Bigger than the nation, smaller than the world
ByChristopher Bush
Pages 3

Areas represent not just a quantitative compromise between nation and world but also a variety of specific, qualitative responses to the challenge of thinking literary studies beyond the nation. At a time when monolingual, nation-based departments and disciplines seemed to many hopelessly out of touch with contemporary realities, “world literature” emerged as the ultimate challenge to parochialism, even the enhanced parochialism of Eurocentric comparative literature. As one of the definitive critics of colonialisms, a tireless advocate for the value of close reading, and an outspoken opponent of “world literature”, Gayatri Spivak seemed an unlikely proponent of the largely social-scientific group of disciplines whose ideological underpinnings have so often been vilified by literary scholars and many historians. Asia has been transformed from a vaguely Orientalist conceptual relic to a stage on which to act out diverse arguments about alternative modernities: Spivak’s critical regionalism; revisionist global economic histories of the time before European hegemony; scholarly gambits; and diasporic identity politics.