American Empire, Literary Culture, and the Postcolonial Lens
Imprint: Northwestern University Press
Domestications traces a genealogy of American global engagement with the Global South since World War II. Hosam Aboul-Ela reads American writers contrapuntally against intellectuals from the Global South in their common—yet ideologically divergent—concerns with hegemony, world domination, and uneven development. Using Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism as a model, Aboul-Ela explores the nature of U.S. imperialism’s relationship to literary culture through an exploration of five key terms from the postcolonial bibliography: novel, idea, perspective, gender, and space.
Within this framework the book examines juxtapositions including that of Paul Bowles’s Morocco with North African intellectuals’ critique of Orientalism, the global treatment of Vietnamese liberation movements with the American narrative of personal trauma in the novels of Tim O’Brien and Hollywood film, and the war on terror’s philosophical idealism with Korean and post-Arab nationalist materialist archival fiction.
Domestications departs from other recent studies of world literature in its emphases not only on U.S. imperialism but also on intellectuals working in the Global South and writing in languages other than English and French. Although rooted in comparative literature, its readings address issues of key concern to scholars in American studies, postcolonial studies, literary theory, and Middle Eastern studies.
"Domestications does not merely urge readers to move beyond the old nationalist prejudices of literary studies. More importantly, it offers readers an awareness of the inequalities produced by global capitalism under the aegis of US imperial dominance, and it models the potential of literary analyses undertaken by scholars in the Global South to register the complexity of cultural historiographies outside the United States."—Donald Pease, founder of the Futures of American Studies Institute
"Aboul-Ela shows the force of postcolonialism’s theoretical tools in understanding the complexities and paradoxes within cultural narratives, symbols, and themes and how they organize attitudes toward peoples and places in ways that buttress and naturalize empire-building. In demonstrating the often-overlooked cultural economy of specific narratives and tropes, Aboul-Ela provides ways of seeing the symbols that lend morality and heroism to devastating American violence. Finally, by including critical perspectives and intellectual engagement from outside of most postcolonial theorists’ purview, Aboul-Ela provides an important, meticulously researched model for postcolonial and comparative cultural/literary studies." —Bryant Scott, Houston Review of Books