In this talk I will focus on the figure of the migrant in recent Anglophone fiction from Africa and South Asia. I am interested in the continuities and discontinuities in the experience of migration from the nineteenth century to the present, particularly, though not exclusively, for vulnerable populations. I then attempt to connect that experience to challenges posed to us by environmental changes and vulnerabilities in the same time frame. The aim is to think through the figure of the migrant not just as someone who moves from one sociopolitical context – village, town, city, nation – to another, but to think through migrant experiences as they relate to larger planetary concerns.
Professor Desai gave this Keynote Presentation at The 7th Asian Conference on Cultural Studies (ACCS2017) in Kobe, Japan.
Gaurav Desai is Professor of English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Author of Subject to Colonialism: African Self-fashioning and the Colonial Library (Duke University Press, 2001) and editor of Teaching the African Novel (MLA, 2009), he has guest edited a volume of essays on “Culture and the Law” (South Atlantic Quarterly, 100.4, 2001), on “Actually Existing Colonialisms” (Journal of Contemporary Thought, 24, 2006), on “Asian African Literatures” (Research in African Literatures, 42.3, 2011), and co-edited a volume of essays on “Multi-Ethnic Literatures and the Idea of Social Justice” (MELUS, 28.1, Spring 2003). Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism (Rutgers University Press, 2005) which he co-edited with Supriya Nair has become a standard reference and classroom text since its publication. Among Desai’s other publications are articles in edited collections and journals such as PMLA, Genders, Representations, Boundary2, Interventions, Research in African Literatures, African Studies Review and Cultural Critique. Recipient of a residential fellowship at the National Humanities Center in 2001, Desai has also been awarded a Rockefeller Foundation award for a residency at the Bellagio Center in Italy, a visiting fellowship at the Center for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and the Humanities at the University of Cambridge, and an ACLS Burkhardt Fellowship for his research. In 2004, Desai was made a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge. His latest book on narratives of Indian Ocean connections between Africa and India, Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India and the Afrasian Imagination (Columbia University Press, 2013), received the 2014 Rene Wellek Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association and was a finalist for the Bethwell Ogot Prize from the African Studies Association as well as the Asia-Africa Book Prize awarded by the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden.