“The Northern Postcolonial Network Inaugural Event”, LJMU, Wednesday 25th March 2015
The Northern Postcolonial Network was established in 2014 by early career researchers at the universities of Manchester, Salford and Sheffield to support knowledge exchange among postcolonial researchers in the North of the UK. The inaugural event, organised by Dr Kate Houlden, LJMU, took place at LJMU on the 25th March and was the first time I would be speaking about my research since starting my PhD at LJMU in January. My nerves were dispelled as soon as the roundtable discussion about the aims of the network began. The discussion was led by founding members and organisers, who introduced key topics such as establishing a database of research, the pedagogical concerns of the network and community partnerships. The discussion evolved with contributions from network members and key questions were raised about the significance of a “Northern” postcolonial network and how to keep both local and global perspectives within our field of vision.
After a short coffee break, we gathered for the two postgraduate panels. Although the three papers of the first panel each had very different perspectives, together they asked broadly similar questions about the direction of postcolonial studies, the application and purpose of postcolonial theory and the importance of comparative literature and world literature to postcolonial studies. The second panel gave us a sense of the breadth of current postcolonial research with papers on fiction and non-fiction texts from the Caribbean, Africa and India. The atmosphere remained open and discursive throughout the varied presentations and as we gathered for another round of coffee I was overwhelmed with the positive feedback on my own paper. The keynote, “Bearings North: Local, Transregional, Institutional” delivered shortly after by John McLeod, Professor of Postcolonial and Diaspora Literatures at the University of Leeds, tied the six postgraduate papers and the roundtable discussion together. John’s enthusiasm about the potential of the network was clear in his use of “weaving” as a symbol to represent the task of the network, the task of ‘reanimation’ and ‘renewal’ through collaboration.
The event ended with a reading from the brilliant Khadijah Ibrahiim, who built on the theme of weaving by introducing her heritage with woven cloth from Jamaica and Ghana. Khadijah’s stories and poems about her childhood and family brought to life the Chapeltown area of Leeds and her experience of growing up in the African-Caribbean community. On the whole, the day was characterised by a feeling of cohesiveness between scholars of postcolonial literature across the North of England as founders, organisers and members shared expectations and hopes for the network. I left the event feeling like I was part of something bigger and excited that I have a network of colleagues locally who share my interest in all things postcolonial.