My first book project, Waiting for Now: Postcolonial Fiction and Colonial Time (out now with Edinburgh University Press and winner of the 2020 NeMLA annual book award) 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. This scholarship is driven by the following questions: How is waiting configured in relation to colonial regimes of time, to anticolonial nationalisms, to so-called disillusionment after independence, and to promises of closure following Truth and Reconciliation Commissions? How do characters mobilize the language of waiting to describe the limitations and possibilities that inhere in their postcolonial present and conception of the future?
My other publications demonstrate the depth and breadth of my engagement with postcolonial 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. Several book chapters in edited collections (Transnational Africana Women’s Fictions and Women Writing Diaspora: Transnational Perspectives in the 21st Century) underscore my commitment and interest in Black diasporic and transnational writing across the long 20th century.
Although much of my published work concerns African fiction, I have also published on fiction from other regions. Apart from the article in South Asian Review, I have a article in Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, where I discuss the narrative forms of film noir that pervade Mayra Montero’s Dancing to ‘Almendra.’ More recently, I published an article in Mobilities on Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, a book chapter on Louise Erdrich’s The Round House in The Oxford Handbook of Transnational Law, and have a forthcoming article in Pacific Coast Philology on V.S. Naipual’s Miguel Street.
I am currently working on developing my second book project, tentatively titled Terrorist Plots: Timing Terror in Postcolonial Fiction. I published an article in Studies in the Novel titled “Terrorist Plots: Temporality, the Politics of Preemption and the Postcolonial Novel” that lays the groundwork for some of the arguments I plan to develop further in the book; I use Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs as a case study here. I have a forthcoming book chapter on Ishtiyaq Shukri’s The Silent Minaret; my investigation of how the novel embeds the preoccupations of the contemporary shows how the novel’s formal mechanisms amplify characteristics of both post-1989 and post-9/11 texts, how the novel advances a view of the time-space dimension of the contemporary, and finally how the novel employs what I call the aesthetics of juxtaposition to produce Issa as a truly “contemporary” protagonist. Where Hyde and Wasserman see world literature moving “away from a basis in spatial extension, which offers no particular theory of the contemporary, to a basis in temporality, which may,” I argue that The Silent Minaret’s theory of the contemporary involves both space and time. I demonstrate that the juxtaposition of South African apartheid with the Israeli occupation of Palestine in the novel’s final pages is integral to this vision.
Terrorist Plots explores the nexus between terror, plotting, and time. “Plot” is a concept that bridges the literary study of the structure of novels and the planned attacks of terrorists; Terrorist Plots investigates this overlap and demonstrates that terror and text share additional concerns, such as pacing and anticipation, foreshadowing and planning, authorship and intention, and symbol and interpretation. Whereas terrorist plots fetishize closure and finality, fictional plots counter with ambiguity, uncertainty, and un-decidability, and challenge expectations of closure and resolution. This openness, I argue, contrasts starkly with the futurity called forth by counter-terror strategies like preemption and anticipation. Preemption strategies initially position the future as frighteningly open; the imagination then compensates for the lack of empirical data, producing an excess of possible futures in a radically insecure present. Thus, despite an initial framing of openness, preemption logics foreclose these futures by justifying exceptional actions in the present to prevent the undesired future from unfolding. In other words, the future is given primacy over both present and past. Novels challenge this compression of the present and future as well as the erasure of deep colonial histories of counter/terror that affect the present.
Terrorist Plots is thus animated by several questions related to time, narrative, and terror: How might fiction, martialling its strengths of narrative emplotment and point-of-view, expose how terror and counter-terror plots mobilize the temporalities of anticipation and pre-emption? Moreover, expanding outward from literary studies, what can the study of a text’s chronopolitics—its politics of time as related to political decision-making—reveal about the weaponization of time itself? The project interrogates the instability produced by the triangulation of fiction, terror, and counter-terror plots through their investments in time and the imagination. At the intersection of terror, time, and narrative, Terrorist Plots offers an account of the temporal paradoxes at the heart of security and preemption logics, and shows how postcolonial fiction registers and challenges these dominant temporal modes.