World Literature and the Postcolonial:
Ngugi’s Globalectics and Glissant’s Poetics
Duncan McEachern Yoon
If “Relation […] is spoken multilingually,” then both Ngugi’s globalectic and Glissant’s poetics of relation are entangled in a perpetual, but ultimately beneficial, process of translation (Glissant 19). The “foreign” or “other” as manipulated categories that justify racism, dehumanization and economic exploitation become untenable. Instead, this translation produces a “shared knowledge,” which is “the best element of exchange” (Glissant 8). A valorization of another culture’s opacity and language means to momentarily occupy a place of satisfied incomprehension. The impossibility of adequately translating a phrase or a cultural idea no longer serves as a basis for fear and oppression. Instead of denying its validity, or at best, one-sidedly translating it into our own, it is an invitation to learn the “other’s” language. Language thereby provides the vessel through which the globalectic takes shape. This mutually exchanged translation forms the basis of what Ngugi means by the postcolonial.
The Poethics of a World Literature
To “postcolonialize” world literature means to “include what’s already formed in the world as well as what’s now informed by the world, at once a coalition, a cohesion, and coalescence of literatures in world languages into global consciousness. It is a process” (Ngugi 49). Ngugi’s globalectic embodies an attempt to move beyond a national or regional consciousness of both the colonial and Cold War periods and into the multi-polarity of our contemporary moment. Because of the global nature of colonialism, the postcolonial represents an analytic for understanding this new era of cultural exchange in a way that other theories do not. This definition of the postcolonial is then paradoxically meant to move past colonizer and colonized relationships. Although it grounds this movement in a historical reality—the irrevocable material fact of colonial history—it rejects the violent dichotomy of power this produced. Rather, it seeks to multiply the hinge of dialogue to include voices from all over the world. This polyvocality entangles and transforms itself, firing the imagination and producing an ever-evolving understanding of encounter and identity. This is not a limpid affirmation of cultural relativism—rather it validates the desire to know, to construct and produce an aggregate body of knowledge. However, and this is the rub, it allows for the politically bloodless and linguistically rich disaggregation of that body when a new formulation presents itself.
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Essays in this Forum
Break out of the Prison House of Hierarchy!
by Mukoma Wa Ngugi
A Globalectical Imagination
by Ngugi wa Thiong'o
World Literature and the Postcolonial: Ngugi's Globalectics and Glissant's Poetics
by Duncan McEachern Yoon
“You Are the Prisoner, the Discoverer, the Founder, the Liberator”: Contextualizing Decolonial Paths of Afro-Hispanic Literature in Latin America, Equatorial Guinea and Spain
by Elisa Rizo
Globalectics Beyond Postcoloniality
by Carole Boyce Davies