Research

Waiting for Now: Postcolonial Fiction and Colonial Time argues that the temporal dimensions of waiting are evoked in postcolonial fiction to register protest and resistance to colonial and postcolonial disenfranchisement in the context of colonial historiography, anticolonial nationalist movements, disillusionment, and healing promoted by Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. This project is the first sustained study of waiting in relation to global Anglophone and postcolonial fiction, and contributes to the recent temporal turn in literary studies by arguing that waiting is integral to the experience of colonial and postcolonial temporalities. Recent work in social science and cultural studies, such as Javier Auyero’s 2012 book on the politics of waiting in Argentina and Ato Quayson’s 2014 Oxford Street, Accra, identifies waiting as a temporal mode that pervades life in the global South. Through my dissertation, this current interest in time and waiting is redirected to the study of postcolonial fiction, and produces new insights about the way that waiting as a cultural practice is integral to the structure and negotiation of power. Beginning with the “refusals to wait” that tended to characterize anticolonial nationalist movements in the twentieth century, I argue that postcolonial novels reframe waiting as a multivalent temporality—one that has been used to defer justice and to distort a lived sense of historicity for colonial and postcolonial subjects, but also one that can be engaged as a tactic of resistance.

The publications and conference activities that have arisen during the research, writing, and completion of this project underscore its promise and importance for the field. Part of chapter three, my reading of Ayi Kwei Armah’s Fragments, was published in November 2016 in African Literature Today, the oldest international journal of African literature in the world. I have an article on Anita Desai’s Cry, the Peacock, which draws from my third chapter, accepted for publication in South Asian Review. An article on time and marronage, which is part of my second chapter, is currently under initial review at Research in African Literatures. In May 2016, I presented an excerpt of my fourth chapter on Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela at an interdisciplinary and international conference, Waiting as Cultural Practice. As a result of that conference, I have been invited to contribute to a peer-reviewed edited collection, published by Brill, on the spatial dimensions of waiting. For that edited collection, I wrote a new essay—related to but distinct from my dissertation project—on absurd waiting in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Zakes Mda’s play And the Girls in Their Sunday Dresses.

My other publications demonstrate the depth and breadth of my engagement with global Anglophone fiction and interdisciplinary approaches to literature. An article published in 2011 indicated my early interest with time and fiction through an analysis of the “meantime” in Nadine Gordimer’s The Pickup. Three subsequent articles also focused on African literature; in Pacific Coast Philology, I analyzed Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Condition in relation to Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy of willing and liberation. In ARIEL, I focused on Nuruddin Farah’s Knots and asserted that state failure discourse in political theory ignores other metrics of success and community organization. In Law, Culture and the Humanities I turned to another Farah novel, Maps, to demonstrate that a more robust law and literature reading of the novel is possible if Somali customary law and its narrative forms are included in the interpretive framework. Although much of my published work concerns African fiction, I have also published on fiction from other regions. Apart from the article resubmitted to South Asian Review, I have a forthcoming article in Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, where I discuss the narrative forms of film noir that pervade Mayra Montero’s Dancing to ‘Almendra.’

In addition to these publications, which coalesce around narrative form, temporality, and interdisciplinary approaches, my work has garnered honors and awards from international organizations, national competitions, and my home university. The Ford Foundation awarded my dissertation project a special mention for the 2016-2017 Dissertation Completion Fellowship. The University of Massachusetts, Amherst awarded my essays the John Hicks Prize in literature, as well as the Charles A. Peters Prize in Renaissance Studies. I received the special mention from the Postcolonial Studies Association for their Postgraduate Essay Prize in 2011, 2013, and 2016. For the most recent essay prize competition, I submitted a reading of Heart of Darkness and its investment in the temporal dimensions of waiting and colonial time. In its 2016 announcement, the committee reported that my argument “presents a range of historical and semantic contexts with fluency and intellectual sophistication, and the textual analysis of Heart of Darkness is astute.” In 2013, the committee noted that my “blending of political and literary theory” addresses “issues of crucial importance to contemporary postcolonial literary studies.”

My research has benefitted from the opportunities to present at regional, national, and international conferences, and these experiences have been important to developing conference papers into longer published articles. I presented four papers over three years at the MLA conference (2014, 2015, and 2016), and I regularly present at the Northeast MLA conference. As I begin to develop my second research project, building from the final insights in my dissertation’s conclusion related to narrative, time, and terrorism, I will continue to fold these conference opportunities into my research process.

In my second project, I anticipate drawing from the questions and concerns raised in my dissertation’s conclusion regarding time, temporality, and narrative forms in the post-9/11 geopolitical world. I have begun drafting conference papers to this end, including a paper on Bilal Tanweer’s The Scatter Here is Too Great  (presented at NeMLA in  March 2017) and a paper in Ishtiyaq Shukri’s The Silent Minaret (African Literature Association June 2017). This second project would be informed by recent work such as Elleke Boehmer and Stephen Morton’s Terror and the Postcolonial and Laura Sjoberg and Caron E. Gentry’s 2011 Women, Gender, and Terrorism. I anticipate that critical terrorism studies will be not only an emerging field for scholarly research in the following decades to come, but also an urgent area of engagement with import for the globe in the twenty-first century.