This article highlights the overall aims of the special issue, which reconceptualizes island worlds as situated historical places, that is, islands and their networks as spaces that come to life through the multiple and contested meanings constantly attached to them, formed in the milieu of overlapping and competing European, US, and Southeast Asian empires and diasporas. By investigating the forms and politics of storytelling in the island South and Southeast Asia, along with parallel and intersecting formations in the Caribbean and diasporic Asian America, this article underlines the two scholarly interventions of the special issue in the study of world making: (1) it refashions the notion of comparison to move away from the project of “knowing”—habitually constituted through a top-down gaze aimed at assessment and measuring, which consequently leads to the formation of hierarchies, categories of containment, and reductionism—and to unearth forms of comparison emerging from local environments and local knowledge; and (2) in thinking of storytelling events or inscriptions as situated testimonies (i.e., identifying the politics of location of a telling), it centers affect and emotion as the means for unraveling and connecting different, contesting registers of experience.
Introduction: Thinking Comparison with the Politics of Storytelling
Ileana M. Rodríguez-Silva holds a Giovanni and Amne Costigan Professorship in History at the University of Washington – Seattle, where she is an associate professor and teaches about race-making, labor, colonialisms, and national formation in Latin American and Caribbean History. She is the author of the award-winning book Silencing Race: Disentangling Blackness, Colonialisms, and National Identity in Puerto Rico (2012). Rodríguez-Silva has published articles in the Hispanic American Historical Review, Modern American History, and NACLA.
Laurie J. Sears is a Walker Family Endowed Professor Emeritus in the University of Washington History Department, where she has taught critical historiographies, feminist methodologies, and Indonesian histories. Her publications include Shadows of Empire: Colonial Discourse and Javanese Tales (1996), and she is the editor of Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia (1996) and Knowing Southeast Asian Subjects (2007). Her most recent book, Situated Testimonies: Dread and Enchantment in an Indonesian Literary Archive (2013), looks at psychoanalysis as a transnational literary discourse that moved between the Netherlands and the Dutch Indies to postcolonial Indonesia.
Ileana M. Rodríguez-Silva, Laurie J. Sears; Introduction: Thinking Comparison with the Politics of Storytelling. positions 1 February 2021; 29 (1): 1–20. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8722743
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