Resistant Resources lecture series - Spring 2015

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Speaker: Dr Anna Bernard (KCL)

Resources for International Solidarity: Palestine and South Africa on Camera

This paper compares the consciousness-raising strategies of anti-apartheid and Palestine solidarity documentaries released in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, including Some of the Palestinians (1976), You Have Struck a Rock! (1981), Occupied Palestine (1981),Who Are the Palestinians? (1983), and Witness to Apartheid (1986). These films emerge at a crucial juncture in the general shift, from the 1970s onward, from third-worldist and liberationist ideas of solidarity to civil society and humanitarian approaches. I argue that these films respond to the organizational needs of their particular moment by negotiating between these conflicting notions of what it means to be in solidarity, a strategy that remains in evidence in contemporary forms of international solidarity activism. They thus have important resonances with, and lessons for, cultural activism in our present moment.

Monday 16 February 2015

Speaker: Dr James Graham (Middlesex)

Resource Complexity in Southern Africa Literatures: Land, Labour, Affect

This paper offers a discussion of Yvonne Vera’s ‘The Stone Virgins’, focussing specifically on Vera’s use of an ecological idiom to articulate the complexity of socioecological relations associated with Zimbabwe’s history of land alienation. A paradigm of “violent accumulation”, Zimbabwe’s particular ‘resource curse’ is anticipated through Vera’s articulation of the ‘negative relation’ between women and the land.

Speaker: Dr Madhu Krishnan (Bristol)

Writing the Post-Nation? Land and Labour as Resources in 21st Century Zimbabwean Fiction

In his 2013 review of NoViolet Bulawayo’s Man Booker shortlisted novel, We Need New Names, Nigerian novelist Helon Habila complains that in the novel ‘is a palpable anxiety to cover every “African” topic; almost as if the writer had a checklist made from the morning’s news on Africa’. For Habila, this is a tendency borne of the compulsion in contemporary African literatures to ‘perform Africa’ for its Western consumers, a compulsion which he advises must be fought through the promotion of what he terms an aspirational post-nationalist aesthetic. While critics and commentators of African literatures have castigated Habila’s call to arms as another version of the ‘single story’ told of Africa, in this paper I critically interrogate its limits by placing Bulawayo’s novel in conversation with a range of locally-published and lesser-known post-2000 literary texts from Zimbabwe. By reading the way in which these texts open a dialogue around questions of land reform, urban housing and labour, I argue that they function as part of a heterogeneous, horizontal zone of affiliation not necessarily compatible with orthodox notions of the ‘national’, ‘local’ and ‘global’.


Monday 9 February 2015

Speaker: Dr Michael Niblett (Warwick)

King Coal and Emperor Oil: Striking Energies in Proletarian Fiction

Focusing on the coal and oil industries, this paper will compare literary representations of the 1926 General Strike in Britain and the Trinidad labour riots and stoppages of 1937. These strikes mark a transitional period in which the nineteenth-century “expansionary cycle of the global coal system” came to an end and oil began to establish itself as the dominant energy source powering the world-economy (Podobnik). Through an analysis of such writers as Sid Chaplin, Lewis Jones, and Ralph de Boissière, the paper will consider the relationship between narrative form, the energies unleashed by mass collective action, and the role played by the restructuring of the coal and oil frontiers in the development of the capitalist world-ecology.

Speaker: Dr Kerstin Oloff (Durham)

Sugar to Oil: The Ecology of George A. Romero’s Zombie Movies

With George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), the zombie enters the age of petro-modernity. In its first incarnation as a figure of Haitian folklore, it encapsulated the plantation experience of the forceful integration into the global market, speaking to separation of the mass of the enslaved population from the land as source of food. Its transposition into the US imperial imaginary during the occupation of Haiti (1915-34) did not change this underlying logic and one may argue that it is only in 1968 that the figure underwent a fundamental symbolic revolution. This is reflected in the figure itself, as well as in the way in which nature-society relations are reconfigured in a U.S. dominated petro-world.

Vegan Theory event 1 December 2014

With papers by Benjamin Westwood (University of Oxford) and Emelia Quinn (Centre for Modern Studies)