Sidelong thinking. Disobedient geographies and subaltern cultures



Parole chiave:

Conrad, Documentary filmmaking, migration, world literature, visual arts


My work here develops along a twofold path. On the one hand, and as a researcher committed to postcolonial issues, I share what many theorists say about the need for a more or less stable framework allowing to approach the issue of empire and post-empire in the light of some relatively stable critical categories. On the other, I also feel the gap between theories and some increasingly complex realities that do need a more direct appraisal of the facts implied in a globalized world in the way this need is voiced by Simon Gikandi in his “Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality” (2001). 

To the purpose of imagining a more effective critical frame, I’m borrowing Kara Walker’s notion of sidelong glance to develop a reflection on theories and their usefulness in terms of the actual approach to issues whose profile and complexity are to be intended as not only in progress, but also undergoing a very quick definition and redefinition through time. Starting from Hall’s statement that  the postcolonial may be intended as “sign of desire or  signifier of danger” (1996) and also exploiting the notions of rhizoma (Deleuze & Guattari 1980), subalternity (Spivak 1988) and “Thinking plural” (Said 1993), I’m approaching a number of written, visual and performative texts, from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to tightly contemporary artistic experiences, to show how both the postcolonial and the decolonial paradigms eventually prove inadequate to the reading of our present condition in terms of the ability to go beyond the traditional Western attitude to the post-colonies. 


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Biografia autore

Nicoletta Vallorani, Università degli Studi di Milano

NICOLETTA VALLORANI is Professor of English Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Milan. Her specializations include visual studies, gender studies and queer studies. Among her works, we mention Utopia di mezzo. Strategie compositive in When the Sleeper Wakes, di H.G.Wells (1996), Gli occhi e la voce. J. Conrad, Heart of Darkness: dal romanzo allo schermo (2000), Geografie londinesi. Saggi sul romanzo inglese contemporaneo (2003), Orbitals. Materiali e Script di London Orbital (2009). Recently, she authored two volumes: Anti/corpi. Body politics e resistenza in alcune narrazioni contemporanee di lingua inglese (Libraccio Editore, 2012) and Millennium London. Of Other Spaces and the Metropolis (Mimesis, 2012). She also coordinates the project Docucity, on documentary filmmaking and urban geographies ( and is the Deputy director of the online journal Altre Modernità ( Her current research has developed along a line of reflection that links literature to cinema and visual studies.




Come citare

Vallorani, Nicoletta. 2016. «Sidelong Thinking. Disobedient Geographies and Subaltern Cultures». Altre Modernità, n. 16 (novembre):120-33.



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