Koel Chatterjee, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Shakespeare in the Global South: Stories of Oceans Crossed in Contemporary Adaptation, by Sandra Young. London: The Arden Shakespeare, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019. ISBN-10: 1350035742; ISBN-13: 978-1350035744. $70.00 (Hardback); $54.00 (PDF eBook).
Global Shakespeare research is frequently seen as tangential to Shakespeare Studies, and regionalized mapping of the influence of Shakespeare in areas as diverse as Brazil, Africa, India, or China has often been viewed as filling the gaps in an archive of cultural transmission. In the last couple of decades, Global Shakespeare research in works such as Sonia Massai ed. World-Wide Shakespeares (2005) and Mark Thornton Burnett's Shakespeare and World Cinema (2013) has resisted seeing non-Anglophone Shakespeares as hermeneutically sealed off from Anglophone Shakespeares originating in the UK/US because, as Massai points out, such divisions tend to reinforce "lingering notions of English Shakespeares as a normative standard from which all other appropriations depart." However, academic studies of Global Shakespeare continue to be area-focused, examining the influence of Shakespeare as the dominant figure in creative partnerships with local performative traditions such as when a sub-genre of Global Shakespeare studies has been labelled "Indian Shakespeares" or "Shakespeare in Japan." As Young observes, "Shakespeare remains the dominant figure — the noun — and the region under focus is positioned as a colourful variant, qualifying the primary" (3).
In a previous work, Young had argued that the distinction between "north" and "south" emerged during the early modern expansionist period as a key mechanism for establishing racial hierarchy on a global scale. Shakespeare in the Global South argues against the regionalization of Global Shakespeares as methodology since this critical frame has the unfortunate side effect of continuing to marginalize certain geopolitical regions and peoples. Rather than using the term "global South" as a category of analysis based on cartography then, Young uses the term to refer to the "ex-centric as an angle of vision." By identifying the existence of an alternative set of interests and material conditions, the global South challenges the normativity of the view from the North: "To the degree that the making of modernity has been a world-historical process, it can as well be narrated from its undersides as it can from its self-proclaimed centers" (Young 6). Moreover, Young argues that reimaginings of Shakespeare's dramas across the global South "offer the field important and provocative new perspectives from the shadow of colonial modernity, whether the translocation situates the work within the global South or within the pockets of vulnerability in the global North" (128).
The most important contribution this book has made to the field, however, is the examination of the critical terminology that populates Global Shakespeare Studies. The critical discussions of the different manifestations of Shakespearean drama across the global South have been examined through the dissection of some of the vocabulary such as creolization, indigenization, localization and Africanization of Shakespeare with which "Shakespeare scholars have sought to engage a diverse and unequal world" (2). While these terms have appeared repeatedly in studies of Global Shakespeare, the terminology is often limiting, frequently reinforcing dichotomies that repeat the idea of a cultural stream flowing "from the 'west' to the 'rest'." Though each chapter has a case study at its center "to demonstrate the impact of the imaginative theatre practice emerging from locations that remain marginalized in the aftermath of colonization and from the spaces of racialized alterity and economic disempowerment within the global North" (127), it is the detailed examination of the terminology that proliferates Global Shakespeare studies which provides a useful and effective critical frame to theorize cultural difference. As Alfredo Modenessi has argued, "For all the reverence that he may command anywhere, it is precisely outside the English-speaking world that Shakespeare thrives from being in the company of many 'others' who perform and transform his texts — not only writers, directors and players but translators, dramaturgs and audiences."
Comaroff, Jean, and John Comaroff. 2012. "Theory from the South: A Rejoinder." The Johannesburg Salon 5: 30-36.
Grewal, Inderpal, and Caren Kaplan, eds. 1994. Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Massai, Sonia. 2007. "Defining Local Shakespeares." In World-Wide Shakespeares: Local Appropriations in Film and Performance, edited by Sonia Massai. New York: Routledge. 3-11.
Modenessi, Alfredo M. 2007. "'Meaning by Shakespeare' South of the Border." In World-Wide Shakespeares: Local Appropriations in Film and Performance, edited by Sonia Massai. New York: Routledge. 104-11.
Young, Sandra. 2016. The Early Modern Global South in Print: Textual Form and the Production of Human Difference as Knowledge. New York: Routledge.