Workshop "Rethinking the Politics & Practices of Print in Comparative Colonial Perspective", American Historical Association Annual Meeting 2021

Workshop "Rethinking the Politics & Practices of Print in Comparative Colonial Perspective", American Historical Association Annual Meeting 2021

Ritika Prasa, UNC Charlotte; Corinna Zeltsman, Georgia Southern University
United States
From - Until
07.01.2020 - 10.01.2020
Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists

What makes print colonial? Across varied colonial contexts, print inhabits a series of double-lives. It functions as a global technology linked within transnational circuits of exchange but also as one whose historical specifics – linguistic or legal, economic or cultural, intellectual or commercial – are, by necessity, articulated within the weighted power of imperial-colonial relationships. Consequently, much of the scholarship on print examines the medium through frameworks that focus on negotiations within particular networks of rule; given this, colonial histories of the medium are disproportionately focused on examining proto-nationalism in print circuits. Our experimental workshop proposes examining the logic of print in comparative colonial contexts, so that we can ask new questions about both print and colonialism that move beyond traditional intra-imperial framing. We aim to do this by focusing comparatively on practices – the practices developed by the multiple actors inhabiting the world of print. These practices, we suspect, emerged out of very specific social configurations yet reflected how print’s agents and protagonists recognized the “needs” of imperial information gathering, dissemination, and control.

Some of the themes participants are invited to explore include (but are not limited to):

- Legal frameworks (regulation, censorship, self-censorship)
- Commercial logics (creation of economic networks, including through privileges, patronage and/or market forces)
- Politics of circulation (of texts and information, technologies, technical knowledge, images and aesthetics; relationship between print made “here” vs. “there;” print’s interface with other media/forms of communication/orality)
- Social formations (promotion or reorientation of literate culture, alphabetization of indigenous languages, intersection with religious power, print as an aspect of colonial subject formation)
- Political networks (use of print to support or challenge political regimes, as a component of colonial political culture)

Finally, we invite participants to think about how colonialism either remakes pre-colonial realities or lives on in post-colonial and contemporary print culture, including in legal systems, language politics, publishing realities/market structures, and cultural attitudes or issues of access.

Rationale for experimental model

The aim of this experimental seminar model is to develop a sustained conversation that spans a range of colonial contexts but can be clustered around thematic discussions of the various issues proposed. The seminar will include three sessions of four participants each. Each session will focus on a comparative conversation about one or more of the specific themes outlined in the proposal. The participants will not be giving formal papers but instead discussing short pre-circulated material, with the aim that the shared work and resultant conversation will yield new and fruitful insights on the topic and future collaborations.

We welcome submissions from graduate students and scholars. Please submit a short abstract (max 250 words) and 1 page CV by June 20, 2020 to session co-organizers Ritika Prasad and Corinna Zeltsman: and


Contact (announcement)

Ritika Prasad

Corinna Zeltsman