Caring for Community: Towards a New Ethics of Responsibility in Contemporary Postcolonial Novels focuses on four highly acclaimed publications in order to argue for a new understanding of community and its ethical framework in recent literary texts. Traditionally, community has been understood to function on the basis of individuals’ readiness to establish relationships of reciprocal responsibility. This book, however, argues that community and non-reciprocity need not be mutually exclusive categories. Examining works by leading contemporary postcolonial authors and reading them against Judith Butler’s post-9/11 concept of global political community, the book explores how concrete acts of responsibility can be carried out in recognition of various others, even and precisely when those others cannot be expected to respond. The literary analyses draw on a rich theoretical framework that includes approaches to care, hospitality and the ethical encounter between self and other. Overall, this book establishes that the novels’ protagonists, by investing in an ethics of responsibility that does not require reciprocity, acquire the agency to envisage new forms of community. By reflecting on the nature and effect of this agency and its representation in contemporary literary texts, the book also considers the role of postcolonial studies in addressing highly topical questions regarding our co-existence with others.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient: From a Crumbling Villa to a Porous Community
Chapter 2. “Building the New”? Un-Timely Community in Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil
Chapter 3. Michelle de Kretser’s The Lost Dog: From Unwanted History to Unconditional Hospitality
Chapter 4. Spectral Agency and the Ghostly Self: Towards an Unconditional Community in Wendy Law-Yone’s The Road to Wanting
Marijke Denger is a Post-Doctoral Assistant in the Department of English at the University of Bern, Switzerland