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This article was downloaded by: [Cambridge University Library] On: 29 March 2015, At: 03:17 Publisher: Routledgehttp://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rshk20 Postcolonial Shakespeare Revisited Jyotsna G. Singh & Gitanjali G. Shahani Published online: 13 Apr 2010. To cite this article: Jyotsna G. Singh & Gitanjali G. Shahani (2010) Postcolonial Shakespeare Revisited, Shakespeare, 6:1, 127-138, DOI: 10.1080/17450911003743603 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17450911003743603 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content. This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms- and-conditions " id="pdf-obj-0-6" src="pdf-obj-0-6.jpg">

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Postcolonial Shakespeare Revisited

Jyotsna G. Singh & Gitanjali G. Shahani Published online: 13 Apr 2010.

To cite this article: Jyotsna G. Singh & Gitanjali G. Shahani (2010) Postcolonial Shakespeare Revisited, Shakespeare, 6:1, 127-138, DOI: 10.1080/17450911003743603

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Postcolonial Shakespeare Revisited

Jyotsna G. Singh and Gitanjali G. Shahani

Postcolonial approaches to Shakespeare do not simply suggest a dethroning of the canonical bard, but rather they have opened up the works to competing histories of nation, ‘‘race’’, gender and class within a plurality of sociopolitical contexts*the marks of the postcolonial condition. This essay looks afresh at these histories within the linked trajectories of Shakespearean and postcolonial studies, while exploring the valences of such terms as ‘‘early colonial’’, ‘‘pre- colonial’’ and ‘‘proto-colonial’’ and their implications for Shakespearean critical pratice.

Keywords: postcolonial; proto-colonial; race; Orientalism; Othello; The Tempest; Cleopatra; Islam; global early modern

I

The term ‘‘postcolonial Shakespeare’’, which is now something of a critical commonplace among scholars of the early modern period, has a complex trajectory that reveals much about how Shakespeare’s works have been and are continually implicated in different social and ideological struggles within colonial and postcolonial history. The term encompasses a fundamental shift in our theoretical frames of reference, which have moved beyond the traditional identification of the Bard with Anglo-Saxon culture and its Greco Roman antecedents; instead, ‘‘Shakespeare’’ has now become a more fractured discursive field, allowing for a new politics of appropriation that emphasize representations of non-European cultures and the fraught histories of European contact with them. This field incorporates a more recent history of Shakespearean reception within non- European, ‘‘third world’’ settings*in Latin America, South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It emphasizes an approach to Shakespeare that is cognizant of larger historical narratives about nationhood, race, slavery, foreign trade, class and gender, both in Shakespeare’s period and in our own. In essence, postcolonial interventions in Shakespeare studies do not simply suggest a dethroning of the canonical bard; rather, they have opened up the works to competing histories and a plurality of sociopolitical contexts*the marks of the postcolonial condition. In a most obvious sense then, ‘‘postcolonial Shakespeare’’ implies the inclusion of histories of peoples and cultures outside the traditional Anglo-American scholarly world. Not only has this approach added to the archive of new Shakespearean appropriations as objects of knowledge, it has also enabled us to interrogate traditionally accepted notions of cultural taste and value, even while producing new criteria for judging performances and criticism within different cultural contexts.

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Historically, postcolonial Shakespeare criticism can be viewed as a struggle for claiming and appropriating Shakespeare as cultural capital in the wake of decolonization and the political struggles of the 1960s involving racial and gender equality in the West. Geographically, its focus is more rightly on the former colonies or European empires, Africa, India, the Caribbean, rather than on settler colonies such as Australia and New Zealand, which are often viewed as ‘‘postcolonial’’ areas of cultural struggles. Today, postcolonial Shakespeare has become a part of re-evaluating the global early modern, but before we go there, a history of its development is called for. As we consider how postcolonial Shakespeare has certainly challenged if not displaced the canonical Shakespeare of Harold Bloom, we can also see how this approach*both drawing on and in turn influencing other theoretical paradigms and trajectories in Marxist, materialist, feminist, queer and race studies*has enabled students and scholars to move beyond the formalist emphases of New Criticism and the essentialist obsessions with characters as ‘‘real’’ people; instead, re-emerging from the prism of history and ideology, the works tell us a compelling story of political, racial, gendered and economic conflicts and realignments from the sixteenth century to the present. We hope that this article will also serve as a response to the increasingly commonplace assumption that postcolonial criticism has had its day, since all the claims of the formerly silenced or disenfranchised have been acknowl- edged and it is time to move on. Ironically, while Renaissance studies are witnessing a return to the historical archive, with rigor and depth, this historical move seems oddly reluctant to interrogate the empirical claims to historical ‘‘truth’’.

II

The formation of English studies as a disciplinary practice in the nineteenth century, as articulated by Gauri Viswanathan in Masks of Conquest, was an early reminder of the crucial role that Shakespeares drama played in disseminating British values, equivalent only to the Bible and the gun as an instrument of colonial domination. This study offered a crucial instance of the systemic and powerful nature of the ‘‘master discourse’’ of colonialism that Edward Said described as early as 1978 in Orientialism, his influential work on the subject. Shakespearean critics frequently drew on this historical re-evaluation of the bards role in the British ‘‘civilizing mission’’ from a variety of historical vantage points and political agendas. In a now oft-quoted opening to her chapter on ‘‘Imperialism, Patriarchy, and Post-Colonial English Studies’’, Ania Loomba noted that ‘‘More students probably read Othello in the University of Delhi every year than in all British universities combined’’ (10). Appearing in 1989, the same year that Viswanathans text was published, Loombas polemical inquiry into Shakespearean pedagogy in India*a pedagogy in which the English literary text, came to be unquestioningly projected as ‘‘an amalgam of universal value, morality, truth and rationality’’ *was part of a larger historical interrogation of English as a discipline and the ideological imperatives underlying its propagation in the colonized world (10). Gender and race, as Loombas title made amply clear, were to be the two dominant paradigms through which this path-breaking study would approach the reception of the Shakespearean text. Focusing especially on works like Othello, Loomba was among the earliest critics to point to the multiple erasures resulting from a deeply

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problematic performative and pedagogical history of the play in postcolonial India, where discussions of race, marginality, alterity and gender were routinely subsumed by the supposedly ‘‘universalist’’ themes of Shakespeares plot:

The colonial and post-colonial reader has been forced to cope with alienation by

suppressing it, since it is taken to be the very index of his/her inferiority. Thus Othellos colour, which is simultaneously a point of identification for such a reader, and a point of alienation from dominant readings that erase Othellos blackness in favour of his ‘‘universal’’ passion, jealousy, is suppressed in the Indian classroom. Masculine jealousy

and female passivity become ‘‘natural’’ human conditions

Again, dominant criticism

.... works to efface the subaltern womans history and experience in order to ‘‘persuade’’ her

to adopt a white male positioning. (34)

Similar questions were raised by Singh, who asked: ‘‘What was the precise nature of the Empires investment in Shakespeare?’’ (‘‘Different Shakespeares’’ 446). In addressing this query, she found that till the early 1990s at least, and despite efforts to ‘‘Indianize’’ Shakespearean performances, critical and pedagogical discourses in the Indian academy continued to be shaped by the myth of the universal bard*‘‘a myth that reveals and perpetuates a complicity between indigenous and imperial power structures in the postcolonial era’’ (‘‘Different Shakespeares’’ 447). It was not simply a matter of coincidence that Singh also turned her attention to the reception history of Othello, specifically focusing on a controversial moment in nineteenth-century colonial Calcutta, when a native Indian actor, ‘‘a real unpainted nigger Othello’’ (as the Calcutta Star described him), first played the role of Othello at a famous British playhouse in the city (‘‘Different Shakespeares’’ 446). Singh read the Indian actors dramatic identification with the Shakespearean role of Othello as clearly complicating and displacing the stark ‘‘Manichean’’ dichotomy of ‘‘black and white’’ that Franz Fanon had seen as governing relations between European colonizers and their colonized subjects:

When the actor donned the ‘‘white mask’’ of a Shakespearean actor in an English production, he also enacted his difference from the white world, both in fictional Venice and in colonial Calcutta. Thus, instead of being appropriated by the colonial ‘‘sahibss’’ playtext, the Indian actor revealed the ambivalence of its cultural authority through a native strategy perhaps best described by Homi Bhabha as ‘‘camouflage, mimicry, black skin/white masks.’’ (‘‘Different Shakespeares’’ 446)

For postcolonial theorists, the controversial histories of reception associated with a text like Othello posed a challenge to earlier critical approaches that sought to read Shakespeares plays as repositories of an unchanging, universal meaning, transmitted seamlessly through the many ages of Western civilization. Their work was driven by the impulse to historicize and theorize both the material circumstances in which Shakespeares plays were first written and performed as well as the subsequent social and political circumstances in which they were disseminated, adapted, appropriated and transformed. Significantly, much early work in postcolonial scholarship almost compulsively returned to specific playtexts in the Shakespearean corpus. If Othello had become key to discussions of race, alterity, representation and marginalization in Shake- spearean scholarship, The Tempest had been foundational for postcolonial criticisms exploration of questions related to discovery, travel, slavery and linguistic domina- tion (often emerging from and engaging with New Historicist work on these very

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questions). In important ways, plays like The Tempest and the richly diverse adaptations it inspired came to embody the very traumas of colonialism. As the Nigerian scholar Abiola Irele poignantly suggests, ‘‘We played Caliban to the White mans Prospero, Man Friday to his Robinson Crusoe, as part of a historical drama of slavery, colonialism, and racism’’ (202). Writing ‘‘In Praise of Alienation’’, Irele points out that the postcolonial world shares a profoundly ambivalent relationship with European civilization. The historical encounter with Europe, exemplifies the master slave relationship in a very real sense; at the same time, Irele recognizes the irreversible nature of the transformations that European colonization has effected in our midst, transformations ‘‘which are so extensive as to define the really significant frame of reference of our contemporary existence’’ (202). The very fact that Irele, like so many other postcolonial theorists, is compelled to articulate this predicament through the literary tropes of the colonizers text, testifies to the complex nature of reception and Shakespearean criticism in a postcolonial context. These dilemmas continue to haunt postcolonial Shakespearean scholarship, as its practitioners grapple with the implicit (even if unintentional) privileging of Shakespeare in their work. Even as we turn to the margins of the Shakespearean text, do we inadvertently affirm its centrality to the canon? Does the compulsive return to the Shakespearean text, even through postcolonial critical frames, necessarily involve effacements and erasures of indigenous literary texts and critical traditions? Loomba eloquently addresses this issue, pointing out that ‘‘[W]e know that in reality Prospero rarely simply sails away. To curse in your language(I.ii.362) is not to appropriate the European text on its own terms or to limit ourselves to the spaces allowed by it,’’ rather, postcolonial critical reception ‘‘will centre around a disclosure of the similarity and dissimilarity, usefulness and irrelevance of the Western text, but it must extend to the economic, sociopolitical and institutional realities in which our academic practice exists’’ (157 8). While early work in the field had focused almost entirely on the presence of racial and cultural others in plays like Othello and The Tempest, an emerging body of scholarship on race also turned its attention to absences in the Shakespearean text. Kim F. Hall, whose study of cultural artifacts (‘‘Things of Darkness’’ as she appropriately termed them) irrevocably transformed Renaissance studies, compelled us to view the ‘‘economic expansion of England’’ as a ‘‘linguistic, and ultimately ideological expansion in which writers and travelers grappled with ways of making use of the foreign materia producedby colonialism’’ (4). Her efforts at tracing the ‘‘black presence’’ in Renaissance England were grounded not so much in an analysis of physical populations, as in an exploration of the proliferating ‘‘tropes of blackness’’ in early modern culture (4). Drawing on poststructuralist paradigms, Hall called attention to the absent presences through which blackness and attendant racialist discourses came to be articulated in the period. Her work brought to light an expansive range of literary and cultural texts*travel narratives such as those of Leo Africanus, lyric poetry in the Petrarchan tradition, Shakespearean dramas such as Antony and Cleopatra and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and visual artifacts depicting black peoples, including portraits, cameos and jewels*pointing not only to the recurring ‘‘evocations of blackness’’ in the early modern archive, but also to the long tradition of ‘‘critical effacement’’ that had hitherto confined this black presence to the archive and the margins of the text (2).

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Only a year before Halls monograph was published, Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parkers edited volume Women, ‘‘Race,’’ and Writing in the Early Modern Period had noted that ‘‘until recently race has largely been absent from or only

peripheral to

discussions [of difference]’’ (1). In the wake of these works, however,

... questions concerning the definitions and representations of race in all its ‘‘complex, multiform, and even contradictory senses’’ animated Renaissance scholarship in new and significant ways (1). More recent scholars like Ayanna Thompson have questioned the tendency in this earlier scholarship on race to routinely posit ‘‘the caveat that modern conceptions/perceptions of race differ from early modern ones in significant ways’’ (18). Whether in Mary Floyd-Wilsons argument that the ‘‘geohumoralism’’ that ‘‘dominated early modern constructions of race is radically different from the now-dominant narrative of oppression’’, or in Hendricks and Parkers assertion that the instability of ‘‘race’’ as a term in the early modern period must be seen in perspective against its ‘‘eventual development into later forms of racism and racial distinction’’ or in Halls qualification that she is ‘‘strategically anachronistic’’, Thompson finds an underlying assumption that race ‘‘has a relatively stable meaning in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: a stable meaning that is different from that of the seventeenth century’’ (18 19). In seeking to interrogate this assumption, Thompsons work on Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage calls for an intentionally polemical presentism in our approaches to race during Shakespeares time:

What would it mean if modern notions of race, including the conflicting idea that race is both biological/essential and discursive/performative, were codified in the performance of racialized characters in early modern England? What would it mean if the very conjunction of the ‘‘discurisvity and corporeality’’ of race stemmed from the fact that racial subjectivity was first experienced most frequently in the English speaking world onstage? What would it mean if there is no split between pre- and post-Enlightenment constructions of racial identity? (17 18)

The primacy accorded to performative dimensions of race in Thompsons approach and her emphasis on their troubling endurance are likely to inspire new kinds of historical approaches to Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean dramatic texts. Her work is a welcome addition to other recent texts on race, such as Virginia Mason Vaughans Performing Blackness on English stages, 1500 1800 and Francesca Roysters Becoming Cleopatra, that variously seek to establish critical frameworks in which past and present representations of blackness are brought into productive (and often provocative) conversations with each other, rather than mapped along a historical continuum. The teleology of early modern to modern, Shakespeares life to Shakespeares afterlife is dispensed with in favor of a more diachronic approach to racialist discourse in these works. As Royster puts it, ‘‘A racial performance depends on its moment. But it also depends on the past, the memory banks of past images and fantasies of self and other’’ (9). Thus, for instance, Roysters text, in looking at ‘‘an infinite variety’’ of Cleopatra representations that range from those in Shakespeares England to those in contemporary Los Angeles, seeks to present ‘‘an anti-genealogy of the Cleopatra Icon, rather than a history of her’’:

Unlike the linear shape of history, this anti-genealogy favors variation, offshoots and the contradictions in culture that the Cleopatra icon raises. What began as the search for the roots of Cleopatras multiple identities has evolved into a mapping of some of her routes*some well-traveled and others less so. (2)

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Roysters approach empowers both modern and early modern theorists of race, enabling important conversations about the commodification of black womens bodies in different, yet paradoxically remarkably similar historical moments. As Royster notes, ‘‘There are striking parallels between Cleopatras images as courtesan queen,’ ‘betrayer,’ ‘dark exoticand supermommyand the negative representations of African American women’’ (9). She cites Patricia Hill Collinss long list of popular cultural representations of the African American woman*ranging from the mammies, jezebels and breeder women of slavery, to Aunt Jemima on pancake mix boxes, to ‘‘ubiquitous Black prostitutes’’ and ‘‘ever-present welfare mothers of contemporary popular culture’’*in order to address the ways in which they have collectively contributed to her oppression. That Cleopatra could easily be added to such a list and that we might read Shakespeares playtext retrospectively in light of such a list creates new possibilities for other kinds of ‘‘anti-genealogies’’ and for other forms of defiantly anachronistic approaches to race and alterity in the early modern period. While provocatively placing Shakespeare beyond authorial and generic boundaries*on the other end of the spectrum of Blooms canonical Shakespeare*and within extratextual traditions, oral and visual, this approach may also lead some to ask: ‘‘Is this really Shakespeare?’’ ‘‘What are the boundaries, the limits and licenses, even generously defined, of Shakespearean studies?’’ ‘‘How can Shakespeares plays be deployed for various modes of meaning-making?’’ We treat these as open-ended questions for scholars interested in the possibilities of other forms of textual, archaeological explorations.

III

The last decade has also seen a new set of paradigms through which early modern scholars have approached questions of alterity and identity, particularly religious identity, in the early-modern play text. Postcolonial perspectives on Shakespeare at this time have both generated and interacted with larger historical studies on, among other things, the fraught nature of early modern European and English encounters with Islam and their representation on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage. Thus, this is the subject of an unprecedented number of recent works, which expand the historical, geographical and discursive scope of the field in significant ways. Nabil Matar, among the early critics to draw our attention to these encounters, vividly describes the kind of contact zones that were forged in the Anglo-Islamic encounter: for instance, he suggests that in English plays, pageants and other cultural forms, the ‘‘Turk was cruel, tyrannical, deviant and deceiving; the Moorwas sexually overdriven and emotionally uncontrollable, vengeful, and religiously super- stitious. The Muslim was all that an Englishman and a Christian was not’’ (19). Yet, popular religious and cultural works, he demonstrates, belie the actual encounter with the Muslims in the Levant and North African, where there was ‘‘interaction and familiarity, along with communication and cohabitation’’ (14). This process comes to life in his quote below:

[T]housands of Turks and Moors visited and traded in English ports; hundreds were captured on the high seas and brought to stand trial in English courts; scores of

ambassadors and emissaries dazzled the London populace

At the same time

.... Muslims were going to England, Britons were going to North Africa and the Levant in

greater numbers. They went (or were taken) in the thousands, with the highest

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proportion consisting of captives who were at one time reported to have numbered over five thousand in Algiers alone. Hundreds of other Britons visited the Muslim Mediterranean world on their own initiative and stayed there either to conduct business, to seek employment, to visit for weeks, or to settle for weeks. (5)

Matthew Dimmock acknowledges the usefulness of Matars analysis of actual historical encounters and materials, but offers another perspective, arguing that the images of Turks and Muslims in early modern English literary and cultural texts do not depict Turks so clearly falling between ‘‘polarizing stereotypes of Muslim Othernessand English Christian’’. Rather, they show how ‘‘English encounters with Muslims, both imagined and actualmultiplied and complicated notions of the turkethat had been contested from their very inception’’ (10). While Orientalism continues to crucially inform work in this field, it is interesting to note the number of scholars who eschew the Saidian thesis in their writings on early modern Islam. In Turning Turk: English Theater and the Multicultural Mediterranean, 1570 1630, Daniel Vitkus cogently argues against a certain ahisto- rical application of Saids Self-Other paradigm to all Western encounters with Islam:

In describing orientalism as Manichean and binary, Saids Orientalism reproduces, in a mirror image, the distorting binarism that he rightly abhors in Western accounts of Islamic culture. His paradigm tends to define the project of resistance according to the

very same semiotic opposition set up by the imperial discourse itself

Thus, when we

.... seek a theoretical framework to help us analyze the early modern representation of

Islamic or Mediterranean alterities, we find that Saids postcolonial theory, which is based upon the historical experience of Western imperialism and colonization, must be deployed with caution, if at all. (11)

Jonathan Burton echoes this sentiment in Traffic and Turning: Islam and English Drama, 1579 1624, aligning himself with other early modern scholars who have sought to rethink the ‘‘overwhelming power of European discourse to shape and dominate the East’’ so central to Saids study (12). Like these scholars, Burton calls for a more nuanced reading of English representations of Islam and Muslim peoples, who were variously invoked as ‘‘others and brothers’’, in terms that ranged from ‘‘the censorious to the laudatory’’ (12). Importantly however, Burton suggests that the attention to imperial eyes in these early texts is not altogether unwarranted:

Even as my examination of English representations of Islam participates in a critical push to distinguish sixteenth- and seventeenth-century practices of representation from nineteenth century Orientalism, I do not suggest that the representative practices of high imperialism cannot sometimes be found germinating in earlier periods. Nor do I entirely cordon off early modern relationships between peoples of different faiths from those at work today. The ways in which we imagine or construct difference today depend in part upon past notions of difference that remain sedimented in present structures and which continue to inform our assumptions or systems of understanding. (12)

By contrast, other re-evaluations of Said have vehemently dismissed the possibility of such a ‘‘germination’’ in the early modern period, which they see as a distinctly precolonial period. Such readings have sought to question not just the validity of Said in describing early modern cross-cultural encounter, but of the postcolonial approach, in general. Richmond Barbours text on the early modern theaters engagement with the East is a case in point. Barbours very title*Before Orientalism*intentionally sets

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up a temporal framework in which Saids formulation of the Orient and the Occident seems unfeasible: ‘‘To project his findings backward, to read precolonial ethnography as if its rhetoric bespoke European dominance of the world, or its defensive tropes necessarily foretold aggressive expansion, is anachronistic’’ (emphasis added, 3). In this description of the early modern period as a ‘‘precolonial’’ period, we can read a deliberate disavowal of the ‘‘proto-colonial’’ and ‘‘post-colonial’’ frames through which several scholars have sought to approach European encounters in the East. Barbour makes this more explicit in his assertion that ‘‘The legacy of imperialism has, for many postcolonial critics, obscured the insecurities that Europeans took for granted’’ (3). His conception of the precolonial versus the postcolonial is premised upon an assertion that Englands Eastern engagements were ‘‘imitative, fitful, uncertain, and not infrequently disastrous’’; that they point to ‘‘the relative weaknesses, not the incipient global dominion of early modern Europe’’ (3). This contention is by no means singular and in the last decade several scholars have routinely questioned the valences of the many prefixes and adjectives*pre-, proto-, early*that qualify term ‘‘colonial’’. Barbours study, like several others interrogating the relevance of the Saidian thesis in readings of early modern East West encounters, rightly points to the importance of historicizing the processes by which England consolidated its imperial position, rather than assuming that it was always already a colonial force. However, despite its belated arrival onto the global stage, its relative marginality in Eastern courts, and its seemingly hesitant, semi-speculative trading ventures in parts of Mughal India, the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia, we risk a certain historical oversimplification in describing Shakespeares England as precolonial. As Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin have argued in Post-Colonial Shakespeares,

Shakespeare lived and wrote at a time when English mercantile and colonial enterprises were just germinating. Although the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch ventures began earlier, European colonialism as a whole was still in its infancy. But this infancy was also an aggressive ascendancy: four hundred years later, both Shakespeare and colonialism have left their imprint on cultures across the globe (1).

In essence, to ignore this ‘‘ascendancy’’ is as problematic as ignoring this ‘‘infancy’’. The two must be situated together and theorized in ways that allow for a more complex understanding of Englands ventures in the Old World as much as the New. Viewed as such, John Michael Archers Old Worlds: Egypt, Southwest Asia, India, and Russia in Early Modern English Writing offers among the more nuanced readings of East West encounters, in which he seeks categories and terminologies that ‘‘defy the antimonies of current debate’’. Archer rejects the term ‘‘precolonial’’ precisely because it imputes an inevitability to Europes hegemony:

The question of anachronism has been posed through artificially sharp distinctions,

such as ‘‘encounter or exploitation,’’ ‘‘exploration or empire,’’ where the first term

supposedly excludes any participation in the second

To analyze antiquarian and

.... travel discourses before the eighteenth century is, in most cases, not to engage in colonial

studies*although the theoretical problems posed by post-colonial studies often prove surprisingly pertinent. It is vital to avoid the notion of ‘‘pre-colonial’’ studies, however,

for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries did not contain the germs of the inevitable

colonization of the rest of the Old World by Europe

A proper consideration of

.... Europe amidst the Old World during the early modern period requires a concept like

para-colonial studies, where the Greek prefix means ‘‘alongside of ’’ without precluding

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either ‘‘before’’ or ‘‘beyond,’’ and can suggest both ‘‘closely related to’’ and ‘‘aside from,’’ as well. (16 17)

Contemporary postcolonial approaches are also enabling fresh analyses of racially marked characters in the Renaissance, beyond being considered as mere ‘‘others’’. Emily Bartelss study, Speaking of the Moor: From Alcazar to Othello, is a case in point, exploring the complex signification of the figure of the ‘‘Moor’’ in four plays of the period: George Peeles The Battle of Alcazar (ca. 1588 1589), Shakespeares Titus Andronicus (ca. 1593 1594), Thomas Dekkers Lusts Dominion (1599 1600) and Shakespeares Othello (1604). Bartelss discussion of the plays in four chapters intersects with three other chapters that examine nondramatic political and cultural texts: Hakluyts Principal Navigations, Queen Elizabeths letters ordering the deportation of ‘‘blackamoors’’ from England, and Porys translation of Leo Africanuss History and Description of Africa. For Bartels the ‘‘Moor’’ is not a singular and static representation, but is ‘‘first and foremost a figure of uncodified and uncodifiable diversity’’ who uniquely represents the intersection of European and non-European cultures’’ (5). What is the connection between Shakespeare studies and these larger debates about encounters with racial and cultural others, as well of the origins of colonialism? Our answer would be that Renaissance Englands public stage and its dominant playwright (shareholder, actor) were a part of the new movements of global traffic and cosmopolitanism; postcolonial perspectives proleptically help us to recognize Englands forays into making diverse claims on foreign lands as potentially colonizing activities: these include the claims on new and potential ‘‘colonies’’ of Virginia and Guiana, and aggressive trade practices (including slavery). Such recognitions of early modern English history cast new light on Shakespeares role in the public theatre and on his plays as they engage with these new worlds of discovery and colonization ‘‘elsewhere’’: and with figures like Caliban, Aaron, Cleopatra, Shylock, Othello, the ‘‘Indian boy’’ and the Prince of Morocco, among numerous others. Today, postcolonial Shakespeare studies have spawned a new kind of interest in the global early modern, and in recently published volumes such as Global Traffic:

Discourses and Practices of Trade in English Literature and Culture from 1550 1700 (Sebek and Deng) and A Companion to the Global Renaissance (Singh), which include essays on Shakespeare in the context of global trade and traffic, we can consider afresh at the bards works in the context of early modern discovery, transnational exchange, and colonization. Both texts examine the theoretical and historical underpinnings of globalization and analyze English literary and cultural texts in the context of topics such as Englands trading companies, domestic consumerism, East West relations, travel and empire, and global drama, including Shakespeare, on the cosmopolitan English stage, among others. Although some recent studies on the global early modern have emerged from a conscious rejection of the postcolonial framework (see Lisa Jardine and Jerry Brottons Global Interests) or are scarcely concerned with it altogether (see Linda Levy Pecks Consuming Splen- dor), the above collectionsapproach to global traffic in the early modern period allows for a continued engagement with proto-colonial and postcolonial perspec- tives. Barbara Sebek notes in her introduction to Global Traffic (Sebek and Deng) that the anthologized essays are intent to study ‘‘the systems and structures that

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make the movement of things meaningful*rather than studying objects for their thingness’’’ (4). Rather than presenting a valorization of global trade (uncannily aligned with our own periods pro-globalization rhetoric) that, in a manner of speaking, takes ‘‘the bite’’ out of postcolonial politics, the essays in this collection are attentive to questions of race, gender and other vectors of difference that complicate our understanding of global encounters in Shakespeares era. Their theorization of transnational trade, economic transformation and material culture in the period* variously falling under the rubric of the ‘‘new new historicism’’, ‘‘the new materialism’’, ‘‘material cultural studies’’ and ‘‘the new economic criticism’’*offers new points of entry into the Shakespearean text and intersects with postcolonial Shakespeares interest in questions of race, alterity, nationhood, empire building, in exciting and innovative ways (Sebek 3). Another recent historical trend spawned by initial postcolonial interrogations of racial paradigms is labeled by some as an ‘‘empirical race studies’’, one that somewhat oddly sets itself apart from those early interrogations. Imtiaz Habibs Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500 1677 boldly reconfigures the archive of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English history by uncovering an actual black population, previously considered tiny and insignificant, in a period ‘‘well before English black populations became known through the transatlantic slave trade’’ (1). Excavating documents from varied sources such as ‘‘legal, taxation, medical, and civic archives’’ (3), as well records from parish churches within London and without, royal and aristocratic household records, among others, Habib follows richly detailed semantic clues about the presence of blacks within the English population:

‘‘hidden in the vast archives of parish churches within London and without, all through the Tudor and Stuart reigns, are voluminous cryptic citations of ‘‘nigro,’’

‘‘neger,’’ ‘‘neygar,’’ ‘‘blackamoor,’’ ‘‘moor,’’ ‘‘barbaree

...’’

(2). A study such as this

could not have been possible before the postcolonial shift, but it also marks a specific

‘‘resurgent moment of race in Renaissance Studies’’, making a crucial contribution to our knowledge of previously unrecognized, cross-racial encounters and racial discourse in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England (1). And in doing so, it points to the oversights of social histories that occlude the materiality of black lives, even though they may only be found in textual traces that Habib so painstakingly uncovers. However, while Habib distances his methodology as being more empirical and material in terms of earlier postcolonial work as being focused on representa- tion, he creates an unnecessary ‘‘straw man’’ of early postcolonial studies. Historical empiricism such as Habibs that uncovers lives of the subjects of early European racial hierarchies enriches and expands on first postcolonial interrogations of dominant, canonical histories.

IV

What is the future of postcolonial Shakespeares? Is this approach coming close to exhausting its possibilities in producing new readings of the plays? Once we have recognized the so-called colonial contexts of works such as The Tempest and Othello, have we not in a sense brought these plays in line with contemporary perspectives on history? While acknowledging the validity of these questions, we must not forget the power of the postcolonial paradigm to dethrone the insidious and seductive power of the figure of Burckhards ‘‘Renaissance Man’’, who was a thinly disguised

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manifestation of the nineteenth-century European exemplar of the civilized man. Until the advent of postcolonial, materialist, feminist, queer and other approaches, Shakespeare had always figured as such a Renaissance man, the object of Blooms exclusive claim. Postcolonial Shakespeares will continue to prove viable as a pedagogical frame for college students who often study literary texts as ‘‘free standing’’ aesthetic forms in high school. Engaging with contemporary debates about global inequities and race and gender struggles, postcolonial Shakespeares can also participate in contemporary debates on these contentious arguments. The most evident aspect of this trend can be found in many film adaptations and appropriations of Shakespeares plays animating the film scene from Hollywood to Bollywood, where two interesting adaptations of Macbeth (Maqbool) and Othello (Omkara), released in 2003 and 2006 respectively, have created quite a storm. Thus, another pedagogical strand of inquiry could lead us into archival explorations of new, old and obscure film versions, as well as performances on film, mining the unexpected treasures of youtube.com, no doubt. Finally, as Shakespeares plays continue their travels in our global world (and they no doubt will as a familiar mode of cultural capital, even in instances of resistance), postcoloniality can serve a useful category for considering the rhetorical potential of postcolonial cultures in our polyglot world, of Shakespeare ‘‘speaking in tongues’’, to disparate audiences.

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Cambridge UP, 2003. Bartels, Emily. Speaking of the Moor: From Alcazar to Othello. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2008. Burton, Jonathan. Traffic and Turning: Islam and English Drama, 1579 1624. Newark: U of Delaware P, 2005. Dimmock, Matthew. New Turkes: Dramatizing Islam and the Ottomans in Early Modern England. Aldershot, Eng.: Ashgate, 2005. Habib, Imtiaz. Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500 1677. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008. Hall, Kim F. Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995. Hendricks, Margo, and Patricia Parker, eds. , Women, ‘‘Race,’’ and Writing in the Early Modern Period. London: Routledge, 1994. Irele, Abiola. ‘‘In Praise of Alienation’’. The Surreptitious Speech. Ed. V. Y. Mudimbe. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1992. 201 24. Jardine, Lisa, and Jerry Brotton. Global Interests: Renaissance Art Between East and West. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2000. Peck, Linda Levy. Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. Loomba, Ania. Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama. Manchester, Eng.: Manchester UP, 1989. Loomba, Ania, and Martin Orkin, eds. Post-Colonial Shakespeares. London: Routledge,

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Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979. Sebek, Barbara, and Stephen Deng, eds. Global Traffic: Discourses and Practices of Trade in English Literature and Culture from 1550 1700. New York: Palgrave, 2008.

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Singh, Jyotsna, ed. A Companion to the Global Renaissance: English Literature and Culture in the Era of Expansion. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009. ***. ‘‘Different Shakespeares: The Bard in Colonial/Postcolonial India.’’ Theater Journal

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Thompson, Ayanna. Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage. New York:

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