Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies


These are some of the many recent publications by centre members. Please consult individuals' homepages for more details of their publications.

A Little Dust on the EyesMinoli SalgadoA Little Dust on the Eyes  (Peeplal Tree Press, October 2014)

The bustle of an English seaside resort gives way to the unreal calm of a coastal community in southern Sri Lanka as Savi and Renu, two cousins separated by civil war, are reunited just weeks before the tsunami strikes. Renu is struggling to find evidence that will bring political killers to justice; Savi is struggling to heal the damage wrought by a broken childhood. They are just catching up with the secrets of the past when the past catches up with them. 

This haunting and richly textured novel of intersecting lives, memory and loss confronts the twin tragedies of a brutal civil war and the Boxing Day tsunami, revealing the intimate connections between silence and violence, displacement and desire.

Alan Lester, Fae Dussart, Colonization and the Origins of Humanitarian Governance. Protecting Aborigines across the Nineteenth-Century British Empire  Colonization and the Origins of Humanitarian Governance(Cambridge University Press, April 2014)

How did those responsible for creating Britain's nineteenth-century settler empire render colonization compatible with humanitarianism? Avoiding a cynical or celebratory response, this book takes seriously the humane disposition of colonial officials, examining the relationship between humanitarian governance and empire. The story of 'humane' colonial governance connects projects of emancipation, amelioration, conciliation, protection and development in sites ranging from British Honduras through Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales, New Zealand and Canada to India. It is seen in the lives of governors like George Arthur and George Grey, whose careers saw the violent and destructive colonization of indigenous peoples at the hands of British emigrants. The story challenges the exclusion of officials' humanitarian sensibilities from colonial history and places the settler colonies within the larger historical context of Western humanitarianism.

John Masterson,  The Disorder of Things: A Foucauldian Approach to the Work of Nuruddin Farah  (Wits University Press, 2013)

The Disorder of ThingsNuruddin Farah is widely regarded as one of the most sophisticated voices in contemporary world literature. Michel Foucault is revered as one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century, with his discursive legacy providing inspiration for scholars working in a range of interdisciplinary fields. The Disorder of Things offers a reading of the Somali novelist through the prism of the French philosopher. The book argues that the preoccupations that have remained central throughout Farah’s forty year career, including political autocracy, female infibulation, border conflicts, international aid and development, civil war, transnational migration and the Horn of Africa’s place in a so-called ‘axis of evil’, can be mapped onto some key concerns in Foucault’s writing most notably Foucault’s theoretical turn from ‘disciplinary’ to ‘biopolitical’ power.

In both the colonial past and the postcolonial present, Somalia is typically represented as an incubator of disorder: whether in relation to internecine conflict, international terrorism or contemporary piracy. Through his work, both fictional and non-fictional, Farah strives to present alternative stories to an expanding global readership. The Disorder of Things analyses the politics and poetics that underpin this literary project, beginning with Farah’s first fictional cycle, Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship (1979-1983), and ending with his Past Imperfect trilogy (2004-2011). Farah’s writing calls for a more refined, substantial reading of our current geo-political situation. As such, it both warrants and compels the kind of critical engagement foregrounded throughout The Disorder of Things.

This book will appeal to students, academics and general readers with an interest in the interdisciplinary study of literature. Its engagement with theorists, drawn from postcolonial, feminist and development studies, set against the backdrop of a host of philosophical and sociological discourses, shows how such intellectual cross-fertilisation can enliven a single-author study.

Stephanie Newell, Onookome Okome (eds.)  Popular Culture in Africa - The Episteme of the Everyday  (Rouledge, November 2013)

Popular Culture in AfricaThis volume marks the 25th anniversary of Karin Barber’s ground-breaking article, "Popular Arts in Africa", which stimulated new debates about African popular culture and its defining categories. Focusing on performances, audiences, social contexts and texts, contributors ask how African popular cultures contribute to the formation of an episteme. With chapters on theater, Nollywood films, blogging, and music and sports discourses, as well as on popular art forms, urban and youth cultures, and gender and sexuality, the book highlights the dynamism and complexity of contemporary popular cultures in sub-Saharan Africa.

Focusing on the streets of Africa, especially city streets where different cultures and cultural personalities meet, the book asks how the category of "the people" is identified and interpreted by African culture-producers, politicians, religious leaders, and by "the people" themselves. The book offers a nuanced, strongly historicized perspective in which African popular cultures are regarded as vehicles through which we can document ordinary people’s vitality and responsiveness to political and social transformations.

Stephanie Newell, The Power to Name  (Ohio University Press, 2013)

The Power to NameBetween the 1880s and the 1940s, the region known as British West Africa became a dynamic zone of literary creativity and textual experimentation. African-owned newspapers offered local writers numerous opportunities to contribute material for publication, and editors repeatedly defined the press as a vehicle to host public debates rather than simply as an organ to disseminate news or editorial ideology. Literate locals responded with great zeal, and in increasing numbers as the twentieth century progressed, they sent in letters, articles, fiction, and poetry for publication in English- and African-language newspapers.

The Power to Name offers a rich cultural history of this phenomenon, examining the wide array of anonymous and pseudonymous writing practices to be found in African-owned newspapers between the 1880s and the 1940s, and the rise of celebrity journalism in the period of anticolonial nationalism. Stephanie Newell has produced an account of colonial West Africa that skillfully shows the ways in which colonized subjects used pseudonyms and anonymity to alter and play with colonial power and constructions of African identity.

Land, Labour and EntrustmentPamela Kea, Land, Labour and Entrustment West African Female Farmers and the Politics of Difference  (BRILL, 2010)

Diverse contractual arrangements and forms of exchange established between smallholder farmers, their households and community work groups, are important to our understanding of processes of agrarian transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, little has been written in this area. Challenging portrayals of West African female farmers as a homogenous group, the present study provides an ethnographic account of the contractual relations established between female hosts and migrants, in the exchange of land and labour for agrarian production in a Gambian community. Further, it demonstrates the way in which, despite the liberalization of the economy, local cultural practices, such as that of entrustment, continue to be of significance in affecting the nature and particular character of agrarian transformation and postcolonial capitalist development.

Art and the British empireTim Barringer, Geoff Quilley and Douglas Fordham (eds.)  Art and the British empire  (Manchester University Press, 2007)

This pioneering study argues that the concept of 'empire' belongs at the centre, rather than in the margins, of British art history. Recent scholarship in history, anthropology, literature and post-colonial studies has superseded traditional definitions of empire as a monolithic political and economic project.  Emerging across the humanities is the idea of empire as a complex and contested process, mediated materially and imaginatively by multifarious forms of culture. 

The twenty essays in Art and the British Empire offer compelling methodological solutions to this problematic, while engaging in subtle visual analysis of a previously neglected body of work.  Authors from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA and the UK examine a wide range of visual production, including book illustration, portraiture, monumental sculpture, genre and history painting, visual satire, marine and landscape painting, photography and film.  Together these essays propose a major shift in the historiography of British art and a blueprint for further research.

Imperialism Within the MarginsWilliam J. Spurlin,  Imperialism Within the Margins: Queer Representation and the Politics of Culture in Southern Africa  (New York: Palgrave/St Martins, 2007)

Through focusing on the sexual politics that have emerged out of post-apartheid South Africa, Spurlin investigates textual and cultural representations of same-sex desire outside of the Euroamerican axes of queer culture and politics, and considers the ways in which queer cultural productions in southern Africa both intersect with and resist these.




Writing Sri LankaMinoli Salgado,  Writing Sri Lanka  (Routledge, 2006)

Focusing on ways in which cultural nationalism has influenced both the production and critical reception of texts, Salgado presents a detailed analysis of eight leading Sri Lankan writers - Michael Ondaatje, Romesh Gunasekera, Shyam Selvadurai, A. Sivanandan, Jean Arasanayagam, Carl Muller, James Goonewardene and Punyakante Wijenaike – to rigorously challenge the theoretical, cultural and political assumptions that pit ‘insider’ against ‘outsider’, ‘resident’ against ‘migrant’ and the ‘authentic’ against the ‘alien’. By interrogating the discourses of territoriality and boundary marking that have come into prominence since the start of the civil war, Salgado works to define a more nuanced and sensitive critical framework that actively reclaims marginalized voices and draws upon recent studies in migration and the diaspora to reconfigure the Sri Lankan critical terrain.


Colonial Lives Across the British EmpireDavid Lambert and Alan Lester (eds.)  Colonial Lives Across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

This volume uses a series of portraits of 'imperial lives' in order to rethink the history of the British Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It tells the stories of men and women who dwelt for extended periods in one colonial space before moving on to dwell in others, developing 'imperial careers'. These men and women consist of four colonial governors, two governors' wives, two missionaries, a nurse/entrepreneur, a poet/civil servant and a mercenary. Leading scholars of colonialism guide the reader through the ways that these individuals made the British Empire, and the ways that the empire made them. Their life histories constituted meaningful connections across the empire that facilitated the continual reformulation of imperial discourses, practices and cultures. Together, their stories help us to re-imagine the geographies of the British Empire and to destabilize the categories of metropole and colony.

 A Commonwealth of Knowledge Saul Dubow,  A Commonwealth of Knowledge, Science, Sensibility and White South Africa 1820-2000  (Oxford University Press, 2006)

A Commonwealth of Knowledge addresses the relationship between social and scientific thought, colonial identity, and political power in nineteenth- and twentieth-century South Africa. It hinges on the tension between colonial knowledge, conceived of as a universal, modernizing force, and its realization in the context of a society divided along complex ethnic and racial fault-lines. By means of detailed analysis of colonial cultures, literary and scientific institutions, and expert historical thinking about South Africa and its peoples, it demonstrates the ways in which the cultivation of knowledge has served to support white political ascendancy and claims to nationhood.


West African LiteraturesStephanie Newell, West African Literatures: Ways of Reading, (Oxford University Press, 2006.

This book demonstrates the ways in which postcolonial theory can be applied to West African literatures. It covers a wide range of authors, texts, and perspectives. Each chapter contains a map to helps readers position each author in relation to the region and other writers. The 'West African Timeline' at the start of book gives detailed guidance and information as to dates of key texts and political events.




The forgers taleStephanie Newell,  The Forger's Tale: The Search for Odeziaku  (Ohio University Press, 2006.)

In The Forger's Tale: The Search for Odeziaku Stephanie Newell charts the story of the English novelist and poet John Moray Stuart-Young (1881-1939) as he traveled from the slums of Manchester to West Africa in order to escape the homophobic prejudices of late-Victorian society. Leaving behind a criminal record for forgery and embezzlement and his notoriety as a “spirit rapper,” Stuart-Young found a new identity as a wealthy palm oil trader and a celebrated author, known to Nigerians as “Odeziaku.”

In this fascinating biographical account, Newell draws on queer theory, African gender debates, and “new imperial history” to open up a wider study of imperialism, (homo)sexuality, and nonelite culture between the 1880s and the late 1930s. The Forger's Tale pays close attention to different forms of West African cultural production in the colonial period and to public debates about sexuality and ethics, as well as to movements in mainstream English literature.

South Africas 1940sSaul Dubow and Alan Jeeves (eds.)  South Africa's 1940s: Worlds of Possibilities  (Double Storey, 2005)

Most people see the 1940s as a decade that led inexorably towards apartheid, but the coming of Afrikaner nationalism was only one of several competing visions for the future. The decade was in fact marked by a general expectancy that the end of the war would usher in a brave new world. In the end, these hopes for reform were dealt a death blow, only to be resurrected 40 years later with the demise of white supremacy. These worlds of possibilities are explored more fully in this volume by a team of distinguished historians. Saul Dubow is Professor of History at Sussex University and Alan Jeeves is Professor of History at Queen’s University, Ontario.