Autumn 2001
ISSN 1473-219X

© Imperium and the contributors 2001

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Imperium reaches another milestone with the publication of its second volume. On the strength of the first volume it has been able to attract the attention of both individual academics and further and higher education institutions. We now have a subscriber base in eighteen different countries, in all the five continents. Our subscribers include reputed research universities as well as those whose strengths are in teaching and training. The publication of the second volume reaffirms the scholarly goals that the journal has tried to achieve.

Imperium continues to use interdisciplinarity as an underpinning quest/ method that connects, interrogates, and validates the borderlands of disciplinary pursuit of knowledge. The second volume has contributions that focus on literary criticism of Henry James’s work, socio-linguistic examination of language rights, industrial relations in Scottish education, student mobility in the Commonwealth, thematic explorations of ‘wrath’ in African fiction in French, telenovelas, culture and modernity in Brazil, complex identity patterns in postcolonial Hong Kong, and the (im)proper media manipulation in reporting the recent events/ war in the Balkans. There is also a ‘Work-in-Progress’ (more on it later) item on colonialism and the internet.

The online community that the journal has attempted to create and to cater to is very much international. The composition of the editorial board reflects such a concern, as does the geographic distribution of contributors to the current volume. The contributors are based in universities in Luton, Coventry and London (UK), Windsor (Canada), Belgrade (Yugoslavia), Hong Kong (China) and Perth (Australia). Furthermore, there are two new members of the editorial board: Andrew Graham Yooll, the Senior Editor of the Buenos Aires Herald, and Dr Graeme Harper, from the University of Swansea, the Australian novelist and editor of two forthcoming collections on colonialism.

The focus on an integration of the specific and the global, and the enlargement of the canon of postcolonial studies to include hitherto neglected areas both in terms of time and space continues to represent a distinctive feature of Imperium. Such an approach is all the more necessary today in the current atmosphere of anxiety and apprehension in order to defend scholarship in this area, which has been affected by narrowing definitions and increasing intolerance of what ‘poco’ (postcolonial) or ‘pomo’ (postmodern) studies offer.

While the field of postcolonial studies undoubtedly benefited from ideas rooted in binaries that emerge(d) out of specific colonial formations of recent centuries, it is necessary to extend the issues beyond an English language-centred or Euro-centred examination of events. Such an expansion will bring scholarship of different imperia of the past and of a variety of locations into the fold of postcolonial studies. Critiques of colonial and postcolonial ancient societies are currently bundled away into discipline-bound categories or venerated as classical scholarship untouched by ‘trendy’ academic fashions with a ‘studies’ suffix in their name. A critical look at the past might offer new and comparative insights into contemporary events. For this reason Imperium will continue to argue for an expansion of the canon even if it is unsettling for traditionalists within the field of postcolonial studies. Blurring of sharp binaries is necessary for a balanced discourse in academia and, equally, if not more so, in the media.

There is also a need to expand the canon of postcolonial studies in terms of the language of critical discourse, which is currently dominated by standard English/ French/ Spanish/ Portuguese, and also by the dominant language of postcolonial states that blindly (and conveniently) tries to replicate the one nation-one language formula of European nation states. This raises a two-fold problem. Firstly, how to enrich the discussion in standard English in Imperium by interfacing it with critical traditions available in other European languages whose development over the last five centuries or so was mediated by colonial/ imperial experience?

The second aspect of the problem is how to recognise, validate and interact with scholarly traditions in languages outside the above–mentioned, or in non-standard forms in the above languages. These language/ dialectal traditions have remained largely invisible or under-visible even in postcolonial Studies. The response of some creative artists (and their audience) in postcolonial situations remains understandable: Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Sembene Ousmane, and Afro-American writers in general have tried to walk away and find new roles and meaning either by switching to non-European languages, or by expressing themselves in media other than literature (film/ music etc), or by rediscovering and validating dialectal forms of English and using oral/ anecdotal narrative patterns.

The above two-fold problem is not unique to academic journals. Some academic institutions have also tended to redefine their English literature or literature in English courses by including samples of writings in different languages or in English translation or even according different media (film, for example) a place in the curriculum. Postcolonial studies degrees at the University of Luton, to cite an example, include(d) modules such as ‘South Asian Literature in Translation’ and ‘African Literature', employing examples of African literature originally produced in English, French, Portuguese, and Gikuyu, and a film version of Xala. However, as an online journal, Imperium offers greater flexibility than established and validated academic courses to address the issues.

Focusing on texts/ sub-titles/ voiceover in English, translation is possibly the only practical way to address the above issues of language and intellectual traditions. However, it is not always possible to get a translation at an affordable price or in time for the reader and the contributor to discuss matters. Also, the financial costs involved in making such resources available results in a mediation of the process of selection, translation and distribution by commercial publishers and/ or bureaucracies whose concerns may be non-academic/ scholarly. While encouraging accessibility to texts through English translation(s), and by attenpting to review texts in translation, Imperium would also like to tap into the linguistic capabilities of its online community. The journal welcomes its bi/ tri/ multilingual (or dialectal) readership to suggest or contribute parallel/ joint reviews of at least two items (books, exhibitions etc). One of these review items should have been created/ conducted in standard English and the other in a different language/ dialect. Suggestions and offers to undertake the above reviews are welcome.

A six-monthly wait is a long time in the exchange of ideas especially for an online journal. In order to expedite communication between the members of the Imperium-enabled virtual community the journal will provide e-mail addresses of all contributors. Readers may want to contact the contributors directly and may find that such an exchange of views might be helpful. However, if those involved in such exchanges would like to share the discussion with the general readership of Imperium, there will be space for ‘Readers’ Views’ in each of the future volumes. The material will have to be submitted before the normal deadline for the relevant volume and will be subject to normal refereeing/ editing procedures.

The second volume of the journal has a new category of submission entitled ‘Work in Progress’. This section of the journal is intended to provide opportunities for initiating or continuing ongoing discussion(s). In this section the author(s) present arguments or a case study that is yet to be developed fully. Such a situation could arise on account of the submission being only part of a wider work which is currently being developed and/ or because the author(s) would like to explore some ideas before articulating them through a relatively more tightly structured and coherent argument.

Ideally, the ‘Work in Progress’ section is intended to provide a platform for students and researchers to publicise their projects/ dissertations/ theses. Reviewer(s) will provide the author(s) with specific suggestions and comments for further work. Readers are encouraged to debate and discuss issues directly with the author in order to engage with and encourage the contributors to this section of the journal. ‘Work in Progress’ should be considered a ‘private communication’ for copyright purposes and one would need written approval of the author(s) before the material is cited elsewhere.

The next volume of Imperium will focus on the theme of Englishness. Articles, suggestions/ offers of reviews of books, exhibitions, films and other media coverage of Englishness are welcome. The deadline for receipt of submissions for the Spring 2002 volume is the 15th of December.

Balasubramanyam Chandramohan

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