No Country

Working-Class Writing in the Age of Globalization

Sonali Perera

Columbia University Press

No Country

Pub Date: May 2018

ISBN: 9780231151955

248 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: February 2014

ISBN: 9780231151948

248 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: February 2014

ISBN: 9780231525442

248 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.00

No Country

Working-Class Writing in the Age of Globalization

Sonali Perera

Columbia University Press

Can there be a novel of the international working class despite the conditions and constraints of economic globalization? What does it mean to invoke working-class writing as an ethical intervention in an age of comparative advantage and outsourcing?

No Country argues for a rethinking of the genre of working-class literature. Sonali Perera expands our understanding of working-class fiction by considering a range of international texts, identifying textual, political, and historical linkages often overlooked by Eurocentric and postcolonial scholarship. Her readings connect the literary radicalism of the 1930s to the feminist recovery projects of the 1970s, and the anticolonial and postcolonial fiction of the 1960s to today's counterglobalist struggles, building a new portrait of the twentieth century's global economy and the experiences of the working class within it.

Perera considers novels by the Indian anticolonial writer Mulk Raj Anand; the American proletarian writer Tillie Olsen; Sri Lankan Tamil/Black British writer and political journalist Ambalavaner Sivanandan; Indian writer and bonded-labor activist Mahasweta Devi; South African-born Botswanan Bessie Head; and the fiction and poetry published under the collective signature Dabindu, a group of free-trade-zone garment factory workers and feminist activists in contemporary Sri Lanka. Articulating connections across the global North-South divide, Perera creates a new genealogy of working-class writing as world literature and transforms the ideological underpinnings casting literature as cultural practice.
Sonali Perera's No Country offers a powerful new theorizing of working-class literature in a global dimension. Gender inflections are given in unprecedented detail, through deeply learned and meticulously documented close readings of an astonishingly diversified collection of texts. Perera's readings of Marx are relevant to contemporary realities. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor, Columbia University
A timely, intellectually ambitious, and original piece of work. It hopes both to reinvigorate critical interest in a complex genre/period category and, in the same movement, to provoke new thinking about such major categories as class, history, and literature itself. Ellen Rooney, Brown University
Caught in the stampede toward globalism, literary scholars have overlooked the rich archives of working-class internationalism. Sonali Perera's study is a bracing corrective to this trend, putting South Asian voices in dialogue with transcontinental interlocutors. Inspired by Raymond Williams, No Country leads us to a world literature that includes its many proletarian offshoots. Srinivas Aravamudan, Duke University, author of Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language
This carefully argued book will interest scholars of contemporary transnational literature, Marxist approaches to literature, and African and South Asian literary studies; to my mind, however, its greatest impact will be on a younger generation of postcolonial critics, including graduate students, whose education has been so saturated with the theoretical truisms of postcolonial theory in its high phase that it is very difficult to imagine fresh readings of new and older texts outside of them. With such as the case I suspect that many younger scholars would rather give up on postcolonial studies altogether, dismissing it, as some have already done, as an outdated theoretical paradigm. This book challenges that claim. Ulka Anjaria, Contemporary Literature
Perera's critical and careful reading of literature is a challenge to all those who read literature politically, and seek to grapple with the larger questions of equality and justice in our uneven and unequal world. Ahilan Kadirgamar, Himal Southasian Magazine
A welcome addition and a worthwhile read. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Perera acknowledges a global workforce of peasants and coolies and garment workers stretching from India, Sri Lanka, and Botswana to the US, forged between the heyday of proletarian literature in the 1930s and contemporary collective forms of writing. . . . Global workingclass writing is at once deeply local (found in micro struggles over land or ethnicity that impel collectivity) and international (vectored through worker solidarity movements and transnational flows of capital, goods, and workers); moreover, according to Perera, its force comes within and through its aporia and interruptions, not in its discursive totality. Thus, working-class culture theorizes new subjects as it expresses them in varied literary forms—novels, poems, magazines, stories, reports. But read together with Marx and Williams, Perera finds that working-class culture describes the broken contours of a discontinuous field: “‘interruption’ [is] a structural, not aberrational, aspect of a specifically feminist aesthetic and ethic.” Discontinuous and in motion, the new working-class writing, like proletarian revolution, “come[s] back ...to begin it afresh.” It travels. Paula Rabinowitz, American Literary History
We can also see the future of Working-Class Studies in books like Sonali Perera’s No Country: Working-Class Writing in the Age of Globalization, which reads fiction from India, South Africa, and other colonialized regions of the English-speaking world alongside the work of Tillie Olsen. If nothing else, our increased awareness of the global working class should generate a more comparative, or at least a more contextualized, approach to the study of class. Sherry Lee Linkon and John Russo, Journal of Working-Class Studies
Globalisation makes novels (especially traditional novels) hard to write. With national working-class publics constantly constituted only to be broken apart, jobs (or bodies) shipped around the globe, neither the room of one’s own nor the time presents itself for texts modelled on the great working-class novels of the last two centuries. This is one of the strongest implicit arguments in Perera’s book – and, I think, an essential point. Nicholas Hengen Fox, Race and Class
The book's primary enquiry is to examine how working-class writing can remain radical in a world of heightened globalisation where neoliberal capitalism pervades modes of reading and interpreting. In so doing, [Perera] aims to provide readings that challenge a sanitised view of world literature in which working-class positions remain marginalised and provincialised within a market-driven elite cosmopolitan literary culture. David Firth, Wasafiri
No Country could and should change the way that we conceptualize international working-class writing. Michelle M. Tokarczyk, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature
Through her analysis . . . Perera explores how to rethink working class literature, and No Country reevaluates the complex period genre category of working class writing. Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies

About the Author

Sonali Perera is associate professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where she teaches courses in postcolonial literature and theory, working-class literature, feminist theory, and globalization studies.