ways of reading (e.g., adventure or literature) and you are left with the scientific kernel, which is necessary and sufficient for the story to be SF.

A lively discussion ensued after the panelists’ opening remarks.  As it wound down, I was getting tired after waking up early and putting in a full day of conferencing.  It was time for sleep and another day to begin…