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The edges of the earth : critical regionalism as an aesthetics of the singular

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Warwick Mules
Regions have for too long been subject to a discourse that places them at the hinterland of powerful metro-centres. According to this view, a region owes its existence to power emanating from the centre—a one way flow, as if all knowledge, all power exists originally at the centre radiating out to the periphery. The advent of globalisation favouring local/global interconnections has the potential to disrupt and redefine the relation between the centre and its regions, where local sites previously subordinated to the power of the metro-centres can now find empowerment in their global interconnections. [1] Despite this potential for local empowerment, there is nevertheless a growing awareness that centres are more powerful than ever, while regions languish behind them. Instead of looking after their regional hinterlands, centres have abandoned them in search of their own global destinies. [2] What happens to hinterland regions when threatened with abandonment by their historically defined centres? They must themselves become globally interconnected, independent of their metro-centres yet fully linked to the global field. In this paper I explore the possibility of redefining regions in terms of critical regionalism, which Wilson and Dirlik define as “an aesthetic of rearguard resistance rearticulat[ing] borders as spaces, genres, and enclaves of cultural preservation and community identity to be set against global technologies of modernization or image-cultures of the postmodern” (4-5). What I am seeking to define is a critical regionalism concerned not so much with a politics of resistive identity formation, as Wilson and Dissanayake's definition suggests, but with a way of re-arranging the experience of life itself as an historically received event—as a localised practice of remaking images. [3] This localised practice, I argue, needs to be reflexive in its operations, resistive to centre/margin power relations, and life affirming. From the perspective of the centre, regions lack life; they can only duplicate the life that originates at the centre. Life lived in the regions must be copied from the centre or not lived at all. As a consequence, living in regions under the regime of centre authority is to live in resistance. [4] It is time for this power of resistance to seek new ways of affirming itself, to live life not in, but out of resistance. To live life out of resistance is to live life other than what it must be. [5] Living life out of resistance means making a future; it means refusing the life-present as a copy of the centre's will to power, and instead reshaping the life-present into something presently unknown, an experiment in making. To do this, one must struggle with the material presently at hand, to make something of it other than what it has already been prepared to do.


Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)












Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

Faculty of Arts, Health and Sciences; TBA Research Institute;

Era Eligible

  • Yes



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