Waiting for Now: Postcolonial Fiction and Colonial Time (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. 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 four, 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 also draws from my fourth chapter, in South Asian Review. An article on time and marronage, which is part of my third chapter appeared in Safundi. In May 2016, I presented an excerpt of my fifth 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 a forthcoming essay in 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 book 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 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.’ Most recently, I published an article in Mobilities on Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West.
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 benefited 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 regularly present at MLA, NeMLA, and now PAMLA (as I transition to being a full-time west coast resident!) 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 book’s conclusion related to narrative, time, and terrorism, I 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 book’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). I published an essay in Post45‘s “Contemporaries” forum on Tanweer’s collection, and I have given talks on Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs at Pitzer College and the South Asian Literary Association annual conference.