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ASNEL [now GAPS] is one of the oldest and most important organizations in the world for the study of postcolonial literatures in English; its annual papers published by Rodopi are landmarks in the field and testimony to the intellectual richness of this annual conference series.
Prof. Tim Watson, PhD (Univ. of Miami)
Background and aims
GAPS is the Gesellschaft für Anglophone Postkoloniale Studien (Association for Anglophone Postcolonial Studies). It provides a network and professional forum for researchers, students, and teachers in the field, whether they are based at universities, schools, colleges, or other institutions. Through a range of activities, events, publications, and communication platforms, GAPS offers support, information, research co-operation, and contacts for anyone interested in postcolonial issues across the disciplines and around the world.
Many countries, cultures, and societies worldwide have been shaped by colonialism. With the rise of European empires and their overseas expansion, entire regions or continents were dominated by foreign powers whose impact and influence often persisted beyond formal rule and arguably continue, with transcultural and transnational changes, into present-day globalized economies and cultures. Most notably, European cultures and languages such as English have spread across non-European territories where they have subsequently been adopted, transformed, or appropriated, often as one idiom among others, for communicative purposes, for literary production and other forms of cultural expression. This global range of postcolonial Englishes and the local base from which they work can no longer be considered part of England’s culture.
Postcolonial studies recognize such processes and investigate their premises and consequences. They explore cross-cultural negotiations in areas which are, or have been at some point in their history, contact zones: Places where different powers and traditions meet, clash, or grapple with one another, often in strict hierarchies but sometimes also in quite unpredictable patterns of interaction. In terms of geography, this is particularly pertinent in Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific. European regions are no exception, however, especially at the margins of a dominant culture as in Ireland or Scotland, in areas with social and ethnic minorities, or in metropolitan locations like London where, in the wake of post-independence migration, diasporic communities are sites of similar processes and conflicts.
In terms of academic disciplines, postcolonial paradigms have proved highly relevant for the study of language, literature, theatre, media, music, and film, just as for the study of history, society, gender, sexuality, politics, religion, ecology, ethnology, and all related fields.
Since its formation in the late 1980s the Association has been particularly focused on anglophone literatures outside Britain and the US — hence its initial name: Association for the Study of the New Literatures. However, because of the increasing interest not only in literatures but also in postcolonial cultures and theory more generally, the Association’s focus now includes the wider aspects mentioned above. Postcolonial studies have initiated shifts towards transcultural, translocal, and transdisciplinary perspectives, raising new questions about received ideas and familiar fields such as travel writing, autobiography, or Shakespeare studies from different points of view. This is why, in 2014, the Association re-named itself Gesellschaft für Anglophone Postkoloniale Studien.
Since the 1970s, research and teaching of the new literatures in English and, later, of postcolonial studies, has been established at German-speaking universities. GAPS, founded (as GNEL/ASNEL) in 1989, has contributed to the consolidation and continued growth of postcolonial studies and cognate university programmes by creating opportunities for dialogue such as:
GAPS' aim is to communicate with colleagues and authors from our field, and not just to talk about them. GAPS thus regularly invites writers and academics from all over the English-speaking world to its conferences and provides a responsive network for writers and academics interested in lectures and readings.