Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature straniere e Culture moderne
RESEARCH TITLE: The Cultures of Crisis: post 9-11 Narratives in North AmericaACRONYM: COCRPRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Andrea Carosso (Università di Torino, Dip. Lingue e Lett. Straniere e culture Moderne), (see profile)PROPOSED RESEARCH PERIOD: 2014-2016
This research aims at a SYSTEMATIC STUDY OF NARRATIVES produced in North America after, and as a consequence of, the attacks of September 11, 2001. No comprehensive study of the multi-faceted cultural production of this latest decade in North America yet exists: it is the aim of this research group combining Italian, North American and British scholars, to map, classify and deliver interpretations of the large body of novels, films and other cultural texts surfacing in the United States and Canada in the period 2001-present as responses to the War on Terror, the financial crisis, and the reconfigurations of racial and ethnic relations which have come in their wake.
One emphasis of the research will study the shift of cultural focus, which we will argue to be one of the most significant outcomes of post-9/11 America, from an older generation of mostly white, writers to an emerging generation of, mostly young, “DIASPORIC” WRITERS, reflecting on the problematic state of “community” and “identity” in contemporary North America. We will argue that no matter how powerful white responses to the shocks of the new century have been – from early visions of post-apocalyptic New York in the wake of the 9-11 attacks (De Lillo, Sontag), through narratives of loss and annihilation (such as in Foer and De Lillo), to reflections on the conflicts of religion and ethnicity (Updike and the Left Behind series) – center stage in the cultural debate has now shifted to a NEW AND EMERGING “AESTHETIC RESPONSE” TO THE POST 9/11 CRISIS, mainly produced in New York, by young Middle Eastern and South Asian authors exposing and questioning the emerging consensus of the Arab/Muslim as “enemy,” in novels, essays and films such as Bayoumi’s How Does It Feel to Be a Problem, Lahiri’s The Namesake, Naqvi’s Home Boy, Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Issawi’s American East, Villeneuve’s Incendies.
Another focus of the research will broaden the field of analysis to the wider spectrum of narratives addressing the 21st century condition in North America, in which issues of race and ethnicity as well as the outcomes of the war on terror have been subsumed under the larger rubric of “CRISIS” – FINANCIAL, ECONOMIC, ENVIRONMENTAL, POLITICAL, AND MORAL, and the new forms of activism and militancy which have sought to provide responses to that crisis. This focus of the research will analyze key events in the light of recently published cultural narratives and assessments: from the way in which the finance-dominated logic of risk-control now dominates everyday life in America (Martin’s An Empire of Indifference) to the sub-prime mortgage crisis/energy crisis and the growing intimations of an “end of suburbia” (Rogers’ Green Gone Wrong); from the persistence of evangelicalism in America to the decline of U.S. imperial hegemony (Harvey’s The New Imperialism); from the election of Barack Obama to the emergence of the Occupy movements (Occupying Wall Street).
The research aims at producing detailed PERIODIZATION, ANALYSIS, and THEORETICAL ASSESSMENT of these cultural texts, entailing a) studies on issues of race, ethnicity and citizenship in North America after 9-11; b) an assessment of the literature and other cultural productions emerging from a debate on such issues, especially from the new voices Arab and Muslim diasporic writers in North America; c) an investigation of recently published cultural narratives of “crisis” as responses to key post-9/11 events. Work-in-progress seminars, a final international conference and a two-volume collection of the findings will result from the research.