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This report is taken from PN Review 255, Volume 47 Number 1, September - October 2020.

Echoes from a Conference on Crisis Vahni Capildeo
They keep trying to come in, a guard reportedly said. The lady and the man will not listen. They turn up at the door. They want to come up the steps. A little boy in a sailor suit is with them. They insist that they should be able to come in. What a job it is, looking after the place at night. It is under restoration during the day. He is tired trying to stop them from coming in.

The phrase ‘colonial uncanny’ has been haunting me, and not just in its academic sense. Not far away, Mille Fleurs, the marble and wrought iron mansion built in 1904 for Dr and Mrs Prada, and now government property, palely overlooks Port of Spain’s Queen’s Park Savannah where masked people exercise at dawn or dusk. Mille Fleurs had been falling apart for years, in contrast with the health-seeking, sweating bodies across the road. Lately somewhat restored, and secured at night, it continues to host tensions of ownership, between territorial creole ghosts and post-independence guards. The proximity between decaying refinement and straining movement recalls our genetic and/or cultural legacy from slavery and indentured labour. Yet ‘colonial uncanny’ spoke itself in my mind only when the ‘pandemic uncanny’ was invoked during a Zoom conference I attended on 26 June 2020. Zombies also received a mention.

This was the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies (BACLS) conference on crisis. Two hundred participants registered, with the majority remaining in attendance throughout. Preparation for the online BACLS 2021 conference is already ...


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