This book was born out of several articles and lectures that I have written after my last monograph on post-soviet fiction and the aesthetics of transculturation was published in early 2004 in Russian. The publication of the book demonstrated once again that in Russia there is yet no language, no discourse and hence no ears for the problematic I am interested in -- the massive and many-faceted influence of globalization on the sphere of cultural imaginary, the complex interrelations of objectively existing, though highly mythologized globalization processes, that multiply cut across the contemporary cultural space, and particularly literary process in all its many-sided manifestations -- from the creation and consuming of books to the institute of literary awards, criticism and mechanisms of canonization.
Although many of my Russian colleagues reacted to the book in a quite positive and constructive way, in general I had an impression that a lot of them did not know what to do with it because the set of issues raised in the book, its genre and style remained generally outside the scope of traditional disciplinarity and commonly accepted terminological apparatus, automatically excluding it from the stable fields of traditional philology, political science, philosophy, sociology, etc. On my part it was a conscious position of a person who -- due to objective reasons and specifically, to my part of an internal and multiply colonized other of the Russian/Soviet Empire, and also due to the willingly chosen position -- practices border thinking and border epistemology. What I mean here is the thinking from the fringes of epistemic positions that have been denied by the universalizing perspectives of Western modernity in their imperial anxiety to account, describe and explain the world from a detached, objective position of the experts. The border position is not claiming at complete objectivity or finality, and in my case is the mediating position of an internal other -- in ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious sense. It is a position based on decentration of the canonical Western epistemic model and its Russian mimicking variants. The degree of assimilation of the internal others in Russian culture has always remained incomplete and controlled by the dominant Slavic-Orthodox or communist element. The linguistic difference is illusory enough in post-soviet space, but it is accompanied by insurmountable cultural differences, that invariably turn Russian internal others into complete and absolute ones. In Albert Memmi's words, such doubly colonial others are the "half-breeds of colonization, understanding everyone because they belonged completely to no one" (Memmi 1991: xvi). This is not just Memmi's position, but also that of other border intellectuals from different locales, marked with a specific identity, based on mediation and constant questioning of both the mainstream culture and their own status as its internal others. A paradigmatic case would be Gloria Anzaldъa with her fictional and poetic theorizing of the border, which would not be possible either within the eurocentric paradigm or in nationalist, religious or any other forms of fundamentalism.
The border positions are expressed almost always in trans-disciplinary and trans-genre forms, which find no place in traditional scholarship, grounded in Eurocentric rational and post-rational principles. The next logical step in this sense is a de-linking from the scholarly discourse in its Western understanding and turning to experiments with the bordering forms and models, e.g. -- in between fiction and intellectual reflections, within the categories that yet have not been introduced into the wider scholarly or artistic context. For me this is the next step that I am rapidly moving toward now. This is one of the reasons why the English version of the book that you are now holding in your hands is defined generically as "sketches". It is to point out a deliberate falling out of the hierarchical and linear logic of positivist scholarly discourse that the book is marked with, and consequently, its possible inconsistencies and rhizomic links between various parts and chapters.
This principle exercised already in the Russian version is also preserved in the English variant which includes in the revised form only certain and most important -- in my understanding -- parts of the Russian original. The accents in these parts are necessarily shifted because they are addressed largely to the new global reader shaping up in the world today, the reader, who is not associated with a particular national culture and does not buy at face value the neoliberal version of globalization, moreover, the reader who ideally is a border individual himself or herself, for only such a reader most likely would be able to adequately and with all necessary nuances interpret and understand the transcultural model presented in the book as a new way of life and of thinking. It is to this reader, who is also more familiar than his Russian equivalent with many categories, concepts and names connected with cultural globalization, border, unhomeleness, hybridity, etc. that I address this text -- paradoxically in the language of globalization, i.e. English. Although in this case its dictate in the contemporary world manifests unexpectedly its positive sides -- writing in English gives a chance to communicate with a much wider number of interlocutors, while an establishment of epistemic coalitions with other marginalized inhabitants of the global village who experience and see the world in a similar way, is yet another inherent goal of my project.
The gap of incomprehension that emerged several years ago and has been constantly growing since then between me and the majority of my Russian colleagues is connected not only with the above mentioned lack of discourse to discuss this problematic or with a general positivist tendency of humanities and social sciences, but also with a quite concrete economic, political, epistemic and spiritual situation of defeat and apathy, which has been keeping Russia and the Post-Soviet space in its grip for almost two decades at this point. In this situation any critical intellectual projects are doomed to neglect and never find approval even in the so called intellectual environment itself, while scholarship mostly comes to compilation and applied studies. Thus, the main problem here, in my opinion, always was and remains to be the problem of the missing link between the subjectivity of a scholar/intellectual and what he or she studies. For this reason it was crucial for me not to lose this link, to always keep it in mind, because it is precisely from my own existential transcultural identification that my position as a scholar is being born.
Consequently, the English variant of the book includes a large part which in the Russian version was just dotted. It is an attempt to reflect from inside, on the global and local reasons and conditions of today's obviously deplorable situation in the post-soviet intellectual space. These reflection grew out of revised and enlarged article, which I prepared for the special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly titled Double Critique: Scholars and Knowledges at Risk in the Post-Socialist Space (Tlostanova: forthcoming). Working on this article, I had once again to constantly keep in mind the same problem of communication and the possible gap of incomprehension, but this time -- with the Western audience, for which the post-soviet space today has only the temporal dimension -- it is a time after the collapse of Soviet Union, but it is a time, still measured by the West and in the Western system of coordinates.
The second part of this book was also born out of transcultural dialogue which took place in early 2005 in University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where I was lecturing on the influence of globalization on world literature. Here the focus of my attention was put on the efforts to define the aesthetic sphere of globalization, its beautiful and sublime, as well as accentuate and define the transcultural dimension as its most promising side.
The third part of the book is comprised of reflections on various aspects of transcultural aesthetics and poetics, as they are manifested in the real contemporary world literature. This refers to the problem of subjectivity (this time -- in relation to literary categories and not the positioning of a scholar), the problematic of chronotope, as well as some minor linguistic and discursive aspects. A specific difficulty of this task was that the postsoviet fiction which the Russian variant of the book was mainly based on, for the non-Russian reader, even if a global and cosmopolitan one, remains a completely unknown and mostly uninteresting subject, if not an exotic other. For this reason in the English version it was important for me to stress the internal connections between the post-soviet local configuration and those cultural products that it generates, and the general logic of western modernity that no one can avoid today, although of course the post-soviet cultural imaginary is unique and cannot be reduced to postcolonial, postmodern or other models.
The third part of the book deliberately departs from the well known to the global reader names and works, while the post-soviet material -- the unknown sphere -- is presented more modestly than in the Russian version. That is why I selected only those authors and books that more precisely answer the model of transcultural aesthetics, while the parts devoted to the postsoviet literary postmodernism -- a peculiar form of canonical counter-discourse in relation to both Western and Russian literature, or to Ukrainian nationalist post-soviet literature -- were taken out of the book, as those based on a different, not transcultural subjectivity.
This juxtaposition of post-soviet writers and their transcultural counterparts from all over the world does not imply at all that my book is based on traditional comparative principles, where the point of reference is invariably the Western European aesthetics, while the comparison itself is based on the principle of similarity and not difference. The parallels, echoes and possible connections between the authors from various locales, particularly marked with a complex configuration of imperial and colonial differences, are generated not by influences, affinities and borrowings and not by a telepathic connection that Vladimir Nabokov was making fun of several decades ago, but by the fact that all of them -- an Australian, a South African, a Turkish, an Azeri, a West Indian or Russian writer -- have to share a common lot -- living and being in the logic of Western modernity, which determined several centuries ago their specific roles and hierarchical positions. These roles were proclaimed stable and given once and for all and hence the people who were assigned these positions by Western modernity, were presented with particular subjectivities, with the painful attention to specific themes, artistic devises and optics. Today all of them are united as well by the new role of the post-national individuals who have to exist in and adapt to the logic of globalization. It is this global community of fate that creates unexpected parallels in their works and is responsible for the birth of a specific border aesthetics and sensibility.
A champion of such sensibility is marked with a negotiating position, he or she must be himself a deviant migratory voice in the dialogue, which the authority -- in the form of the state or the market -- is trying to discipline, make silent, negate. Living out in reality and in the cultural memory the local features of several various positions, the border intellectual lives in the world rather than in a certain culture or country. For him or her it is not enough to just define the abstract tendencies of deterritorialization and nomadology, as it was done by G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, or time lag, as it was interpreted by J. Lacan and J. Kristeva. He or she feels constrained in the limits of national and ethnocentric discourses and tries to go further, altering the poststructuralist and deconstructive models as well -- destabilizing them, applying them to many historical locales, satiating them with multiple points of view. Although of course the effort to take the route of the double-faced Janus does not save automatically by itself from the dualism of generally accepted oppositions of Western metaphysics, in the boundaries of which still any philosophy has to be formulated if it wants to be called so. In this situation it is difficult for an other to leave the restricted boundaries of Levinasian model of passive reception or an object, which is used by the Western modernity's sameness as a Ginny pig to exercise the highly moral "responsibility for an other" (Levinas 1969), and instead of that -- to shape his or her own idea of sameness and otherness or even reject this binary opposition altogether, building an alternative model of social communication instead.
This difficult mediative positioning is what I am aspiring at in this book. It is particularly difficult in the sense of representation, because rejection of binary identification leads automatically to the stereotype of native informant, so common in mainstream discourse, or a subaltern in Spivak's sense (Spivak, 1985), or a political activist who is using his otherness in his favor. These unattractive roles have nothing to do with my position which is based instead on the crisscrossing of contradictory elements -- the largely Western-centric official education that I received, and my interest in and relative acquaintance with non-Western or not quite Western cultural and epistemic traditions. The latter is connected with personal ethnic-cultural self identification and self-education, springing from the satisfaction of the deeper existential needs of an internal other, conceptualizing this situation and finding possible parallels in other traditions, but at the same time -- never losing the double border vision giving additional angles and perspectives of seeing the world. For this reason the book you are now holding in your hands can be considered in a sense an intellectual autobiography of its author.