Contemporary literary scholarship often overlooks the political and cultural influence of old and new forms of globalization; seldom recognizing that anti-colonialist nationalism was not a singular and cohesive process. In effect, a range of ideologies on nationalism developed from varying socio-cultural market formations and the disproportion of capitalism. In Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics, Akin Adesokan offers a new framework for analyzing the post-colonial genre by focusing on the multiple social and political processes wrought by decolonization and globalization. Adesokan catechizes: if genre is contingent on context what are the institutional contexts in which post-colonial texts are produced and what is the significance of them? Drawing on the work of six artists, he surveys the range of structural adjustments occurring between an older generation shaped by decolonization and the national struggle and a newer generation that is shaped by globalization and a more material social struggle. These are filmmakers Ousmane Sembene, Jean-Pierre Bekolo and Tunde Kelani and writers C.L.R James, Caryl Phillips and Arundhati Roy. Adesokan employs an interdisciplinary approach to aesthetics that examines the performance of artistic form in a framework of cross-cultural, economic and socio-cultural exchanges, and contemporary global transformations. Global aesthetic innovations and hybridity then become thematic concerns that act as windows to understanding the art of the postcolony through the three decades spanning James’ anti-colonialism and Roy’s anti-globalization.

Throughout the body of the text, Adesokan focuses on the three manifestations of postcolonial representation which he parses in the introduction: the erratic representation of decolonization, the aesthetic dimensions of uneven geographical development and how metropolitan formation and commodity influence genre and claims of authenticity. He catalogues the differences between Semebene, Kelani and Bekolo on the one hand and then James, Philips and Roy on the other. Dedicating a chapter to each artist, he provides an in depth analysis and close reading of their work, contextualizing these particular cases through an investigation of broad social, economic and historical conditions. He ends each case study with a transitional question or idea that the succeeding examination answers or explicates. This makes the book user friendly and easy to navigate even though the prose can be a bit dense.

Adesokan explores the economic and institutional policies that determine the formal and artistic choices that are available to these six artists. He explains that the older technologies employed by Kelani and the Nollywood videofilm industry do not emerge from a lack of cultural sophistication but inaccessibility. He offers that living in a metropolis affects the philosophical, psychological and political exigencies of the post-colonial writer by studying Phillips who, living abroad and outside a particular national context, could acquire a position of ambivalence in order to objectively critique nation and nationalism in his writing. Additionally, James’ politically committed cosmopolitanism and Pan-Africanism seems rooted in his need to dissipate the perception of cultural inferiority which colonialism attached to Africa. Sembene’s anti-neocolonialist politics are an extension of James’ in an era where most African countries have attained political independence but are crippled by the rentier elite’s continued abuse of power. Adesokan ends his exploration with his analysis of Roy, who is aware of both the role corporate globalization plays in her international status as author and in her “freedom” to critique those same global markets that determine the representation and circulation of her art.

Adesokan concludes that these texts, ideas and formations attempt to turn the contradictions of cultural liberation into strengths. Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics is a unique approach that exposes the global processes that transform the cultural form and goes beyond both the current discourses of globalization that stress the novelty of the art analyzed and the oft employed interpretation of postcolonial art as simply national allegory.

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About Staciay

Second year MFA Creative Writing candidate: Poetry track.

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