Postcolonial, indigenous, multiethnic, environmental, in/human, transnational

"I am also far from averse to learning from the work of Western theorists, though I have learned to insist on marking their positionality as investigating subjects."
                  --Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak"
"Notions of the primitive and the civilised which had been integral to pre-modern understanding of 'ethnic' differences became [in modernity] fundamental cognitive and aesthetic markers in the processes which generated a constellation of subject positions in which Englishness, Christianity and other ethnic and racialised attributes would finally give way to the dislocating dazzle of 'whiteness.'"
                  --Paul Gilroy, "The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity"

For the last three decades, the literary humanities have been urgently concerned with questions of cultural positions, difference and power. Broadly termed positionalities, this research cluster focuses on a number of key literary texts, theoretical strategies, and political questions. Collectively, we engage with issues of postcoloniality, indigeneity and multiculturalism, with studies of empire and environment, with the politics of race, ethnicity, sexuality and class in national and transnational contexts, and with questions of the in/human, the animal, and the cybernetic. The cluster finds expression across a wide range of course offerings in both the graduate and undergraduate curriculum at the University of Victoria, enabling students to pursue individualized concentrations within the cluster.

Many of these questions have emerged from postcolonial literature and theory since the 1960s; others come from similarly-inspired investigations of literature by people of color. Indigeneity, multiculturalism, and questions of identity and cultural positioning loom large. The ways in which differences within human groups have been constructed as races, cultures, identities and nationalities find some echo in the categorical in/human of species difference and the cybernetic. The study of critical ecologies investigates the geographical and cultural placements of such groups in specific landscapes. Positionalities likewise centrally focuses on the power and politics of sexuality and sexual difference.

Dr. Christopher Douglas: literary history of multiculturalism; race / culture / identity theory.

Dr. Lincoln Shlensky: postcolonialism; Caribbean literature; Jewish studies; diaspora and immigrant literatures

Dr. Nicole Shukin: theories of biopower; politics of nature and animals; cultures of globalization, environmentality and culture.

Dr. Christopher Douglas

  • A Genealogy of Literary Multiculturalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009). The first 'unified field theory' of multicultural literature, this study is a literary history of how we arrived at our current paradigm of writing, reading and teaching multicultural literature in the United States.
  • "What The Bluest Eye Knows About Them: Culture, Race, Identity." American Literature 78: 1 (March 2006): 141-168. Reprinted in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. Updated edition. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2007. 209-232.
  • "Reading Ethnography: the Cold War Social Science of Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter and Brown v. Board of Education." Form and Transformation in Asian American Literature. Ed. Zhou Xiaojing and Samina Najmi. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005. 101-124.
  • Douglas's current research project investigates the transformation of religious subjectivity in the context of American literary multiculturalism and postmodernism.

Dr. Lincoln Shlensky

  • "Otherwise Occupied: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in the Francophone Cinema," in The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in the Francophone World (Routledge Studies in Cultural History). Nathalie Dubrauwere-Miller, ed. (Routledge, December 2009).
  • "Not (Yet) Speaking to Each Other: The Politics of Speech in Jamaica Kincaid's Postcolonialism," in Proceedings of the 15th Triennial Conference of the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (ACLALS Publications, forthcoming in 2010).
  • "'To Rivet and Record:' Conversion and Collective Memory in Equiano's Interesting Narrative," in Slavery and the Cultures of Abolition: Essays Marking the Bicentennial of the British Abolition Act of 1807 (Essays and Studies in Romanticism Series). Peter J. Kitson and Brycchan Carey, eds. (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2007): 110-29.

Dr. Nicole Shukin

  • Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Vol. 6 in the Posthumanities Series. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009). From the animal capital of abattoirs and automobiles, films and mobile phones, to pandemic fear of species-leaping diseases such as avian influenza and mad cow, this book makes startling linkages between visceral and virtual currencies in animal life, illuminating entanglements of species, race, and labor in the conditions of capitalism.
  • "The Mimetics of Mobile Capital." Against Automobility. Eds. Steffen Bohm, Campbell Jones, Chris Land and Matthew Paterson. Oxford, U.K: Blackwell Publishing, 2006 (150-174).
  • "Deleuze and Feminisms: Involuntary Regulators and Affective Inhibitors." Deleuze and Feminist Theory. Eds. Ian Buchanan and Claire Colebrook. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000 (144-155).


  • Engl 425: Ethnic American Literatures
  • Engl 438: Special Studies in Post-Colonial Literature and Theory
  • Engl 439A: Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Studies
  • Engl 439B: Special Studies in Postcolonial Literatures
  • Engl 449: The Human Question in the Humanities
  • Engl 462: Studies in Modern Critical Theory
  • Engl 466: Cultural Studies


  • Engl 580: Hybridity, Dislocation, and (Trans)National Perspectives in Postcolonial Studies
  • Engl 581: Writing by Women of Colour and Transnational Feminisms
  • Engl 581: Introduction to Caribbean Literature: Creolization, Hybridity, and the Subaltern