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Fighting Words

Fifteen Books that Shaped the Postcolonial World


Edited By Dominic Davies, Erica Lombard and Benjamin Mountford

Can a book change the world? If books were integral to the creation of the imperial global order, what role have they played in resisting that order throughout the twentieth century? To what extent have theories and movements of anti-imperial and anticolonial resistance across the planet been shaped by books as they are read across the world?

Fighting Words responds to these questions by examining how the book as a cultural form has fuelled resistance to empire in the long twentieth century. Through fifteen case studies that bring together literary, historical and book historical perspectives, this collection explores the ways in which books have circulated anti-imperial ideas, as they themselves have circulated as objects and commodities within regional, national and transnational networks. What emerges is a complex portrait of the vital and multifaceted role played by the book in both the formation and the form of anticolonial resistance, and the development of the postcolonial world.

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Notes on Contributors


ELLEKE BOEHMER is Professor of World Literature in English in the English Faculty at the University of Oxford and Director of The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH). Her most recent monograph, Indian Arrivals 1870–1915, her fifth, won the ESSE 2016 prize for Literature in English. Her novels include Nile Baby (2008) and The Shouting in the Dark (2015, long-listed for the Sunday Times Barry Ronge prize).

ANTOINETTE BURTON teaches at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she is the director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. With Isabel Hofmeyr, she is the editor of Ten Books That Shaped the British Empire (2014).

RUTH BUSH is Lecturer in French at the University of Bristol. Her research interests include African literature, material print cultures and cultural studies. Her first book is Publishing Africa in French: Literary Institutions and Decolonization 1945–67 (Liverpool University Press, 2016). She has also published a web history of New Beacon Books, the UK’s first radical black bookshop and publishing house.

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