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Please join us for first event of the Rutgers Book Initiative Lecture Series

Isabel Hofmeyr (Professor of African Literature, University of the Witwatersrand & Global Distinguished Professor, NYU):

“Hydrocolonial Print Cultures: Coast, Custom House and Dockside Reading”

With a response by Meredith McGill (Professor of English, Rutgers University)

November 6 at 4:30pm

Seminar room 6051, CCA, 15 Seminary Place, New Brunswick


What does the oceanic turn mean for our understanding of book and print cultures?  There is of course a long tradition of work on print cultures, port cities and transoceanic networks.  Yet, much of this work takes the ocean as a backdrop, more surface than volumetric depth.  Recent oceanic scholarship has been urging us to go below the water line, to think in more ecological and material terms about the seaness of the sea and how this might be factored into our particular disciplinary concerns.

This paper takes up this challenge by thinking about the literary consequences of the colonial Custom House which assumed responsibility for copyright policy and censorship.  The paper places the Custom House in the context of the ecology of the littoral and the port city, showing how these helped shaped the protocols and procedures of Customs officials and hence the way in which they read and dealt with printed matter.  The work is framed within a larger theoretical rubric, hydrocolonialism, which the paper will explain.