Annual Lecture - ICPS and Centre for World Literatures

Professor Steffan Helgesson will deliver the annual lecture titled 'Literature and Decolonization': Versions of Autonomy'.

‘Decolonisation’ is both an historical experience and (once again) a frequently invoked ideal and polemical concept. Its field of reference is nonetheless often vague. In a 2011 article, Simon Gikandi challenged scholars to provide ‘a critical language that can adequately speak about the literature of decolonization as a distinctive event in literary history’, something that he saw as a peculiar lack in the European and North American institutionalisation of postcolonial studies.

This lecture responds to Gikandi by considering not just the literature but also the critical language of decolonisation itself as a central conceptual resource. A key set of examples will be drawn from the Mozambican literary journal Charrua, published in the 1980s. The underlying hypothesis is that both literature and decolonisation can be understood as projects of autonomy. The question, however, is to what extent the two autonomies intersect, and whether they need to be kept distinct. 

About the author

Stefan Helgesson is Professor of English at Stockholm University. He has published widely in the field of postcolonial literature and is currently leading the large-scale research programme ‘Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures’: see the project’s webpage for more information.

For further information, please contact Dr Richard Hibbitt (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies).

The Centre for World Literatures Annual Lecture for 2019/20 will be given in partnership with the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies.