Introduction: Charting a Path for Geocriticism
Lawrence Buell’s seemingly obvious declaration plainly states the reality of emplacement: all things literally take place, rooted in and to an extent conditioned by the concrete materiality of place and environment. Even overtly social, discursive forms like identity and culture engage meaningfully with the places of their formation, as “all human experience occurs in a spatial setting” (Sample 25). Space, Henri Lefebvre tells us, is a tool for thought and action. Space enables and space constrains. That spatial environment “becomes an important ingredient in the shaping and construction of a harmonious self” (26) or contributes to the lack of a stable subjectivity. NgũgĩwaThiong’o insists that culture, too, derives from “the process of a people wrestling with their natural and social environment” (Ngũgĩ 27). And the relationships between those places, played out across a mottled terrain of borders and flows at various scales, help to shape, facilitate, control, or hinder social and material relations of all kinds: structuring a sense of similarity or difference, connectedness or segregation; channeling the flow of people, ideas, resources, and capital; marking off territory for projects of power, resistance, or alterity; and so on. Alongside the well-accepted axiom to think historically and metrics like race, class, and gender, then, we might add the imperative to think geographically, to be attuned to the dynamics of space, place, and scale that undergird these other concerns.
KeywordsSpatial Relation Environmental Criticism Smooth Space Postcolonial Theory African Literature
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